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On August 4, 1944, police in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam raided a warehouse and arrested eight Jews who were hiding in an annex disguised behind a bookcase. Among those captured was Anne Frank, a 15-year-old schoolgirl who had spent over two years living in the cramped safehouse with her parents and older sister.
The diary Frank kept during her confinement is now considered one of the most important accounts of the Holocaust, but the circumstances of her arrest have always been cloaked in mystery.
It is believed that an anonymous tip helped guide the Nazis to the secret annex, yet despite decades of investigations, the identity of the informant has never been proven.
Investigators began taking a fresh look at the case in 2016, hoping to provide new answers. A 20-person team for the Anne Frank House was led, in part, by two retired FBI officials; former special agent Vince Pankoke, and behavioral scientist Roger Depue. As The New York Times reported, they hoped to bring new technology, including forensic accounting, computer modeling and even crowd sourcing research, to examine existing evidence such as Anne Frank’s diary and the Amsterdam building where the Franks hid.
Meanwhile, in 2018, a new book claimed to offer evidence that Anne Frank and her family were betrayed by a Jewish woman who was executed after World War II for collaborating with the Nazis.
Multiple Suspects Named in Frank Family's Betrayal
Anne Frank’s father Otto—the only member of the family to survive their subsequent deportation to the concentration camps—was among the first to assert that a betrayal had led to their capture. The group’s hideout was located inside a warehouse he had once owned, and they were aided by several of his employees as well as other Dutch sympathizers.
Shortly after World War II ended, Otto Frank suggested that the culprit was Willem van Maaren, a warehouse employee who was not in on the secret. Van Maaren was later the subject of multiple investigations related to the betrayal—including one by famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal—but he always maintained his innocence, and none of the cases ever produced any evidence against him.
In the years since Anne Frank’s diary was published, investigators and historians have proposed several other potential informants. These include Lena Hartog, the wife of one of the warehouse employees; and Nelly Voskuijl, the sister of one of the Franks’ helpers.
In 2002, meanwhile, author Carol Ann Lee argued the informant was Tonny Ahlers, a Dutch Nazi sympathizer who had previously been a business associate of Otto Frank. Ahlers’ own son endorsed the theory that his father was the culprit, but a subsequent investigation by Dutch authorities found no hard evidence of his involvement.
Was Anne Frank's Family Betrayed by a Fellow Jew?
In a 2018 book, The Backyard of the Secret Annex, Gerard Kremer, the son of a member of the Dutch resistance of the same name, argues that a Jewish woman, Ans van Dijk, was responsible for the Franks' capture. Kremer's father was an acquaintance of Van Dijk in Amsterdam and Kremer writes that in early August 1944, his father overheard Van Dijk speaking about Prinsengracht, where the Franks were hiding, in Nazi offices. That same week, the Franks were arrested—while Van Dijk was away in the Hague.
The involvement of Van Dijk, who was executed in 1948 after admitting to collaborating in the capture of 145 people, had been previously claimed. But, the Anne Frank House museum and research center were unable to confirm Van Dijk's involvement after its own investigation.
Among other theories the Anne Frank House investigated was a 2016 report that suggests no one was, in fact, responsible for leaking to the Nazis. Instead, the group’s arrest could have been a tragic accident. That report, written by senior historian Gertjan Broek, argued that the German Security Service might have simply stumbled upon the eight Jews while raiding the premises to search for fraudulent food-ration cards.
Nevertheless, researchers do not rule out the potential that Frank and the others were the victims of a betrayal. “Clearly,” the museum’s report concludes, “the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said.”
Anne Frank Wasn't Betrayed? New Research Could Rewrite History
Anne Frank, whose diary became one of the most iconic portrayals of the Holocaust, died in a concentration camp in 1945 after she, her family and friends were discovered by security services while hiding in secret rooms in an office building in Amsterdam.
Anne's father, Otto Frank, was the only survivor of the eight Jews who spent more than two years hiding in the "Secret Annex" at 263 Prinsengracht. He suspected that his family and friends had been betrayed, perhaps by an untrustworthy employee of one of the offices below. Meanwhile, biographers theorized that perhaps relatives of the Franks' helpers ratted them out, leading to the family's arrest in August 1944. [Images: Missing Nazi Diary Resurfaces]
Now, new research suggests that the German Security Service may not have been looking for hidden Jews when they found Anne and the seven others hiding with her. Rather, they might have been investigating other activities at the office and simply stumbled across the hidden families by chance, according to historians at the Anne Frank House, the museum in Amsterdam dedicated to preserving the "Secret Annex" where Frank, her sister, her parents and four other Jews spent more than two years in hiding.
"The question has always been, who betrayed Anne Frank and the others in hiding?" historian Gertjan Broek wrote in a new paper released by the museum. "This explicit focus on betrayal, however, limits the perspective on the arrest."
Who Betrayed Anne Frank?
The German-born teen diarist was captured by the Nazis in 1944 after two years in hiding. Nearly 75 years later, a new investigation aims to solve the mystery of who tipped off the police.
Behind a bookcase that doubled as a secret door, 15-year-old Anne Frank and her family lived in constant fear. If discovered in their hideout--an annex in the back of her father's business--they could be sent to their deaths.
It was 1944, and throughout Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, the forces of Nazi Germany were rounding up Jews. For the Franks, any wrong move--a loud noise, a window left open, a flash of light--could give them away.
On August 4, the Franks' worst fears were realized. At around 11 a.m., Dutch police, led by a Nazi officer, forced their way into the annex and dragged everyone away at gunpoint. Soon, all eight people living in the hideout were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Just one of them--Anne's father, Otto--would survive.
Today, much is known about the Franks' time in hiding thanks to Anne's diary, first published in 1947 (see "Through Anne's Eyes," p. 21). Yet one aspect of her story has remained a mystery: how authorities found out about the hiding place. Otto, who passed away in 1980, long suspected that one of his employees, Wilhelm van Maaren, had tipped off the police. Yet investigations by Dutch officials in 1948 and 1963 turned up nothing.
Now a new team of detectives, analysts, and historians is determined to crack the case. Using modern technology, including 3-D models of the annex, artificial intelligence, and advanced computer software, they're hoping to figure out who--if anyone--betrayed the Franks' whereabouts.
Vince Pankoke, the former FBI agent in charge of the investigation, says his goal isn't to punish those involved (most of the suspects are now dead), but to finally solve the case and call attention to the atrocities of the Holocaust. The team hopes to reveal its findings on August 4, 2019, exactly 75 years after the raid on the annex. "This is one of the greatest historical mysteries," says Deborah Lipstadt, a historian at Emory University in Atlanta. "Anne's story continues to touch so many people. We all want to find out what happened."
