A cold case investigation led by an ex-FBI agent has identified a Jewish notary as the prime suspect in the mystery of who betrayed teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis, a new book claims.
Arnold van den Bergh may have revealed the Franks’ hiding place in Amsterdam in order to save his own family, according to a six-year probe detailed in “The Betrayal of Anne Frank” by Canadian author Rosemary Sullivan, which is to be published on Tuesday.
The case against Van den Bergh, who died in 1950, is supported by evidence including an anonymous note sent to Anne’s father Otto after World War II naming him as the betrayer, according to elements published in Dutch media Monday.
The Anne Frank House museum told AFP that the results of the probe, led by retired Federal Bureau of Investigation detective Vincent Pankoke, were a “fascinating hypothesis” but needed further investigation.
Theories have long swirled about the Nazi raid on August 4, 1944, that uncovered the secret annex where Anne and her family hid from the Holocaust for two years.
Van den Bergh’s name had previously received little attention, but came to the fore during the investigation using modern techniques including artificial intelligence to sort through huge amounts of data.
It narrowed the list of suspects to four, including Van den Bergh, who was a founding member of the Jewish Council, an administrative body the Nazis forced Jews to establish to organize deportations.
Van den Bergh had managed to have himself categorized as a non-Jew, Pankoke found. But he was later redesignated as Jewish after a business dispute.
At the time, he acted as a notary in the forced sale of works of art to prominent Nazis such as Hermann Göring, and used addresses of hiding places as a form of life insurance for his family.
Investigators found he had managed to get his family exempted from being transported, but that this was revoked around the time of the betrayal of the Franks.
“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.
The author, Sullivan, said Van den Bergh was a well-known notary and one of the six Jewish notaries in Amsterdam at the time. “A notary in the Netherlands is more like a very high-profile lawyer. As a notary, he was respected. He was working with a committee to help Jewish refugees, and before the war as they were fleeing Germany,” The Guardian quoted her as saying.
“The anonymous note did not identify Otto Frank. It said ‘your address was betrayed.’ So, in fact, what had happened was Van den Bergh was able to get a number of addresses of Jews in hiding. And it was those addresses with no names attached and no guarantee that the Jews were still hiding at those addresses,” Sullivan said.
“That’s what he gave over to save his skin, if you want, but to save himself and his family. Personally, I think he is a tragic figure,” she added.
After the raid on the Franks’ house, the family was deported and Anne and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp the following year.
Her father later published her “Diary of a Young Girl,” which has since sold more than 30 million copies.
Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, said questions remained about the anonymous note in particular.
“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 percent sure about that,” he added.
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