It’s long been believed that Anne Frank and the other Jews she was hiding with were betrayed, their location behind a movable bookcase leaked to the German security service that arrested them and deported them to faraway concentration camps.
But a study by the Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam released findings last year that suggest there was no betrayal, and the discovery of the eight Jews behind the bookcase was by chance.
A retired FBI agent is determined to figure out the truth.
Vince Pankoke is leading a team of 19 forensic experts to look into the cold case, according to the Guardian. The hope is investigative techniques developed in the past decade coupled with unclassified records of arrests by the German security services, known as the Sicherheitsdienst, might lead to new information. It has been long-believed that the arrest records related to the Franks had been destroyed in a British bombing raid in 1944, but Pankoke is not convinced.
“I’ve spent a lot of time of the United States National Archives and found documents there from Amsterdam that I was told didn’t exist,” Pankoke, 59, told the Guardian. “Some of them are water damaged or fire damaged, and they are in technical military German, so it’s going to take a while. But we have found lists of names of Jews arrested having being betrayed, lists of informants and names of Gestapo agents who lived in Amsterdam. All that can go into the data store, and we can find connections.”
The common story of the Franks’ discovery holds that after 25 months of hiding, a business associate of Anne Frank’s father, Wilhelm van Maaren, betrayed their hiding place within the Amsterdam home. But van Maaren was investigated by the Dutch police twice after the war and found no compelling evidence.
“They weren’t really investigations,” Pankoke told the Guardian. “I am working through the files and there are so many questions unanswered.”
The Anne Frank House last year released a study suggesting the Franks’ discovery was more random. It might have been due to illegal activity happening at the place they sought shelter.
“Illegal work and fraud with ration coupons was also taking place,” a release by the Anne Frank House in December 2016 states. “It is possible that the SD searched the building because of this illegal work and fraud with ration coupons, and that the SD investigators discovered Anne Frank and the seven others in hiding simply by chance.”
The museum found records of the illegal work and fraud after reviewing Anne Frank’s diary entries in March 1944. Those entries created a trail to the records in other parts of the Netherlands.
Pankoke said he isn’t doing this to point fingers, just to get answers. The cold case review was launched last weekend and members of the project hope to unveil its findings on Aug. 4, 2019, the 75th anniversary of the arrest of the Frank family.
“I am just trying to solve the last case of my career,” Pankoke told the Guardian.