Anne was 3 years old when Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933. At the time, the country was in desperate shape. Its defeat in World War I (1914-18) and the economic crisis that followed had left the nation humiliated and impoverished.
Hitler gave Germans a scapegoat for all the country's problems: Jews. He blamed them not only for Germany's loss in the war but also for the nation's high unemployment rate and other issues. Once in power, he took advantage of widespread anti-Semitism to systematically target the Jewish people, stripping them of their rights, forbidding them to work in certain jobs, and organizing a boycott of Jewish businesses.
Before long, thousands of German Jews, including the Franks, fled the country in a desperate attempt to escape the Nazis. In 1934, Anne and her family settled in Amsterdam, where they thought they would be safe. And at first, they were. But in 1940, less than a year after Hitler's invasion of Poland sparked World War II (1939-45), German forces occupied the Netherlands. The conflict eventually engulfed much of the world, pitting the Allies (led by the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union) against the Axis Powers (led by Germany, Italy, and Japan).
As Hitler's empire grew, hundreds of thousands of European Jews tried to flee to other countries, fearful that they would be deported to concentration camps. But many of them had nowhere to go. Several nations, including the U.S., had set quotas that limited the number of refugees they would accept. Anne and her family were trapped.
In 1942, Otto decided that his family had no choice but to go into hiding. His business, which sold pectin, an ingredient in jam, was made up of offices and a warehouse. Behind them was a small building, called an annex, that could be reached only from the inside.
Soon after the Franks moved in, they were joined by Otto's business partner, Hermann van Pels van Pels's wife, Auguste and their 15-year-old son, Peter. Another Jewish man, Fritz Pfeffer, arrived a few months later. Several of Otto's employees agreed to help them, risking their lives to provide food and other necessities.
Despite the constant danger, Anne tried to remain optimistic. "It's difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality," she wrote in her diary on July 15, 1944, less than three weeks before the raid on the annex. "It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."
After their arrest, Anne and the others in the annex were sent to Auschwitz, in Poland, the most notorious of all the concentration camps. Anne and her older sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to Bergen-Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany, where they are believed to have died of typhus in February 1945, just weeks before the camp was liberated by British troops.
By the time Germany surrendered in May 1945, the Nazis had killed more than 6 million European Jews--two-thirds of the continent's Jewish population--and 5 million others, including Poles, Roma, Communists, and the disabled. Many had been shot and thrown into mass graves or herded into gas chambers, their bodies then burned in crematoriums. Others died in the camps of starvation or disease. About 1 million of the victims were children.
Today, nearly 75 years after her death, Anne's story continues to captivate the world. A few years ago, it caught the attention of Pankoke, who was shocked to learn that the circumstances surrounding the Franks' arrest remained a mystery.
Over the years, potential suspects have included Van Maaren a prominent Dutch Nazi named Tonny Ahlers and a woman whose husband worked for Otto, Lena Hartog-van Bladeren.
Pankoke says his team has started analyzing millions of pages of scanned documents, including police reports, witness statements, and lists of Nazi informants, and begun to follow up on leads. Previous investigations had to analyze such documents by hand, but new computer software can process the same information in a fraction of the time.
The team also plans to construct a 3-D version of the annex and use computer models to figure out how far sounds could have traveled. They're hoping to determine whether a neighbor or passerby could have heard the Franks and alerted the authorities.
The investigators have also set up a tip line so people can submit information. They've already received hundreds of tips, including from family members of past suspects and people who lived near the annex.
Pankoke says he's open to all possibilities, including that the Franks were discovered by chance, as some historians have speculated. A 2016 report by the Anne Frank House, a museum created from the Franks' hiding place in Amsterdam, suggested that the authorities may have gone to Otto's business to investigate forged food-ration cards and other illegal activities, not to find Jews.
Whatever the investigation turns up, Pankoke says it's important to call attention to what happened to Anne--and the millions of other Jews murdered by the Nazis.
"We owe it to the victims," he says. "It doesn't matter how long it takes, we're going to try to solve this."
An entry in Anne Frank's diary, June 6, 1944
Anne Frank's diary (at right), which she nicknamed Kitty, was first published in 1947, two years after her death. It has since been translated into nearly 70 languages and remains one of the most widely read books in the world. The excerpt below was written on D-Day, the day the Allies landed on the beaches of France to begin the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.
A huge commotion in the Annex! Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we've ail talked so much about, which still seems too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true? Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don't know yet. But where there's hope, there's life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. We'll need to be brave to endure the many fears and hardships and the suffering yet to come. It's now a matter of remaining calm and steadfast, of gritting our teeth and keeping a stiff upper lip! France, Russia, Italy, and even Germany, can cry out in agony, but we don't yet have that right!
Oh, Kitty, the best part about the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way. Those terrible Germans have oppressed and threatened us for so long that the thought of friends and salvation means everything to us! Now it's not just the Jews, but Holland and all of occupied Europe. Maybe, Margot says, I can even go back to school in October or September.
After the Nazi Party wins elections, its leader Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor (similar to president) of Germany. The Nazis burn books by Jews, fire Jews from government jobs, and organize a boycott of Jewish businesses.
The Nazi Party begins passing laws that strip German Jews and other "non-Aryans" of their citizenship. Jews are banned from schools, hospitals, and other public places.
On November 9, the Nazis unleash a wave of antiJewish attacks, burning and looting synagogues and Jewish-owned shops. They arrest 30,000 Jewish men and send them to concentration camps.
On September 1, Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II. At the height of its power, Germany dominates most of Europe.
Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7 brings the U.S. into the war. By late 1942, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union stalls, turning the tide against the Nazis.
The Nazis formalize the "Final Solution," their plan to systematically murder all of Europe's 9.5 million Jews.
In one of many acts of resistance, Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland start an uprising against the Germans in April. It lasts almost a month before it's crushed.
With the German army in retreat, Allied forces liberate concentration camps across Europe. By the war's end, 6 million Jews are killed, as are millions of gay people, Roma, and other "undesirables."
In a Berlin bunker on April 30, Hitler swallows a cyanide pill before shooting himself in the head. Germany surrenders on May 7. Japan follows on August 15, ending the war.
Caption: Anne Frank working on her now-famous diary in Amsterdam, before going into hiding with her family during World War II
Caption: This bookcase was a swinging door that hid the entrance to the secret annex.
Caption: The entrance to the Frank family's hideout was through here.
Caption: The room in the annex that Anne shared with Fritz Pfeffer
Caption: Smashed windows at a Jewish shop in Berlin, Germany, following Kristallnacht, which means "Night of Broken Glass"
Caption: Prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp, April 1945
LESSON PLAN: PAIRING A PRIMARY & SECONDARY SOURCE
The German-born teen diarist was captured by the Nazis in 1944 after two years in hiding. Nearly 75 years later, a new investigation aims to solve the mystery of who tipped off the police.
