Historians have expressed their skepticism about a book that has identified a Jewish notary as the prime suspect in the betrayal of Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis.
The Betrayal of Anne Frank, by Rosemary Sullivan, based on research collected by retired FBI detective Vince Pankoke, was published Tuesday by HarperCollins with some fanfare.
A CBS 60 Minutes program on Sunday night highlighted the book's preliminary results, which were widely covered in the media, including the Guardian.
But researchers have now questioned the central theory that Arnold van den Bergh, who died of laryngeal cancer in 1950, probably led police to the Frank family's hideout over a warehouse on the canal in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam on August 4, 1944.
The book claimed that as a member of the Jewish Council in Amsterdam, an administrative body that the German authorities forced Jews to establish, van den Bergh would have had access to the places where Jews hid.
But David Barnouw, a Dutch author of the 2003 book, Who Betrayed Anne Frank ?, said he was not convinced.
He said: "The researchers rightly subject their findings to all sorts of reservations. But they are very firm in their belief in that poor notary. While I wonder if he had access to a list of Jewish hiding places. The Jewish Council was too law-abiding. to make such a list, I think. ”
The book, the result of a six-year study, suggests that van den Bergh, who served as a notary in the forced sale of works of art to prominent Nazis such as Hermann Göring, had been forced to use addresses because of risks to his own life. of hiding places as a form of life insurance for his family. Neither he nor his daughter were deported to the Nazi camps.
Investigators said they had found references to addresses kept by the Jewish Council. A further key piece of evidence should have been an anonymous note delivered after the war to Anne's father, Otto Frank, the only survivor among the immediate family.
The memo stated that van den Bergh had given addresses away to the Nazis, including the one where Otto, Anne, her mother Edith, sister Margot, Hermann, Auguste and Peter van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer had tried to evade capture. The Franks hid for two years in a hidden annex in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam before their arrest.
Ronald Leopold, director of the Anne Frank House, praised the study, but he also advised against taking the results as final.
He said: "I have great appreciation for the impressive work of the team, the research has been carefully done. A lot of new information has been found, sufficient reason to follow notar van den Bergh's footsteps.
“The most special find is the copy of the note. But many puzzle pieces are left. About the lists that would have been with the Jewish Council, about the note and about the notary himself. These are all things that need to be examined to strengthen the credibility of this theory. "
Despite a series of investigations, including two by Dutch police, the mystery of who led the Nazis to the annex remains unsolved. Otto Frank, who died in 1980, was thought to have a strong suspicion of this person's identity, but he never revealed it publicly.
After the arrest of the family, Anne was sent to the Westerbork transit camp and on to the Auschwitz concentration camp, before eventually ending up in Bergen-Belsen, where she died in February 1945 at the age of 15, possibly of typhus. Her published diary spans the period in secret between 1942 and her last post on August 1, 1944.
Hanco Jürgens, research assistant at the German Institute Amsterdam, wrote in the Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant: "It seems much more likely that the arrest was accidental. Five months earlier, after all, two employees had been arrested for the secret trade in coupons.
‘It could therefore just as well be an ordinary check that resulted in the discovery of the hiding place. This suggests that the hidden ones had to wait a long time for a jail car. But this theory is also based on assumptions. ”