Anne Frank is without doubt a person that appeals to the imagine of many. Everybody knows the story of the 13/14 year old Jewish girl who has to hide for the Germans. She writes in her diary letters to an imaginary friend. After two years in a secret annex of her father’s business in Amsterdam, the Frank family and several others who shared this space with them, are discovered and sent to Auschwitz. In November 1944 Anne and her sister Margot move to Bergen-Belsen, while their parents stay behind in Auschwitz. The living conditions in Bergen-Belsen are terrible. There is no food, it is cold and moist and there are many infectious diseases. Both girls become sick. Margot dies first in February 1945, followed by Anne. Their mother Edith dies in Auschwitz, father Otto survives the war. In 1947 he publishes the letters from Anne’s diary.
Although we know a lot about the Frank family and their life during the war, one mystery lasted until today. Even after more than 75 years nobody really knows who tipped off the authorities about the hiding place of the Frank family.
Cold case team
Last week the Canadian write Rosemary Sullivan published her new book, The Betrayal of Anne Frank. The book is about the results of a cold case team, which started in 2017.
Retired FBI agent Vince Pankoke and a team of Dutch experts started four years ago an investigation into the person or persons who betrayed the Frank family. The team believed that the approach by a team of forensic experts would lead to different and new conclusions. The team looked at many scenarios and were able to rule out all of them except for two or three. The most prominent theory is that the Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh betrayed the family and the others in the secret annex. He gave a list of names of Jewish families and their hiding places to the authorities. Most likely to save his own life.
The publication of the book has led to many different reactions. A granddaughter said that the family is upset. They cannot believe that their grandfather is behind the betrayal. A spokesman stated that the book affects the family’s good name and reputation.
Newspapers explained how they had to sign a secrecy agreement. They could not check and verify the facts in the book. David Barnouw wrote a book about the case in 2003. He said he believes there is not enough proof to accuse the Jewish notary.
The New York Times published a book review. The newspaper also spoke with a Dutch researcher at the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation.
Most experts have come to the conclusion that evidence about the existence of a list with names of Jewish and their hiding places is paper thin. And thus that it is absolutely not certain that Arnold van den Bergh had such a list.
The Anne Frank House has released an official statement. “The Anne Frank House is impressed by the cold case team’s detective work, but key pieces of the puzzle are still missing.” Its director said “that the conclusions go too far. You must not mark someone down in history as the betrayer of Anne Frank if you do not have conclusive evidence for this.”
The publication of this book makes it clear again that after so many decades it is still difficult to research events that took place in the war. It also demonstrates once again how sensitive these types of investigations are, for all those involved. It is obvious we must conduct studies such as these with the utmost care.