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January 18, 2017

How Did the Nazis Find Out About Anne Frank’s Family? Were They Betrayed? There's a New Theory!

Jewish teenager Anne Frank and her family may have been discovered “by chance” in their secret apartment in Amsterdam, according by the Anne Frank House museum.

Anne Frank

Research conducted by the Anne Frank museum contributes a new perspective on Anne Frank's arrest. Not the familiar question 'Who betrayed Anne Frank?' was asked, but instead 'Why did the raid on the Secret Annexe take place, and on what information was it based?' This study presents new findings: possibly illegal employment and ration-coupon fraud played a role in the raid on 263 Prinsengracht and led to the discovery and arrest of Anne Frank.

Until now, the assumption has always been that the Sicherheitsdienst arrived at 263 Prinsengracht looking for Jews in hiding, and that the raid was clearly the result of betrayal. Yet, for an 'ordinary' case of wartime betrayal, the story contains many inconsistencies. This new study reveals that there was more going on at 263 Prinsengracht than just people being hidden in the Secret Annexe. Illegal work and fraud with ration coupons was also taking place. The current research study provides a different perspective: it is possible that the SD searched the building because of this illegal work and fraud with ration coupons, and that the SD investigators discovered Anne Frank and the seven others in hiding simply by chance.

Bookcase hiding the Secret Annex

For decades, Anne's father, Otto, tried to figure out who tipped off the Nazis. Previous theories were based on Otto Frank's suspicions, which centered on Willem van Maaren, a new employee who hadn't been let in on the secret about the hiding place.

“We suspected him all along,” Frank told a Dutch newspaper in 1963.

On its website, the museum says van Maaren was an inquisitive type who became suspicious and “laid a trap in the warehouse once: on the corners of the tables there are sheets of paper which fall off when you walk past.”

Still, no conclusive evidence has ever come to light of van Maaren alerting authorities, the paper says.

Through the decades, others have been identified as potential betrayers, including Dutch National Socialist Tonny Ahlers, as well as the wife of an employee who helped Anne's family hide.

But no one has cast serious doubts about the betrayal theory — until now.

Warehouse entrance. On August 4, 1944 Silberbauer and his men entered the building through this door.

In part, that is because historians believed the three investigators who found the Jews hiding in the Opekta building were members of the Sicherheitsdienst, which tracked down potential enemies of Hitler's Nazi regime.

But 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.

Gezinus Gringhuis, for example, had previously been assigned to track down Jews, but had a new assignment — “investigating economic violations,” according to the research paper.

In her diary, Anne repeatedly wrote about the arrests of men who had been caught dealing in illegal ration cards “so we have no coupons.”

Such arrests were often reported to authorities, who frequently came across hiding Jews as they tried to sniff out people with phony ration cards.

The research paper also highlights other circumstantial evidence that pokes holes in the betrayal theory. Many phone lines were cut off, for example, which would make it hard for civilians to call authorities about Jews in hiding.

“This creates a real possibility that the call, if it actually took place, came from another government agency,” the paper says.

The paper stressed that there is no conclusive theory about how Anne's family was discovered — including its own hypothesis.

“In any case, the Anne Frank House's investigative report indicates that more was going on in the building (than) only people being hidden there,” it says. “The possibility of betrayal has of course not been entirely ruled out by this. … Clearly, the last word about that fateful summer day in 1944 has not yet been said.”

The interest in the betrayal of a teenage girl seven decades after her death is a testament to the universality of Anne's powerful tale.

(via The Washington Post)



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