Quem traiu a família de Anne Frank?



July 10, 2002

Julia Neuberger reviews a gripping new biography

Was the father of Anne Frank blackmailed by family's traitor?


By Carol Ann Lee
Viking, £17.99; 384 pp
ISBN 0 670 91331 6

Carol Ann Lee claims to tell us who betrayed the Frank family in this book — one Tonny Ahlers — and continues by explaining that Otto Frank was probably blackmailed by Ahlers for the rest of his life. Members of Ahlers’s family have corroborated Lee’s accusation, and it is likely that Otto Frank would have preferred the world not to know — and the Dutch Government in particular — that he continued to do business with the Nazi regime during the war. But whether it really makes sense to suggest that he was blackmailed by the person who informed on their secure hiding place is quite another question.

At least this begins to flesh out the complexity of Frank’s character. Carol Ann Lee’s biography of Anne Frank (Roses from the Earth, published by Viking in 1999) failed to excite — there was little for the author to add to Anne’s own thoughts and expressions, particularly once the full, unexpurgated edition of the diary was published. So Lee’s gripping biography of Anne Frank’s father comes as a welcome surprise. Otto Frank’s life, particularly postwar, and his coming to terms with his family’s murder and then discovering his daughter’s diary, bears close examination.

Lee asks some of the tougher questions. Why was it, for instance, that Otto Frank omitted from the published versions of the diary anything critical of Anne’s mother Edith? Was it really because he was so very much happier with his second wife? He was clearly disturbed by Anne’s references to his feelings for Edith — he married her for convenience, and probably for her money, as Lee makes clear.

And why did he obstruct the Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in his hunt for the officer who arrested them in hiding? Was it, as Lee suggests, because Silberbauer behaved with some dignity towards him after realising he had been an officer in the German army in the First World War? Again, why did he make so few attempts to put the record straight about Fritz Pfeffer (Dr Dussel in the diary), when he had been close friends with his widow, and knew that he was being misrepresented in the play and film of Anne’s diary? These questions are among the many that come to mind when examining this very German Jew, this unlikely survivor, who devoted the rest of his life to his daughter Anne’s diary and to portraying a universalistic message from it. It is hard to understand how Frank felt able to make his daughter’s story quite so broadly applicable to the whole of humanity. It is almost incomprehensible that he was happy to have thousands of paperbacks of the diary proclaiming Anne’s belief in humanity from the front cover — if she really believed that, she was horribly betrayed.

Otto Frank had his fights over how the diary, the play and the film were to be presented, but did not object to the all-American view of Anne Frank in the late Fifties, despite the clear misrepresentation of his beloved daughter. There are conflicting messages here. Yet he clearly believed that young people reading his daughter’s diary would be enabled to think more humanely, and to be against prejudice, against discrimination.

These days, his view is less common. The Holocaust is particularised, and portrayed as a uniquely Jewish experience despite the millions of others who died. Maybe Frank’s now almost incomprehensible universalism, given what had befallen him, and modern Jewry’s all too understandable, but worrying, particularism, need to be combined to reach a sensible position. Lee’s portrayal of Frank’s life’s work preaching common humanity is well worth reading — even if we still do not know for certain that she has nailed the right man as the ultimate betrayer of those in hiding at 263 Prinsengracht. For Otto Frank never told us.



Who really turned Anne Frank over to the Nazis?

Dutch historians investigate new claims to identity of person who revealed hiding place of Jewish family

Andrew Osborn
Friday July 5, 2002
The Guardian



It was an anonymous phone call in the hot summer of 1944 which led the Gestapo and Dutch security police to the concealed annexe in a canalside house where Anne Frank and her family had hidden for almost two years. For almost 60 years, the identity of that informant, whose call had such tragic consequences, has remained a mystery to historians and the most dogged Nazi hunters.

But Dutch government historians disclosed yesterday that two new theories about who betrayed 15-year-old Jewish schoolgirl Anne Frank to the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam are so compelling that they are reopening their investigations.

During the next six months a team of experts from the Netherlands' Institute for War Documentation (NIWD) will pore over government records drawn up at the end of the war which detail the extent of Dutch collaboration with the Nazis. They will also scrutinise the letters of Anne's father, Otto, for clues and examine police transcripts of interviews dating back to the 1940s. Not even the arresting officer questioned after the war by Simon Wiesenthal, the Austrian Nazi hunter, could say who the caller was and investigators are convinced that no written record of the caller's identity exists.


Almost everyone involved with the case is dead and many historians believe that it is simply impossible to identify the culprit who betrayed the young girl whose poignant diary subsequently sold more than 31 million copies and made her one of the Holocaust's most famous victims.


This is not the first time that hopes of unlocking the mystery have been raised. For decades suspicion centred on a man called Willem Van Maaren, who worked in the warehouse attached to the Franks' hiding place. But two police investigations - one immediately after the war and another in the 1960s - turned up nothing and Van Maaren died in 1971 professing his innocence.

However, the two new theories, painstakingly researched by a British and an Austrian author, and presented in separate books, have raised hopes once again and the NIWD is about to discover whether either of the scenarios stands up to close scrutiny.

The first theory, forwarded by British author and Anne Frank expert Carol Anne Lee, in her book The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, seems to have aroused the most interest. The book, released in English yesterday, points the finger of blame at a man called Anton Ahlers, a business associate of Otto's and a committed Nazi.

It claims that Ahlers - then a 26-year- old petty thief - had fallen on hard times by 1944 and desperately needed the bounty paid to Dutch civilians who exposed Jews in their midst. Ahlers was a member of the Dutch Nazi NSB movement, appeared in Nazi propaganda films and was thrown out of his lodgings after his landlady discovered a swastika flag on the wall and a uniform bearing SS insignia hanging in his wardrobe.


It has been proven beyond doubt, says Ms Lee, that Ahlers knew where the Franks were hiding and even his own family believe that he is the traitor.

"His own mother said he had a bad character from birth and that he was always parading his Nazi connections," the author told the Guardian yesterday.

"He was a Dutch Nazi, a well-known traitor and an anti-semite and was very anti-Jewish. He needed the money and he needed the authorities' protection because his own business had gone bankrupt. I think he is the one who gave away the Franks' whereabouts to the caller although I don't think he physically made the call himself."

That, Ms Lee suggests, is more likely to have been a man called Maarten Kuiper, who made a living from the betrayal of Jews and who moved into Ahlers' flat with him the day before the raid.

