It has often been mentioned that the teenager used to write letters to a character of her favourite novel on a regular basis, after receiving a diary as a gift on her 13th birthday. Her dream was to develop her own self into the form of an author. She used to do all these secretly, while hiding in a secret warehouse inside a factory in Amsterdam, with her parents and elder sister. The Gestapo officers detained the Frank family on August 4, 1944, and the teenager found her place at the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany. The German-Dutch diarist of Jewish heritage perished in February 1945 at the age of 15! Today, the entire world knows her as Anne Frank (born as Annelies Marie Frank). Anne’s diary portrays how the Jews struggled for their survival during the Second World War.
Time and again, one question tends to pop up: How did the Frank family get caught by the Nazis? Experts were of the opinion that someone might have informed the German Security Service about the Franks’ whereabouts, otherwise, how did they get caught after hiding in the secret warehouse for so long?
Seventy-seven years after the incident, a new investigation by retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Vincent Pankoke and about 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists has revealed the truth. After investigating the case for six years, Pankoke and his colleagues have identified a little-known Jewish notary, Arnold van den Bergh, as a highly probable suspect, who had revealed the Frank family’s hideout to the Nazis in August 1944.
Pankoke recently said that he obtained this sensitive piece of information with the help of modern investigative methods, Artificial Intelligence, 19 forensic experts, and officials of the Amsterdam-based Anne Frank House. According to the FBI agent, their original source is an unsigned note received by Otto Frank, Anne’s father. It read: “Your address was betrayed.” Pankoke claimed that Otto Frank knew exactly who had betrayed them. However, he never disclosed the name of that person.
Arnold van den Bergh, a lawyer and notary by profession, used to live in Amsterdam. He was a member of the Jewish Council that was forcibly established by the Nazis. He did not have to go to concentration camps because he had long been able to hide his Jewish identity from the Nazis. In her publication ‘The Betrayal of Anne Frank‘ (published on January 18, 2022), the Canadian poet, biographer, anthologist and Professor Emerita at University of Toronto, Rosemary Sullivan, mentioned that van den Bergh was probably forced to give the address of the Frank family out of fear for his life, and to save his family. She argued that van den Bergh’s own Jewish identity had already been revealed by that time. As a member of the Jewish Council, he had a list of all the Jewish families living in the Dutch city.
One of the unsolved mysteries has been how the secret of the Frank family’s hideout was compromised. Pankoke stressed that the Police had investigated the case twice (in 1948 and in 1973) after the Second World War. However, they failed to reveal the fact. Detective Arend van Helden, who had conducted the investigation in 1963, provided the cold case reviewers with a typewritten copy of the anonymous note. Pankoke received the note from van Helden’s family.
Sullivan has written: “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. 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.”
According to Sullivan, it is really difficult to imagine how helpless van den Bergh was when he betrayed the Frank family. He passed away in 1950, five years after Anne’s sad demise. Anne and van den Bergh’s lives testify to Jewish helplessness in Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
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