War, U.S. Anti-refugee Sentiment and Bureaucracy Prevented Anne Frank Family’s Escape

By Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Franks were slaughtered by the Nazis in Bergen-Belsen in 1945.

A report published by U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Anne Frank House describes in detail how Anne Frank's family tried twice to obtain immigration visas from the American consulate in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. Both efforts were unsuccessful.

This Anne Frank House/U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum report was published 76 years after the actual events took place. The Franks went underground to escape the Nazis on July 6, 1942. Researchers delved into multiple pages of correspondence written by Frank to his friends and vice-versa.

The report stated that Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, was not denied an immigration visa, but his efforts to obtain one were thwarted by government bureaucracy, time, and war which were ravaging Europe during that time. To obtain an American visa, Frank needed to meet strict documentation requirements like copies of birth certificates of all family members who wish to migrate, all relevant military records and the proof that the potential migrants had travel tickets to the United States.

The Washington-based research-oriented institutions provide a near graphic description of the challenges encountered by Jewish families trying their best to escape the Nazi carnage in Europe. Their migration to the United States was hampered by anti-refugee sentiment present among both U.S. Government officials and also the American people during that time. The Franks were ultimately arrested. Anne Frank, diarist and budding writer, died in 1945. She was among those slaughtered by the Nazis in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp situated in Germany.

The Frank's first application was thwarted by a bombing raid which destroyed the U.S. consulate in 1940. The raid also destroyed the documents which Otto Frank submitted to the consulate for obtaining an emigration visa. His luck went downhill when he tried to obtain the same documents the second time around. Not only he was forced to navigate the same bureaucratic channels again, his chances of being on a ship to the United States became dimmer as the U.S. Government toughened its visa policies. These were done as the Roosevelt administration at that time became paranoid about the possibility of German spies coming into the U.S. in the guise of refugees. The U.S. Government specifically targeted applicants with German relatives and blood relations present in German-occupied countries.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt even warned during that time of Jewish refugees being forced to spy on the orders of the Nazi authorities. “National security took precedence over humanitarian concerns,” the report states.

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