No Asylum: The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story

How dedicated YIVO volunteer, Estelle Guzik, came across Otto Frank's letters on which the No Asylum documentary is based

No Asylum pays tribute to Otto Frank's persistence and determination to get his family out of Europe. 

There is another story of persistence and determination that underlies how this new information about Otto Frank was discovered. Estelle Guzik was always interested in genealogy and the preservation of family history - and in helping other genealogists find the resources that would yield clues about their families. In fact, in 2003, Estelle published the definitive guide to genealogical and biographical resources in New York.

When Estelle learned that YIVO (Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut or Yiddish Scientific Institute) had received boxes and boxes of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) immigration case files from the war years, she knew this was a treasure trove of information for people who wanted to research their family histories. But those boxes were inaccessible to the public - they sat in a warehouse in New Jersey gathering dust. 

So Estelle got to work. She volunteered to spearhead the digitizing of an index to all those records, box by box. She recruited a team of 12-15 volunteers from the Jewish Genealogical Society to work with her, and in a small office, they meticulously entered the data into a database. It was time-consuming and careful work to extract all of the possible historical nuggets out of each file and cross-reference the entries for best usability for researchers. 

Estelle personally proofread and edited all the work that the volunteers did to be sure all was accurate. This was how Estelle decided to spend her retirement years - she went into "work" as a volunteer every day, 5 days a week for over 10 years indexing thousands and thousands of records, motivated by getting it finished and usable for historians and genealogists. Every day, she read letters from ordinary people trying to save their families, some ultimately successful, some not, and Estelle preserved their place in history. It was her persistence and determination that led her on one of those ordinary days to pull the Otto Frank file out of one of those dusty boxes. As Estelle's family, we are so glad that the movie No Asylum gives Estelle her place in the story of Anne Frank's family. We love seeing her talk about the moment she found the file - it's a little bit of limelight for a person who toiled completely behind the scenes, without any expectation of recognition. It's also not lost on us that Estelle's parents were successful where Otto Frank was not. 

Two little girls (who didn't look so different) with different destinies. The one who had a chance to grow up in the US helped us all understand an important part of the story about the one who didn't.

Michelle Brody, Ph.D. (Estelle Guzik's niece)

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