Experts critical of investigation into alleged traitor to Anne Frank

1. What is the researchers’ theory?

The researchers have theorized that the Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh is behind the betrayal of Anne Frank. He would like to protect his own family by sharing hiding places with the German occupier. There is no conclusive evidence for this theory.

According to the researchers, Van den Bergh had contacts with the Germans and worked with them. In this way he tried to avoid the deportation of himself and his family. He managed to get a postponement and in the meantime took care of hiding places for his family. Still, he got into trouble. His temporary reprieve expired, after which he may have tried to avoid his deportation by sharing hiding places.

2. On what evidence do the investigators suspect this betrayal?

One of the proofs is an anonymous note that father Otto Frank is said to have received shortly after the war. It stated that this notary had shared Frank’s hiding place with the Germans and that more addresses were shared by him. Investigators found a copy of this note in the family archives of a police officer.

3. What is the criticism of experts?

Erik Somers, researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, is skeptical about the conclusion that notary van der Bergh betrayed the Frank family. “The researchers are working on the basis of a very thin burden of proof – the note that Otto Frank typed over – to a conclusion based on assumptions and interpretations.”

The researchers also assume that a lot of information was available and known to The Jewish Council, but according to Somers no evidence has ever been found that such lists exist with addresses of people in hiding or indications that these lists were compiled or would circulate. “If you want to convict someone, and they do that by appointing the notary, you have to come up with evidence and I don’t see it. It’s a theory that could be true, but no more than that. Many assumptions are for me much too firm.”

The Anne Frank House is also critical. “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 it,” says Ronald Leopold, director of the Anne Frank House.

Leopold also has questions about the alleged list of hiding places that Van den Bergh might have had through the Jewish Council, of which he was a member, and that he would have shared it with the Germans. “We don’t know for sure if it existed and we don’t know if he had it.”

4. What’s next?

The Anne Frank House has indicated that they are impressed by the extensive work of the cold case team. “The research of the cold case team has provided important new information and a fascinating hypothesis, which invite further investigation,” says Leopold.

According to researcher Erik Somers, the team has set up a special interdisciplinary study, which has also led to a number of people being released. “The cold case team has also examined other theories and individuals who may have been traitors to the Frank family and have been shown to include theories that are far less plausible. Hopefully the research data will also be made available to other researchers.”

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