Huddled together with her family in a secret annexe, its entrance hidden behind a bookcase in an Amsterdam warehouse, 15-year-old Anne Frank confided to her diary her anxious hopes for final liberation — for future life.
‘Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don’t know yet,’ she wrote after hearing the BBC announce the D-Day landings on their wireless set.
‘But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.’
But it wasn’t to be. Tragically, Anne died in the year 1944 after being captured.
While the Netherlands’ liberation by Allied forces began just the following month, on August 4 the Franks — along with four other Jewish people — were discovered after having successfully hidden from the Gestapo for two years.
Arnold van den Bergh (pictured) was the Amsterdam businessman who led the investigation that revealed where the teenager had been hiding.
Anne succumbed to Typhus in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, February 1945. This was just days after Margot, Anne’s sister, had died. Their mother Edith had died that January — separated from her daughters in Auschwitz.
Otto was their only survivor. And in 1947 he published Anne’s diary about their life in hiding, submitting to history arguably the most moving testament of World War II.
The Diary Of A Young Girl is still one of the most popular books worldwide, and has been read by more than 30,000,000 people in 70 different languages.
Its author is an emblem of human strength and indomitable spirit, as well as a symbol of silent resistance to the Nazis.
Otto Frank is shown with Margot Frank and Anne Frank (sitting on Frank’s lap), circa 1931
Anne succumbed to Typhus in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, February 1945.
Yet the book — with its last entry made just three days before the Franks’ capture — leaves readers with a gnawing mystery: who betrayed the family?
Franks were found by the Jew-hunting team’s detectives who seemed to have a clear idea of who they were searching for.
But after decades of speculation, two inquiries in 1947 and 1967, a string of suspects and theories, we’ve been left with no concrete conclusions as to how they were tipped off.
That is, until now — as a new forensic investigation led by a former FBI agent believes it has finally found the answer.
And — perhaps most shockingly — the investigators apportion blame to a fellow Jew: a wealthy Amsterdam businessman named Arnold van den Bergh.
Thijs bayens and Pieter van Twisk were both Dutch filmmakers. They then contacted Vince Pankoke (a Florida cold-case specialist and retired FBI agent who had a distinguished career that included tracking down Colombian drug cartels as well as 9/11 suspects).
Pankoke (pictured right) had an investigation psychologist, a war crime investigator and historians. There were also criminologists and several archival experts.
Having read Frank’s book himself at school and been moved by it, Pankoke agreed to take on the case, which Bayens and van Twisk documented.
And the result is both a forthcoming film and a book — The Betrayal Of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan — published this week.
With funding from Amsterdam’s government — as well as from the book deal — Pankoke assembled a 23-strong international team including criminologists, forensic scientists, psychologists, handwriting experts, archival researchers and a rabbi.
Given that all the witnesses were long dead, the Amsterdam-based team came to rely heavily on an artificial-intelligence program developed by Microsoft to analyse tens of thousands of pages of government documents for clues. The Nazis insist on meticulous documentation of all things, which may have been quite helpful in retrospect.
‘The [investigation]Files were not complete. And they were scattered about in probably a dozen different archives,’ Pankoke said.
Anne Frank lived in Amsterdam, where she hid with her parents between June 1942 – August 4, 1944 to flee the Nazis.
‘Reports were missing. Witnesses were gone. Memories had failed’
To escape Hitler’s rise, the Franks fled Germany and moved to Amsterdam. Otto started a business in manufacturing. The Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and two years later they began to exterminate Jews. Two years later the Franks fled to hiding.
Just a handful of Otto’s staff knew their location on two cramped floors and would bring them food. The family was captured by Otto’s staff after a neighbor heard their noises or noticed them approaching a window.
Pankoke’s investigators drew up a database of everyone living in the immediate area, mapping potential threats in the form of Nazi Party members and known informants.
Computer software searched through all correspondence, photos, maps, and books. Investigators looked in 29 archives across countries, including Canada, Russia, Israel, and the UK.
Arrest records from before and after the Franks’ capture were of particular interest, since the Nazis relied heavily on offering arrested Jews the chance of survival in exchange for betraying the whereabouts of the other 25,000 Dutch Jews in hiding.
Otto Frank sent a letter to his family shortly after the war informing them that he believed they were being betrayed.
Over the years, dozens of names have been suggested and Pankoke’s team fastidiously ruled them all out, employing ‘standard law-enforcement technique’ in each case to conclude they lacked either the motive, knowledge or opportunity.
The Nazi arresting officer — a member of SS intelligence — who found the Franks claimed they received an anonymous phone call the morning of the raid and that the caller had been a ‘Dutchman’.
