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Escape to the United States
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Julius and Walter Holländer after the war
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Escape to the United States
Picture of Edith's brother, Walter Holländer, third from the left, taken in 1922 during an outing to the German countryside.

Anne Frank and her family decided to leave Germany for the Netherlands in 1933. The Nazis had just come to power and Anne’s parents felt they would be safer in another country. Anne’s parents were also convinced that the Nazi government would respect the neutrality of Holland. But most of their relatives decided to stay in Germany, thinking things would eventually get better.

Anne’s uncles

The decision to stay in Germany meant that many relatives had to experience more and more measures and laws that made life very difficult for them and other Jews. The attacks on Jews throughout Germany on Kristallnacht, in November 1938, also affected Anne’s relatives. A couple of days after Kristallnacht, Anne’s uncles were arrested. Julius and Walter Holländer were the brothers of Anne’s mother. Julius was freed because of a war wound he had suffered during the First World War. His brother Walter was less fortunate. He was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. He and other inmates were humiliated and it was made clear they should leave Germany. He was later released and sent to a refugee camp in the Netherlands. Both brothers realized that they were in danger.

In early 1939, Anne’s uncle Julius received an official letter from his cousin, Ernst Holländer, who already lived in the United States. The letter guaranteed work and support if Julius would go to the United States. After seeing his mother (Anne’s grandmother) off to Amsterdam, Julius took a boat to New York and continued on to Massachusetts. Walter was able to leave the refugee camp and join his brother in December 1939. For the first period of their stay, the brothers depended heavily on their cousin’s financial support. They were only able to afford tiny rented rooms.

Anne’s parents often debated what to do in early 1939. They wanted to leave Holland, fearing it would not be safe for long. But the world had closed its doors to fleeing Jews. The idea of going to the United States was brought up, especially because Anne’s uncle Julius was now there. But the United States had strict quotas and was not openly embracing more Jewish refugees. Julius would have to vouch for them in order for them to be able to leave, but he had just arrived and had very limited financial means. This plan did not seem feasible.

When Julius’ boss volunteered to provide an affidavit, an official letter of support, for the Frank family if they would come to the United States, it seemed like the fortunes of Anne frank and her family might change. But the affidavit arrived too late. The occupation of the Netherlands made it impossible for the frank family to emigrate. Otto Frank wrote after the war that “I do not forget that the boss of Walter did send an affidavit." It was all in vain.

The start of the Second World War and the occupation of the Netherlands made emigration almost impossible. Even communication became difficult between Anne’s mother and her brothers. She was deeply saddened not to be in touch with her brothers, especially after their mother, Anne’s grandmother, died in late1941. It was not long after Anne’s grandmother died that the family had to go into hiding.

After the war

Anne’s father was the only survivor of the eight people who went into hiding in the secret annex. He was finally reunited with his wife’s brothers Julius and Walter during a trip to New York in 1952. The brothers had been horrified by the news of their sister’s death and the deaths of Anne and Margot. The meeting between Otto and his wife’s brothers was emotional. In a letter, Otto described Julius as “a wreck about the past, very depressed and nervous and I felt deeply sorry for him”. Julius Holländer died in 1967 and his brother Walter in 1968. Both had become reclusive in their later years.
Anne Frank Guide
This day in history
Today: 11 December 2017
Then: 11 December 1941

Germany and Italy declare war on the United States; the U.S. respond in kind.

View the timeline