Dutch publisher yanks widely criticized Anne Frank book

A book detailing a cold case investigation of the betrayal of Anne Frank written by a Canadian historian and a former FBI agent was faulted for shoddy work by Dutch historians. The book, which received considerable media attention, was pulled by its publisher.

Peter Dejong/AP/File
Dutch filmmaker Thijs Bayens, who led an investigation into the betrayal of Anne Frank, is pictured on Jan. 17, 2022. The book that resulted from the investigation was pulled from shelves in the Netherlands this week after criticism from Dutch historians.

A group of Dutch historians has published an in-depth criticism of the work and conclusion of a cold case team that said it had pieced together the “most likely scenario” of who betrayed Jewish teenage diarist Anne Frank and her family.

The cold case team’s research, which was published early this year in the book “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation,” by Canadian academic and author Rosemary Sullivan, immediately drew criticism in the Netherlands.

Now, in a 69-page written “refutation,” six historians and academics describe the cold case team’s findings as “a shaky house of cards.” The book’s Dutch publisher repeated an earlier apology and announced Tuesday night it was pulling the book from stores and called on booksellers to return their stocks.

The book said that the person who revealed the location of the Frank family’s secret annex hiding place in an Amsterdam canal-side building was likely a prominent Jewish notary, Arnold van den Bergh, who disclosed the location to German occupiers of the Netherlands to save his own family from deportation and death in Nazi concentration camps.

The Dutch historians reviewed the team’s work and concluded that the “accusation does not hold water.”

The historians said the book “displays a distinct pattern in which assumptions are made by the CCT [Cold Case Team], held to be true a moment later, and then used as a building block for the next step in the train of logic. This makes the entire book a shaky house of cards, because if any single step turns out to be wrong, the cards above also collapse.”

The cold case team’s leader, Pieter van Twisk, defended his work in an appearance on Dutch broadcaster NOS, saying the historians’ work was “very detailed and extremely solid” and said it “gives us a number of things to think about, but for the time being I do not see that Van den Bergh can be definitively removed as the main suspect.”

Since its publication in January, the book has drawn backlash from Jewish groups, historians, and independent researchers who  criticized the cold case team’s conclusion.

Last month, the main umbrella group for Europe’s national Jewish communities urged HarperCollins to pull the English edition, saying it had tarnished Anne Frank’s memory and the dignity of Holocaust survivors.

HarperCollins did not respond to a request for comment.

The cold case team has published detailed reactions to criticism of its work on its website.

Dutch filmmaker Thijs Bayens, who had the idea to put together the cold case team, conceded in January that the team did not have 100% certainty about Mr. Van den Bergh.

“There is no smoking gun because betrayal is circumstantial,” Mr. Bayens told The Associated Press at the time.

The Frank family and four other Jews hid in the annex, which was reached by a secret staircase hidden behind a bookcase, from July 1942 until they were discovered in August 1944 and deported to concentration camps.

Anne and her sister died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne was 15. Only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived the Holocaust. He published her diary after World War II and it quickly became an enduring symbol of hope and resilience, read by millions around the world.

The Anne Frank House museum, which is based in the building where the Frank family hid, had no immediate comment on the historian’s research. In January, museum director Ronald Leopold called the cold case team’s conclusion “an interesting theory” but said he believed that “there are still many missing pieces of the puzzle. And those pieces need to be further investigated in order to see how we can value this new theory.”

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Material from Reuters was used in this report.

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