Ms Lee also claims that Ahlers was blackmailing Otto, first in 1941 by threatening to release a letter which would have led to his deportation, and astonishingly after the war too and even as recently as 1980 when Otto died.

Ahlers had discovered, says Lee, that Otto's herb and food preservative business had supplied the Wehrmacht throughout the war and that, she suggests, would have been enough to see Otto branded a collaborator. Ahlers himself was jailed for collaboration after the war and bizarrely Otto wrote letters to the authorities pleading for his release.

The second theory, put forward by Austrian writer Melissa Müller, has a cleaning lady in the warehouse, Lena Hartog, as the traitor. Lena had already lost her son in the war, the theory goes, and her husband worked for Otto's food preservatives firm. Her motive for betrayal, according to Müller, was that she did not want to lose her husband too and he would have been deported for aiding the Franks if they were discovered, which she believed was only a matter of time.

Both theories are being given equal weight by David Barnouw, the historian charged with establishing the truth. "There's no smoking gun but we are going to make a comparison of the two theories and see what we can rule out and in. I take both of these theories seriously enough to put them on paper but that is different from actually saying what happened."

Ms Lee is also cautious but believes the secret of who shopped Anne Frank is there to be unearthed. "The NIWD has never tried to find out who betrayed the Franks but they have contacts which I don't have and know how archives in the Netherlands work. This is highly significant and even if they don't find who the traitor was, the scope to find out exactly what did happen is enormous."

War diary of life in hiding became world bestseller
The Diary of Anne Frank, first published in English in 1952 as The Diary of a Young Girl, is one of the most widely read books in the world.

It has been translated into around 67 languages and has sold over 31 million copies.

The diary was given to Anne on her 13th birthday, just weeks before she and her family went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The house where she and her family hid in a sealed-off room at Prinsengracht 263 in central Amsterdam was turned into a museum in 1960 and receives almost a million visits a year, mainly from the US.

In the immediate aftermath of the war Otto, Anne's father, had trouble finding a publisher for the diary and was told that nobody wanted to read about the Holocaust.

A Dutch newspaper, Het Parool, printed a story about Anne's diary which aroused the interest of a publishing house. In June 1947 1,500 copies of the Dutch edition of the diary were produced. Within several years the book had been translated into German, French and English, and was made into a film in 1959.

In April 1944 Anne wrote: "One day this terrible war will be over. The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews!

"We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. But then we'll want to be."


Surviving History

Reviewed by Walter Reich

Sunday, March 16, 2003; Page BW10

By Carol Ann Lee
Morrow. 411 pp. $26.95

In The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, the first biography of Anne Frank's father, Carol Ann Lee offers us a scoop: the name of the Dutch citizen who, she says, told the Germans where the Frank family was hiding during the Holocaust. But buried behind the scoop in Lee's book is something far more important: an account of how Otto nurtured, but also shaped and in some ways distorted, Anne's story and her public image during the decades after her diary was found -- a diary that is one of the most powerful and widely read documents of the 20th century.

First the scoop. Who betrayed Anne Frank and her family? Based on archival research and interviews, Lee has fingered Anton Ahlers, a thuggish Dutch Nazi and violent anti-Semite, and has said that he probably did it for the reward the Germans were giving to those who turned in Jews. After Lee first went public with Ahlers's name last year, the man's son called her to confirm that his father, who died in 2000 at age 82, had indeed betrayed Anne. She got confirmation of this from other family members as well.

Dutch officials are investigating the matter, though one has said that he believes there's "no smoking gun" to prove Lee's case against Ahlers. The official especially distrusts the family's testimony -- a family that hated and had reason to hate Ahlers, who during the German occupation betrayed to the Germans not only Jews but also non-Jews, including members of his own family. Yet Lee's case against Ahlers, though not conclusive, seems stronger than those made against anyone else. Until other evidence comes along, this particular Judas -- as some with a religious imagination might see any betrayer of Anne, especially if he did it for the money -- will have to remain the primary culprit.

In the course of writing about Ahlers, Lee also tells us about his other relationship with Otto -- one that resulted in what Lee must have had in mind when she titled her book The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. It turns out, according to Lee, that Ahlers, a chronic blackmailer, victimized Otto repeatedly.

One of these occasions was in 1941, after the Germans occupied the Netherlands but before the Franks went into hiding. He showed Otto a letter to Dutch Nazi Party officials in which one of Otto's former employees denounced him for having made unflattering remarks about the German military and asking that "the Jew Frank" be arrested; Otto paid Ahlers off and took the letter.

Otto paid Ahlers off again, though not with money, in 1945, after returning from Auschwitz. By that time, Dutch authorities were arresting citizens who had collaborated with the Germans, and Ahlers was one of those they picked up. Otto repeatedly wrote to the authorities on Ahlers's behalf, telling them that Ahlers had helped him by giving him the denunciatory letter but not mentioning that he had paid Ahlers for it.

Why did Otto do this? Because of another hidden part of his life, Lee suggests. She contends that he was afraid that Ahlers would divulge to the Dutch authorities his own secret -- that he'd done business with the Germans before going into hiding.

Otto's firm produced pectin, an ingredient used in making jam, and he apparently sold some of it to the Germans. To be sure, more than 80 percent of Dutch firms did business with the Germans in order to survive. And selling jam makings was neither important to the German war effort nor significant business. Still, it was business, and Lee argues that Otto felt vulnerable on that account after the war. He'd moved from Germany to the Netherlands in 1933 after the rise of Hitler -- and, despite having been sent to Auschwitz by the Germans, he was concerned, strange though it may seem now, that the Dutch might still consider him to be a German with a German company. The letters Otto sent to the authorities for Ahlers, Lee writes, "would ensure that Ahlers" -- who knew of the pectin sales to the Germans -- "kept his silence."

But the most protracted period of payoffs, Lee suggests, took place in the 1960s, after Otto had become a public figure as a result of Anne's diary. Perhaps fearing that the charges of collaboration, absurd as they were, might damage his reputation as well as that of the diary, he may have paid off Ahlers with money he was making from the diary's commercial success.

A far more important dimension of Otto's life than the blackmailing, and one that had a direct bearing on Anne's diary, was the way in which he edited its contents and shaped its career. It's the diary, after all, that changed his life; had he not been the diarist's father, no one would now know of him, and Lee would never have written a biography of him.

Lee shows us how decisions that Otto made about editing the diary, finding a publisher, arranging for foreign translations and publications, and having a play written and a movie made from it, determined how Anne's story would be told and remembered. Otto's sense of himself as an assimilated Jew likely affected these decisions, as did his sense of what should be said by and about Anne. Other books have also covered this territory, but not as part of an overall account of Otto's life.

