The Betrayal of Anne Frank by Rosemary Sullivan
A ‘stunning piece of historical detective work, cleverly structured and grippingly written’
We all know Anne Frank’s story, but one question has long “tormented historians”, said Saul David in The Daily Telegraph. Who, in August 1944, tipped off the SS that the Frank family were hiding in a warehouse complex in central Amsterdam?
In 2016 the Dutch film-maker Thijs Bayens and the journalist Pieter van Twisk embarked on a fresh attempt to solve the mystery. They assembled a 22-person “Cold Case Team”, led by former FBI special agent Vince Pankoke, and re-examined all the evidence using modern forensic techniques.
Their efforts led them to Arnold van den Bergh, a wealthy Jewish notary and a member of Amsterdam’s Jewish Council, a body that collaborated with the Nazis. The team discovered that Van den Bergh may well have had access to a list of more than 500 addresses of Jews in hiding.
Their “compelling” case is that he traded this information to secure his own family’s safety. Commissioned to write an account of the investigation, Rosemary Sullivan, a Canadian biographer, has produced a “stunning piece of historical detective work, cleverly structured and grippingly written”.
The book has had a mixed reception, said Gerard DeGroot in The Times. The team’s methodology has been questioned – leading the book’s Dutch publisher to suspend a new print pending further inquiries. And some have seemed unwilling to accept its conclusion, “that a Jew might have betrayed another Jew”.
Still, this shouldn’t detract from what is “praiseworthy” about the book itself. “With impressive clarity and dramatic effect, Sullivan reconstructs a complex investigation.” And ultimately, if the team’s conclusions remain open to question, that also reflects an important truth – that in those dire circumstances, “almost anyone could have betrayed the Frank family”.
William Collins 336pp £20; The Week Bookshop £15.99
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