76 years ago today, a Jewish family went into hiding when they couldn’t immigrate to the USA

Desperation made their family, and others, try to escape their home country.

The Frank family, including Otto—Anne Frank’s father—saw what was coming in Germany as Hitler rose to power in the 1930s and began attacking Jewish people, as well as Roma people, gays, leaders of labor unions, political opponents… you get the picture. 


Knowing what was headed their way, in 1938, Otto applied to have the Frank family emigrate to the United States, which allowed limited immigration at the time.  

‘I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see USA is the only country we could go to,” Otto Frank wrote in English to a friend in the United States in 1941.

However, as citizens of the Netherlands, all applications for such were housed in Rotterdam and were destroyed when Germany bombed that city in May 1940. Every single person and family who had applied had to re-apply.

Meanwhile, the Netherlands had fallen to Nazi Germany’s invasion, so any chance of the Franks getting out of the country was lost. That is when they went into hiding in the house today known as the Anne Frank House—on July 6, 1942. 


A picture taken on November 16, 2017, shows the room of Anne Frank in her former house in the Rivierenbuurt in Amsterdam. The Ymere housing association and the Anne Frank Foundation reached an agreement to sell the house to the foundation. KOEN VAN WEEL/AFP/Getty Images)

The rest of the story has been told in Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, as well as countless historical accounts. 

New research by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shows that even if their original paperwork had survived, it’s possible they would have never gotten out of the Netherlands; as war erupted all over Europe, more and more people sought refuge in the United States, visas were trimmed back to just 30,000 per year by 1939. The political sentiment of U.S. citizens at the time also favored immigration restrictions.

The report released today studied the paperwork involved in order for the Frank family to immigrate into the U.S., and it indicates they weren’t explicitly denied visas, but “their efforts were thwarted by American bureaucracy, war, and time,” according to the historians. Quite simply, the processing of a visa application to the USA was extremely cumbersome and required affidavits from friends or relatives, as well as mounds of other paperwork. In short, the Franks probably wouldn’t have succeeded. 

The family became so desperate, they tried to come to the USA via Cuba, but that route was closed down as well after Pearl Harbor, Hawaii was bombed by Japan. 

“All their attempts failed, so going into hiding was their last attempt trying to get out of the hands of the Nazis,” said Annemarie Bekker from the Anne Frank House.

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose," Sherlock Holmes famously remarked.
  • In this lesson, Maria Konnikova, author of Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes, teaches you how to optimize memory, Holmes style.
  • The goal is to expand one's limited "brain attic," so that what used to be a small space can suddenly become much larger because we are using the space more efficiently.

Active ingredient in Roundup found in 95% of studied beers and wines

The controversial herbicide is everywhere, apparently.

(MsMaria/Shutterstock)
Surprising Science
  • U.S. PIRG tested 20 beers and wines, including organics, and found Roundup's active ingredient in almost all of them.
  • A jury on August 2018 awarded a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma victim $289 million in Roundup damages.
  • Bayer/Monsanto says Roundup is totally safe. Others disagree.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • Our ability to behave rationally depends not just on our ability to use the facts, but on our ability to give those facts meaning. To be rational, we need both facts and feelings. We need to be subjective.
  • In this lesson, risk communication expert David Ropeik teaches you how human rationality influences our perception of risk.
  • By the end of it, you'll understand the pitfalls of your subjective risk perception system so that you can avoid these traps in the future.