Anne Frank Provides a Lesson in Refugee Debate
US reluctance to help in World War II a 'moral stain,' argues writer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 19, 2015 12:55 PM CST
This is an undated file photo of Anne Frank.   (AP Photo, File)

(Newser) – With the debate about whether the US should accept refugees from Syria at high pitch, Boing Boing digs up a 2007 article from Reuters about a famous would-be refugee: Anne Frank. The story details how her father, Otto Frank, wrote to a friend asking for money to help with a visa to get his family to America—but it turned out to be a moot point because the visa was never granted. At Vox, Dara Lind sees parallels between the US reluctance to take German refugees from World War II and the plight of today's Syrians. "Desperate people, fleeing a terrifying, bloodthirsty regime, try to find refuge in the US," writes Lind. "But the American government and the public don't want to accept them. They worry that accepting refugees would put citizens at risk, and they don't see the refugee crisis as their problem to fix. So they are turned away."

Lind points to two moments in particular—when the US turned away a ship filled with more than 900 German Jews trying to dock in Miami, and when Congress rejected a bill to bring in 20,000 Jewish refugee children—and says America's refusal to help remains a "moral stain." In fact, the backlash that resulted when the horrors of the Holocaust became clearer prompted the US and other nations to create ways for persecuted refugees to find safe havens. "But America started being welcoming only after it had been cruel," writes Lind. "America's refugee legacy isn't just about our decades-long record of welcoming the stranger and standing up for human rights. It's about what happens when we don't." Click for Lind's full column.