* Article Quiz (online and on p. T10)
* Seeking a Way Out (primary source online and on p. T14)
* Get a Clue (vocabulary online only)
1 Set Focus: Pose an essential question to guide discussion: Why do you think people are still so interested in Anne Frank's story today, more than 70 years after her death?
2 List Vocabulary: Share some of the challenging vocabulary words in the article (see right). Encourage students to use context to infer meanings as they read.
3 Engage: Ask what students know about Anne Frank and her famous diary.
4 Read and Discuss: Ask students to read the Upfront article about the mystery that still surrounds the discovery and arrest of Anne Frank and her family. Review why the article itself is a secondary source. (It was written by someone who didn't personally experience or witness the events.) Then pose these critical-thinking questions:
* What are some theories on how Anne Frank and the others in the annex were discovered? Which do you find most convincing? (One theory is that the residents of the annex were betrayed by Otto Frank's employee Wilhelm van Maaren or by another acquaintance. Another theory is that they were found by accident as authorities investigated food-ration-card fraud. Students' opinions will vary.)
* What does the author mean when she says that Hitler made Jews a scapegoat for Germany's problems? (The author means that Hitler publicly blamed the Jews for Germany's troubles, including its defeat in World War I and the economic crisis that followed the war and left many Germans poor and unemployed.)
* What is Vince Pankoke's goal in investigating what happened to Anne Frank and others in the annex? (Pankoke has said that his goal is not to punish the person who betrayed the Franks-if, in fact, the family was betrayed. Instead, he wants to solve the mystery for the sake of the victims and to call attention to the atrocities of the Holocaust.)
* Why is Pankoke hopeful that his team could find information that past investigations have missed? (While past investigators had to study police reports and other documents by hand, Pankoke's team will use computer software to analyze such documents. They'll also use technology to create models of the annex, etc.)
5 Use the Primary Source: Project or distribute the PDF Seeking a Way Out (p. T14), which features a letter written by Otto Frank in 1941, as he searched for a way to get his family out of Europe. Discuss what makes it a primary source. (It provides direct, firsthand evidence concerning the topic.) Have students read the excerpt and answer the questions below (which appear on the PDF without answers).
* How would you describe Otto Frank's purpose and tone in this letter? (Frank's purpose was to ask Charley if he might give a $5,000 deposit to the U.S. consul to help the Franks immigrate to the U.S. His tone might be described as desperate but still courteous and dignified.)
* What challenges did Frank face in trying to get his family out of the Netherlands? (One was money. Frank's brothers-in-law in the U.S. were able to provide financial affidavits for Frank's mother-in-law, but not for Frank, his wife, and his daughters. The family would have to pay a deposit. In addition, Frank was not allowed to travel to Rotterdam, and the consul would not meet with him.)
* Had Frank made efforts to get his family out of Europe before? How do you know? (Frank had tried years earlier to secure U.S. visas for his family. He wrote, "In 19381 filed an application in Rotterdam to emigrate to U.S.A. but all the papers have been destroyed there.")
* Do you think this was an easy letter for Frank to write? Explain, using evidence from the letter to support your response. (It is reasonable to infer that it was probably difficult for Frank to request help from Charley. He emphasized in the letter that he was seeking help only for the sake of his children, and he wrote that "You are the only person I know that I can ssk [sic].")
* Based on the Upfront article and Frank's letter, what were U.S. immigration policies like at that time? What may have been the thinking behind such policies? (You can infer from the article and letter that the U.S. had fairly restrictive immigration policies at that time. The article notes that "several nations, including the U.S., had set quotas that limited the number of refugees they would accept." Because the U.S. required financial affidavits for visas, it can be inferred that some in the U.S. were concerned about new immigrants being dependent on the government for financial support. Answers will vary.)
What is it about Anne Frank's story that continues to captivate so many people? Write a brief essay, using details from the article and Anne's diary entry to support your response.
Use the quiz on p. T10 to assess comprehension.
If a living person is found to have betrayed the Franks, should he or she be tried and punished?
Explore Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl, and check out Scholastic's Holocaust reader, a student resource full of texts, primary sources, infographics, and more. Go to scholastic.com/holocaust or call 1-800-SCHOLASTIC.
Choose the best answer for each of the following questions. For the analysis section, refer to the article as needed.
1. During World War II, Anne Frank and her family went into hiding in
2. Although Anne recorded many details about her ordeal in her diary, no one has ever been able to figure out
a precisely where the Franks' hiding place was.
b who else was in hiding with the Franks.
c what happened to the Franks after Anne's last diary entry.
d how authorities found out about the Franks' hiding place.
3. How did the Franks get food and other necessities while in hiding?
a They snuck out at night to take supplies from a nearby grocery store.
b Neighbors who noticed the hiding spot left supplies by the secret door.
c Several of Otto Frank's employees delivered supplies regularly.
4. How is the current investigation into the Franks' ordeal different from past investigations?
a New technology is being used.
b A new eyewitness has come forward.
c The new investigation seeks to punish the people who betrayed the Franks.
5. In the first two paragraphs, the author describes conditions in the annex to stress that the Franks
a almost survived the Holocaust.
b were living comfortably despite their surroundings.
c were living in fear in the annex.
d were desperate to escape their imprisonment.
6. In the section "Life in Hiding," the quotes from Anne Frank's diary suggest that she was
7. Which excerpt best supports the theory that the Franks could have been discovered by accident?
a "Pankoke says it's important to call attention to what happened to Anne . "
b "They've already received hundreds of tips . "
c ". his team has started analyzing millions of pages of scanned documents, including police reports . "
d ". the authorities may have gone to Otto's business to investigate forged food-ration cards and other illegal activities . "
8. The article answers all of the following questions EXCEPT
a Why did the Franks flee Germany?
b What happened to Otto Frank while he was in Auschwitz?
c Who fought against Germany in World War II?
d How is Anne Frank believed to have died?
IN-DEPTH QUESTIONS Please use the other side of this paper for your responses.
9. Why do you think so many people continue to find Anne Frank's story so compelling?
10. What do you think are some of the challenges involved in investigating something that happened almost 75 years ago?
2. [d] how authorities found out about the Franks' hiding place.
3. [c] Several of Otto Frank's employees delivered supplies regularly.
4. [a] New technology is being used.
5. [c] were living in fear in the annex.
7. [d].. the authorities may have gone to Otto's business to investigate forged foodration cards and other illegal activities . "
8. [b] What happened to Otto Frank while he was in Auschwitz?
PAIRING A PRIMARY & SECONDARY SOURCE
Anne Frank and her family fled Germany shortly after Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime came to power. In 1934, they settled in Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands. But six years later, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and the Franks again found themselves desperate to escape. Below is a letter that Anne's father, Otto Frank, wrote in April 1941 to Nathan Straus Jr. (or "Charley," as Frank called him), an old college friend in New York. Unfortunately, Frank's efforts to secure passage to America failed, and one year later, the Franks went into hiding. Use the letter along with the Upfront article to answer the guestions.
