Dutch Publisher Pulls New Anne Frank Book From Shelves Over Alleged Inaccuracies

The granddaughter of the Jewish man accused in the book of betraying Anne Frank welcomes the move by the publisher of the Dutch version, and calls on its U.S. publisher to follow suit

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Tuesday's press conference in which six Dutch scholars refuted the findings in "The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation."
Tuesday's press conference in which six Dutch scholars refuted the findings in "The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation."Credit: EVERT ELZINGA - AFP

The Dutch translation of a controversial new book claiming that Anne Frank was betrayed by a Jewish notary during the Holocaust is being pulled from shelves in the Netherlands.

“The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation” grabbed headlines around the world when it was published in January after it claimed to have cracked one of the biggest unsolved mysteries of World War II: identifying the person who betrayed the family of the famous diarist, revealing their Amsterdam hiding place to the Nazis in 1944.

Wednesday’s decision by Dutch publisher Ambo Anthos came two months after it ceased printing the book following local criticism of its bombshell findings, and was based on a detailed new report by six Dutch scholars. They charged that the investigation behind the book was conducted “sloppily and poorly,” with “little critical judgment” applied to analyzing its historical sources.

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The new report concluded that the investigation “was conducted amateurishly and, due to misinterpretation and tunnel vision, wrongly identifies Anne Frank’s betrayer.”

The book, written by Canadian author Rosemary Sullivan, detailed the six-year research effort by a team of 20 researchers, using a master database with lists of Nazi collaborators, informants, historic documents, police records and prior research to uncover new leads and identify a betrayer, based on knowledge of the hiding place, motive and opportunity.

The U.S. book jacket of "The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation."Credit: HarperCollins

The researchers concluded that it was “very likely” the culprit was Arnold van den Bergh, who they alleged gave the Frank family up in order to save his own family.

Ambo Anthos said its decision to recall the book was triggered by “a very critical report” by several prominent experts presented at a conference on Tuesday.

“Based on the conclusions of this report, we have decided that, effective immediately, the book will no longer be available. We will call upon bookstores to return their stock,” the publisher announced. “We would once again like to offer our sincere apologies to everyone who has been offended by the contents of this book.”

The publisher first apologized for the book when it announced on January 31 it was suspending its printing of the book while it awaited further investigation by researchers challenging it.

The new 68-page report published Tuesday is titled “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Refutation.” The report closely examines what the Dutch scholars called the “evidently erroneous reading of the sources” and “fabricated additions to sources” in Sullivan’s book.

The report delved deeply into the life of van den Bergh, the man accused of betraying Anne Frank, and his movements during the period the betrayal allegedly took place. It concluded that the evidence shows it is highly unlikely.

At the time, the report pointed out, van den Bergh and his own family were in hiding themselves. It asks: “Why would someone leave the relative safety of a hiding place to betray others when there was no actual motive for doing so because he, his children and his wife were already all in hiding? To sum up: there is no motive.”

Mirjam de Gorter speaking at Tuesday's press conference in the Netherlands, where she called on U.S. publisher HarperCollins to withdraw the book.Credit: EVERT ELZINGA - AFP

The scholars added, “Our objective in writing this report is to make clear that the accusation against van den Bergh is not convincing. Moreover, we want to emphasize that the debate on the Holocaust and the position of Jews during World War II should be approached with respect for the historical context and with nuance, rather than from an overly complacent modern perspective. For only then can we do justice to the past and also do justice to the people of the past. Including the notary Arnold van den Bergh.”

Since the book’s publication worldwide, historians, researchers and Jewish groups have challenged and criticized the book’s conclusion.

In February, the European Jewish Congress called on the book’s U.S. publisher, HarperCollins, to consider removing the book from publication, saying it “has deeply hurt the memory of Anne Frank, as well as the dignity of the survivors and the victims of the Holocaust.”

HarperCollins has neither ceased printing of the book nor commented on the decision of the Dutch publisher.

At the Tuesday unveiling of the refutation report at an Amsterdam academic-cultural center, van den Bergh’s granddaughter, Mirjam de Gorter, publicly thanked its authors for their “meticulous” research on a book she believed “portrayed my grandfather as a Jewish scapegoat.” She accused the book of exploiting Anne Frank’s story “in a dishonest way,” calling it “amoral, ahistorical and unjust.”

She sharply criticized Sullivan and the U.S. publisher for failing to show her family the manuscript ahead of publication and to solicit their input.

“I deeply resent you for your conduct in this matter,” she said.

De Gorter issued an “urgent appeal” to HarperCollins and other publishers globally to recall the book. She also asked the entertainment industry to refrain from creating any film or television adaptations based on its narrative.

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