Researchers Believe They’ve Just Identified The Man Who Betrayed Anne Frank And Her Family To The Nazis

Published January 20, 2022

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

Who Betrayed Anne Frank

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.

Anne Frank was 10 years old when the Nazis invaded Holland. The precocious young Jewish girl spent two years in hiding before they discovered the secret Amsterdam attic in 1944. Ever since her journal The Diary of a Young Girl was published in 1947, historians have wondered: Who betrayed Anne Frank?

Now, a six-year investigation has pinpointed the man who most likely betrayed Anne Frank. Led by retired FBI Agent Vince Pankoke, it involved psychologists, historians, archivists, war crimes investigators, and criminologists — and pointed to a Jewish notary named Arnold van den Bergh.

The researchers combed countless primary records and investigated over 30 suspects in 20 different scenarios to arrive at their conclusion. Ultimately, 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.”

How Did Anne Frank Get Found?

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.

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.

Otto Frank had hired trusted employees to help him build a secret annex that spanned three stories in the Opekta Works warehouse. According to the Anne Frank House Museum, 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.

According to The New York Times, Anne Frank was 15 years old 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, while the mystery of their alleged betrayer took hold after 1947.

Was A Jewish Notary The Man Who Betrayed Anne Frank?

The only survivor following the 1944 raid 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.

Secret Annex Bookcase

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.

Prinsengracht 263 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.

Why Questions Remain About Who Informed On The Family’s Hiding Place

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.”

Anne Frank

Wikimedia CommonsAnne Frank died mere months before the end of World War II.

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?”

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, take a look at 44 tragic photos taken in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Marco Margaritoff
A staff writer for All That’s Interesting, Marco Margaritoff has also published work at outlets including People, VICE, and Complex, covering everything from film to finance to technology. He holds dual bachelor's degrees from Pace University and a master's degree from New York University.