Letter irom Otto Frank to Nathan "Charley" Straus Jr., April 30, 1941
. I am forced to look out for emigration and as far as I can see U.S.A. is the only country we could go to. Perhaps you remember that we have two girls. It is for the sake of the children mainly that we have to care for. Our own fate is of less importance. Two brothers of Efith [sic] * emigrated last year and they work as ordinary workmen around Boston. Both of them earn money, but not enough to have us come. They would be able to give an affidavit for their mother, living with us here, and they seaved [sic] enough as far as lean [sic] make out, to pay the passage for my mother-in-law. . . .
Edith was Otto Frank's wife ("Efith" was likely a typo.)
To get a visa to enter the U.S., an immigrant had to have two U.S. citizens or permanent residents write an affidavit, or letter pledging financial support.
In 1938 I filed an application in Rotterdam to emigrate to U.S.A. but all the papers have been destroyed there. . . . The dates of application are of no importance any longer, as everyone who has an effective affidavit from a member of his family and who can pay his passage may leave. One says that no special difficulties shall be made from the part of the German Authorities. But in the case that an affidavit from family members is not available or not sufficient the consul asks a bank deposit. How much he would ask in my case I dont [sic] know. I am not allowed to go to Rotterdam and without an introduction the consul would not even accept me. As far as I hear from other people it might be about $5000-for us four. You are the only person I know that I can ssk [sic]: Would it be possible for you to give a deposit in my favor?
A consul is an official appointed by a government to represent that government in a foreign country. The U.S. consul in the Netherlands was responsible for checking a prospective immigrant's paperwork and finances, and putting him or her on a waiting list.
This is a city in the Netherlands it was under Nazi control starting in 1940.
* The Latin word sic means "just as it was written." It is used to mark spots in the letter where there are typing errors.
LETTER IS [c] ANNE FRANK FONDS, BASEL, SWITZERLAND, AND IS IN THE ARCHIVES OF THE YIVO INSTITUTE FOR JEWISH RESEARCH. IT IS REPRODUCED HERE WITH THE PERMISSION OF ANNE FRANK FONDS.
1. How would you describe Otto Frank's purpose and tone in this letter?
2. What challenges did Frank face in trying to get his family out of the Netherlands?
3. Had Frank made efforts to get his family out of Europe before? How do you know?
4. Do you think this was an easy letter for Frank to write? Explain, using evidence from the letter to support your response.
Does it really matter who betrayed Anne Frank?
The question who betrayed Anne Frank and the others hiding in the annex, has never really been conclusively answered. There are plenty of well founded speculations but there has not been a 100% certainty yet to who betrayed them.
There is also still a possibility that no one betrayed them but that they were discovered by accident. Contrary to popular believe it can actually get quite hot in the Netherlands during the summer months. The early days in August 1944 the average temperature was 21 degrees Centigrade(72 Fahrenheit). In the big cities it often feels hotter. There was no air conditioning in the small annex, there were 8 people in there. Maybe someone just briefly opened a window a bit for some fresh air and this may have been spotted.
I know this theory adds to more speculation ,but here is the thing. Does it really mater who betrayed them?
I believe the only thing that matters is that they should not have been in that annex in the first place. They should have been able to walk around freely wherever they so desired. Their rights should never have been taken away, They were human beings just like anyone else.
It is true that the Nazi regime who had occupied the Netherlands at the time persecuted all the Jews in the country, but this regime would not have been so successful if they hadn’t received assistance from the public servants who insisted in doing their jobs to their best ability. Maybe this was out of fear, and to an extent it was but there were those who endorsed the ruthless regime.
Of course there were more people who were totally horrified by the evil deeds they witnessed, and often were crippled by fear.
If we keep on asking who betrayed Anne Frank, we also have to look why did they receive so little help from others, before they had to go into hiding. This question has answers which not many people want to hear, because that implicates governments including the US government who refused to give Otto Frank and his family Visas.
So the real answer to who betrayed Anne Frank is, nearly everyone.
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Born on June 12, 1929, Anne Frank was a Jewish teenager from Frankfurt, Germany who was forced to go into hiding during the Holocaust. She and her family, along with four others, spent over two years during World War II hiding in an annex of rooms on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, today known as the Anne Frank House.
Since it was first published in 1947, Anne Frank&rsquos diary has become one of the most powerful memoirs of the Holocaust. Its message of courage and hope in the face of adversity has reached millions. The diary has been translated into 70 languages with over 30 million copies sold. Anne Frank&rsquos story is especially meaningful to young people today. For many she is their first, if not their only exposure to the history of the Holocaust.
After being betrayed to the Nazis, Anne, her family, and the others living with them were arrested and deported to Nazi concentration camps. In March of 1945, seven months after she was arrested, Anne Frank died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen. She was fifteen years old.
Her wisdom and legacy live on, and she is frequently cited as an inspiration for today, with her insights into human nature, her relentless optimism, and her vivid portrayal of her experience in hiding as a teenager.
A cold case team is searching for who betrayed Anne Frank
+ Read More
Anne Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. The exact circumstances – or time – of her death is unknown but she is thought to have due to illness exacerbated by squalid conditions and a weakened state. It is possible she died just weeks before the camp's liberation.
After more than two years of hiding above her father’s warehouse, Anne Frank and seven others were discovered by Nazi German and Dutch officials on August 4, 1944. The search for who—or what—might have exposed their location continues 75 years later.
Today, historians, data scientists, and even a cold-case forensic team are using new technology to identify the informant—with some suggesting that, perhaps, Frank was discovered by accident.
Frank’s diary, The Diary of Anne Frank, which she wrote from age 13 through 15, is the most widely-read text to emerge from the Holocaust. For the Netherlands, her story of common citizens risking their lives to help those in need has become the most prominent narrative of the Dutch’s involvement during the World War II occupation.
However, Frank’s story glosses over the often-complicit relationship the Dutch had with Nazi Germany. Up to 80 percent of the Dutch Jewish population was killed during the war, the second highest percentage after Poland.
“The Netherlands have cherished the idea of heroism,” says Emile Schrijver, the general director of the Jewish Historical Museum and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam. “It’s taken an entire generation to come to terms with being a perpetrator and being a bystander more than anything else.”
Over the years, more than 30 individuals have been suspected of betraying Frank and her friends and family.