But he later contradicted himself — perhaps in an attempt to protect the true source.
Tonny Ahlers (a Dutch Nazi) was suggested as Otto’s betrayer in a biography written 2002. He had reportedly blackmailed Frank years earlier after discovering he’d been criticising the Nazis.
Pankoke admits there was a ‘lot of information’ pointing to Ahlers, but says the team found no evidence to suggest he had knowledge of the Franks’ whereabouts.
Ans Van Dijk, a Jewish woman executed in 1942 for being a collaborator with Nazis and other Jews was highlighted by a book published in 2018.
However, again, Pankoke’s team doubted she could specifically have known about the Franks. In reality, she was not in Amsterdam at the time when Franks were captured.
Pankoke also notes that after the war, Anne’s father Otto strongly suggested he knew the betrayer’s identity but, given he believed it was a fellow Jew trying to save their own skin, he refused to reveal their name.
Then there is the ‘insider’ theory. Wilhelm van Maaren is the main suspect in this case, who was a well-known thief and worked at the Franks’ hideout.
He was said to be ‘suspiciously inquisitive’ and would leave pencils balanced on desks, and even sprinkled flour on the floor, to prove people were moving around the building at night.
But the team concluded Van Maaren wasn’t anti-Semitic. More important, the Dutchman knew that if he revealed his workplace was being used to hide Jews, he would lose his job — or worse.
So eventually, the team shifted their focus to someone who outwardly wouldn’t have attracted any suspicion — neither a neighbour nor employee of the Franks.
Arnold van den Bergh, a prominent Jew living in Amsterdam with his wife and three children (one of them the same age as Anne Frank), was an agent notary for the Nazi-led forced sale Jewish-owned artifacts.
Otto Frank, pictured, strongly suggested he knew the identity of the person who had betrayed his family yet kept it quiet – possibly because whoever had done it acted out of self-preservation, according to ex-FBI investigator Pankoke
He was appointed to the Jewish Council by the Nazis after the invasion. This body allowed them to implement their Jewish policies. In exchange for doing the Nazis’ bidding, members could hope to be spared the gas chambers.
Van den Bergh’s name was identified as the betrayer in an anonymous letter to Otto Frank, but, when presented in the 1963 Dutch police investigation, was rather inexplicably given little attention.
Pankoke’s team discovered the letter and became convinced it offered the crucial clue to the culprit. According to the anonymous writer — who investigators believe was a conscience-stricken Dutch person working with SS intelligence — Van den Bergh betrayed not only the Franks, but other Jews by giving the Nazis a string of addresses that were being used as hiding places.
Pankoke stated that senior Jewish Council members would have known these addresses as being the most powerful in the community.
Predictably, the Nazis broke their promise and when Amsterdam’s Jewish Council was disbanded in 1943, its members were dispatched to the concentration camps. Van den Bergh was clearly able to leverage his position and Pankoke learned that he had even been able to change his status to non-Jewish. He and his family were not sent to death camps. In 1950, he died.
Team discovered that Otto Frank had even gone as far to write up an anonymous tip-off, naming Van den Bergh, for his records. He must have considered it important. And archive records revealed that there had indeed been someone on the Jewish Council — name unknown — who had been turning over lists of Jewish hideaway addresses.
The Nazis set up the Jewish Council of Amsterdam as a way for Jews to supervise the execution of Dutch minorities in the Netherlands. Arnold van den Bergh sits fifth from the right
For Pankoke’s team, the only convincing explanation as to why Otto Frank had kept quiet about the betrayer’s identity was because he knew he had done it only out of desperation to save himself and his own family rather than for financial gain or anti-Semitic hatred.
It hadn’t been personal, Pankoke added, as Van den Bergh wouldn’t have known who was hiding where, only the addresses where they could be.
Ronald Leopold (executive director of Anne Frank House) urged caution. He said that there are still questions about the anonymous letter the investigators discovered so shocking. While Dutch historian Erik Somers stressed that Van den Bergh was a ‘very influential man’ and there could have been many other reasons why he was never sent to the camps.
Pankoke admits that in a world in which courts want DNA or video evidence, theirs is circumstantial but, he believes, ‘pretty convincing’.
Thijs Bayens, who started the investigation and is making a film of the case, said he found the revelation ‘very painful’. He hopes that the Nazis’ ability to turn Jew against Jew in a country that prides itself on its tolerance will ultimately only serve to reveal the terrible depths of their wickedness.
HarperCollins has published In The Betrayal Of Anne Frank – A Cold Case Investigation.