In editing Anne's diary, Otto removed some of Anne's critical comments about her mother and some of her references to her own sexuality. He also diminished, somewhat, her focus on her Jewishness. But it was through his choice of writers for the stage adaptation that he most significantly distanced Anne from her Jewish roots and leached from her story the dark themes that, in the diary, were plainly a part of it.

He chose the husband-and-wife team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, light-comedy Hollywood screenwriters whose credits included "It's a Wonderful Life." Not surprisingly, they crafted a sentimental and upbeat play. And the play's director, Garson Kanin, wanted Anne's focus on Jewish suffering to be translated into human suffering in general. Lee notes that, under Kanin's direction, "almost all references to Jews and Jewish suffering were erased."

Otto allowed this because he wanted Anne's story to light up the world and to be embraced by all of humanity. That's why he preferred the Goodrich-Hackett play and rejected Meyer Levin, who wanted to put on a play that adhered more closely to Anne's life and words. Anne's book, Otto wrote to Levin in 1952, "is not a Jewish book." And he warned, "So do not make a Jewish play of it!"

With regard to maximizing the audience for Anne's story and making it universally embraceable, at least in those early years after the Holocaust, Otto's instincts may well have been right. The diary has reportedly sold more than 31 million copies in some 67 languages. A million saw the Broadway play in 1955-56. Tens of millions have seen the story on other stages, and on film and television. Streets and schools have been named after Anne. The annual number of visitors to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam is approaching a million. One Protestant church in Japan has an image of Christ on one wall and an image of Anne on another.

But is audience all? What about the responsibility to show the whole truth? Anne had to go into hiding only because she was a Jew. She was betrayed only because she was a Jew. She was sent to her death only because she was a Jew. To soft-pedal her Jewishness -- to avoid mentioning it or to focus on her universal qualities -- is to deny the essence of her plight and the reality of her fate.

Moreover, after her diary was interrupted by her arrest, Anne's life wasn't uplifting or inspiring at all. A witness who saw Anne and her sister Margot in Bergen-Belsen described them as "two scrawny threadbare figures" who "looked like little birds." They contracted typhus. Margot rose from her bunk one day and fell dead to the floor. Soon after, Anne, wrapped in a blanket, told the witness that, horrified by the lice and the fleas and hallucinating, she had thrown away her clothes. Cadaverous, she died. The witness and her sister carried the bodies of Anne and Margot to a mass grave that contained as many as 10,000 corpses. That was three weeks before the camp was liberated.

Ignoring the spiritually uplifting and optimistic play, and reading only the diary, one can see that even in her hiding place Anne had a realistic sense of what might happen to her as a Jew and how terrible human beings could be. "We assume," she wrote in her diary entry for Oct. 9, 1942, "that most of [the Jews] are being murdered." And on May 3, 1944, she wrote, "I don't believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago! There's a destructive urge in people, the urge to rage, murder and kill. And until all of humanity, without exception, undergoes a metamorphosis, wars will continue to be waged, and everything that has been carefully built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and destroyed, only to start all over again!"

This is a part of the real Anne Frank, one that's no less real than the part that said, more famously and upliftingly, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."

Otto may have been right that, in his time, the world preferred an uplifting Anne, not a depressing one -- and a universal Anne, not one who was too Jewish. Clearly, as we can see in Lee's biography, he had those preferences himself. One hopes, though, that in the six decades since Bergen-Belsen and Auschwitz, during which we've witnessed repeated genocides, we can stare such horror in the eyes and recognize its face without the need to universalize the victim or transform the horror into consolation and kitsch. •

Walter Reich, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior at George Washington University and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, was the director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from 1995 to 1998.


The Betrayal

Who Called the Police on August 4, 1944?


Written by Ruud van der Rol (Anne Frank House)


Someone called the German police to notify them that Jews were hiding at 263 Prinsengracht. Exactly who was responsible has never been discovered and for many people this question remains unresolved. There were certain suspicions and after the war, an investigation was held. Fourteen years later, once again, an attempt was made to unravel the mystery. In 1998, Melissa Müller, the author of a biography about Anne Frank, provided arguments leading to new suspicions.


The Betrayal

August 4, 1944 is a very warm sunny day. That morning a telephone tip arrives at the headquarters of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD or ‘Secret Police’) in Amsterdam. Julius Dettman of the SD, who takes the call, orders the officer on duty, Karl Silberbauer to the Prinsengracht and eight Nazis go along to assist. Silberbauer and a few of his men enter the building on the ground floor and question one of the warehousemen, Willem van Maaren, who without saying a word points towards upstairs.


The Raid

The office personnel are at work on the first floor when the door suddenly swings open. Miep Gies later relates: “A small man entered. He pointed the revolver in his hand at me and said: ‘Stay seated! Don’t move!’”

Victor Kugler, who is working in the office next door, hears a commotion and goes to see what is going on. Victor Kugler: “I saw four police officers, one was wearing a Gestapo uniform.” One of the policemen points his gun at Kugler and orders him to lead the way. They go to the movable bookcase and open it. The policemen enter the Secret Annex with their guns drawn.


The Arrest

The people in hiding are taken by surprise. Having lived with the fear of being discovered for more than two years, now it has finally happened.


Otto Frank relates after the war: “It was around ten-thirty. I was upstairs by the Van Pelses in Peter’s room helping him with his schoolwork… Suddenly someone came running up the stairs - then the door opened and a man was standing in front of us with a gun in his hand. Downstairs everyone was gathered. My wife, the children, the Van Pelses were standing there with their hands in the air.” Fritz Pfeffer is then also brought into the room.


The policemen order them to turn over their valuables. Silberbauer grabs the briefcase containing Anne’s diary papers. He empties it to use as a case for carrying the costly items. Anne’s diary pages are scattered all over the wooden floor. Otto Frank: “Then he said, get ready. Everyone must be back here in five minutes.” Miep Gies relates: “I heard everyone coming downstairs, very slowly.” The people in hiding are taken away in the same trucks the police arrived in, together with Victor Kugler and Jo Kleiman, the male helpers who were also arrested.


Who Was the Betrayer?

