1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

'The Betrayal of Anne Frank' publication under review

February 2, 2022

The move comes after heavy criticism against claims made in the book based on a long investigation into Anne Frank's alleged betrayer.

A black-and-white photo of Anne Frank
Despite a six-year investigation, the person who betrayed Anne Frank may never be knownImage: IFTN/United Archives/picture alliance

"The Betrayal of Anne Frank" was a publishing sensation when released in several languages on January 18, the non-fiction book's premise the result of a six-year cold case investigation to uncover who gave away the Frank family during the Holocaust.

But now Jürgen Welte, the publisher of Harper Collins Germany that planned to publish the German language version of the book on March 22, wants to review the work's controversial allegations. Aware of the risks of publishing the accusation that the Jewish-Dutch notary Arnold van den Bergh betrayed Anne Frank and her family to the Gestapo, he announced in a written statement: "After two professional edits of the manuscript, we are currently undergoing an internal review. The comparatively late publication date of the German-language edition shows that we are handling this sensitive topic extremely responsibly."

When asked by DW, a press spokeswoman for Harper Collins Germany, the German branch of the international publishing house of the same name, said she could not yet comment on whether the release date would be postponed or the publication cancelled. The publisher also declined to comment on DW's query on how long the internal review would take.

A theory of betrayal

The Franks hid in a secret annex in a canal-side warehouse in Amsterdam for about two years, but were ultimately found by the Gestapo in August 1944. The Nazis then deported the entire Frank family to the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Anne Frank — who died aged 15 at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she had been transferred along with her sister — wrote her world-renowned diary while living in hiding in Amsterdam. This diary was later published by her father Otto Frank in 1947, and is one of the foremost accounts of Jewish life under the Nazis.  

In January, an investigation team looking for the origins of the betrayal named a Jewish-Dutch man, Arnold van den Bergh, as the person who reported the Frank family's whereabouts to the Nazis.

Van den Bergh, a legal notary in Amsterdam, allegedly handed over a list of hiding places of Jews in Amsterdam to the German occupiers in order to save his own family. Among them was the address of the back house on Prinsengracht in Amsterdam where Anne Frank was staying.

But now that theory is under question, causing the German publisher to review the claims made in "The Betrayal of Anne Frank," and its Dutch publisher to cease printing the book.

Claims may not stack up

Though the cold case investigators included former US FBI agent Vincent Pankoke and about 20 historians, criminologists and data specialists, some have questioned the evidence, which amounts to a single anonymous letter. Received by Otto Frank, it pointed out Van den Bergh as a member of the Jewish Council who was given preferential treatment by the Nazis for giving away the hiding places of fellow Jews.

Johannes Houwink ten Cate, a professor of Holocaust and genocide studies in Amsterdam, told the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad that there is no evidence that the Jewish Council drew up lists of addresses of hiding places for Jews during World War II.

"I have never seen anything of that in 35 years of research," he said. Major accusations require a lot of evidence, Houwink ten Cate said, "and there is none." He added that van den Bergh himself had been in hiding for much of 1944.  

John Goldsmith, the head of the Anne Frank Fund established by Otto Frank, told the Swiss newspaper Blick am Sonntag that the investigation was "full of errors" and akin to a "conspiracy theory."

Amsterdam historian Ben Wallet told the German news magazine Der Spiegel that the investigators' evidence was "as shaky as a house of cards."

Bart van der Boom of Leiden University called the findings "slanderous nonsense."

Printing of book suspended

According to an internal email seen by Reuters new agency, Ambo Anthos, the publisher of the Dutch-language edition of "The Betrayal of Anne Frank," has now written to the book's Canadian author, Rosemary Sullivan, as well as the investigation team to say the house should have taken a more "critical stance" on the publication.

"We await the answers from the researchers to the questions that have emerged and are delaying the decision to print another run," the email stated. "We offer our sincere apologies to anyone who might feel offended by the book."

One of the investigators quoted in the book, Pieter van Twisk, told Reuters that he was "completely surprised" by the email sent to the research team.

Pankoke, who was instrumental to the investigation, had previously acknowledged that there was no absolute certainty about the betrayal 77 years after the end of the war. "But our theory has a probability of more than 85 percent," he told Germany's public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in an interview.

Goldsmith continues to question the findings. "Now, the main statement is: A Jew betrayed Jews," he said. "That stays in the memory and it is unsettling."

Edited by: Brenda Haas

Stuart Braun | DW Reporter
Stuart Braun Berlin-based journalist with a focus on climate and culture.