A cold case team has been combing through evidence for five years in an attempt to solve one of World War II’s enduring mysteries. The cold case team has found the “most likely scenario” of who betrayed Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family during the holocaust. Their answer is outlined in a new book called “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation” by Canadian academic and author Rosemary Sullivan. “We have investigated over 30 suspects in 20 different scenarios, leaving one scenario we like to refer to as the most likely scenario,” said film maker Thijs Bayens, who had the idea to put together the cold case team, that was led by retired FBI agent Vincent Pankoke, to forensically examine the evidence. Bayens was quick to add that, “we don’t have 100% certainty. There is no smoking gun because betrayal is circumstantial.”
What happened to the Frank Family?
The Franks and four other Jews hid in a secret annex, reached by a staircase hidden behind a bookcase, from July 1942 until they were discovered in August 1944 and deported to concentration camps. Only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived the war. Anne and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne was 15.
The diary Anne wrote while in hiding was published after the war and became a symbol of hope and resilience that has been translated into dozens of languages and read by millions. While much is known about Anne and the others from the secret annex, the identity of the person who gave away their location remained a mystery, despite previous investigations.
What did the Cold Case Team Find?
The cold case team’s findings suggest Otto Frank was one of the first to hear about the possible involvement of a prominent member of the Jewish community in Amsterdam. A typed anonymous tip delivered to Otto Frank after the war, names Arnold van den Bergh, who died in 1950, as the person who informed German authorities of where to find the Frank family. The Anne Frank House museum has welcomed the new research, but said it also leaves questions unanswered. The museum gave the researchers access to its archives for the cold case project.
“No, I don’t think we can say that a mystery has been solved now. I think it’s an interesting theory that the team came up with,” said museum director Ronald Leopold. “I think they come up with a lot of interesting information, but I also think there are still many missing pieces of the puzzle. And those pieces need to be further investigated in order to see how we can value this new theory.”
Arnold van der Bergh is believed to have given the location of the Frank’s secret annex hiding place to German Nazis to save his own family from being murdered in Nazi concentration camps. Cold case investigators say the hunt for the betrayer is a way of highlighting how Nazi occupation forced some members of a close-knit Amsterdam community to turn on one another. “We went looking for a perpetrator and we found a victim,” Bayens said.
Written by: Erinn Malloy