This Father’s Day I’d like to talk about a man I admire. His name was Otto Frank. After his two beloved daughters were murdered during the Holocaust, he made it his life’s work to see that it would never happen again by publishing and promoting the diary his daughter, Anne, wrote while they were in hiding. Most people are familiar with Anne Frank’s diary. Not a lot of people are familiar with Otto Frank’s story. And given what is currently happening in the United States with the detaining of migrant children, we need to learn more about Otto Frank’s story.
Otto Frank was a man who loved his daughters very much. At a time when men weren’t expected to take care of children, he was noted for doting on his daughters, and Anne talks about him fondly in her diary. As the daughter of a father who was like Otto Frank in that he doted on his daughters, I related to that aspect, and I can only imagine how painful what Mr. Frank went through was by imagining how it would be for my dad.
Here’s the other thing people don’t know about Otto Frank. He tried hard to out run the Nazis. The Franks were from Germany, and with the rise of Nazism, they fled to Holland. They had thought Hitler would never have succeeded in conquering Holland and that they would be safe there. Only they weren’t.
When it became clear that they weren’t safe, Otto Frank tried hard to get his family out. One thing he tried was to get them to America, and even had family living in America advocate to get them there. The Franks were denied asylum. I strongly urge you to watch the documentary No Asylum which chronicle’s the Frank’s failed attempt.
Why were they denied asylum? Fear. People has made Jews the boogeyman that we continue to make immigrants today. The language people used against Jews then is the same language people use against immigrants now.
“But wait! The Franks didn’t break the law!” you might say. Yes, they did. Going into hiding was illegal. Failing to report to the concentration camps was illegal. Miep Gies, who helped to hide them, had to use counterfeit food ration cards to feed them. It was illegal.
When the law is not just and when the law does not allow for your survival, then you have to break the law or die.
“But wait! No one is being killed in the camps!”
The Holocaust didn’t start with people in camps being killed. At first Hitler just wanted Jewish people outside of his borders. But when no one else would take them, killing them became the final solution.
Here’s what wounds me. Otto Frank went to extraordinary lengths to keep his family safe. And he failed. When he was liberated from Auschwitz, he was hopeful he would be reunited with his family. He knew several of the men he had hidden in the annex with were dead. On his way home to Holland, he learned that his wife had died, but he was still hopeful for his girls. He spent six months hopeful that Anne and Margot would come home as he gradually learned one by one that he was the only one of the eight to survive. He eventually tracked down someone who had been at Bergen-Belsen with his daughters. He came home from that meeting heartbroken and told Miep Gies, “Anne and Margot will not be coming home.”
When I think of the pain of what that moment would have been like, I break down. And he turned that pain into the cause of seeing that it never happened again. I admire that about him.
And then when I look around and I see the path this country I live in is going, I despair.
Watch “No Asylum.” Read Anne Frank Remembered. Read The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. Look at what happened then and see what is happening now. For the longest time I told myself that if we could take something so tragic as the Holocaust and see that it doesn’t happen again then there was hope for redemption. I’m starting to think that we just don’t learn.
This Father’s Day, a lot of men who, like Otto Frank, love their children and went to extreme measures to give them a better life are now separated from them. We need to do better than this.