“Who betrayed Anne Frank and the other people in hiding? Who called the SD that morning?” Until now, this question has preyed on the minds of many people but has never been answered with certainty. Only suspicions and probabilities have remained. Quite a lot of people must have known that Jews were being hidden on the Prinsengracht. For instance suppliers of daily goods, because for the everyday maintenance of the people in hiding a lot of vegetables, bread, meat, etc. had to be bought. Also undoubtedly, neighbors suspected something. After all, it is almost impossible to live with eight people in one house for two long years and go unnoticed. However, it does seem logical to look for the betrayer among the personnel of the Opekta Company.

The four helpers – the office personnel – were of course completely aware of the situation, but the workers in the warehouse on the ground floor had not been informed. They were a constant source of concern to those in hiding: “Don’t they notice something?” “Can they be trusted?” Anne writes on March 4, 1943: “We're still afraid of the men who work in the warehouse.” The people in hiding are particularly afraid of one of them, Willem van Maaren. He seems to be a nosey man. He suspects that people come to the warehouse after hours. Anne: “He places books and bits of paper on the very edges of things in the warehouse so that if anybody walks by they fall off. Kleiman, Kugler and the two men have been looking into the question of how to get this fellow out of the place from every possible angle. Downstairs they think it is too risky. But isn’t it even riskier to leave things as they are?”

(April 25, 1944/A-version)

Everyone thinks that Van Maaren is not to be trusted. He is also suspected of stealing company supplies on a regular basis.



Following the war, Kleiman and the other Helpers are increasingly occupied with the question of who the betrayer was. Kleiman writes a letter to the Politieke Opsporings Dienst (POD or sort ‘FBI’) right after the war ends. The POD had as its task hunting down people who collaborated with the German occupier. In the letter, Kleiman expresses his suspicions about Van Maaren and asks the POD to conduct an investigation. Yet, nothing is done with the letter for two years. Finally, in 1948 an investigation is set in motion. Probably resulting from a discussion Otto Frank had with the Politieke Recherche Afdeling (PRA or literally ‘Political Investigation Department’) of the Amsterdam Police Department.

The police question Miep, Kleiman and Kugler – the Helpers - as well as Van Maaren and Hartog, and the other warehousemen. Hartog testifies that Van Maaren told him two weeks before the raid there were Jews hiding there. Certainly, Hartog’s wife could have also known.

In looking back, little can be said about the quality of the investigation. Many questions were not asked and few people were interrogated. The investigation was simply not thorough and it is closed because no evidence is produced. Fourteen years will pass before a new investigation takes place.


Tracking Down Silberbauer

In the 1950’s the diary of Anne Frank becomes world famous. Theatrical and screen versions follow on the heels of this fame. The unknown identity of the betrayer was increasingly seen as an unsatisfactory loose end. The tracking down of Karl Siberbauer, the SD-officer in charge of the arrest, is the impetus for a new investigation. In 1963, the famous Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal tracked Silberbauer to Vienna (Austria) where he was then working as a policeman. Silberbauer still remembered many of the details of the arrest, but not who the betrayer was. The person who had taken the telephone call, his superior, Julius Dettman, committed suicide shortly after the war ended. Silberbauer’s police duties were suspended during the investigation, but because he had only “followed orders” during the arrest and had acted “correctly” his old function was restored. He died in 1972.


Willem van Maaren

The 1963 investigation was much more thorough than the one conducted in 1948. Again, it focused on Willen van Maaren. A number of new witnesses were questioned, yet unfortunately a few of the important witnesses had already died. Kleiman had died in 1959. Hartog, the warehouseman, and his wife were also dead by then.

Much more came to light about Van Maaren, like for instance that he had actually committed the thefts of which he was suspected, but there was still no evidence to support the suspicion of betrayal. In 1964, the investigation was closed without concrete results.

Willem van Maaren died in 1971.


Another Suspect

In 1998, Melissa Müller’s book “Anne Frank, A Biography” was published. In it, she writes that the other warehouseman Lammert Hartog, as well as his wife Lena Hartog-Van Bladeren, must have also known that there were Jews being hidden. She worked as a cleaning lady at 263 Prinsengracht. She also cleaned many other houses including that of a Mrs. Genot. Lena was questioned in 1948 but at that time did not tell the police where she worked during those years. According to Mrs. Genot’s 1948 testimony, Lena told her, in July 1944, that she was terribly concerned about the safety of her husband because Jews were being hidden on the Prinsengracht. Supposedly, Lena also said to Bep that they would all be in grave danger if it were discovered.

In her book, Melissa Müller suggests the possibility that the people in hiding were betrayed by Lena Hartog-Van Bladeren. There is however no proof to substantiate this. What is clear, is that the 1948 investigation as well as the one conducted in 1963-64 were both too concerned with Willem van Maaren. The role played by Lena Hartog-Van Bladeren and her husband were never considered.


It seems highly unlikely that we’ll ever discover who betrayed Anne and the others in hiding.


Deportation and Betrayal

At the beginning of the war, approximately 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands. Directly following the occupation the German occupier began registering the Jews and in July 1942 they began rounding them up for deportation. Most were first taken to the transit camp, Westerbork. From there, they were sent further by train to one of the extermination camps in Poland; already 100,000 Jews had already been deported by the end of 1943.


Around 25,000 Jews succeeded in avoiding transport by going into hiding; nine thousand of them still fell into Nazi-hands, either by chance or carelessness, but often due to betrayal. There were countless letters and telephone calls, often anonymous, made to the SD and the Dutch police.


Of the 140,000 Jews in the Netherlands, ultimately 102,000 died in the camps.

 Do site: http://www.annefrank.nl/news/uploads/ACF19F.doc


BBC News

Friday, 5 July, 2002, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK

New hunt for Anne Frank's betrayer


Dutch historians are reopening investigations into who made the anonymous phone call which led the Nazis to the hiding place of Anne Frank and her family on a warm summer evening in 1944.

Anne's teenage diary of a Jewish family in hiding in occupied Amsterdam has been translated into dozens of languages and read by millions worldwide.

But to this day, nobody knows for sure who told the Nazis about their presence in the Amsterdam canal house - making a telephone call which ultimately led to the deaths of Anne, her sister and her mother in German concentration camps.

"We decided to look again at the issue because there have been a couple of books published recently which suggest new suspects," historian David Barnouw of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIWD) told BBC News Online.

"We don't have a favourite at the moment, but we're going to look carefully at the arguments - and maybe we'll pin down the culprit."

Petty thieves and cleaners

For years after the war, Willem Van Maaren - who worked in a warehouse near the Franks' hiding place - was the chief suspect, but that theory was seen as unconvincing by many historians.

He died in 1971 professing his innocence, but only recently have new suspects emerged to take his place.

