Anne Frank, case closed

Her figure became iconic and is remembered by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam
Ana Frank


It is not difficult to imagine the shock that has shaken both the Jewish world and all those who sympathise with their cause, many no doubt moved by the tragedy of the Holocaust, the elimination of six million Jewish people by the Nazi regime, a terrifying event that has since been summed up in the term "genocide": the systematic and deliberate annihilation or extermination of a social group for racial, political or religious reasons. 

One of the greatest icons, if not the greatest, of that shameful and tragic episode in human history is the Jewish girl Anne Frank. Hiding in a garret in Amsterdam with her family, she was discovered by the Nazis in August 1944 and deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was subjected to abuse, undernourishment and the usual cruelties until she died of typhus in the spring of 1945. 

What made her a special character is the discovery of her diary, in which she describes with the attentive and frightened eyes of a child the horror and injustice of that infamous persecution, the complete elimination of the Jewish people following the decision taken at the Wannsee Conference, which agreed on the so-called "Final Solution", the 80th anniversary of which, incidentally, is this 20 January.

There were always many doubts as to who the informers were. And although there were suspicions that it might have been other Jews, these were never confirmed. Until now, when a thorough and conclusive study has determined that it was a Jewish notary, Arnold van den Bergh, who handed Anne Frank and seven other members of her family over to the Nazis. 

Using state-of-the-art forensic techniques, a team of some 20 historians, criminologists and FBI agents have now turned what was hitherto only a well-founded suspicion into a certainty. This was based on a note that Otto Frank, Anne's father and survivor, had received in 1946. The original was never found, and Otto did not disclose it, apparently because of lingering anti-Semitism after the war, but investigators have now found a genuine copy, the discovery of which makes it the definitive proof.

The fine line between hero and villain

The emotion and the shock of having the doubts and unknowns raised by Anne Frank's story cleared up comes from the realisation that Jews, people like everyone else, are also affected by the philosophical truth that man is capable of the worst and the best, characteristics that only manifest themselves in all their rawness when he is subjected to circumstances and pressures that he could never have imagined in the routine of his daily life. It is only at such moments that behaviour forever differentiates a hero from a villain in history. 

Such is what seems to have happened to Arnold van den Bergh, notary and founding member of the "Jewish Council", the institution more or less recognised by the German Nazis and the Dutch officials in their service. It was this Council that negotiated with them both their conditions of survival and their deportations to concentration camps, and even appointed the members of the community charged with the humiliating tasks of repressing and beating the most fractious and facilitating Nazi good order towards the execution of their own fellow community members. 

Van den Bergh, driven by despair at having been deprived of the protection of the German occupiers, and fearing for the lives of his wife and three daughters, as well as his own of course, would have ended up handing the Frank family over to the Nazis. This is the conclusion of FBI agent Vince Pankoke, the key investigator in the discovery of the copy of the above-mentioned note in the Amsterdam City Archives. With the veteran prestige conferred by his many years of successful investigations, Pankoke nevertheless leaves a minimum of room for doubt: "We cannot be absolutely certain, but I think our theory [blaming Van den Bergh] has more than an 85% chance of being right, and I personally take it for granted". 

'Open Case', the book that narrates the whole story, which leads to the Anne Frank case being definitively solved and closed, has been praised by the Anne Frank House, the institution that is the custodian of the heroine's house-museum in Amsterdam and her legacy. This is acknowledged in its official statement, which nevertheless keeps the door ajar that new evidence may emerge to complement the story of a betrayal.