Tuesday 29 May 2018

Who betrayed Anne Frank? Book claims to shed new light on mystery

Son of Dutch resistance member says Nazis were alerted to family’s secret chamber by Jewish collaborator

A new book has provided what it claims is fresh evidence that Anne Frank and her family were betrayed by a Jewish woman who was executed after the second world war for collaborating with the Nazis.

The mystery of how the Franks were found in a secret annex in a building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht in August 1944 has thwarted formal investigations and troubled academics ever since.

The involvement of Ans van Dijk, who was executed in 1948 after admitting to collaborating in the capture of 145 people, including her own brother and his family, had been previously claimed. But, the Anne Frank House museum and research centre had been unable to come to any conclusion, despite police investigations and its own studies.

Fresh claims have now been made in a book by Gerard Kremer, 70, the son of a member of the Dutch resistance of the same name, who was an acquaintance of Van Dijk in Amsterdam.

According to the book, Kremer Sr, who died in 1978, was the caretaker of an office building at the back of Prinsengracht on Amsterdam’s Westermarkt, two floors of which was taken over by the German authorities and the Dutch Nazi organisation the NSB during the occupation of the Netherlands.

It is claimed that after her arrest on Easter Sunday 1943 by the Nazi intelligence service known as the the Sicherheitsdienst, Van Dijk became a regular visitor to the building, albeit in disguise. She would also use the telephones in the requisitioned offices, Kremer noticed.

The book suggests that in early August 1944, Kremer overheard Van Dijk taking part in discussions in the Nazi offices about Prinsengracht, where the Franks were hiding. The Franks were arrested on 4 August, while Van Dijk was said to have left for The Hague.

 Anne Frank’s diary charts two years of her life from 1942 to 1944, when her family were hiding in Amsterdam from the Nazis. Photograph: Universal History Archive/Univer
Anne had been hidden for two years in the concealed annex above the canalside warehouse with her father, Otto, mother, Edith, and sister, Margot.

The 15-year-old was sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and on to Auschwitz before finally ending up at Bergen-Belsen, where she died in February 1945 from typhus. Her published diary spans the period in hiding between 1942 and 1944.

A spokeswoman for Anne Frank House said the museum had been in touch with the author of The Backyard of the Secret Annex, but that there remained no proof of Van Dijk’s guilt.

“We consider Gerard Kremer’s book as a tribute to his parents, based on what he remembers and has heard. In 2016, the Anne Frank House carried out research into the arrest of the Frank family and the other four people in hiding in the secret annex.

“Ans van Dijk was included as a potential traitor in this study. We have not been able to find evidence for this theory, nor for other betrayal theories.”

Simone van Hoof, a spokesman for the book’s publishing house, Lantaarn, said: “We can’t claim that this is 100% the answer but we really do think it is a part of the puzzle that may be able to complete the story.”

Last year an FBI agent launched a cold case review into the Frank family’s discovery by the Gestapo in 1944. Investigative techniques developed in the past decade, including the crunching of big data to uncover leads, are being used by a team of 19 forensic experts led by Vince Pankoke. Van Hoof said the review led by Pankoke was examining the claims in the book.

A 2010 book by Sytze van der Zee, a former editor-in-chief of the Het Parool newspaper, previously noted that many of Van Dijk’s victims had lived near Prinsengracht.

David Barnouw, an emeritus researcher at the Dutch Institute for war, holocaust and genocide studies, offered a cautious response to the book’s claims, and suggested the Franks’ discovery may have been pure chance.

Speaking to the De Volkskrant newspaper, Barnouw said there lacked a “smoking gun” in regard to Van Dijk’s claims. He said: “And I wonder if we’ll ever see that smoking gun. I fear that it is now too late to establish conclusively who it was.”

After the war, Van Dijk moved to The Hague, where she was arrested at a friend’s home on 20 June 1945. Two years later she was charged on 23 counts of treason and brought to the special court in Amsterdam, where she confessed on all counts, and was sentenced to death.

Her attempts to appeal the decision and gain a royal pardon on the grounds that she had acted out of self-preservation failed. In January 1948 she was executed by firing squad at Fort Bijlmer, in Amsterdam. She converted to Roman Catholicism the night before her execution.

(Source: The Guardian)

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