Jewish notary suspected to have betrayed Anne Frank – DW (English)
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Investigators have identified a suspect who may have revealed the hideout of Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis. Yet the evidence is inconclusive and many historians doubt the findings.
Anne Frank posthumously became world-famous through her diary
A six-year investigation into who betrayed Anne Frank and her family has yielded a surprising result.
A cold case team that included retired US FBI agent Vincent Pankoke and about 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists has identified a little-known Jewish notary, Arnold van den Bergh, as a highly probable suspect who revealed the family’s hideout to the Nazis in August 1944.
A CBS documentary and an accompanying book, “The Betrayal of Anne Frank,” based on the investigative team’s findings, detail how the Jewish-Dutch notary van den Bergh allegedly handed over a list of hiding places of Jews in Amsterdam to the Germans to save his wife, three daughters and himself.
His list included the address of the canal-facing warehouse on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, where Frank and seven other Jews lived in a secret annex for nearly two years.
In 1933, Anne Frank and her family fled from Germany to the Netherlands to escape the Nazis. In the Second World War, she had to go into hiding under the German occupation. For two years, she lived concealed in the secret annex of a house in Amsterdam. But someone betrayed her: On August 4, 1944, her family was found, arrested and deported to Auschwitz.
Anne Frank (front left) had a sister Margot (back right) who was three-and-a-half years older than she was. Her father, Otto Frank, took this photo on Margot’s eighth birthday in February 1934, when the family was already in exile in the Netherlands.
Anne’s father was able to found a company in Amsterdam. It had its headquarters in this building (c.). Otto organized the “secret annex” above and behind the premises. The family of four lived there from 1942 to 1944, together with four other people on the run from the Nazis. It was here that Anne Frank wrote her world-famous diary. The Anne Frank House has been a museum since 1960.
From the start, Anne wrote in her diary almost every day. It became a kind of friend to her, and she called it Kitty. The life she led was completely different from her previous, carefree existence. “What I like the most is that I can at least write down what I think and feel, otherwise I would completely suffocate,” she penned.
Anne Frank and her sister were taken from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen on October 30, 1944. More than 70,000 people died in this concentration camp. After the liberation of the camp, the victims were transported to mass graves under the supervision of British soldiers. Anne and Margot Frank were among those who died there from typhus, at an unknown date in March 1945. Anne was just 15 years old.
Anne’s tombstone also stands in Bergen-Belsen. This Jewish girl from Frankfurt had imagined her life differently. “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to bring joy and aid to the people who live around me, but who don’t know me all the same. I want to live on, even after my death,” she wrote in her diary on April 5, 1944.
Her great dream was to become a journalist or author. Thanks to her father, her diary was published on July 25, 1947. An English version was brought out in 1952. Anne Frank became a symbol for the victims of the Nazi dictatorship. “We all live with the aim of attaining happiness; we all live differently, but the same.” — Anne Frank, July 6, 1944.
Author: Iveta Ondruskova / tj
The main piece of evidence was an unsigned note that Anne’s father, Otto Frank, received in 1946, which was found in an old postwar investigation dossier. It specifically named van den Bergh, and alleged that as a member of Amsterdam’s wartime Jewish Council, he had access to the addresses of Jews’ hiding places, and was believed to have passed it on to the Nazis.
According to news agency Reuters, while other members of the Jewish Council were deported in 1943, van den Bergh was able to remain in the Netherlands. He died in 1950.
The movable bookcase that concealed the entrance to the Secret Annex
Pankoke, who was instrumental in the investigation, said there was no absolute certainty of van den Bergh’s complicity. “But our theory has a probability of more than 85%,” he told Deutschlandfunk radio.
The goal of the investigation, he said, was not to bring charges against anyone, but to solve the historical mystery of who turned the Frank family over to the Gestapo.
Following the publication of the theory, different historians expressed their doubts about its veracity.
As Laurien Vastenhout, a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, told the New York Times, there is no actual evidence that the Amsterdam Jewish Council had access to a list of all Jews’ addresses. “Why would the people in hiding provide the Jewish Council with their addresses?” Vastenhout said.
What remains a fact is that after the betrayal in August 1944, the Nazis deported the entire Frank family to the Auschwitz concentration camp.
Anne and her sister Margot were later transferred to the Bergen-Belsen camp, where they both died of typhus in February 1945.
Liberated from Auschwitz by the Russians, Otto would later find out that he was the family’s sole survivor.
The investigators confirmed that Otto Frank was aware of the note but chose to never speak of it publicly.
As reported by Reuters, investigating team member Pieter van Twisk has suggested several reasons for why Frank chose to remain silent. He was perhaps uncertain of the truth; he would not have wanted information becoming public that could further fuel antisemitism; and he would not have wanted Arnold van den Bergh’s three daughters to be blamed for something their father might have done.
Otto “had been in Auschwitz,” van Twisk told Reuters. “He knew that people in difficult situations sometimes do things that cannot be morally justified.”
David Barnouw, who wrote the 2003 book “Who Betrayed Anne Frank?,” is among the historians who find the evidence too thin. He had also looked into the possible role of van den Bergh in the betrayal, but felt that the anonymous note as only proof did not allow any conclusions to be made.
It was Otto Frank’s employee Miep Gies who had saved Anne’s diary, and handed it back to him at the end of the war.
His daughter’s jottings made a deep impression on Otto, who had her diary published in June 1947.
Titled “Het Achterhuis” (The Secret Annex), 3,000 copies were originally printed. The book would later be translated into about 70 languages and adapted for stage and screen.
“Where Is Anne Frank?” by Ari Folman is one of many adaptations of the diarist’s life
Anne’s life as described in her diary became known to people worldwide, and in 1960 the family’s hiding place became a museum known as the Anne Frank House. Otto remained closely involved with the Anne Frank house and museum until his death in 1980.
Update: Following the initial publication of this article on January 17, it was updated to reflect reactions of different historians to the theory.