Anne Frank Museum Floats Fresh Capture Theory

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December 18, 2016

Anne Frank might not have been betrayed after all, according to a new study of first- and secondhand sources.

The Jewish girl made famous by her diary was taken, along with her family, from their hiding place in an Amsterdam house and sent to Nazi concentration camps during World War II. All but her father, Otto, died during the war.

The theory of how the Franks were discovered has long been that someone phoned authorities or otherwise let them know of the Franks' hiding place. Now, the Anne Frank House museum itself has put forward the theory that it was coincidence that resulted in the Aug. 4, 1944, arrests of Anne and her family.

New research by the museum has analyzed police documents and Anne's diary in detail; the result is the suggestion to consider possibilities other than betrayal.

Otto Frank spent years after the war trying to determine why his family's hiding place was found. He long suspected Willem van Maaren, who was relatively new to the working staff at 263 Prinsengracht, on the second floor of which, behind a movable bookcase, was the hiding place. Van Maaren did not know that the Franks were in hiding and so would not have been able to dissuade authorities from finding any hiding places, as was the practice with other people who worked in the house. However, van Maaren was never arrested because investigations by two different law enforcement agencies turned up insufficient proof of his involvement in any kind of conspiracy.

Otto Frank suspected other people as well but was not able to prove conclusively that any one person turned in the Franks to authorities. He died in 1980. An Otto Frank biographer, Carol Ann Lee, suspected that the betrayer was Dutch National Socialist activist Tonny Ahlers. But as with van Maaren, investigators turned up insufficient evidence to prove the theory that it was Ahlers who betrayed the Franks.

The museum's researchers went back through police records and discovered that the investigators who came to the house that day were on the trail of fraudsters and draft-dodgers, not Jews. One of the investigators, according to the museum's report, was "investigating economic violations," like ration card fraud.

Anne, in her diary, wrote several times about people being arrested for dealing in illegal ration cards. Many goods were scarce in Amsterdam, and people were legally restricted to the goods available to them through the ration cards they were issued.

The museum's report also noted that phone service was entirely unreliable and, in some cases, cut off altogether. As well, the phone number of the investigate unit who men eventually carried the Frank family out of the house were not public knowledge at that time. This could call into question the idea that someone phoned in a tip to authorities.

Also of note, the report said, was the time that the authorities were in the house that day: two hours. Investigators acting on a tip would have taken less time than that to round up a family in hiding, the museum's researchers suggest.

The museum's researchers stressed that they were not ruling out the original theory–that someone, perhaps even someone close to the Franks, turned them in; rather, the intent of the report is to suggest that more than possibility exists.

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