In a book published this week, British historian Carol Anne Lee points the finger at two men - Anton Ahlers, a petty thief and former business associate of Anne's father, and Dutch policeman Maarten Kuiper.

Ms Lee argues that Mr Ahlers knew where the Franks were hiding, and gave Mr Kuiper the information, who then made the call.

"They were friends. Ahlers had so much information on Otto Frank. Maarten Kuiper was one of the major betrayers of Jews in hiding during that time," she says.

Meanwhile a book by Austrian historian Melissa Mueller names cleaning woman Lena Hartog as the culprit.

Mrs Hartog cleaned a shop in the building where the Franks were hiding. Ms Mueller says she knew they were there, and feared that ultimately they would be found, and everyone in the building would be punished.

A team of historians from the NIWD will go through the documents unearthed by the historians and seek to evaluate their arguments.

"We may even find a few new suspects in the process," said Mr Barnouw, adding that the institute's findings would be published before the end of the year.


HA’ARETZ   English edition          

Saturday, July 06, 2002 Tamuz 26, 5762

Israel Time:  20:43 (GMT+3)


Last update - 15:20 04/07/2002

Historians reopen Anne Frank case to determine her betrayer

By The Associated Press


AMSTERDAM - Based on new theories, government historians said Thursday they are reopening the case file on Anne Frank to determine who betrayed the hiding place of the Dutch Jewish teen-ager to the Nazis.

The theories were raised by two biographers of Anne Frank, whose diary scrawled in notebooks during her 25 months locked in a secret warehouse annex made her a heroine of the Holocaust.

One theory alleged the betrayer was Anton Ahlers, a business associate of Anne's father Otto Frank who was the only member of the family to survive the Nazi concentration camps.

The second theory pointed to Lena Hartog, who cleaned the canal-side warehouse in central Amsterdam below the annex where the Frank family was concealed along with another family - eight people in all.

The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, publishers of the authoritative text of Anne's diary, said it will conduct an inquiry into the theories, re-examining police files and the national archives.

"So far they are not more than theories for me. There is no smoking gun," said David Barnouw, the institute's leading expert on Anne Frank who investigated the betrayal mystery in the 1980s.

More than 100,000 Dutch Jews - 70 percent of the community - were deported to concentration camps in Germany. Most died in gas chambers, and were among the 6 million victims of Nazi genocide of European Jewry. Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in the spring of 1945, just weeks before the camp was liberated.

German and Dutch security police raided the annex at 263 Prinsengracht on Aug. 4, 1944, hours after receiving a telephone call describing the hiding place.

For years after the war, Dutch police suspected the caller was Willem Van Maaren, an unsavory character who worked at the warehouse.

Van Maaren was investigated twice, first immediately after the war and again in the 1960s after Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal located the commander of the squad which arrested the Franks, Karl Josef Silberbauer, in the Vienna police force.

But the evidence against Van Maaren was again inconclusive, and he died in 1971 professing his innocence. Barnouw, the historian, said he believes Van Maaren was not the betrayer.

Various others came under suspicion, including the cleaning woman Hartog who was married to Van Maaren's assistant. But no evidence against her was uncovered.

A 1998 biography by Melissa Mueller revised the charges, largely based on contradictions she found in Hartog's statements to the police.

A book by British author Carol Ann Lee, published earlier this year in Dutch and appearing Thursday in English, raised the name of Anton Ahlers. Barnouw said Ahlers had never seriously been investigated until Lee probed his involvement in Otto Frank's business.

Lee claimed Ahlers not only turned in his associated, but may have blackmailed him for years after the war, receiving payment for his silence about Frank's business with Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II.

The German-born Frank, who moved to the Netherlands in 1933, ran a spice-trading company that sold goods to the Wehrmacht, the German army.

When Frank returned from Auschwitz in 1945, having lost his wife and two daughters, he may have feared his company would be confiscated if his prewar business with Germany became known.

Barnouw said he and another researcher, Gerrold van der Stroom, will review the files in light of the two books, comparing the two theories and sifting the possibilities they raised. They also would look into the blackmail question.

Barnouw said he expected to report their findings before the end of the year.


Only the children count

Carol Ann Lee explores how Anne Frank's father managed her memory in The Hidden Life of Otto Frank

Natasha Walter
Saturday July 13, 2002
The Guardian

The Hidden Life of Otto Frank
by Carol Ann Lee
384pp, Viking, £17.99

As he himself said, Otto Frank had a unique part to play in life. "It is a strange role," he said in the 1970s. "In the normal family relationship, it is the child of the famous parents who has the honour and the burden of continuing the task. In my case the role is reversed."

Otto began to take on that strange role in September 1945 when he first opened the pages of his dead daughter's diary. Almost immediately - and in the face of some opposition from friends and acquaintances - he decided that it had to be published.

Carol Ann Lee's biography naturally centres on this decision and its repercussions, and she takes to the necessary research like a duck to muddy water, laying out all the deals and the negotiations, the praise and the criticism, the arguments and the lawsuits, that dominated Otto's life for the next 35 years.

Yet somehow, in over 300 pages, Otto remains a rather blank character. This is partly because in his early life he didn't leave much behind that could give us a way into this kind, generous, upstanding, but unremarkable member of an assimilated bourgeois German Jewish family. And it is also, I think, because Lee never quite brings into focus the relationship between Otto and his daughter while Anne was alive.

At first I thought that this relationship remained out of reach because there was too little material that dealt with it directly. But then I read the book that Lee published three years ago, a biography of Anne Frank called Roses from the Earth. In this book, Lee reveals Otto's protective and lively relationship with his daughter far better than she does here.

Clearly, it's because Lee is wary of repeating herself that she skates over so much of this material in the new biography. But when you have a figure like Otto Frank, whose interest to us centres on this one relationship, it is a mistake not to explore it as thoroughly as possible. I ended up reading the two books as companion volumes, and this is the best way into their intertwined lives.

It is not, after all, the case that all happy families are alike - and until the Nazis destroyed it, the Frank family was fundamentally happy. Most fathers love their daughters, but very few have the kind of relationship that means that they become their daughter's first confidant when she believes she is falling in love.

When Anne first kissed Peter Van Pels while the family was in hiding, she told her father about it, and they ended up having a long, emotional discussion that ended in tears. We hear about many such moments of surprising intimacy in Lee's biography of Anne, but not in Otto's life.

