With refugees at the center of debate recently, the plight of European Jews fleeing Nazi Germany during the ’30s and ’40s springs to mind as a parallel to our current crisis. Now, it has come to attention that Anne Frank’s own family was among those denied the necessary papers that would have allowed them access to the United States.
According to documents released in 2007 by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Anne Frank’s father sought money in order to secure a visa to the US. That visa request which was ultimately denied. Otto Frank and his family, including Anne, then decided to go into hiding in 1942 after Margot Frank received an order to report to one of the “work camps.”
David Engel, an NYU professor confirmed the significance of the discovered papers by saying “This is the first concrete evidence that he did actually pursue the possibility of escape from Holland.”
This week, the Syrian refugees have been the focus of intense xenophobia from various US states and world governments, with 26 Republican governors claiming that they will deny access to the Syrian refugees out of security concerns, despite the fact that they do not have the legal authority to do so.
In contrast, many other governors have opened their arms, pledging their support and humanitarian aid to those seeking refuge from the Syrian conflict.
Just as public opinion turns from the Syrian refugees, who are desperately seeking escape from the horrors they are leaving behind, so too were Americans hesitant to help during the Holocaust.
Public opinion of the Jewish population at the time was extremely low, and the people of the United States were already stretched thin due to the economic depression — again, circumstances fairly similar to our own today. As such, Americans heavily favored denying them access.
US Jan 20 ’39: Should the US government permit 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children to come in from Germany? pic.twitter.com/5cFs5RabQn
— Historical Opinion (@HistOpinion) November 17, 2015
It is also important to remember that none of the attackers in Paris were refugees or gained access through those channels, as the Syrian passport discovered on the attacker turned out to be a forgery.
As this debate continues, we must maintain compassion in the face of terror, as the lessons of history are not to be forgotten.