Op-Ed Columnist: Anne Frank Today Is a Syrian Girl

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Anne Frank, left. At right, Rouwaida Hanoun, a Syrian 5-year-old who was bleeding during an airstrike on Aleppo final week.

Left, Anne Frank Fonds — Basel, around Getty Images

AMSTERDAM — On Apr 30, 1941, a Jewish male here in Amsterdam wrote a unfortunate minute to an American friend, pleading for assistance emigrating to a United States.

“U.S.A. is a usually nation we could go to,” he wrote. “It is for a consequence of a children mainly.”

A proffer found that defence for assistance in 2005 when she was classification aged World War II interloper files in New York City. It looked like vast other files, until she saw a children’s names.

“Oh my God,” she said, “this is a Anne Frank file.” Along with a minute were many others by Otto Frank, frantically seeking assistance to rush Nazi harm and obtain a visa to America, Britain or Cuba — yet removing nowhere since of tellurian insusceptibility to Jewish refugees.

We all know that a Frank children were murdered by a Nazis, yet what is reduction famous is a approach Anne’s predestine was hermetic by a cruel fear of refugees, among a world’s many unfortunate people.

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Sound familiar?

President Obama vowed to acknowledge 10,000 Syrian refugees — a little number, only one-fifth of 1 percent of a sum — and Hillary Clinton suggested holding more. Donald Trump has regularly excoriated them for a eagerness to acquire Syrians and has called for exclusive Muslims. Fears of terrorism have left Muslim refugees poisonous in a West, and roughly no one wants them any some-more than anyone wanted a German-Dutch teen named Anne.

“No one takes their family into stealing in a heart of an assigned city unless they are out of options,” records Mattie J. Bekink, a consultant during a Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. “No one takes their child on a groundless vessel to cranky a Mediterranean unless they are desperate.”

The son of a World War II interloper myself, I’ve been researching a anti-refugee violence of a 1930s and ’40s. As Bekink suggests, a parallels to currently are striking.

For a Frank family, a new life in America seemed feasible. Anne had complicated English shorthand, and her father spoke English, had lived on West 71st Street in Manhattan, and had been a longtime crony of Nathan Straus Jr., an central in a Franklin Roosevelt administration.

The barrier was an American warning toward refugees that outweighed sympathy. After a 1938 Kristallnacht pogrom opposite Jews, a check found that 94 percent of Americans disapproved of Nazi diagnosis of Jews, yet 72 percent still objected to revelation vast numbers of Jews.

The reasons for a antithesis afterwards were a same as they are for rejecting Syrians or Hondurans today: We can’t means it, we should demeanour after Americans first, we can’t accept everybody, they’ll take American jobs, they’re dangerous and different.

“The United States, if it continues to be a world’s haven and poorhouse, would shortly mutilate a benefaction mercantile life,” a New York Chamber of Commerce warned in 1934.

Some readers are objecting: But Jews weren’t a hazard a approach Syrian refugees are! In a 1930s and ’40s, though, a universe fight was underway and Jews were widely seen as intensity Communists or even Nazis. There were widespread fears that Germany would penetrate a U.S. with spies and saboteurs underneath a cover that they were Jewish refugees.

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“When a reserve of a nation is imperiled, it seems entirely pardonable to solve any probable doubts in preference of a country, rather than in preference of a aliens,” a State Department educated in 1941. The New York Times in 1938 quoted a granddaughter of President Ulysses S. Grant warning about “so-called Jewish refugees” and hinting that they were Communists “coming to this nation to join a ranks of those who hatred a institutions and wish to overpower them.”

News organizations didn’t do adequate to humanize refugees and instead, tragically, helped widespread xenophobia. The Times published a front-page essay about a risks of Jews apropos Nazi spies, and The Washington Post published an editorial thanking a State Department for gripping out Nazis posing as refugees.

In this domestic environment, officials and politicians mislaid all humanity.

“Let Europe take caring of a own,” argued Senator Robert Reynolds, a North Carolina Democrat who also denounced Jews. Representative Stephen Pace, a Georgia Democrat, went a step further, introducing legislation job for a deportation of “every visitor in a United States.”

A State Department official, Breckinridge Long, evenly tightened manners on Jewish refugees. In this climate, Otto Frank was incompetent to get visas for his family members, who were victims in partial of American paranoia, demagogy and indifference.

History rhymes. As I’ve intermittently argued, President Obama’s hostility to do some-more to try to finish a massacre in Syria casts a shade on his legacy, and there’s simply no forgive for a world’s common disaster to safeguard that Syrian interloper children in adjacent countries during slightest get schooling.

Today, to a shame, Anne Frank is a Syrian girl.

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