The hiding place of Anne Frank and her family in Amsterdam during World War II was probably given to the Nazis by Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh according to a new book which claims to solve the 77-year-old mystery.
The Betrayal of Anne Frank, by Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan, is based on the work of a cold case team led by a former FBI agent who spent years trying to solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the war.
The teenage diarist and her family went into hiding on 6 July 1942 but they were found and deported in August 1944. Most died in Auschwitz, Anne and her sister Margot in Bergen-Belsen.
There have been many theories about who betrayed Anne Frank and the seven others in hiding and the name of Arnold van den Bergh appears on earlier lists of possible suspects.
Van den Bergh was a member of the Joodse Raad, or Jewish Council, which was set up in 1941 ostensibly as an organisation for Jewish self government. In fact it was an instrument for the occupiers to facilitate the smooth selection and deportation of Jews.
The team looked at some 30 possible scenarios, including the one that the family was found by chance. ‘We can say that 27 or 28 of them are extremely unlikely or impossible,’ journalist Pieter van Twisk, one of the Dutch researchers, told the Volkskrant.
The theory is based on an anonymous letter that was delivered to Otto Frank after the war. The cold case team failed to trace the original but did find a copy of the text made by Otto in the family archives of a policeman involved in an earlier investigation.
The note says that the family’s hiding place was ‘given to the Jüdische Auswanderung by door A. van den Bergh, who lived at the time near the Vondelpark… The JA had been given a whole list of hiding places by him.’
Van den Bergh, the book claims, probably told the Nazis about the Frank’s hiding place to keep himself and his own family safe.
‘As a founding member of the Jewish Council, he would have been privy – to addresses – where Jews were hiding,’ former FBI officer Vince Pankoke told CBS. ‘When Van den Bergh lost all his series of protections exempting him from having to go to the camps, he had to provide something valuable to the Nazis that he’s had contact with to let him and his wife at that time stay safe.’
Otto only went public with the existence of the note in 1964, during a second investigation into the family’s betrayal. At the time the claim was dismissed as slanderous towards Van den Bergh, who had died in 1950.
The book suggests that Otto did not press the issue out of respect for Van den Bergh’s children and because he did not want to do anything to stimulate anti-Semitism.
‘Perhaps he just felt that if I bring this up again, with Arnold van den Bergh being Jewish, it’ll only stoke the fires further,’ Pankoke said. ‘But we have to keep in mind that the fact that he was Jewish just meant the he was placed into a untenable position by the Nazis to do something to save his life.’
Emile Schrijver, director of the Jewish Historical Quarter organisation in Amsterdam, told the Volkskrant the book had thinned out the number of theories about the betrayal considerably. ‘Of all the theories, you can say this one is the most likely,’ he said. ‘But the last word has not yet been spoken.’
The Anne Frank house organisation in Amsterdam said on Monday in a statement that it was not involved in the cold case investigation, but it had shared its archives and museum with the team, as well as its own 2016 investigation into the
arrest of the people in hiding.
‘At the Anne Frank House we aim to tell the life story of Anne Frank as fully as we can, so it’s important to also examine the arrest of Anne Frank and the seven other people in the secret annex in as much detail as possible,’ said director Ronald Leopold. ‘The cold case team’s investigation has generated important new information and a fascinating hypothesis that merits further research.’
The book, The Betrayal of Anne Frank, is published by Barnes and Noble and goes on global release on Monday.
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