December 14, 2015

Anne Frank was one of millions who died at the hands of hate. The Holocaust alone took the lives of 6 million Jews, 1.5 million children, hundreds of thousands of Roma, thousands of people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as untold numbers of gays and lesbians. Unfortunately, 70 years after Anne’s death, intolerance against minorities – whether religious, ethnic, or otherwise – continues to pervade Europe, the United States and the Middle East.

In 2013, in an effort to stop this brutal history, The Anne Frank Center USA launched its Confronting Intolerance Today speaker series in conjunction with The Sapling Project. Confronting Intolerance Today events showcase innovative approaches to combating intolerance here in the United States and the Netherlands, and panel discussions have addressed topics ranging from immigration reform to LGBTQ rights; combating religious prejudice to hate crimes.

Today, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Ankara, as well as horrific attacks on Americans at home, coupled with a drastic rise in hate speech and a frightening resurgence in racist rhetoric, we are launching a blog to respond to the many issues confronting us.

The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 784 active hate groups in the United States in 2014, including 72 active KKK groups, and 142 neo-Nazi groups. The Anti-Defamation League counted a total of 912 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. during the 2014 calendar year. This represents a 21 percent increase from the 751 incidents reported during the same period in 2013. The Council on American-Islamic Relationssaid it has documented thousands of hate crimes annually. According to data from the FBI, Muslims are now five times more likely to be victims of a hate crime than they were before the attacks on September 11.

Not since the Second World War have we seen such an influx of people crossing international borders in a struggle to survive. In the past year, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been arriving in Europe by the thousands. At last count there were nearly 60 million people displaced by conflict worldwide – many of them children – caught in a web of violence, extremism, and trauma, despite being “the lucky ones,” the ones who got out.

The parallels with Europe in the 1930s are unavoidable. In 1933, Otto Frank and his family became refugees as they moved from Germany to the Netherlands to escape the rise of the National Socialists. But as the Nazi noose tightened throughout Europe, Otto’s desperation increased. When the doors to other countries closed, he turned to the US as their last hope for refuge. Otto’s letters and the US State Department responses (found in the archives of YIVO: Institute for Jewish Research in New York in 2007) paint a picture of the world’s failure to respond to the plight of Jewish refugees. Among the Frank family, only he would survive the Holocaust.

What can we do in response to today’s refugee crisis? How can speak up in the face of racism and intolerance, and learn the crucial lessons of history? Our new blog, Confronting Intolerance Today, is informed by our values and our commitment to educate young people and communities in North America about the dangers of intolerance, antisemitism, racism and discrimination, and to inspire the next generation to build a world based on equal rights and mutual respect.

Through our new blog posts which will highlight our own programs, and the work of partner organizations, we will aim to address current issues of importance to us, including the refugee crisis, the rise of hate crimes and hateful speech, civil rights and the Black Lives Matter movement, poverty and income inequality across the United States, girls access to education globally, and more.

Make sure to check in regularly to stay tuned in to the conversation.

The Anne Frank Center USA