Clearly, Otto decided early on to treat Anne as a friend as well as a daughter. In 1939, for instance, he wrote her a letter - which again does not appear in this biography - in which he called her "You flattering little kitten", but also spoke seriously about her bad temper and advised her to do as he tried to do, "to reflect a bit and find one's way back to the right path". Anne kept this letter, she said, "to serve as a support to me all my life", and even passed it off to a school friend as a love letter from an admirer.

Lee glides over much of the available detail about the family's life in hiding, and without that it is hard to grasp Otto's remarkable courage as he worked to keep the family together. I guess Lee felt that nobody will read this book who has not read and loved Anne's diary, and possibly also read her biography of Anne.

The aspect of Otto's story that absolutely fascinates Lee is the question of who betrayed the Frank family. She starts and ends the book with her theory that a man called Anton Ahlers both betrayed them and also had some kind of hold over Otto, so Otto actually ended up giving him money over the years.

This theory could be true. Ahlers's own son has come forward to support Lee's tale, and historians working for the Dutch government have decided to make their own investigation in the light of this and an alternative new theory that has just surfaced. But her story is convoluted to read and, since all the protagonists are now dead, almost certainly unprovable.

Perhaps, instead of chasing down these slippery red herrings, we should accept that we will never know for sure how it was that the Gestapo were directed to the secret annexe and the Franks dragged off on their journey to the death camps. If Ahlers was still alive, it would be worth going after him with all possible force, but now such tales of murderous intrigue add little to our picture of the Franks' suffering, which was not based simply on one man's vicious telephone call, but on the transformation of thousands of ordinary people into "willing executioners".

Although Lee does get bogged down from time to time, that is not to say that this biography is not moving. By the very nature of Lee's material, it is hard to read without tears, especially when you arrive at the moment of the betrayal and its aftermath.

Otto was the only survivor of the Franks' journey into hell, and Lee's dogged research pays off with her discovery of a journal that he kept after the liberation of Auschwitz. Together with the letters that he sent to his mother in Switzerland, Lee builds up a memorable picture of a man struggling out of the valley of death, thinking all the time, "Only the children, only the children count. I hope continually to find out how they are."

Only the children count. That was the case for Otto for the rest of his life, as he dedicated himself to making Anne's voice heard. But his involvement in her memorialising was not without its problems. Above all, it is extraordinary to see how Otto himself supported the attempts to "universalise" - or travesty - Anne's story in the stage and film adaptations of the diary by supporting the writers in their decision to remove almost every reference to her Jewishness.

There is something almost revolting about the tales of the audiences consuming the play as a mere tale of tragic adolescence, and the director and actors constantly at pains to stress that "this is not primarily a Jewish play". Yet Otto went along with all of this. "It was my point of view to try to bring Anne's message to as many people as possible even if there are some who think it is a sacrilege," he said in his defence.

Lee is pretty kind about Otto's actions in that regard, and also about his editing of Anne's diary, which she calls simply "ingenious". In fact, anyone who has read his version of the diary alongside the full Critical Edition can see that his version was extremely problematic, since it airbrushed out so many of the thornier aspects of Anne's sexual and emotional development. Although without his starry view of Anne, we might never have had any access to her work, we can now see that Otto's sweetened version of her words never did justice to her as a writer.

But Lee's reluctance to scrutinise Otto too harshly is understandable. There is something about him that makes criticism sound tinny. A word that is rarely heard was often used about him: spiritual. Many people who met him in later life were staggered by the way he had managed to confront the past without being consumed by anger or bitterness. And even from a great distance, he commands respect.

Fifty-six years after the first publication of the diary, it is impossible not to admire the father whose love for his daughter brought to life the work of a young woman who was not only an emblem, not only a victim, but also a real writer.

Natasha Walter is the author of The New Feminism (Virago)


Answers from the attic

Carol Ann Lee's new biography of Anne Frank's father, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, offers an intriguing explanation for her death

Rachel Cooke
Sunday July 14, 2002
The Observer

The Hidden Life of Otto Frank
Carol Ann Lee
Viking £17.99, pp384

Until the start of the Second World War, Otto Frank's life was as soothing and wrinkle-free as freshly laundered linen. Born into an upper-middle-class German family - his were the kind of people who called on their neighbours only at the correct hour of the afternoon - he worried about the same things as any young man: who to marry, what to do for a living, how to make his way in the world and still have a little fun.

Even when he was called up for military service and found himself at the Western Front, he managed to cling to his youthful optimism: 'I miss nothing here and the danger I am in is only in your imagination,' he wrote to his sister in 1916. 'It's really not that bad.'

But that optimism began to slip, slowly, inexorably, from his grasp on the sunlit morning of 4 August 1944, when the Amsterdam annexe where he and his family had been hiding for two years was raided by the Gestapo and three members of the Dutch National Socialist Party.

What happened in the six short months between the Gestapo's arrival at the other side of a moveable bookcase and the day the Russians liberated Auschwitz, where Otto was held prisoner, changed everything forever. Like all survivors, the camps tore his soul in two. There was life before the war, a watery, untouchable dream, and there was life after: lonely, unbearable, pointless.

This biography tells the story of how Otto stitched the two halves of his life together, something he achieved with the help of his youngest daughter's legacy: her diary. It was Otto who judiciously edited (or censored, depending on your point of view) the words that tumbled out of Anne during the period when she and her parents, her sister Margot, and four friends lived their days as quietly as 'baby mice' in five small rooms; Otto who sought a publisher for them at a time when most people wished to forget all about the Holocaust; Otto who made sure that stage and film adaptations of the diary were true to her 'spirit'. What he got in return was a little peace of mind.

Otto Frank served his country with distinction during the First World War (an officer, his love for the fatherland made Germany's later behaviour all the harder for him to bear). Afterwards, a broken engagement already behind him, he married Edith Hollander in a Frankfurt synagogue. Edith was more religious than her new husband, a disadvantage in his eyes, but her dowry was substantial. It was, he later admitted, 'a business arrangement', though not even his well-to-do wife could help when, in the early Thirties, the family banking business plunged once again into the red and the couple, together with their two daughters, were forced to move back in with Otto's mother.

Their money worries were as nothing compared to their concerns about the political situation. In January 1933, they heard on the wireless that Hitler had been made chancellor. As the cheers rose in the background, Otto glanced at Edith and saw her sitting 'as if turned to stone'. At first, he was reluctant to leave Germany but, when a decree was passed enforcing the segregation of Jewish and non-Jewish children in schools, he decided he had no choice.

