(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

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Betrayal for survival: The betrayal of Anne Frank

<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/sschwartz24/" target="_self">Sophie Schwartz</a>

Sophie Schwartz

April 22, 2022
When young Anne Frank and her family were captured by the Nazis in 1944, Miep Geis, one of the individuals who helped the Franks avoid being arrested for 2 years, saved Anne’s journal in her desk only for it to be published in 1943 and become one of the most notable first-hand accounts of life under the Nazi occupation.

Yet, when Anne’s diary seemingly ended on August 1, 1944, the question of who betrayed the Frank family was still unanswered. Seventy-five years would pass before an investigation in January, led by FBI Veteran Vince Pankoke would finally stumble upon a likely culprit and announce that he and his team had discovered that Arnold Van Den Bergh betrayed Anne Frank. 

Frank was a Jewish teenager who documented her life while in hiding for two years under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands, according to the Anne Frank center. In a mere 450 square foot annex, Frank and seven others lived cramped together to avoid being captured by the Nazis.

When Frank’s family annex was unexpectedly raided, they were sent to Auschwitz, one of the largest of the German Nazi concentration camps, where like so many other families, they were split up and would eventually meet their deaths. Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was the only member of the Frank family to survive the Nazi genocide and has become one of the most determined individuals to crack the mystery of his family’s betrayal. 

A cold case team composed of historians and other experts spent six years experimenting with modern investigation techniques to find a suspect behind the Frank family’s betrayal. This included using artificial intelligence to search for connections between a wide range of people, a task that would have been impossible for a human to complete. This proceeded to the discovery of Arnold van den Bergh, a Jewish businessman and member of the Jewish council. 

As Nazi forces began to occupy the Netherlands, a community of Jews in the ghetto were forced to elect each other for Jewish councils. These councils would become an instrument of manipulation that the Nazis would use to issue orders to the Jewish ghettos. Members of the Jewish council were often exempt from more laborious tasks and would receive benefits such as extra food for their families.

Detective Pankoke claimed that Arnold Van Den Bergh was a member of the Jewish council but was able to sway the Nazis into allowing him and his wife to live freely in Amsterdam. However, when the Jewish councils were finally dissolved in 1943, Van Den Bergh decided to give the Nazis crucial information about the whereabouts of Jews as his final attempt to save him and his wife from being sent to the concentration camps.

As a member of the Jewish council, Van Den Bergh had access to thousands of addresses of Jewish families who were in hiding, including the Franks. Investigations have concluded that Van Den Bergh most likely betrayed the Frank family by giving the Nazis their address.

Pankoke confessed on “60 Minutes” that “there could be reasonable doubt” that Van Den Bergh did in fact betray the Frank family. However, the information and addresses he had access to and the fact that he was living freely in Amsterdam suggest that he was a crucial adherent to the demands of the Nazis and was willing to betray his fellow Jews in order to save his family from persecution. 

Conflicted with the difficult decision of adhering to the manipulative commands of the Nazis while also trying to protect their fellow Jews in the ghettos, some members of the Jewish council were forced to make difficult decisions about their own survival, which sometimes included betrayal.  

Although we may never know the true betrayer of the Frank family, this investigation reminds us to remember the manipulation that occurred during the Holocaust. Betrayal or survival is unfortunately a decision that some Jews during the Holocaust faced.

The Nazi regime was notorious for having Jews inside and outside of the concentration camps do horrific things to their fellow Jews. Survival was what every Jewish person wanted, and in the case of Van Den Bergh, it was betrayal that led to his survival.

FBI agent Detective Pankoke has shed some light on the betrayal of Anne Frank, and his research is a reminder that we must continue to share these tragic stories of the Holocaust.

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