Sunday, March 4, 2007

Citizenship for Anne Frank: Letter to New York Times

I have a letter in this morning's New York Times elaborating on a statement I made in an earlier story about the effort to give Anne Frank American citizenship.

I made the point that the effort struck me as "pointless," unless it was used to educate about the "paper walls" which surrounded America for Jewish refugees from Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.

The reporter only quoted the first half of my statement and left out the part about "unless it was...."

He was, in fact playing fair, because in the interview I did stress that so many of these actions are taken to make politicians feel good and not for substantive purposes.

For America to "adopt" Anne Frank today, when it turned her and her family away in the 1940s, would right no wrongs.

However, for America to do so as a way of elaborating on how people who faced a terrible fate were treated by this country, so that such wrongs might be prevented in the present and the future would be a useful step.

The letter:
March 4, 2007
Anne Frank, U.S. Citizen? (1 Letter)

To the Editor:

In “A Push for Citizenship for Anne Frank” (news article, Feb. 26), I am quoted as contending that granting honorary citizenship to Anne Frank would be a “pointless” gesture.

During the late 1930s and early ’40s, European Jewish refugees, among them the Frank family, who lived in terribly precarious circumstances, found that there were “paper walls” around America’s shores.

They faced horrendous bureaucratic obstacles, some of which were put in place by our government with the objective of preventing Jews from coming to this country.

If citizenship were granted to Anne Frank simply to make Americans feel good, it would indeed be pointless. But if the gesture were used to educate current and future generations about how America turned its back on these people, it would be an efficacious move.

Deborah E. Lipstadt
Atlanta, Feb. 26, 2007
The writer is a professor of modern Jewish and Holocaust studies at Emory University.

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