His brother-in-law suggested that he open an Amsterdam branch of a company selling pectin, which was used in the manufacture of jam; so, that August, he left the country where his family had lived for centuries. The Netherlands proved no safer. After Germany invaded, Edith wanted to emigrate to America but Otto, ever pragmatic, made his business look sufficiently 'Aryan' (he transferred controlling shares to non-Jews) and hoped for the best. He even sold his wares to the Wehrmacht.

As circumstances worsened, however, he began to think about taking his family into hiding. Plans were made to house the family in an annexe behind the offices of his company at 263 Prinsengracht and, on the quiet, food, linen and furniture were moved into the building. When, on 5 July 1942, 16-year-old Margot Frank was ordered to report to the SS for deportation to a German labour camp, the family was ready: they simply disappeared.

The following two years are now the stuff of legend, as the queues of tourists snaking out of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam testify.

Some critics have accused the diary of sentimentalising the Holocaust, which is true, and though it is hardly her fault, the book ends with Anne's fate delicately unspoken. Here, though, we go where those who interviewed Otto after the war so often feared to tread. We see him transported in a cattle car from Westerbork to Auschwitz. We watch him turn his head for a last look at his wife and children. We listen as he fights his desperate hunger by talking, not about food, but about Beethoven.

Otto survived only because he was too sick to join the brutal German evacuation as the Russians approached. The account of his long journey from Poland back to the Netherlands is the most fascinating part of this book. Lee has found a diary he kept after his liberation and, though he used it only to record brief details of what he did and saw, it makes poignant reading.

He was freed in January 1945. On 12 June, the day that would have been his youngest daughter's sixteenth birthday, he wrote just one word in it: 'Anne'. On 18 July, he checked the Red Cross lists and saw a cross by her name. Only then did he accept that she was not coming home.

When he could finally bear to read Anne's diary, which had been rescued by a friend, he found it 'indescribably exciting', and he set about finding a publisher. Given that the book has since sold 20 million copies in 58 languages, the resistance he met is almost comic. At Doubleday, the marketing team was told to 'play down the grim aspects of the story', and the feeling was that the book's 'sales potential was small'.

Otto, however, was cock-a-hoop to have a deal at all. For him, a secular but emotional man, Anne's Jewishness was less important than her universal appeal as a symbol of freedom and tolerance. He wanted her 'message' to reach as many people as possible; if that meant watering down her faith, or flinching from the horrors of the camps, so be it.

The final half of this biography, then, is not so much about Otto as it is about the book that gave his life fresh meaning. Lee takes you through the whole shebang, from his dealings with the saccharine, two-faced Frances and Albert Hackett, writers of the stage and screen adaptations of the diary (their Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway smash hit was so anodyne many people thought its characters fictional), to his endless legal row with the unhinged Meyer Levin, a Jewish writer they beat to the job.

Meanwhile, gentle Otto is lost along the way, his second, passionate marriage to another Holocaust survivor, Fritzi Markovitz, and, in particular, his nervous breakdown only a little more than nodded to in passing. As in life, he fades into the background as soon as his ghostly daughter takes centre stage.

But Lee does have a new theory about who betrayed the family to the authorities - and it is a good one, even if, at times, her dogged pursuit of it becomes a narrative red herring. Her suspect is Tonny Ahlers, a thug and anti-Semite whom she also believes blackmailed Otto until his death in 1980. Ahlers knew that at the start of the war Otto had continued to do business with the Wehrmacht (the pectin his firm produced was essential for the preservation of the German army's rations), a fact he would undoubtedly have wanted to remain secret. Perhaps this was the reason why Otto, to the immense frustration of Nazi hunters like Simon Wiesenthal, showed so little interest in tracking down those responsible for the murder of his family.

When Audrey Hepburn met Otto in 1957, after she was asked to audition for the lead role in the Hollywood take on the diary, he struck her as somebody 'who'd been purged by fire... he'd been there and back'. Carol Ann Lee recreates this tortuous journey meticulously, with a kind of orderly, Prussian care that her subject would have adored. And yet, when I finished reading her book, Otto was as opaque as ever, his motives often troubling.

The problem is, I suppose, that it is only thanks to his quicksilver daughter that we have heard of him at all. He was a father first, and a father last, and not even the most determined biographer can change that.




Anne Frank's father was a mensch
(Filed: 13/07/2002)

Linda Grant reviews The Hidden Life of Otto Frank by Carol Ann Lee


Carol Ann Lee's biography of Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, is full of surprises. The Franks were not Dutch: they escaped from Germany in 1933 as soon as Hitler came to power, believing themselves to be safe in Holland. Otto had earlier had the opportunity to emigrate to America, but had returned.

His soul was German and his military service in the Kaiser's army during the First World War was to provide mental and physical discipline during his time in Auschwitz. On liberation by the Russians, he was "incredibly filthy and covered with lice". In the next year or so, he was to discover that he was his family's sole survivor, that his wife and two daughters were dead, and that one of those had left behind as her legacy a remarkable journal.



Another surprise is the extremely cool response that the diary received when he offered it for publication. Otto wanted it published not as a Holocaust memoir but rather so that something of his daughter would survive. Every mainstream British publisher turned it down, as did most in America: there was widespread agreement that no one was interested in those old horrors.

But the American edition, when it eventually appeared, sold out immediately, and one of its early readers was an American novelist and journalist, Meyer Levin, who believed that it could be adapted for the stage.

The story of Levin's battles to have his own dramatisation accepted form a long and absorbing part of an already fascinating book. Levin believed that the play should express a uniquely Jewish experience and should be steeped in the history of Jewish suffering. But Frank thought, correctly, that the value of the diaries was that they told a universal story.

When Lillian Hellman turned down the assignment to adapt the book, she suggested

When Lillian Hellman turned down the assignment to adapt the book, she suggested Frances and Albert Hackett, screenwriters who specialised in light comedies and had won awards for Father of the Bride and It's a Wonderful Life. The general agreement was that they must not depress the audience.

Their adaptation proved a stunning commercial success (Marilyn Monroe attended the first night), but the disagreement between Levin and Frank degenerated into a series of heartless legal squabbles, with Levin making it his life's work to pursue and persecute Anne's father through the courts.

Many people made money, got famous or had their lives destroyed by the diaries. A family friend of Meyer Levin told me that he died embittered and broken. Every stage, every development, including the purchase of the house to make the Anne Frank museum, was embroiled in controversy and fights. During all this, Otto lived in two rooms in a relative's house in Switzerland. One of the few moments of joy in this fascinating book comes when Otto is remarried, to a woman who had lost her own husband and son in the camps.