Among the accused includes an overly-curious warehouse employee who worked beneath the group’s hiding place. Although two investigations were opened to see if he was culprit, one in 1947 and the other in 1963, Wilhelm Geradus van Maaren maintained that he was not the informant and, without any evidence, he was not charged. Another suspect, Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, helped manage pests in the warehouse. It’s said that she suspected people were hiding in the warehouse and then started a dangerous rumour, but later interviews with Lena do not confirm that she knew about the hidden people before the raid.
The list of suspects continues, with no evidence to prove or disprove anyone’s involvement. Gertjan Broek, a lead researcher with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, believes that the search for an informant might prevent researchers from discovering what really happened. “By asking ‘Who betrayed Anne Frank?’ you actually assume tunnel vision already. You leave out other options,” he says.
It’s possible, Broek says, the Franks weren’t betrayed at all—instead they might have been discovered by accident. There’s a chance that those in hiding were discovered during a search regarding fraudulent ration coupons, he says after a two-year research project.
When considered together, the few verified facts from that day support the claim. First, the German and Dutch officials did not have transportation for the hidden people ready when they arrived—instead they had to improvise. Second, one of the three known officers at the raid was assigned to the unit that investigated economic crimes. Finally, two men providing the Franks and those in hiding with black-market ration coupons were arrested, but one of their cases was dismissed for unknown reasons. It’s possible that one of the men struck a deal especially considering that an officer overseeing the coupon case was also at the Anne Frank raid.
Although the theory seems possible, Broek still can’t prove it. “No conclusive evidence in the end, of course, unfortunately. But the more flags you can pin on the map, the more you narrow the margins of what's possible and that’s the main virtue.”
Another group of more than 20 forensic, criminology, and data researchers hope to narrow the margins to a single culprit. The team, led by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, is treating the investigation like a modern cold case. For years they’ve been combing through archives and interviewing sources around the world while also using 21 st century technology to crosscheck leads. The team has created a 3-D scan of Frank’s hiding place to see how sounds might have traveled to nearby buildings.
The team is also using artificial intelligence to find hidden connections between individuals, places, and events related to the case. The data science company Xomnia created a custom program that, in part, analyses archival text to create nuanced and layered network maps.
“What you can do is try to see how often, for example, words or names are used together. If certain names are used together a lot, you can create kind of a network and do some kind of network analysis,” says Robbert van Hintum, a lead data scientist at Xomnia. For example, it’s possible to cross-reference addresses with family relations and police reports to see who might have been involved or aware of various events in Frank’s neighborhood.
“By adding all these dimensions together, an image emerges which you weren't able to see before,” explains van Hintum.
The Cold Case Diary team will announce their findings in a book expected to publish next year.
Out of the eight hidden Jews, only Anne’s father Otto would survive the war. It may be too late to bring a supposed betrayer to justice, but as anti-Semitism is on the rise this research still matters to many. “By better understanding what happened there, we can learn how people treat each other and prepare for the future,” says Schrijver.
Who Betrayed Anne Frank? - HISTORY
The Attic seen from the back. For eight Jewish people in hiding at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, a more than 2 year period of hiding came to an end on the warm summer's day of August 4, 1944. The doors to the stockroom stood open, and the first to enter was the Austrian Nazi SS Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer, followed by the Dutch NSB members (Dutch national socialists, allied to the Nazis) Gezinus Gringhuis, Willem Grootendorst and Maarten Kuiper. The hiders were taken away (and apparently their number was more than expected, as a second car had to be called for), along with two of the four helpers present that day. The remaining staff was not interfered with. Click here to see a video excerpt in which Miep Gies recounts the day of the arrest.
Of the eight Jewish hiders, only Otto Frank returned after the war, as did the two arrested helpers Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler. The Secret Annex had been betrayed, but by who?
To this day, no-one has been able to answer that question with certainty, and the definite answer will probably never be known. The Political Investigation Department of the Amsterdam police force conducted an inquiry in 1948, and a second inquiry took place in 1963. In 2003, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation released a report. In addition to these official reports, there are also the biographers of Anne Frank and of Otto Frank, Melissa Müller and Carol Ann Lee, who each attempt to identify the betrayer in their books published in 1998 and 2002, respectively. The question is also a matter of much speculation, with varying degrees of substantiation. Below follows an inventory of possible betrayers and the circumstances that could have brought them to the betrayal. Every reader will have to draw his or her own conclusions.
As the period of hiding went on for longer, the hiders became less careful. Curtains were opened beyond just a crack, rooftop windows inadvertently stayed open, accidental noises became more frequent, and so on. All in all, the visible evidence mounted for the world outside that there were people in the building after office hours. People in the outside world may quite innocently have mentioned this in conversation, which could have been overheard by the wrong persons. In this scenario, the name of the night watchman Martin Sleegers plays a prominent role. Following the report of a burglary in the premises in April 1944, he and a police officer went to investigate. They actually fumbled with the bookcase that hid the entrance to the Secret Annex. Anne describes this burglary in her diary entry of April 11, 1944. There is no concrete evidence that Sleegers betrayed the hiders. While it is a fact Sleegers knew the NSB member Gringhuis (who was present at the arrest), this in itself does not constitute proof.
NSB member Tonny Ahlers visited Otto Frank at his office in April 1941, to confront him with a letter addressed to the NSB that mentioned a conversation between Frank and Job Jansen, a former employee. In this conversation, Otto Frank had expressed negative views about the German occupier. Ahlers said that he worked as a courier for the SD (Nazi security service) and for the NSB, and said that he had intercepted the letter by chance. Subsequent investigations showed that he was indeed a frequent visitor at the Security Service, but that his role as courier was simply made up. It is known that Frank twice gave money to Ahlers, though probably not more than 50 guilders altogether. It has not been established that Ahlers visited Frank regularly.
Tonny Ahlers Ahlers was notoriously anti-Semitic, for which he was also convicted after the war, but also an inveterate liar and a braggart. This makes it difficult for researchers to distinguish fact from fiction. Can Ahlers have been the betrayer personally, or did he pass on information to the Nazi Security Service, for example? The latter is possible. Ahlers started a business in the same kind of commodities as Otto Frank's business. This would have given him access to the stockroom of Opekta / Pectacon, later Gies & Co., when coming to collect ordered goods at Prinsengracht. In this way he may also have had contact with the stockroom manager Willem van Maaren (more about him later). The three NSB members Gringhuis, Grootendorst, Kuiper and Sleegers and Ahlers all knew each other, but this doesn't really prove anything, certainly not given Ahlers' untrustworthiness. The facts are definitely striking and can be used to construct a plausible theory, but it will never amount to hard evidence. It is regrettable that Ahlers' widow, Martha van Kuik, was not interrogated extensively. She was an eye-witness and may have known and seen a great deal. She is still alive today. Carol Ann Lee, biographer of Otto Frank (2002), was the first to present this theory about Tonny Ahlers. In her book she works towards identifying Ahlers as the betrayer, yet without explicitly labeling him as such. It remains a speculative theory, woven into her pages. The Dutch television program Andere tijden, aired on March 12, 2002, explores Lee's theory.
