Skip to comments.Why America Closed Its Doors to Anne Frank
Posted on 02/20/2007 5:43:48 AM PST by SJackson
A new chapter in the teenager's tragic saga.
Anne Frank's family tried to escape the Nazis by immigrating to America - but they were turned away.
This extraordinary new chapter in the teenager's tragic saga emerges from seventy-eight newly-discovered documents from the correspondence of Anne's father, Otto Frank. They detail his efforts, in 1941, to gain permission to bring his family to the United States.
The new correspondence presents an opportunity - and an obligation - to tell the rest of the story.
At the time of the correspondence, the Franks were living in exile in Holland, having fled their native Germany after Hitler's rise to power. By 1939, with anti-Semitism spreading throughout Europe, the Franks began thinking about how to get to America. Otto had already lived in the US from 1909 to 1911, working as an intern at Macy's Department Store, in New York City.
But by 1939, it was a different America. After World War I, in response to the public's intense anti-foreigner sentiment, Congress had enacted restrictive immigration quotas. The quota system was structured to reduce "undesirable" immigrants, especially Italians and Jews. The original version of the immigration bill had been introduced in Congress with a report by the chief of the United States Consular Service, Wilbur Carr, characterizing Jewish immigrants as "filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits... lacking any conception of patriotism or national spirit."
The new annual quota for Germany and Austria allowed a maximum of 27,370 immigrants - far fewer than the hundreds of thousands of German and Austrian Jews searching for haven from Hitler.
Remarkably, even those meager quota allotments were almost always under-filled. American consular officials abroad were directed by Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long to "postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas" to refugees. They created a bureaucratic maze - "paper walls," to borrow the phrase of David S. Wyman - to keep refugees far from America's shores.
And so, during the period of the Nazi genocide, from late 1941 until early 1945, only ten percent of the quotas from Axis-controlled European countries would actually be used. Almost 190,000 quota places remained unused - representing almost 190,000 lives that could have been saved, even under the restrictive quotas.
Anne's mother, Edith, wrote to a friend in 1939: "I believe that all Germany's Jews are looking around the world, but can find nowhere to go."
In May 1940, the Germans conquered and occupied the Netherlands. Emigration was forbidden and the Franks' hopes of going to America appeared to be dashed.
But they didn't give up. In 1941, Otto began writing to his American friends and relatives, and to US officials, in the hope of securing permission to immigrate. But at the same time the Franks were seeking shelter in America, State Department officials were seeking new ways to shut the nation's doors even tighter. In the summer of 1941, Breckinridge Long implemented new procedures to further reduce the number of immigrants.
Long had the full backing of President Roosevelt. When refugee advocate James G. McDonald appealed to FDR against Long's policies, the president dismissed his pleas as "sob stuff."
As a result of the new restrictions, less than half of the German-Austrian quota places were used in 1941.
Otto and Edith Frank, and their daughters Margot and Anne, were turned away by the United States that year. Not because the quotas were full. Not because this successful middle-class couple and their two young daughters would have been a burden to American society. But simply because so many Americans considered Jewish refugees undesirable, and because too many politicians feared losing votes if more Jews were admitted.
Today, Anne Frank has become the best-known victim of the Holocaust to people all over the world, especially as the subject is taught to schoolchildren. Anne's diary of the two years that her family hid in an attic to elude the Germans is the centerpiece of classroom instruction about the Nazi genocide. The betrayal of the Franks, and their final months in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, provide the grim climax to a story that represents the fate of millions of Jewish victims.
But now a new chapter must be added to the Anne Frank saga. The new correspondence presents an opportunity - and an obligation - to tell the rest of the story. Every sixth-grade student in America needs to know that Anne's death was not inevitable. The Franks were turned away from America by callous bureaucrats and politicians, even though there was room in the immigration quotas.
We need to teach our children why America cast aside its proud tradition of welcoming "the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free" and closed its doors. Only then can we hope that such moral failures are not repeated by the next generation.
ping for later
FDR - The worst president of the 20th Century!
In other words, FDR killed Anne Frank!
- Amazing how the word "Democrat" does not appear in this article, isn't it?
I don't see where the author made that accusation. She, like hundreds of thousands of others could have been saved if the world had found somewhere for them to go, but that's not killing. The relevance of Democrat eludes me, Republican's weren't in favor of increased immigration.
A very interesting part of the story that I had questions about. I always wondered why Otto Frank didn't try to get farther away from Germany than Holland.
FDR must have been playing politics with members of Congress in order to get other parts of his agenda (Lend Lease, the draft, etc.) through. And to be sure, those members were very anti-immigrant and racist.
Which reminds me, do we have a Mexican quota in the immigration law?
Very timely... to vilify any one here and now who wants to restrict/contro that mess on the border down ther.
For most Jews there was nowhere to go. Even Palestine had been shut off by the Brits in the late 1930s. 3/4 of Germany's Jewish population managed to flee Germany, most couldn't make it out of Europe.
The original version of the immigration bill had been introduced in Congress with a report by the chief of the United States Consular Service, Wilbur Carr, characterizing Jewish immigrants as "filthy, un-American, and often dangerous in their habits... lacking any conception of patriotism or national spirit."
You want get a response such as this in today's America.
Say, to what politial party did President Franklin Roosevelt; Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long; and the chief of the United States Consular Service, Wilbur Carr, belong???
And incidentally, what was the present Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd doing at the time???
Safe havens were Sweden, Switzerland and Britain, all of these fearing a German invasion. Way too many Jews believed that it couldn´t get any worse, until it did.
My grandmother's family went into the ovens.
And what about the Republicans? Were they for Jewish immigration? Were they for entering the war any sooner than we did?
One thing for sure, thru it all, learning learning learning, reading reading, studying, studying, never was ignored.
He was very bad. However, think about it. With the notable exception of Harry Truman, every Democrat President since the very bad President Franklin Roosevelt has been worse than the previous one. This trend can be expected to continue.
We need to immediately take in every refugee from anywhere in the world.
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