Who Betrayed Anne Frank? New Probe Names Jewish Informant, Reveals Key Details

A new investigation was launched into the cold case in 2016, by a team of experts led by ex-FBI agent Vince Pankoke.

4 min read
Edited By :Saundarya Talwar

The findings of a fresh investigation into the alleged betrayal of world-renowned Jewish diarist Anne Frank, have spurred public excitement.

The inquest suggests that a Jewish man, not directly connected to the family of the teenage girl, had divulged details of their whereabouts to the Nazis. Arnold van den Bergh, the suspect, has become a Judas-like figure for his possible treachery despite his shared heritage with the Franks.

Anne Frank, whose first-hand chronicle of Jewish life in hiding during the Nazi regime is one of the most widely read pieces of literature, had died in a concentration camp in 1945 after her family was arrested from its safe place in Amsterdam.

A modern-day probe into the matter, conducted by an international team of criminologists, psychologists, forensic and social scientists, and a rabbi, among others, has now chalked out a probable theory for the unanticipated discovery of the Franks.

How were the people in hiding tracked down? Were they betrayed? What happened to the traitor? The investigation attempts to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about Anne Frank.


Anne Frank's Story: A Recap

On her 13th birthday in June 1942, Amsterdam resident Anne Frank received one of the most famous birthday gifts of all time – a red chequered diary that she would spend the next two years writing in, while hiding from the Nazis during the Jewish holocaust.

The Frank family went into hiding less than a month after Anne's birthday. A secret annex located in the business premises of Anne's father Otto Frank becomes the family's hideout, where they are aided in their survival by the assistance of some of Otto's trusted former colleagues.

Anne chronicles the living arrangement of her family, the happenings at the annex, and her personal thoughts and troubles in the journal till 1 August 1944.

Three days after her last diary entry, the annex is raided by police officers who arrest the Frank family and others hiding in the annex, along with two of their helpers.

The Frank family is transported to concentration camps for Jews, where Anne contracts typhus and succumbs to it in 1945.

Anne’s father Otto remains the only one of the people from the secret annex to survive the war. In 1947, he publishes Anne's diary, which had been retrieved from the annex and safeguarded by the family's helpers.

What Has the New Probe Found?

A new investigation was initiated into the cold case in 2016, by a team of experts led by former FBI agent Vince Pankoke. The findings of the inquiry were shared through a CBS documentary telecast on 17 January.

The probe posits that a Jewish notary, Arnold van den Bergh, had likely disclosed information relating to the Frank family's whereabouts to the Nazis.

That a Jewish man in general, and van de Bergh in particular, had been the crook behind the notorious betrayal came as a surprise.

Among the many suspects and scenarios devised by historians and others over the years, Arnold van de Bergh's name finds mention in no theory. Two official investigations into the famous case, begun in 1947 and 1963, had failed to determine the identity of the informant.

Warehouse workers, helpers of the Frank family, acquaintances of the workshop employees, and neighbours in the area of the hideout had all featured on the many lists of possible offenders, in studies that had marked no connection between the Frank family and the accused Jewish notary.

The investigative team arrived at the conclusion after six years of using modern analytical techniques to thaw the cold case. Letters, maps, photos, even whole books were fed into the artificial intelligence database developed specifically for the project, that helped make the connections.

The probe revealed that Arnold van den Bergh, a businessman and a founding member of the Jewish Council, was not named in the records of the concentration camps that were operating around 1943.

Rather, van den Bergh and his immediate family were openly living in Amsterdam – a fact that confirmed that they had some sort of leverage that had had kept them safe from the Nazis.


Why Did the Jewish Man Betray the Franks?

Living with his wife and children in Amsterdam, Arnold van den Bergh, after the infestation of Nazis in Netherlands, worked in the Jewish Council (established 1941) – an administrative body that ensured that Nazi regulations were being adhered to by the Jewish community.

The council's staff and their families were exempt from deportation for a long time, a quid pro quo for their enforcement of the Nazi injunction. However, in 1943, the council was dissolved and the staff was, inevitably, ordained to the gas chambers.

"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'd had contact with to let him and his wife at that time stay safe," ex-FBI agent and cold case investigator Vince Pankoke told CBS.

And van den Bergh's role as a founding member of the Jewish Council ensured that he would have had some knowledge of the possible addresses and hideouts of Jewish families, which he likely gave up in exchange for the safety of his family and himself.

It was nothing personal against the Franks family, then, that had guided van de Bergh's actions.


Anne's Father Knew, But Never Made it Public

The one place where van den Bergh's name had appeared during the initial phase of the new probe was in the report of a 1963 investigation into the case. The only survivor of the secret annex, Anne's father Otto Frank, had indicated during a police interview that he had received an anonymous note identifying the betrayer as van den Bergh.

Investigator Pankoke, who hunted down a copy of the note, told CBS that the tip off had informed Otto that he'd been betrayed by Arnold van den Bergh, who'd given the Nazis an entire list of possible addresses for Jews. However, Frank, till the end of his life in 1980, never made a public proclamation of the name.

It has been speculated that perhaps Anne's father empathised with van den Bergh for the quandary the latter had seemingly found himself in, encouraging his silence in the matter.

"He (Otto) knew that Arnold van den Bergh was Jewish, and in this period after the war, antisemitism was still around. So, 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 told CBS.

The solution to the mystery of Anne Frank's betrayal, then, presents a fairly intriguing whodunnit. Further, the detective saga transcends into an unexpected parable of human despair, empathy, and forgiveness during war.

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Edited By :Saundarya Talwar
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