Willem van Maaren
Stockroom manager Willem van Maaren was suspected of the betrayal for many years, although he never sided with the Nazis. He stole goods and was generally considered dishonest. In Anne's diary it becomes clear that the Annex occupants also did not trust him. However, inquiries conducted after the war did not turn up any evidence that he was the betrayer. On the other hand, his eager inquisitiveness was very striking. In all sorts of ways, he tried to establish whether people had entered the stockroom in the evening or during the night. From what he noticed, he must have concluded that this was indeed the case. Another very unusual moment occurred when he asked the employees whether there had previously been a Mr. Frank at the office. It is unknown how he came to that name, or why he asked that question. Van Maaren supplied goods to various customers, but it cannot be determined whether Ahlers was one of these. That Ahlers and Van Maaren knew each other, so that Van Maaren may have tried to obtain information for Ahlers, is yet another theory that sounds plausible but that cannot be proven.
Lena Hartog-van Bladeren
She is the least likely candidate for the role of betrayer. Her husband Lammert worked in the stockroom on Prinsengracht until the raid in 1944, while she worked as a cleaner at the same address (among others)&mdash something that she initially denied, by the way. A second contradiction is Lammert's statement that he continued to work at the stockroom for several days following the raid, while according to the helpers he immediately ran off when the arrest took place. It can furthermore not be explained why Lena Hartog claimed that there were Jews hiding in the premises at number 263. Where could she have got this information? From her husband or from Van Maaren? The latter declared later to have had just a suspicion. So was there information trickling through a grapevine? Possibly, but hard to prove. Finally, Lena said that she feared for her husband, who worked in a place where Jews were hiding. But then why did she not warn her husband on the day the raid took place to avoid his arrest, and notify the Security Service afterwards? The Germans refers to their source as a 'reliable' source. Was it Lena? Anne Frank's biographer Melissa Müller first pointed to Lena Hartog as possible betrayer, in her 1998 book Anne Frank, The biography. Yet it remains unlikely, as she would have wanted as much as possible to avoid drawing attention to her family, given her husband's precarious position (he hadn't responded to the Arbeitseinsatz, the summons to work).
Headline "The silent betrayal of Anne Frank" in Dutch newspaper after the NIOD report was published, April 28, 2003. To conclude
The above demonstrates that there is no indubitable proof for who betrayed the Secret Annex. There is something about all the persons and circumstances that make them suspicious, but precisely because this is so, all argumentation falters here. It could be that a number of persons suspected the presence of the hiders, and that a number of persons involved with the Prinsengracht address knew each other, but this does not add up to any form of evidence. Pure coincidence must moreover not be ruled out as a contributing factor. Perhaps neighbors sympathetic to or member of the NSB, who looked out on the rear facade of the premises, saw people moving past curtains that were not fully closed, and notified the authorities.
A few more 'loose ends' remain. For example, in late 1943 Victor Kugler was summoned to the local headquarters of the Nazi Party in his hometown of Hilversum, on the same night that the hiders on Prinsengracht were alarmed by an insistent ringing of the front doorbell. Kugler had apparently ignored the first summons, as the existence of the second summons demonstrates. Why was he summoned there, and what was discussed? And did the Austrian Silberbauer, who supervised the arrest, really not know who had tipped off the Amsterdam Security Service headquarters about the Jewish hiders, as he claimed during the investigation of 1963?
Practically everyone that had anything to do with the betrayal was interrogated after the war, without producing any definitive answer to the question, 'Who betrayed the occupants of the Secret Annex on Prinsengracht 263?'
'It's time to tell the truth'
On a warm summer's day on August 4 1944, four Gestapo policemen raided a canal warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam. The eight Jewish people hiding in the annex there were arrested: Otto Frank, his wife and two children the van Pels family of three and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist. They were taken to Westerbork Kamp and from there herded into cattle wagons bound for Auschwitz. Of the eight, only Otto returned.
During the raid, a policeman emptied Otto's briefcase to fill it with the fugitives' valuables. In his haste, he dropped a batch of papers and a small diary belonging to Otto's daughter. This diary, the diary of Anne Frank, was to become the most widely read document to emerge from the Holocaust.
In March this year, Carol Ann Lee's biography of Otto Frank was published in the Netherlands, generating renewed interest in the diary and reviving the question of who betrayed the Franks. In a television interview, the day before her book was published, Lee identified Tonny Ahlers as that person.
Ahlers was a violent anti-semite. By the early 1940s he had a lengthy criminal record and had been involved in numerous brawls in Jewish-owned cafes. During the war he denounced Jews and members of the Dutch underground to the Germans. In 1945, Ahlers was tried for his wartime activities and sent to prison.
Less than 48 hours after the publication of her book, Lee received an astonishing telephone call from her editor. "Someone rang just now," she told Lee. "He has information about the betrayal of the Frank family. He left his number." Lee called. The man who answered introduced himself as Anton, Tonny Ahlers's son.
"I could never have told people voluntarily that my father betrayed Otto Frank, but now that it has been made public, I feel it's my duty to tell what I know and to prevent any lies and half-truths going into the papers," he explained.
Anton is a reserved man in his mid-50s, who weighs his words carefully. He says he seeks neither fame nor revenge. His Dutch wife had five uncles executed by the Nazis for their resistance activities. He has never been to the Anne Frank house. "I feel shame," he says, "I am ashamed that my father created this situation."
He agrees to meet me, accompanied by Lee, in the lobby of a hotel on the outskirts of Amsterdam. This is the first time he has agreed to be interviewed.
Anton does not remember when he became aware of his father's chequered past. "It was a process, not an incident," he says. "One day, one of the kids at school taunted me, calling me a Nazi boy. Then, when I was 16, I had a girlfriend. I was very keen on her, but when her father found out my identity, he said, 'Not with a Nazi' and forbade her to see me again."
Anton's mother lives in Amsterdam. When Lee approached her in connection with her research on Otto Frank, she got a hostile reception. "I asked her about her ex-husband's relationship with Otto. At first she told me that they were friends and had business relations. But when I confronted her with letters that Ahlers had written about Otto Frank, where it was clear that he hated him, she became aggressive and threatened to call the police. She screamed: 'If you come any closer to this door, I will attack you. The war was bad for everyone, not just the Jews. Otto Frank was my best friend. My husband did nothing wrong during the war. You have no idea what it was like for ordinary Dutch people - everyone talks about the Jews, but it was bad for us too. Anyway, I had Jewish girls working for me during the war, all the time. My husband did not betray anyone. Don't you dare write anything bad about him. If you do, I have family who will come and get you.' And she slammed the door."
