Man wat Anne Frank aan Nazi's verraai het om sy eie familie te red, word uiteindelik onthul

IT is one of the saddest and most enduring cold cases of the 20th century – who told the Nazis where Anne Frank was hiding?

But now the 77-year mystery has been solved by a crack team of investigators, claims a new book on the wartime teenage diarist whose family were betrayed to the Gestapo.

Anne Frank, op die foto, was betrayed to the Nazis
Anne Frank, op die foto, was betrayed to the NazisKrediet: Getty

The culprit is surprisingly not a power-hungry Nazi but tragically, like the Franks, a Jewish victim of the regime who was simply trying to save his own family.

Arnold van den Bergh was a notary, or legal clerk, who is now believed to have told the SS the address of the Franks’ Amsterdam hideaway, Prinsengracht-263.

Rosemary Sullivan, author of The Betrayal Of Anne Frank, gesê: “Arnold van den Bergh was a person put into a devil’s dilemma by circumstances for which he was not to blame, and under pressure, he may have failed to understand fully the consequences of his actions.

“He did not turn over information out of wickedness or for self-enrichment, as so many others had. Like Otto Frank’s, his goal was simple — to save his family.

“That he succeeded while Otto failed is a terrible fact of history.”

With their home city of Amsterdam under Nazi rule, 13-year-old Anne, her parents Otto and Edith and sister Margot went into hiding in 1942.

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Along with family friends the van Pels and dentist Fritz Pfeffer, for two years they hid in a concealed room behind the office of Otto’s spice business.

Their location was known only by Otto’s employees, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, who risked their lives to bring them food.

In 1944 German police stormed the offices and the Franks, van Pels and Pfeffer were sent to Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Anne, Margot and Edith were sent on to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they reportedly contracted typhoid and died in 1945.

Otto, the family’s sole survivor, returned to Amsterdam after the war and published Anne’s heart-rending diary of their time in hiding in 1947.

In the 1940s and 1960s there had been two unsuccessful investigations into who had betrayed the Franks, then in 2016 a 22-strong team led by Vincent Pankoke, a former FBI cold case specialist, began another probe.

The team studied reports from 29 archives in Holland and Allied countries and used a Microsoft AI programme to analyse them.

ANONYMOUS NOTE

Then when Vincent was leafing through a 1963 report on Otto Frank he found a copy of an anonymous note given to Otto in 1945 which claimed to know who had handed them in.

Dit lees: “Your hideout in Amsterdam was reported at the time to the Jüdische Auswanderung [Jewish Emigration] in Amsterdam, Euterpestraat by A van den Bergh, a resident at the time at Vondelpark, O Nassaulaan.

At the JA was a whole list of addresses he submitted.”

Arnold van den Bergh had been one of seven Jewish notaries in Amsterdam before the war. His firm had been successful, with Arnold presiding over high-value sales and living in a lavish mansion in the city.

He and wife Auguste had twin daughters, Emma and Esther, and a younger daughter Anne Marie — who was the same age as Anne Frank.

Author Rosemary continued: “He seemed to be a quiet but confident man.

“His wife loved to entertain guests at their home, and he had a passion for fine 17th and 18th-century paintings, a luxury that his income afforded him.”

Arnold van den Bergh was a notary, or legal clerk, who is now believed to have told the SS the address of the Franks’ Amsterdam hideaway, Prinsengracht-263
Arnold van den Bergh was a notary, or legal clerk, who is now believed to have told the SS the address of the Franks’ Amsterdam hideaway, Prinsengracht-263Krediet: CBS

When the Nazis embarked on their mass murder of Jews across Europe, van den Bergh decided to do whatever it took to keep his family safe.

In 1941, a year after Germany invaded Amsterdam, he became a founding member of the Jewish Council.

The council — reviled after the war — had the devastating task of deciding which Jews would be deported and held weekly meetings with the intelligence arm of the SS, the SD.

In return, van den Bergh and his family were among 1,500 Dutch Jews given a “sperre”, or immunity from deportation.

But when the council was disbanded in 1943, members were sent to concentration camps — meaning van de Bergh was no longer safe.

To the cold case team the timings didn’t make sense. Why would van den Bergh hand over the Franks’ address in 1944 but not in 1943, when the lives of his family were in the most danger?

POWERFUL ALLY

Checking records, the team found no evidence that van den Bergh or his young family were ever held captive in concentration camps.

In plaas daarvan, van den Bergh’s next move was to apply for Calmeyer status — an SS classification meaning non-Jewish — on the basis that one of his grandparents was a Gentile, meaning that he and his family should instead be identified as Aryan, or non-Jewish.

In September 1943, his request was granted, and the whole family had the J — for Jüdisch, or Jewish — on their identity cards scrubbed.

