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Investigators shine new light on WWII mystery of who betrayed Anne Frank

AFP, February 2, 2022 6:30PM Kids News

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The diary Anne Frank kept while her family hid in a secret annex of an Amsterdam house has become one of the most haunting accounts of the Holocaust. Now investigators believe they might have solved the mystery of who betrayed her family to the Nazis. Picture: AFP media_cameraThe diary Anne Frank kept while her family hid in a secret annex of an Amsterdam house has become one of the most haunting accounts of the Holocaust. Now investigators believe they might have solved the mystery of who betrayed her family to the Nazis. Picture: AFP

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One of World War II’s most enduring* mysteries might have been solved after a cold-case investigation identified a fellow Jewish man as the prime suspect in the betrayal of diarist Anne Frank and her family.

Arnold van den Bergh might have revealed the Franks’ hiding place in Amsterdam to the Nazis in a bid to save his own family, according to the six-year inquiry led by a former FBI* agent.

media_cameraArnold van den Bergh, circled, at a meeting of the Amsterdam Jewish Council. Investigators believe he might have betrayed the Frank family to save his own. Picture: The Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam

The evidence comes from modern data-crunching techniques combined with a long-lost, anonymous note sent to Anne’s father, Otto, naming Van den Bergh, according to a new book about the investigation.

The Anne Frank House museum said it was “impressed” by the evidence in the book, published by Canadian author Rosemary Sullivan, but that further investigation was needed.

Theories have long swirled about the Nazi raid on August 4, 1944, that uncovered the secret annex* to an Amsterdam house where Anne and her family hid for two years.

The Jewish Frank family – parents Otto and Edith and daughters Margot and Anne – hid in the secret annex with four others after the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and started persecuting* Jewish people.

The Anne Frank house seen from Amsterdam canal cruise, Holland. /Holland media_cameraThe house where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis in a secret annex is now a museum.

Anne received a diary for her 13th birthday shortly before going into hiding and she often wrote in the diary while in the secret annex.

The family was sent to concentration camps* after their hiding place was raided. Anne and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen camp in 1945, but her diary became one of the most haunting accounts of the Holocaust*, going on to sell about 30 million copies.

media_cameraA photograph of Anne Frank taken in 1942. Picture: AFP Photo

Retired FBI detective Vince Pankoke was enlisted by a Dutch documentary-maker in 2016 to head a team to crack the “cold case” that two previous police probes had failed to.

“This was frozen,” Pankoke, who had previously investigated Colombian drug cartels*, told the CBS 60 Minutes program.

The name of Van den Bergh, who died in 1950 of throat cancer, had previously received little attention.

But it rose to the top of a list of four suspects during Pankoke’s investigation, which used modern techniques, including algorithms, to find new links in troves* of information, and employed experts in various fields.

Van den Bergh was a founding member of the Jewish Council, an administrative body that the Nazis forced Jews to establish to organise transportation of Jewish people from the Netherlands to concentration camps.

Investigators found he had initially managed to get his family exempted* from being transported. But this was revoked* around the time of the raid on the Franks, leading them to suspect he may have betrayed their hiding place to save his own children.

He would also have had the opportunity to pass on the information, as he had been the notary* for a German art dealer’s sale of a collection of looted Jewish art to senior Nazi Hermann Goering.

media_cameraOtto Frank is pictured with his daughters Margot and Anne as small children. Picture: Jewish Museum

But the most convincing element for the investigators was the seriousness with which Otto Frank treated the allegation.

Anne’s father, who was the only member of the family to survive the concentration camps, told detectives in 1964 that he had received a note shortly after the war naming Van den Bergh as the betrayer of his family, and of several other people. A copy made by Otto Frank of the note was found by the team in a police officer’s archives.

The team discounted some 30 other theories, such as a long-running suspicion that it was linked to black market* activity, or just a coincidence, the investigators said.

“We do not have a smoking gun*, but we do have a hot weapon with empty casings next to it,” Pankoke was quoted as saying by Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

media_cameraArnold van den Bergh has been named as the person who possibly told the Nazis where Anne Frank and her family were hiding.

The findings, published in full in Rosemary Sullivan’s book “The Betrayal of Anne Frank”, are already provoking soul-searching* in the Netherlands.

Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, told AFP that the probe had “generated important new information”.

But he said that questions remained, in particular about who had sent the anonymous note, and why.

“You have to be very careful about sending someone down in history as a traitor to Anne Frank if you are not 100 or 200 per cent sure about that,” he added.

Investigators believed Otto Frank may not have publicised the note for fear that the discovery a Jewish person was behind the betrayal could have stoked further anti-Semitism*.

Thijs Bayens, the Dutch filmmaker behind the project, told 60 Minutes that the aim was not to demonise* the betrayer, since it was the Nazis who had after all “brought people to do these terrible things”.

“The real question is: what would I have done?” he said.

GLOSSARY

  • enduring: lasting
  • FBI: stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is the national law enforcement organisation in the US
  • annex: an extension or addition to a building
  • persecuting: treating someone unfairly and cruelly because of their race or political or religious beliefs
  • concentration camps: camps where large numbers of Jewish people were imprisoned during World War II. They were treated very cruelly, many were forced to work and hundreds of thousands died
  • Holocaust: the organised persecution and murder of six million Jewish people by the Nazis during World War II
  • drug cartels: groups that control the production and distribution of illegal drugs
  • troves: valuable collections
  • exempted: made free from a rule that others must follow
  • revoked: cancelled
  • notary: a person who has the authority to witness the signing of documents, making them legal
  • black market: hidden and illegal trading
  • smoking gun: an idiom that means absolute proof or evidence
  • soul-searching: deep consideration of emotions, motives or actions
  • stoked: encouraged or incited
  • anti-Semitism: hostility toward or discrimination against Jewish people
  • demonise: make someone out to be evil

EXTRA READING

Tribute for Holocaust 75th anniversary

Questions I am asked about the Holocaust

QUICK QUIZ

  1. In which country was Anne Frank and her family hiding in a secret annex?
  2. What is the first name of the man suspected of revealing the hiding place?
  3. What date did the Nazi’s raid the secret annex?
  4. How many years did Anne and her family hide in the annex?
  5. What is the name of Rosemary Sullivan’s book about the person who revealed the hiding place?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Think about the evidence
List the pieces of evidence in the story that makes the researchers think that Arnold van den Bergh might have been the person who betrayed Anne Frank and her family. Do you think that it is enough to name him as the suspect for this act? Give specific reasons for your answer.

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, History

2. Extension
Why is it important for us to remember victims of the Holocaust like Anne Frank? Write paragraphs explaining your reasons.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, History, Personal and Social Capability

VCOP ACTIVITY
Aside from this, there is also this!
Brackets are a great literacy tool for adding aside comments, or comments that could be covered over and the sentence still makes sense. What’s inside the brackets is extra information.

They can be used for a variety of effects: to add more detail, to add humour, to connect with the reader etc.

For example: My little brother, (the funniest kid I know) got himself into big trouble today.

Select three sentences from the article to add an aside comment to using brackets. Think about not only what you want to add to the sentence, but also what effect you are trying to create.

Extra Reading in history