Anton is unmoved. "My mother lives in lies. She claims she had Jewish maids working for her during the war but I can categorically say that it's untrue. Lies, lies, lies," he sighs. "My father was a violent man. I remember plates smashing against the walls and punches flying into our faces - my mother saw what was going on but never defended us. She never interfered."
Anton has no doubt that it was his father who denounced the Franks to the Nazis. His evidence is difficult to corroborate, but through painstaking research - poring over letters, listening to testimonies and uncovering wartime documents - Lee has given substance to many of Anton's claims. In her biography, recently published in English, Lee describes Ahlers as an unpleasant and dishonest man. His son concurs: "He was always causing trouble, picking arguments with neighbours and snitching on people. He was always in trouble with the police, always owing money. We often had the bailiffs coming to our flat."
In 1985, the relationship between Ahlers and his wife reached rock bottom. In one incident, she later claimed, Ahlers had tried to run her over with his car. After a particularly violent incident she left him and the following year began divorce proceedings.
At about the same time, Anton's business took a serious blow and he was forced to declare bankruptcy. His lawyer asked him whether he had dealings in the West Indies. "I was rather surprised since I had never been to the West Indies and had no business connections there."
The lawyer showed him a letter sent anonymously to the receivers. The writer claimed that Anton and his wife were involved in drug trafficking in the West Indies. "This letter caused us a lot of problems," he says. "Shortly after this incident, we accompanied my mother to my parents' house, to collect some personal belongings. Lying on my father's desk we found a carbon copy of the 'anonymous letter' sent to the receivers. You see, nothing was beyond him.
"When my daughter was in primary school the class learned about Anne Frank and read from her diary. One day," recalls Anton, "she mentioned that her grandfather had told her that he was involved in the Frank family going into hiding. Then she added that he told her he was also there when they got out."
Assuming that this exchange took place, it is not clear what Ahlers meant, since he was not present when the Franks' hiding place was raided. None the less, there is written evidence indicating that Ahlers knew Otto had gone into hiding and was aware of his hiding place.
In a testimony given to Lee, Ahlers' 82-year-old brother, Cas, said that Ahlers told him that he betrayed the Franks during the war. This can only be submitted as supporting evidence as it is based on hearsay. The incriminating evidence against Ahlers is found by piecing together his wartime activities and contact with Otto Frank. "If you put all the pieces together, it all adds up," says Anton. Then he offers another twist to the tale. "It did not end with the betrayal: I believe that my father blackmailed Otto Frank after the war. My father received money every month - he bragged about it. He would buy lots of presents and go on expensive holidays. He told us it was a disability allowance, because he had polio as a child. But this could not be - the monthly payments were comparable with the salary of a board manager. Then, suddenly, in 1980 his financial situation changed and the spendthrift lifestyle ended." Otto Frank died in 1980.
It is unclear what Otto had to hide and why he would let himself be blackmailed. Lee concedes that the evidence for this theory is circumstantial, but offers a possible motive: "Otto sold products to the Wehrmacht, the German army, in 1940, after the invasion of the Netherlands. Miep Gies, one of Otto's employees - who also helped him go into hiding - confirmed this after the war. Ahlers knew about these dealings. When Otto returned from Auschwitz in 1945, having lost his wife and two daughters, he may have feared his company would be confiscated if his war-time business with Germany became known, although 80% of Dutch firms did business with the Germans during the war, mostly out of fear. You must also take into account," she says, "that when he returned to the Netherlands after the war, Otto was considered an 'enemy national' and his situation was very precarious."
Eva Schloss, whose mother married Otto Frank in 1953, dismisses the blackmail suggestion. "Otto was extremely careful with money. I don't believe for a second that he would allow anyone to blackmail him. My mother and Otto did everything together and there is no way my mother would not know about such a thing."
Ahlers died in 2000, aged 82, and there are now no living witnesses who might be able to unlock the mystery. The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation recently stated that, as a result of the findings published in Lee's book, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, it is officially reopening the investigation into the betrayal, and investigating the possibility that Otto was blackmailed after the war. It will review old files and testimony in search of new revelations and hope to reach some sort of conclusion by the end of the year.
After more than 50 years of silence, Anton Ahlers is keen to shed light on his father's past and expose the truth. "I have kept silent all these years", he says. "It's now time to tell the truth. Enough of lies. No more lies."
Who Betrayed Anne Frank? Former F.B.I. Agent Reopens a Cold Case
AMSTERDAM — Hiding from the Gestapo in a secret annex of her father’s warehouse in Amsterdam during World War II, Anne Frank heard a little knock on the wall. She could not be sure who or what it was, and it frightened her.
She was right to be scared: Just months later, on Aug. 4, 1944, the police discovered the hide-out during a raid and arrested her and seven others living behind a movable bookcase. All but Otto Frank, the diarist’s father, and later the editor of “The Diary of a Young Girl,” perished in Nazi death camps.
Who gave them up has remained a mystery. Now, almost 75 years later, a team of experts led by a retired F.B.I. agent is bringing modern forensic science and criminology to bear in hopes of solving one of history’s most famous cold case files.
“We will put special emphasis on new leads,” said the retired special agent, Vince Pankoke, 59, who is leading the effort. “We need to verify stories as they come in, and we know that is going to lead to further investigation.”
In the search for new leads, he and his team are digitally combing through millions of pages of scanned material from the National Archives in Washington as well as archives in the Netherlands, Germany and Israel.
The use of other modern techniques like forensic accounting, crowd sourcing, behavioral science and testimonial reconstruction may also hold promise of a breakthrough. The team, for example, is carrying out a three-dimensional scan of the original house and using computer models to determine how far sounds might have traveled.
Those techniques may allow them to re-evaluate old evidence — for instance, whether the knock on the wall, described in Anne Frank’s diary, was someone telling those hiding that they were being too loud, or whether it could have been a trap.
Such modern and expensive techniques were not available to the Dutch national police when they unsuccessfully investigated the case in 1948 and again in 1963.
Much is known about Anne Frank’s life during her two years in hiding, thanks both to her famous diary and the accounts of helpers and friends published after the war. But far less is known about the circumstances surrounding the raid on Aug. 4, 1944.
The raid ended her time in the house on the Prinsengracht and precipitated her long and torturous journey to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she is believed to have died in February 1945.
In a country from which an estimated 108,000 Jews were deported — of whom only about 5,500 returned — the reopening of the case is also part of a larger national conversation.
“She used to be the girl that we protected and now she has become the girl that we betrayed,” said Bart van der Boom, an expert on the Nazi occupation and a lecturer at Leiden University. “It’s a function of how the Dutch perceive themselves during the occupation.”