That should have guaranteed their safety — if it hadn’t been for an argument with the wrong man. Around this time, van den Bergh’s business had been taken off him and given to an Ayran notary, JWA Schepers.

Perhaps infuriated by this humiliation, van den Bergh took steps to internally sabotage the business so that by the time Schepers took over, it was effectively inoperable.

This turned out to be a grave mistake. Schepers was so furious that he successfully lobbied the SS to reverse the decision on van den Bergh’s Calmeyer status.

Anne Frank gained fame posthumously with the 1947 publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, in which she documented her life in hiding from 1942 aan 1944
Anne Frank gained fame posthumously with the 1947 publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, in which she documented her life in hiding from 1942 aan 1944Krediet: Getty

Van den Bergh’s Aryan identity was erased and he fled Amsterdam as a bounty was placed on his head.

Rosemary said: “The surreal absurdity of those bureaucratic musical chairs, when a man’s life and the lives of his family were at stake, is a brutal example of the Nazi method of murder by small bureaucratic cuts.”

The Dutch Resistance found homes for Van den Bergh’s twins in Scharwoude and homed 13-year-old Anne Marie in Amsterdam.

But Anne Marie, whose own daughter Esther Kizio — a pseudonym— spoke to the cold case team, fled Amsterdam after being starved, forced to work and sexually assaulted.

She was promptly arrested in Rotterdam by the Nazis. But the van den Bergh family had one more card to play.

During her interrogation, Anne Marie mentioned her father’s German client, Alois Miedl, and was promptly released.

FRIENDS WITH HIGH-RANK NAZIS

Miedl was a Catholic art collector who despite having a Jewish wife, was good friends with high-ranking Nazis and had been quietly working for German military intelligence.

After Jewish collectors were forced to sell their art during the Nazi persecution, Miedl had arranged the sale of certain works to Hitler’s second in command, Hermann Goring.

The art had previously belonged to Jewish collector Jacques Goudstikker. And the notary who was involved in the sale was none other than Arnold van den Bergh. He must have realised that Miedl could be a powerful ally.

So when Miedl, who secretly sympathised with the Jews, asked van den Bergh to take in Goudstikker’s mother Emilie for the duration of the war, he agreed.

By now in Miedl’s good books, van den Bergh hoped his relationship with the Nazi party would keep his family safe in hiding.

Maar in 1944 as the Germans started to lose the war, Miedl fled to fascist Spain. It seems that by this stage, van den Bergh was out of options.

Arnold van den Bergh, omring, in a meeting of the Amsterdam Jewish Council
Arnold van den Bergh, omring, in a meeting of the Amsterdam Jewish CouncilKrediet: The Jewish Cultural Quarter of Amsterdam

In a last-ditch attempt to save himself and his family, he handed over a list of Jewish safe houses which he would have had as a member of the Jewish Council.

When his granddaughter Esther discovered this, she struggled to come to terms with the news.

Rosemary said: “If indeed her grandfather gave up the Prinsengracht 263 adres, it was probably just an address on an impersonal list — he didn’t know who was living there.

“If in fact he had done it, she said finally, she knew it could have been for only one reason — because he was forced to, because he had to save his family’s lives.”

In 1948 an Amsterdam Jewish Honor Court — a tribunal set up to deal with Jewish suspected Nazi collaborators — found van den Bergh guilty in absentia of assisting in anti-Jewish measures.

ons vra u genade en vriendelikheid terwyl ons deur hierdie stadium binne ons gesin navigeer, he was diagnosed with throat cancer and he died in London in 1950. But one question remains — why did Otto Frank keep van den Bergh’s name to himself?

HANDED OVER SAFE HOUSES

At the time of van den Bergh’s trial Otto told Dutch newspaper Het Parool: “We were betrayed by Jews.”

And years later Miep Gies let slip to a student at a University of Michigan event that the betrayer had died “before 1960”. But Otto kept the name to himself until his death aged 91 in 1980.

Rosemary wrote: “Perhaps Otto’s lack of interest in exposing his betrayer can be put down, in part, to van den Bergh’s death.

“What would be the point in pursuing a dead man? Otto always said he didn’t want to harm the man’s children.

“He also may have concluded that van den Bergh would become a convenient scapegoat for Jew haters.”

  •  The Betrayal Of Anne Frank, by Rosemary Sullivan, is published today by William Collins, an imprint of Harper-Collins UK, in hardback, ebook and audio.
The house where Anne Frank's family hid for two years
The house where Anne Frank’s family hid for two yearsKrediet: AFP
The anonymous note given to Otto Frank incriminating van den Bergh
The anonymous note given to Otto Frank incriminating van den BerghKrediet: 60 MInutes/CBS

Oscar winning Helen Mirren tells the story of Anne Frank’s life through the pages of her world-famous diary in ‘Anne Frank: Parallel Stories