The Who2 Blog

Anne Frank May Not Have Been Betrayed After All

Anne Frank looks up from her school desk and smiles, in a dark dress with a white collar

(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

For years the question has been: Who betrayed Anne Frank?

Nobody has ever known for sure how the Frank family was discovered in their upstairs hideaway in Amsterdam in August of 1944, after two years in hiding. The Nazis who arrested them didn’t say, and the records of the time are silent. It wasn’t a significant or memorable arrest at the time, not until The Diary of Anne Frank was published years later.

The list of suspects for the betrayal included Willem van Maaren, the stock manager of the warehouse where the Franks were hiding; Tonny Ahlers, an acquaintance of Anne Frank’s father Otto (and a Nazi sympathizer); and Lena Hartog-van Bladeren, who cleaned the warehouse and might have discovered the Franks that way.

The case has baffled investigators for decades. Even a few months ago, a retired FBI investigator was reportedly planning to use artificial intelligence to sift the evidence, working with a crack team of “20 researchers, data analysts and historians.”

But another historian thinks the Franks may not have been betrayed at all. For the last few years, historian Gertjan Broek of the Anne Frank House has been working on the theory that the Franks were accidentally discovered because of food ration cards:

“New information uncovered by researchers showed the three men Otto Frank later identified as the investigators weren’t looking for enemies of Nazis, but were likely assigned to track down people committing ration card fraud or dodging service in the military — not hunting down Jews.”

Is it better or worse if their discovery was simply bad luck rather than nefarious action? Not clear. It’s tragic either way.

For more on the theory, see this 2016 recap from The Smithsonian »


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