Head of Anne Frank Fund Calls New Claims of Family’s Betrayal ‘Full of Errors’
John Goldsmith, head of the Anne Frank Fund, slammed the bombshell conclusion of a new book, "The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation," that claims Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh told the Nazis where the Franks were hiding, as “full of errors” and a “conspiracy theory.”
The conclusion that Arnold van den Berg revealed to the Nazis where the Frank family was hiding has been met with considerable pushback from experts on Anne Frank, the German occupation of Amsterdam, and his descendents.
Goldsmith’s criticisms were especially scathing.
“It contributes not to uncovering the truth but to confusion and in addition it is full of errors,” he told Reuters, adding, “This proof just has not been produced. Simply to disseminate an assertion that then in the public discussion becomes a kind of fact borders on a conspiracy theory.”
Van den Bergh’s descendents are also furious with the author. His granddaughter came to his defense by recounting how, by how 1944, the year the Franks were found by the Nazis, he and his family were already hiding in safehouses throughout the Netherlands.
Goldsmith and van den Bergh’s family’s assertions have been supported by a multitude of experts.
The polarizing book is the brainchild of Pieter van Twisk, a Dutch media producer, and reportedly took six years to complete. Van Twisk claimed that he assembled a team of over 20 investigators and asked them to crack the cold case of who had betrayed the Franks in the summer of 1944 as they hid in a secret annex attached to the office building where Otto Frank had once worked.
The investigation was led by Vince Pankoke, a retired FBI detective. The project used modern forensic technology and even artificial intelligence. The story is written in the style of a true crime novel.
While the use of modern technology aided their efforts, it was reportedly a piece of old evidence that led them to their conclusion. An anonymous letter was given to Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father and the only survivor from their secret Amsterdam hideout, in 1945, that claimed that Arnold van den Bergh had betrayed the family.
Otto gave the letter to a Dutch detective in 1963, but it was ultimately dismissed. Van den Bergh died in 1950.
Due to the existence of the note, van den Bergh has regularly been a suspect, but no other evidence has materialized to support the claim.
David Barnouw, who also wrote a book on the Frank cold case, “Who Betrayed Anne Frank?,” said that he had ruled van den Bergh out as a suspect because the note was the only evidence of his guilt.
Barnouw wasn’t the only expert to take issue with the conclusion made by van Twisk and his crew. Emile Schrijver, the director of Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter, said, “The evidence is far too thin to accuse someone.”
He added, “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.”
Ronald Leopold, the Anne Frank House’s executive director, believes the pressure to come to a conclusion is what led to the heavily-refuted verdict.
“They came up with new information that needs to be investigated further, but there’s absolutely no basis for a conclusion,” Leopold said.
A bit of circumstantial evidence was reportedly the key to van Twisk’s belief that van den Bergh was the guilty party. Van den Bergh was once on the board of the Amsterdam Jewish Council, an organization established by the occupying Nazi forces in 1941 to control the Jewish population.
It is believed by some that van den Bergh obtained a list of where Jewish individuals and families were hiding through his participation on the council. No such list has ever been found, although there are multiple mentions of its existence.
An expert on the subject, Laurien Vastenhout, a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, asked, “Why would the people in hiding provide the Jewish Council with their addresses?”
Leopold agreed that the existence of a list in the hands of the Council was unlikely. “The Jewish Council was under special scrutiny from the occupying forces,” he said, adding “it would be very, very risky to keep lists like that.”
Van Twisk, the mastermind behind the new book, acknowledges that no lists were ever found, but suggested that the rumor of their existence is enough to support his highly-disputed claims.
“Circumstantial evidence is also evidence,” he said.
The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation’s controversial conclusion has done little to bring consensus to the question it set out to answer. With the cold case fast approaching a century, the answer may never be known.