THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Anne Frank may not have been betrayed to Nazi occupiers, but captured by chance.
A new study published Friday by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam says that despite decades of research there is no conclusive evidence that the Jewish diarist and her family were betrayed to the Netherlands’ German occupiers during World War II, leading to their arrest and deportation.
Ronald Leopold, Executive Director of the Anne Frank House museum, said in a statement that new research by the museum “illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered.”
One theory is that the Aug. 4, 1944, raid that led to Anne’s arrest was part of an investigation into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at the canal-side house where she and other Jews hid for just over two years.
Anne kept a diary during her time in hiding that was published after the war and turned her into a globally recognized symbol of Holocaust victims. She died in the Bergen-Belsen Nazi concentration camp at age 15, shortly before it was liberated by Allied forces.
The new research points to two men who worked in the building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal and dealt in illegal ration cards. They were arrested earlier in 1944 and subsequently released, Dutch records show. The arrests also are mentioned in Anne’s diary.
Such arrests were reported to an investigation division based in The Hague and the report says that, “During their day-to-day activities, investigators from this department often came across Jews in hiding by chance.”
Another possibility raised by the report is that the raid was part of an investigation into people being allowed to work to prevent them being called up as forced labor and sent to Germany.
The report adds that, “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this, nor has any relationship between the ration coupon fraud and the arrest been proven,” and says further research is necessary.
“Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said,” it adds.
The findings are potentially controversial because the story of Anne Frank is seen as emblematic both of Dutch heroism during the Holocaust and of collaboration with the Nazis – for which Dutch prime ministers have consistently declined to apologize despite calls to do so.
“The question has always been: Who betrayed Anne Frank and the others in hiding? This explicit focus on betrayal, however, limits the perspective on the arrest,” the Anne Frank House wrote in the five-page summary of the new study, which relies also on entries from Anne’s diary.
The entries, the study suggests, show the hiding house on Prinsengracht 263 was tied to activities punishable under the Nazi occupation in addition to Dutch underground fighters’ sheltering of Jews there.
“Anne Frank’s diary did provide an interesting new clue,” the study reads. “Beginning on March 10, 1944, she repeatedly wrote about the arrest of two men who dealt in illegal ration cards. She calls them ‘B’ and ‘D,’ referring to the salesmen Martin Brouwer and Pieter Daatzelaar.”
The two men represented Gies & Co., a company that was affiliated with the Opekta firm owned by Anne Frank’s father, Otto, and located on Prinsengracht 263.
“B. and D. have been caught, so we have no coupons,” Anne Frank wrote on March 14, 1944. “This clearly indicates that the people in hiding got at least part of their ration coupons from these salesmen,” the study states.
Other evidence shows that people associated with Prinsengracht 263 were punished by the Nazi occupation for evading work.
“A company where people were working illegally and two sales representatives were arrested for dealing in ration coupons obviously ran the risk of attracting the attention of the authorities,” the author of the new study wrote. “While searching for people in hiding, fraud with ration coupons could be detected since they were often dependent on clandestine help.”
Yet, “until now the assumption related to this matter” has always been that agents working for the occupation “were specifically looking for Jews in hiding” when they raided the hiding place, the authors continued.
Over the years, researchers have presented various hypotheses on who may have betrayed the Franks to the Nazis, though none of the suspects were accepted as consensus.
JTA contributed to this story.