A team of investigators, including a retired FBI agent, believe they have found the man that revealed the location of Anne Frank, her family, and others to Nazi forces – a denunciation that lead to Frank’s deportation and death in Nazi concentration camps.
Vince Pankoke, a retired FBI agent, and a team of investigators spent years combing through documents and the secret annexe tucked behind an Amsterdam warehouse where the Franks and four other Jews hid. The Diary of Anne Frank details much about their life in hiding from July 5, 1942, until their discovery on August 4, 1944. But exactly how the Nazis found them remained a mystery.
After ruling out other suspects the team focused on Arnold van den Bergh – a notary and member of the Jewish Council during the Nazi occupation.
“At the Anne Frank House, we aim to tell the life story of Anne Frank as fully as possible so it’s important to also examine the arrest of Anne Frank and the seven other people in the Secret Annex in as much detail as possible,” said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House, in a statement posted to the organisation’s website.
The Anne Frank House was not involved in Pankoke’s investigation. However, the organisation did share its archives and the museum with the team. To sift through 66 gigabytes of data, the team used artificial intelligence to spot trends. One example is using the computer to analyse connections between Nazi raids of other hiding places.
The investigators concluded that van den Bergh was the likely source who tipped off the Nazis. His community position gave him access to secret hiding places and the senior Nazi leadership who orchestrated the secret annexe raid.
After the war, an anonymous letter to Otto Frank – Anne’s father who survived – named van den Bergh as the source. However, the investigators concede they do not have definitive proof van den Bergh betrayed the Franks without eyewitness accounts or other documentation.
Reaction to finding
Still, the investigators’ findings were met with mixed emotions. It remains unclear why Otto Frank never specifically named van den Bergh, who died in 1950. He reportedly only said he knew who was responsible.
“I do not believe the revelation is groundbreaking, even if it were true. As the lead researcher concluded, Nazis are ultimately responsible for the death of Anne Frank and her family. I simply hope that this news is not used to vilify Jews in general, by attempting to assign moral flaws from one individual to the group,” Yohan Benizri, chair of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Organisations in Belgium, told The Brussels Times in an email.
Even Pankoke and the team did not want to judge van den Bergh’s actions 77 years later: “The only bad guys were the Nazis, without them none of this would have happened. If you blame van den Bergh, you first have to ask yourself how far you would have gone to save the lives of loved ones,” Pankoke said.