Feb 15, 2007

Anne Franke and my great grandfather

They did not know each other. Yet they had a few things in common.

It is now being revealed base don documentation that Anne Franke (her father really) had petitioned the United States to be let in as a refugee. They were refused entry visas.

This story seems to be making the waves in the news sites and various blogs. It is big because it makes the US look bad, as it ignored the situation of Anne Franke.

The latest revelations in the Anne Franke legacy fail to impress me. I have letters of correspondence (I have actually given them to Yad Vashem so they are not in my possession any longer) between my grandfather and the United States government. he was trying to get visas for his parents who were stuck in Germany. The US refused on a number of occassions. His parents went up in smoke with much of European Jewry.

Am I supposed to be more touched by Anne Franke's story just becasue she became a celebrity? It is horrible what happened to her and how she was clearly refused entry when she could easily have been saved. However, in perspective, the United States was keeping in line with their general policy.

They did not let Anne Franke in. They did not let my great grandparents in. And they did not let in thousands of other Jews who tried to get in.


  1. I agree that the fact that she is now famous doesn't make it any more tragic than for any regular Jew who was refused entry.
    But from a 'bad publicity' point of view it is better.
    Of course it doesn't matter much now, it’s nothing but sad history.

  2. There is a book (later made into a miniseries) called "Voyage of the Damned" about a ship with 1,000 Jews that was refused entry by the U.S.

    The loss of all these lives - your great-grandparents, the people on the ship, Anne Frank, and the many others who were turned away - was a horrible tragedy.

    My hope is that the Anne Frank story can become a vehicle that makes people stop and think so that the same mistakes are not made again and this terrible history is never repeated.

  3. you both put that very nicely. thanks.

  4. Perhaps it does not impress *you* more - but others have no kesher to your relatives - but might be interested in this twist to the Anne Frank story - it might help bring out the attitude of the US at the time in a way that might actually impress them.

  5. sbw - my point was not specific to my relative. I used them as an example. My point was that nothing about the Anne Frank story was unusual. It happened to thousands of others. It is only because she became a celebrity of sorts (posthumously) that anybody is making a big deal of it now. I do not begrudge her anything. She suffered greatly and died in the holocaust and must have a special place in the World to Come.

    But the tragedy is not that they did not let Anne Frank's family in. The tragedy is equally the thousands of others, along with Anne Frank's family, that were not let in to the USA or most other countries...

  6. no disrespect rafi, after all we have the same great grandparents, but no country lets in refugees at will. Whether it was theholecaust or the haitians or the darfurians, or the sierra leonese or the palestinians or the bosnians or the north koreans or the bolivians....across the world across time every country has behaved and continues to behave in that fashion...including israel. For a variaty of reasins, some logical some not, some hatefull, some fearfull, but in the end its the same policy everywhere.

  7. dan - you too missed my point. I am not upset about anything. I understand that is the policy. What is disturbing is that people are suddenly shocked about how the US did not even let Anne Frank in - you know the little girl who wrote the diary - ohmygoodness how evil could they have been? etc.

    My point is that Anne Frank was not let in under the same policy that did not let thousands of others in. There is no reason to suddenly be shocked more about anne frank not being let in.

  8. Rafi, I did not misunaderstand...although I could have been clearer. There are two different issues here. The first is that otto frank asked for a visa. That is new because it was always assumed that he had made the tragic decision to stay and had never asked for a visa. That is why the story was news; the revelation changed our whole understanding of the events.
    Secondly is the issue of usa and other countries not taking in refugees. Over the years I have heard alot of resentment and anger and blame against america and other countries. Even yad vashem had (has?) a display showing that america (not the whole country but at least certain people in power)should have known what was occuring and should have let our people in. I was commenting on that issue. Sure I would much prefer had America taken in all the jews. Unfortunately America behaved in a manner that every country always behaves. My only real point is that I think the anger is misguided. The blame for the holecaust lies with the people who participated. Blame does not belong on any jews or others persecuted people, nor does it belong on those who did not do more to help. It rests squarely on the shoulders of the people, in uniform and out, who participated.

  9. i really like ur blog, rafi.
    must read it more often.


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