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