Anne Frank may not have been betrayed to Nazi occupiers but captured by chance, according to a new study published Friday by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam.
The study said that, despite decades of research, there is no conclusive evidence that the Jewish diarist and her family were betrayed during World War II, prior to their arrest and deportation.
Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House museum, said in a statement that new research by the museum “illustrates that other scenarios should also be considered.”
One possible theory is that the August 4, 1944, raid that led to Anne’s arrest could have been part of an investigation into illegal labor or falsified ration coupons at the house where she and other Jews hid for just over two years.
The new research highlights two men who worked in the building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht canal and dealt in illegal ration cards. They were arrested earlier in 1944 and subsequently released, Dutch records show. Such arrests were reported to an investigation division based in The Hague and the study says that, “During their day-to-day activities, investigators from this department often came across Jews in hiding by chance.”
Anne Frank’s diary chronicling her time in hiding was published after the war. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany at 15. In a diary entry for March 10, 1944, she wrote about the arrest of two people who had worked in the building who had been involved with forged food ration documents. She referred to the two as B. and D.
In their new research, historians cross-referenced the initials with police records from the time and found the complete police reports on the two. They discovered that the arrests were carried out by a special investigation unit in The Hague that was working to combat the distribution of false food ration documents.
Another possibility raised by the study is that the raid was part of an investigation into people who were being allowed to work to prevent them being called up as forced laborers and sent to Germany.
In essence, the new research focused not on whether an informer may have alerted authorities to the family’s presence in the building, but rather why the police raid was carried out, without the expectation that it would necessarily lead to the conclusion that there was an informer.
The Frank family – Otto, his wife, Edith and their daughters Anne and Margot – immigrated to the Netherlands from Germany after the Nazis came to power. In 1942, they went into hiding, along with four other Jews, in the canal-side building that housed the offices of a company Otto Frank had run. Employees of the company helped them hide. In the August 1944 police raid, those hiding in the building were arrested. Anne and her sister both died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen and Edith Frank died at Auschwitz. Otto Frank, however, survived Auschwitz.
In the new study, the researchers also took another look at testimony from one of the company employees who was in the building at the time of the raid. The man, Victor Kugler – a German citizen living in the Netherlands during the war – managed Otto Frank’s company after Frank went into hiding and assisted the Franks and the others hiding there.
According to information on the Yad Vashem website, Kugler – who received the security officials as they raided the building – was hoping that they would be conducting a routine search. But instead they proceeded straight to the bookcase that concealed the entrance to the annex where the Frank family was hiding, leading Kugler to believe the Franks had been betrayed.
The new research from the Anne Frank House museum presents a different version, though, saying the authorities did not proceed directly to the bookcase. Instead, they demanded that Kugler answer questions and accompany them on an inspection of the building.
In an interview with a journalist, in 1957, Kugler said the investigators began questioning him about the contents of crates, sacks and bags, forcing him to open them all. If that was the nature of the search, Kugler recalled thinking at the time, it should be over quickly. Only later in the search, however, was the Frank family’s hiding place discovered, indicating perhaps that they were not the initial target of the raid.
Kugler himself was also arrested and sent to forced labor camps, before escaping and surviving the war. He was later recognized by Yad Vashem for his efforts on behalf of those he hid.
Another indication the researchers found that the raid was not initially aimed at searching for Jews was that in such operations, the general procedure was to position guards outside the building in case the Jews tried to flee. No guards were stationed on the building during the raid.
Otto Frank, however, remained convinced that someone had informed on his family. But the new Anne Frank House research found that Otto himself gave conflicting accounts regarding one person who came under suspicion – the maintenance worker Wilhelm van Maaren, who worked in a building adjacent to where the Frank family hid.
In one Dutch media interview, Otto Frank said Van Maaren had been suspected all along and that the suspicions were reported to Dutch authorities after the war. In another interview, though, he said he never knew Van Maaren or acted against him, and had no proof that he had betrayed the family. One way or another, a court in 1949 cleared Van Maaren of suspicions.
“Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said,” the study notes.
The new research also suggests Anne Frank died at Bergen-Belsen about a month earlier than had been thought, meaning she didn’t die just before the camp was liberated by Allied forces. The previously accepted date of her death, March 31, 1945, had been almost arbitrarily set after the war by Dutch authorities. However, the new research included an examination of new sources and well-known prior sources. It found that Anne would have died in February 1945.
The new assertion is based on testimony of Bergen-Belsen survivors, who saw Anne with symptoms of typhus in early February. Since most of those who contracted typhus died about 12 days after the symptoms first appeared, it’s not thought credible that she could have survived until the end of March.
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