Who Betrayed Anne Frank? Inside The Historical Evidence

Published April 20, 2024
Updated April 29, 2024

After two failed inquiries in 1947 and 1963, a team of investigators believes that a Jewish notary betrayed Anne Frank's hiding place to protect his family from deportation.

Anne Frank was 10 years old when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940. Two years later, the precocious young Jewish girl and her family went into hiding to avoid being sent to a concentration camp. They spent two years in an annex above Otto Frank’s business in Amsterdam before they were discovered by the Nazis in 1944. And ever since her now-famous journal The Diary of a Young Girl was published in 1947, historians and readers alike have wondered: Who betrayed Anne Frank?

In 2022, one investigation pinpointed the culprit they claim was the man who betrayed Anne Frank. Led by retired FBI Agent Vince Pankoke, the team involved psychologists, historians, archivists, war crimes investigators, and criminologists — and pointed to a local Jewish notary named Arnold van den Bergh.

Who Betrayed Anne Frank

Wikimedia CommonsIn 2022, researchers identified a Jewish notary named Arnold van den Bergh as the man who betrayed Anne Frank and her family to the Nazis in 1944, though some scholars disagree.

The researchers combed countless primary records and investigated over 30 suspects in 20 different scenarios to arrive at their conclusion. Ultimately, the team claimed, van den Bergh was a Jewish Council member who allegedly knew the local hiding places — and he traded those addresses with the Nazis to protect his own family.

“There’s no evidence to indicate that he knew who was hiding at any of these addresses,” Pankoke said. “When van den Bergh lost all his series of protections exempting him from having to go to the camps, he had to provide something valuable to the Nazis that he’s had contact with to let him and his wife at that time stay safe.”

Arnold Van Den Bergh

Wikimedia CommonsSome scholars have contested the 2022 finding that Arnold van den Bergh was the man who betrayed Anne Frank and her family in 1944.

However, other scholars quickly fired back and dismissed these claims.

And this was far from the first time that a culprit had been offered up, only to come under fire from experts. To this day, the story of who betrayed Anne Frank remains shrouded in mystery.

How Was Anne Frank Discovered?

Born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, Germany, Anne Frank lived only a few short years before German fervor against “inferior people” such as Jews reached a fever pitch. Adolf Hitler would be elected as Chancellor of the Reich in 1933. The following year, Otto Frank moved his family to Amsterdam to start a business.

It was at the Opekta Works warehouse at Prinsengracht 263 where Otto Frank sold the fruit extract pectin that the family would hide in fear for their lives. For a few short years prior, the children happily attended school. Otto Frank even started a second company in 1938, a wholesaler of herbs called Pectacon.

Anne Frank Writing

Wikimedia CommonsAnne Frank in 1940, two years before she and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam.

When Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940, however, the local persecution of Jews began. Anne Frank was forced to attend an exclusively Jewish school in 1941, and for her next birthday, she received an autograph book she decided to use as her diary. On July 6, 1942, her family moved into their hiding place with the help of a Dutch woman named Miep Gies.

Otto Frank had hired trusted employees to help him build a secret annex that spanned three stories in the Opekta Works warehouse. It held eight people: Otto, Edith, Anne, and Margot Frank, and four members of the van Pels family — as Hermann van Pels was a Pectacon adviser.

Anne Frank was 15 years old on August 4, 1944, when SS officers raided the space and arrested all eight people. Both Margot and Anne Frank would die of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in February 1945, and the mystery of who betrayed Anne Frank took hold after her famous diary was published in 1947.

Who Betrayed Anne Frank And Her Family To The Nazis?

The only survivor of the family was Otto Frank, who owned the rights to his daughter’s diary and had it published. An official investigation into who betrayed Anne Frank was launched that same year, with another following in 1963. But neither was able to identify who betrayed the family definitively.

How Anne Frank Was Discovered

Anne Frank House MuseumThe bookcase used to conceal the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid from the Nazis.

The 1963 inquest involved an unsigned message sent to Otto Frank in June 1945 that named van den Bergh as their betrayer. Pankoke’s team corroborated him as a suspect with records from the Dutch national archives, which detailed the litany of Jewish Council members who could have provided Nazis with addresses.