That perception changed in the 1960s, said Dr. van der Boom, when the Dutch started to question the traditional narrative that all Dutch people were victims of the Nazis. The Dutch Resistance Museum in Amsterdam, for example, now features a narrative thread describing the life of a collaborator, as well as ones about people who stayed neutral, those who resisted and those who were victimized.
At least 28,000 Jews hid from the Germans during the five-year occupation of the Netherlands, Dr. van de Boom said. Of those, roughly a third were caught, the vast majority because of the efforts of a small band of paid collaborators known in Dutch as “Jodenjagers,” or Jew hunters, he said.
“We don’t know what happened exactly on that fateful day, and there is something intriguing about an open end in a narrative,” said Ronald Leopold, the executive director of the Anne Frank House foundation, which runs the museum and conducts research into her life and death.
“Betrayers did not have the classical image we have of perpetrator, those uniformed faces of death,” Mr. Leopold said.
The figure of the betrayer is important in the life of Anne Frank because, unlike the police and soldiers who would be responsible for her death, the betrayer was possibly known by the Frank family, and almost certainly was not someone wearing an official uniform.
The list of possible subjects has been growing as researchers have proposed new names and theories. While Wilhelm van Maaren, a warehouse foreman, was the primary focus in both Dutch police investigations, the new investigation is open to all possibilities.
“When Otto Frank returned, in the summer of 1945, he assumed someone gave them up,” said Gertjan Broek, a senior historian at the Anne Frank House, which receives 1.3 million visitors a year. “It’s always been a firmly held belief.”
But while the idea that the police were tipped off has long been part of the Anne Frank story, not everyone is convinced that betrayal necessarily played a role.
Dr. Broek published a 37-page report in December proposing the theory that the police were at the address on another mission, and found the lodgers only by chance.
Researchers in the Netherlands have welcomed the new investigation, and Dr. Broek is serving as one of its advisers.
“What is new about this one is that it looks at the case with forensic eyes,” Mr. Leopold said. “And we look forward to the results.”
The investigative team — which also includes Roger Depue, a retired F.B.I. behavioral scientist, among its 20 members and consultants — hopes to reveal its progress on Aug. 4, 2019, exactly 75 years after the raid.
Thijs Bayens, an organizer of the investigation and a filmmaker who plans to make a documentary about it, said the cost of the work would run into six digits, and the group is collecting donations on its website. Mr. Pankoke is keeping a diary of the investigation on the group’s website.
During his 27-year career, Mr. Pankoke said, he worked on a squad aimed at Colombian drug traffickers in the 1990s and investigated the cellphone communications of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Working in an undercover unit, he played the part of a financier to investigate crimes on Wall Street.
The new team has made progress already, Mr. Pankoke said. Someone claiming to be a neighbor of the now-famous annex left information on the investigators’ tip page that pointed to another nearby resident as having collaborated with Nazis. Mr. Pankoke said his team would follow up.
He said he hoped that reopening the case would reawaken people’s awareness of the Holocaust, memories of which he fears are receding in an era of genocides and other atrocities.
“Part of the story is being lost to the sands of time,” Mr. Pankoke said. “If we accomplish nothing else — and I’m certain we will, I have a great team — we are bringing attention to the issue.”
Who betrayed Anne Frank? Book claims to shed new light on mystery
The mystery of how the Franks were found in a secret annex in a building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht in August 1944 has thwarted formal investigations and troubled academics ever since.
The involvement of Ans van Dijk, who was executed in 1948 after admitting to collaborating in the capture of 145 people, including her own brother and his family, had been previously claimed. But, the Anne Frank House museum and research centre had been unable to come to any conclusion, despite police investigations and its own studies.
Fresh claims have now been made in a book by Gerard Kremer, 70, the son of a member of the Dutch resistance of the same name, who was an acquaintance of Van Dijk in Amsterdam.
According to the book, Kremer Sr, who died in 1978, was the caretaker of an office building at the back of Prinsengracht on Amsterdam’s Westermarkt, two floors of which was taken over by the German authorities and the Dutch Nazi organisation the NSB during the occupation of the Netherlands.
It is claimed that after her arrest on Easter Sunday 1943 by the Nazi intelligence service known as the the Sicherheitsdienst, Van Dijk became a regular visitor to the building, albeit in disguise. She would also use the telephones in the requisitioned offices, Kremer noticed.
The book suggests that in early August 1944, Kremer overheard Van Dijk taking part in discussions in the Nazi offices about Prinsengracht, where the Franks were hiding. The Franks were arrested on 4 August, while Van Dijk was said to have left for The Hague.
Anne had been hidden for two years in the concealed annex above the canalside warehouse with her father, Otto, mother, Edith, and sister, Margot.
The 15-year-old was sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and on to Auschwitz before finally ending up at Bergen-Belsen, where she died in February 1945 from typhus. Her published diary spans the period in hiding between 1942 and 1944.
A spokeswoman for Anne Frank House said the museum had been in touch with the author of The Backyard of the Secret Annex, but that there remained no proof of Van Dijk’s guilt.
“We consider Gerard Kremer’s book as a tribute to his parents, based on what he remembers and has heard. In 2016, the Anne Frank House carried out research into the arrest of the Frank family and the other four people in hiding in the secret annex.
“Ans van Dijk was included as a potential traitor in this study. We have not been able to find evidence for this theory, nor for other betrayal theories.”
Simone van Hoof, a spokesman for the book’s publishing house, Lantaarn, said: “We can’t claim that this is 100% the answer but we really do think it is a part of the puzzle that may be able to complete the story.”
Last year an FBI agent launched a cold case review into the Frank family’s discovery by the Gestapo in 1944. Investigative techniques developed in the past decade, including the crunching of big data to uncover leads, are being used by a team of 19 forensic experts led by Vince Pankoke. Van Hoof said the review led by Pankoke was examining the claims in the book.
A 2010 book by Sytze van der Zee, a former editor-in-chief of the Het Parool newspaper, previously noted that many of Van Dijk’s victims had lived near Prinsengracht.
David Barnouw, an emeritus researcher at the Dutch Institute for war, holocaust and genocide studies, offered a cautious response to the book’s claims, and suggested the Franks’ discovery may have been pure chance.
Speaking to the De Volkskrant newspaper, Barnouw said there lacked a “smoking gun” in regard to Van Dijk’s claims. He said: “And I wonder if we’ll ever see that smoking gun. I fear that it is now too late to establish conclusively who it was.”
After the war, Van Dijk moved to The Hague, where she was arrested at a friend’s home on 20 June 1945. Two years later she was charged on 23 counts of treason and brought to the special court in Amsterdam, where she confessed on all counts, and was sentenced to death.
Her attempts to appeal the decision and gain a royal pardon on the grounds that she had acted out of self-preservation failed. In January 1948 she was executed by firing squad at Fort Bijlmer, in Amsterdam. She converted to Roman Catholicism the night before her execution.