Josiah DuBois and the Creation of the War Refugee Board

On Christmas Day 1943, a young US Treasury Department employee wrote something that would change the lives of more than 100,000 Jews in Europe. Josiah DuBois worked on this document despite the fact that he was risking his job and had little time to spend with his family on the holiday.

US Treasury Department photo by Roman Boed

US Treasury Department photo by Roman Boed

The document was entitled The Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews. It accused the US State Department “of gross procrastination and willful failure to act” and “willful attempts to prevent action from being taken to rescue Jews from Hitler.” DuBois’ report showed that State Department officials not only followed the United States strict immigration laws, but tried to prevent Jews from immigrating to the US altogether.

Visas for potential refugees were delayed because of State’s requirement that refugees produce two letters of reference from American citizens who could either help support the refugees or who could prove the refugees could take care of themselves. In addition, visa applicants were often turned away if they had close relatives in Europe. The theory, or excuse, for not admitting them was that the enemy might persuade immigrants to become Nazi spies.

As DuBois pointed out in his report, the new immigrants would not threaten national security.  If President Roosevelt was concerned about potential spies, refugees could be placed in internment camps “and released only after a satisfactory investigation… Even if we took these refugees and treated them as prisoners of war it would be better than letting them die.”

In DuBois’s mind all human beings worth saving. Sadly, from late 1941 to early 1945 only 10% of the small quotas from Axis controlled countries were filled.

Yet DuBois did accomplish something by turning his report into his boss Treasury Secretary Henry Morganthau. By outlining State’s lack of concern for people fleeing from the Holocaust, DuBois showed that immigration issues shouldn’t be handled by the State Department. A new agency was needed to help people in Europe who were trying to escape from Hitller. This new agency would become known as the War Refugee Board.

Kristallnacht: A Prelude to the Holocaust

After annexing Austria and the German-speaking portion of Czechoslovakia, Hitler decided to expel Jews living in Germany who were born in Poland. On October 27-8, 1938, 18,000 Jews were put on trains bound for the Polish border. Some were forced to enter Poland by the Nazis while some camped in a tiny Polish village.

Zindel Grynszpan was one of the Jews expelled from Germany. He described his ordeal as follows: “A Polish general and some officers arrived, and then examined the papers and saw that we were Polish citizens. It was decided to let us enter. They took us to a village of about 6,000 people, and we were 12,000. The rain was driving hard, people were fainting – some suffered heart attacks; on all sides one saw old men and women. Our suffering was great – there was no food.”

Zindel sent a postcard to his son Hirsch who was studying in Paris. Mad with rage, he went to the German Embassy in Paris and shot the first German official that he met, Ernest vom Rath. Ironically vom Rath was not a Nazi.

Cleaning the street after Kristallnacht

Cleaning the street after Kristallnacht

Hitler and the Nazis called the murder a Jewish conspiracy against Germany. In fact it was a convenient excuse to do what Hitler had wanted all along: to expel all the Jews from Germany. Eager to carry out Hitler’s orders, the Nazis decided on a plan of action which they put into place on November 9, 1938. Their plan is now known as Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass. On that night, Stormtroops and Nazi party members burned synagogues, destroyed Jewish shops, and beat up as many Jews as possible. Bonfires were lit to burn prayer books and Torah scrolls. In 24 hours 91 Jews were killed. Over 30,000 were arrested and sent to concentration camps.

The Nazi atrocities did not only happen in Germany’s large cities. Small Jewish villages in Germany were also affected. From inside his uncle’s house young Eric Lewis saw Stormtroops destroy a synagogue. “After a while, the Stormtroops were joined by people who were not in uniform; and suddenly, with one loud cry of, ‘Down with the Jews,’ the gathering outside produced axes and heavy sledgehammers. They advanced toward the little synagogue which stood in Michael’s [his uncle’s] own meadow, opposite his house. They burst the door open, and the whole crowd, by now shouting and laughing, stormed into the little House of God.”

After Kristallnacht Jews were fined 1 billion Reichsmarks for vom Rath’s death. Jews were also fined for the destruction of their own property. The Nazis were systematically pushing Jews out of the German economy. As of January 1, 1939, Jews could only be employed by other Jewish organizations. These conditions led to attempts of many Jews to emigrate to other countries such as the United States. The question was whether or not the other countries would welcome the Jews.


The Holocaust by Martin Gilbert

A History of the Holocaust by Yehuda Bauerh

The Childhood of Anne Frank

Early Years in Germany

Although Anne Frank was born in Germany in 1929, her parents Otto and Edith knew they had to leave their country when Adolf Hitler came to power. Hitler and the Nazi party found a scapegoat for Germany’s economic problems—the Jews. Since the Franks were Jewish, Otto hoped his family could escape Germany’s oppressive Jewish laws by moving to the Netherlands when Anne was four.

The Move to Amsterdam

When the family settled in, they sent the children Anne and Margot to school. Anne’s parents knew that traditional schooling would not work for her stubborn, free-spirited personality. Instead, they sent her to a Montessori school in Amsterdam where she started kindergarten. Students often chose what they wanted to do for the day, like reading or drawing. Anne talked freely in class, often asking questions of her teachers. Even when a lesson that Anne didn’t enjoy was taught, teachers went out of their way to make learning fun. For example, if the teacher asked what two times two was and the students didn’t know, they hopped around the rows of desks, counting as they went.

Anne and Her Family

Anne’s friends always enjoyed coming over to the Frank house. Mrs. Frank made delicious food, and Mr. Frank loved to play with the children. In an era when fathers left most of the childrearing to their wives, Otto stood out. He made up stories and songs for Anne and Margot, and though he worked hard he always made time for them. He and Anne had a close relationship. Her bubbling personality kept his mind off his adult worries about money and what Hitler might do if he invaded Holland. Edith and Anne’s relationship became strained because she wanted Anne to be more like her older sister, Margot, who had a gentle temperament and did what she was told. Ironically, Anne’s future best friend had a personality similar to Margot’s. 

Best Friends–Anne and Jackie

In 1940, Hitler invaded the Netherlands. Among other restrictions, Jewish children could only attend schools with Jewish students and teachers. On Anne’s first day at the Jewish school, she met a girl named Jacqueline van Maarsen. After school, they rode their bikes to the Frank’s house at Anne’s insistence. Jacqueline later wrote, “from that day on we were inseparable…after a few days, Anne firmly declared that I was her best friend and she mine.”

Though Anne never had trouble making friends, she wanted one that she could truly confide in, and she found what she wanted in Jackie. They read books together, pretending to be the heroines they admired. Anne wrote in her diary, “Recently I met Jacqueline van Maarsen at the Jewish Lyceum. We hang out together all the time and she’s my best friend now.” Because of the German occupation, the two friends could only hang out at each other’s homes or at certain Jewish owned businesses. They spent a lot of time on Anne’s porch gossiping and having sleepovers at each other’s homes, though they also visited an ice cream shop after school, where Anne liked to flirt with boys.

Going into Hiding

When Anne’s sister Margot got a summons to report to a labor camp, the Franks knew they had to hide. They had already heard stories of Jewish young people disappearing after they left for the German camps. It was time for the family to go into hiding. Neither Anne nor Margot knew for sure where they were going so they couldn’t tell friends about their hiding place. For years Jackie believed Anne immigrated to Switzerland. Later she discovered that the Franks tried unsuccessfully to hide out in a section of Anne’s father’s office.

For more information about Anne Frank's family, including photos, visit:

1942 – Frst page of Anne Frank's diary.