“[Van den Bergh gave] that list as a way of keeping him and family out of the extermination camps,” said Rosemary Sullivan, author of The Betrayal of Anne Frank, a new book about the investigation.

“And it really matters to me, and I think it mattered to the group, that that was an anonymous list of addresses — there were no names. He was not betraying Otto Frank.”

The Anne Frank House Museum has long stated that the number of potential suspects who betrayed Anne Frank was too long to list. The latest investigation investigated the 2016 theory that the Nazis discovered the attic by chance and looked into every person who had the resources and motive to betray the Franks.

The research team looked at Opekta Works warehouse employee Willem van Maaren but ruled him out. They also ruled out Nelly Voskuijl, a Nazi sympathizer and sibling of one of the secret attic builders for lack of evidence. Similarly, Jewish collaborator Ans van Dijk, who betrayed 145 people and has long been a prime suspect, didn’t fit the profile.

Anne Frank House

Desk/AFP/Getty ImagesThe building where Anne Frank hid at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam is now the Anne Frank House Museum.

“We have investigated over 30 suspects in 20 different scenarios, leaving one scenario we like to refer to as the most likely scenario,” said investigation member Thijs Bayens. “We don’t have 100 percent certainty. There is no smoking gun because betrayal is circumstantial.”

The most likely scenario appeared to be that van den Bergh was to blame. Established by the Nazis to regulate Jewish communities across Europe, Jewish Councils governed Jewish daily life in German-occupied Europe. Their members were exempt from deportation until 1943 when the Nazis disbanded the councils.

But for some unknown reason, van den Bergh was allowed to stay in Amsterdam. And now, the investigation team believes that he used lists of addresses where Jews were known to be hiding as leverage to remain free.

Questions Remain About Who Betrayed The Frank Family In 1944

Although the investigation team is all but certain that they have found who betrayed Anne Frank, some scholars remain skeptical.

David Barnouw, the author of Who Betrayed Anne Frank?, said he had considered van den Bergh as a suspect but ruled him out. He said that the 1945 note Otto Frank received that named him as the informant was too circumstantial to indict him.

Emile Schrijver, director of Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter, agrees.

“The evidence is far too thin to accuse someone,” he told The New York Times. “This is an enormous accusation that they made using a load of assumptions, but it’s really based on nothing more than a snippet of information.”

Who Betrayed Anne Frank And Her Family

Sean Gallup/Getty ImagesA symbolic tombstone at the former Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lohheide, Germany, where Anne Frank and her sister died of typhus in 1945.

Perhaps most pressing of all was one question by Laurien Vastenhout, a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies: “Why would the people in hiding provide the Jewish Council with their addresses?”

In the end, the book arguing for Arnold van den Bergh as the culprit was pulled by its Dutch publisher in March 2022.

Ultimately, because of the distance from the crime, the mystery of who betrayed Anne Frank may never be conclusively solved. But in the most tragic sense, the answer has been there all along.

The Nazis killed Anne Frank and more than 100,000 Dutch Jews during the Holocaust. And if van den Bergh did betray the Frank family’s location, Maureen Sullivan urges cautious judgement.

“Who among us, if our families were on the line and heading to extermination camps, wouldn’t do what we could? And if what we could do would be to offer anonymous addresses, I don’t know that I know many people who could resist it,” she said.

“We went looking for a perpetrator and we found a victim.”

After reading about who betrayed Anne Frank, take a look at 33 photos of life in Nazi Germany. Then, discover some of the most powerful Anne Frank quotes.

Marco Margaritoff
A former staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff holds dual Bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a Master's in journalism from New York University. He has published work at People, VICE, Complex, and serves as a staff reporter at HuffPost.
Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
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Margaritoff, Marco. "Who Betrayed Anne Frank? Inside The Historical Evidence." AllThatsInteresting.com, April 20, 2024, https://allthatsinteresting.com/who-betrayed-anne-frank. Accessed May 18, 2024.