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August 31, 2016 2:27 pm

New York Times Columnist Doubles Down on Controversial Anne Frank-Syrian Refugee Analogy

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New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Photo: World Economic Forum.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Photo: World Economic Forum.

European Jews were exterminated by the Nazis during the Holocaust partly because of the prejudice of the US public, a prominent liberal pundit asserted on Tuesday, reiterating comments he made last week in an op-ed.

In an MSNBC interview with Andrea Mitchell, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof again compared the plight of current-day Syrian refugees to that of Jews in Europe during the World War II-era.

“I think we all think that, you know, Anne Frank and European Jews were simply murdered because the Nazis regarded them as inferior, and in some sense, that’s true, but it’s also true that they died because mainstream America in some sense regarded them as inferior as well, and as unworthy of helping,” Kristof stated.

Arguments made during the Holocaust that “Europeans should look after their own first, this isn’t our responsibility” now appear “not only silly, but just morally myopic,” Kristof said.

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Kristof went on to caution, “I’m afraid that we will some day look back at the kind of arguments we are making to explain our unwillingness to help Syrians in the same way. What we have is not a lack of policy responses; it’s fundamentally a lack of empathy for those in need.”

In his New York Times column, titled “Anne Frank Today is a Syrian Girl,” which ran last week, Kristof criticized America’s handling of the Syrian refugee crisis.

“President Obama vowed to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees — a tiny number, just one-fifth of 1 percent of the total — and Hillary Clinton suggested taking more,” Kristof wrote. “Donald Trump has repeatedly excoriated them for a willingness to welcome Syrians and has called for barring Muslims. Fears of terrorism have left Muslim refugees toxic in the West, and almost no one wants them any more than anyone wanted a German-Dutch teenager named Anne.”

Furthermore, Kristof noted, “President Obama’s reluctance to do more to try to end the slaughter in Syria casts a shadow on his legacy” after he leaves office in January.

Kristof has received some heat for his use of Anne Frank to make a point about Syrian refugees. In the New York Observer newspaper earlier this week, Abraham H. Miller, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Cincinnati and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought, wrote, “Anne Frank is not an injured Syrian girl, and to make the comparison, as  Nicholas Kristof does, is to stand on the verge of the obscene…The juxtaposition of what Jews were in the 1930s and what Muslim refugees are in 2016 is an exercise in the absurd.”

Speaking with Mitchell on Tuesday, Kristof parried criticism of his op-ed.

“One of the main objections [to my op-ed] was, look, Anne Frank, if she had been admitted, wouldn’t have been blowing up Americans,” he said. “And you know, in fact, there is a certain parallel there. One reason we didn’t admit Anne Frank is that we were afraid of people like her. That we were afraid that Jews if they were admitted were going to be Communists, were going to be anti-government, were going to dismantle our government. Or, alternatively, we also worried that they were going to be Nazis in disguise. And we were fighting a world war; we thought we had to put security above all else. And so, in fact, those kind of arguments seem to be more of a parallel than a difference.”

Frank, a German-born Jew who later moved to Amsterdam with her family after the Nazis came to power, died in Bergen-Belsen at the age of 15 in 1945. Her famous personal journal, published as The Diary of a Young Girl, details her life while hiding in Amsterdam between 1942 and 1944.

Recently, as reported in The Algemeiner, a documentary film about Frank was secretly screened at a theater in Iran.

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  • Also, America’s way of dealing with the Nazi’s was to procecute the war in such a way as to bring victory as soon as possible. The war in Europe was given priority over the Pacific. The fastest way to end the Holocost was Victory in Europe. If Kristoff wants to make a point, he should be asking why we aren’t fighting a war to eliminate ISIS like we did against the Nazis.

  • Jew hatred was much stronger in the U.S. in those days, far more severe than America’s current logical suspicions that syrian immigration may be a trojan horse carrying a small percentage of terrorists bent on doing us harm. I mean, have you ever seen “Gentleman’s Agreement”? It’s hard to relate to now, but that’s the way it was in 1947.

  • There is a difference between European Jews and Syrian Muslims. European Jews were specifically targeted for discrimination and then for extermination. Syrians Muslim civilians find themselves in a war zone, but are not specifically targeted for extermination. On the other hand, Syrian Christians and Yazidis are specifically targeted for extermination, but Kristof doesn’t have any interest in doing anything for them. It is as if during World War 2, we gave preference to German non-Jews over German Jews. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we did, at least before the US entered the war and all immigration ended.

  • Yaakov

    We can all agree that the U.S. was derelict in not striving to rescue Jews during the time of the Holocaust, and anti-Jewish attitudes played a role. The situation with the Syrians is quite different, to be sure, but, considering their plight, some consideration needs to be given to providing refuge to them, at least temporarily, until the bloodshed in Syria is over.

    • steve epstein

      Very different situation. The Jews were targeted as Jews and could not go to any Jewish Nation. They could go nowhere. Syrians a refugees seeking to escape war in certain locations. If their country is too small, they can go to neighboring countries that share their ethnic and religious background. Unless they are deemed actual enemies, their government is not trying to kill them. And, certainly not just for being Muslims or Syrians.

      Anne Frank could not travel 100 miles and not have to fear death.

      Anne Frank did not have scores of countries, in the region and the world, which were led by her co-religionists who should provide funds and protection.

      Anne Frank did not have a country to which she could gain entry.