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Letters by Otto Frank unveiled

Anne's father sought US visas for his family

NEW YORK -- Anne Frank's father tried to arrange US visas for his family before they went into hiding, but his efforts were hampered when Allied and Axis countries tightened immigration policies, according to papers released yesterday.

Otto Frank also sent desperate letters to friends and family in the United States pleading for help with immigration costs as the family tried to escape the Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

"I would not ask if conditions here would not force me to do all I can in time to be able to avoid worse," Frank wrote to his college friend Nathan Straus in April 1941. "It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance."

The letters, along with documents and records from various agencies that helped people emigrate from Europe, were released by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, a New York-based institution that focuses on the history and culture of Eastern European Jews. The group discovered the file among 100,000 other Holocaust-related documents about a year and a half ago.

The documents show how Frank tried to arrange for his family -- wife Edith, daughters Margo and Anne, and mother-in-law Rosa Hollander -- to go to the United States or Cuba. He wrote to relatives, friends, and officials between April 30 and Dec. 11, 1941.

But immigration rules were changing under the Nazi regime, and there were nearly 300,000 people on a waiting list for a US immigration visa. Besides, since Frank had living relatives in Germany, he would have been unable to immigrate under US policy.

"I know that it will be impossible for us all to leave even if most of the money is refundable, but Edith urges me to leave alone or with the children," he said in another letter to Straus.

He managed to secure one visa to Cuba, but it was canceled in December 1941 after the Germans declared war on the United States.

The family was in hiding for more than two years before being arrested. Anne Frank described the family's life in hiding in a diary that was published and has sold an estimated 75 million copies.

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