Very little attention is given to the assault made on the diary by Holocaust deniers, a subject that has been dealt with by Deborah Lipstadt in Denying the Holocaust. Instead, Lee examines the claims and competing claims about who betrayed those hidden in the annexe and asserts that she has identified the culprit. I found this the least interesting part of the book.

There were a million people who were morally capable of betraying the Franks, but very few prepared to take the risk of concealing them. Why did they do it? In a radio interview with Johannes Kleimann, one of Otto's employees, this verdict was given on Anne's modest father: "The reason I offered to help Otto Frank and his family during the hiding period is because I knew him as a sincere businessman and a very decent and helpful person, qualities for which he is generally respected."

Anne Frank was a remarkable young girl; remarkable in her perceptiveness, her self-awareness and her considerable gifts as a writer. Otto Frank was remarkable in quite another way: he was an ordinary husband, father and businessman who tried to live a good life, to do the best by and for everyone. In Yiddish, such a person is called a mensch, which simply means a human being. It is the highest accolade one Jew can give to another.


The diary and a somebody
(Filed: 04/08/2002)

Jessica Mann reviews The Hidden Life of Otto Frank by Carol Ann Lee

Otto Frank was a respectable, patriotic German citizen. He was born in 1889 in Frankfurt where his family had lived for centuries, he served as a soldier in the trenches during the First World War and went on to become a banker, a scrupulous businessman and a modest, clever, and dutiful family man. After an unsuccessful love affair Otto made an arranged marriage with Edith, who brought a substantial dowry. They had two daughters.

So far, so unremarkable. But Otto Frank was also a Jew. Although uninvolved with his religion and racial background, he was unlike many of his equally-assimilated contemporaries in that he immediately understood the murderous anti-Semitism of the Nazi party.

Almost as soon as Hitler came to power in 1933, Otto emigrated with his wife and children to Holland and established a business in Amsterdam. When the Germans invaded in 1940 he transferred the control to non-Jewish colleagues. But he began, prudently and surreptitiously, to move furniture, linen and food into an annexe behind his offices in Prinsengracht. By 1942 the fate awaiting Jews in eastern Europe was well known. So when 16-year-old Margot Frank was summoned for deportation by the SS, Otto and his family "disappeared" into their hiding place.

His daughter Anne kept a diary which records the details of the two years they spent hidden in the secret annexe and this meticulous biography goes on to tell what happened after she made her final entry. The Franks were arrested (Carol Ann Lee identifies their betrayer as an anti-Semitic bully-boy called Ahlers, with whom Otto had had previous dealings). The family was transported to Auschwitz in a crowded cattle truck. There Otto had his last glimpse of his wife and daughters.

Otto's strategy for staying alive was to discuss Beethoven, Schubert and opera but not to think about what was happening every day; above all, never to talk about food. Though brutalised, starved, tortured and degraded, he survived to be freed in January 1945. He undertook the long and arduous journey back to the Netherlands but it was July before he discovered that his wife and both children were dead. Later he read Anne's diary, which had been preserved by one of the heroic non-Jews who had helped to conceal their employer and his family.

The second half of the book describes Frank's post-war life, and the story of the best-selling book which dominated it. The publishers Doubleday eventually brought out a small edition of Anne Frank's Diary, which immediately sold out. Otto quarrelled with the American writer Meyer Levin, who was the first to recognize the book's potential as a stage-play, because Levin believed that Anne had described a uniquely Jewish kind of suffering while Frank remained disengaged with Judaism, and continued to insist that the diaries told a universal story. In the years that followed he was often accused of "denigrating the importance of Jewish experience".

Otto struggled on throughout the controversies and battles (legal and journalistic) that embroiled every step of the publication, dramatisation and filming of the diaries and the establishment of the museum in Amsterdam. He had a nervous breakdown. Eventually he married again, his new wife having lost her own husband and son in the camps. He died in 1980.

This is a tragic story but the most interesting part of it is already well known from other books, including Carol Anne Lee's own biography of Anne Frank. Since anyone who is interested in Otto Frank is presumably also interested in Anne, this book will be read as an extension of familiar material about a man who survived tragic suffering to spend the rest of his life as the guardian of his daughter's memory. It is as such that his name endures.



New suspect named as betrayer of Anne Frank


Book suggests associate of her father turned family in revealing hiding place to Nazis

By Arthur Max



AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, May 7 —  The enduring mystery of the Anne Frank story is, who betrayed her to the Nazis? A new book suggests the informant may have been a business associate of Anne’s father, the only family member to survive World War II. Anne and her family hid for 25 months in a canal-side warehouse in central Amsterdam, where the teen-ager wrote her thoughts, yearnings and descriptions of life in the cramped annex into notebooks.



This is an undated file photo of Anne Frank


     FIRST PUBLISHED in English in 1952 as “The Diary of a Young Girl” and later as a stage play and film, her story made her a symbol both of the Holocaust and of Dutch bravery.
       On a warm summer day in 1944, four German and Dutch security police pulled up to the warehouse at 263 Prinsengracht and asked the employee, Willem Van Maaren, where the Jews were hiding. Van Maaren pointed up the stairs, but the police already seemed to know exactly where to go.

 Hours earlier, Karl Josef Silberbauer, the Austrian commander of the squad, received a phone call from the head of the Amsterdam security police who said eight Jews were hiding in the warehouse.
       Who tipped them off?
       For more than 20 years, employee Van Maaren was the main suspect. A petty thief and unsavory braggart, Van Maaren was investigated shortly after the war, but nothing was proved. The case was reopened in 1963 after Austrian Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal located Silberbauer in the Vienna police force. But the evidence against Van Maaren was again inconclusive, and he died in 1971 professing his innocence. Historians made no further headway.
       Now, a biographer of Anne Frank has published a new theory which has intrigued the nation and revived a dark chapter in Dutch history — the failure to protect Jewish citizens from the genocidal Nazis.

More than 100,000 Dutch Jews — 70 percent of the community — were deported to concentration camps in Germany. Most were gassed with brutal assembly-line efficiency. Anne died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in the spring of 1945, just weeks before the camp was liberated.
       The book by Carol Ann Lee, a British author living in Amsterdam, says the likely informant was a former business associate of Otto Frank, Anne’s father. His name was Anton Ahlers.
       “I looked at his files in The Hague because after the war he was convicted of betraying people and he was jailed,” Lee said in an interview for a Dutch television documentary. “Everyone, including his own family, condemned him as distinctly anti-Jewish and a thoroughly unpleasant character.”


The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, the researchers who published the authoritative version the diary and the caretaker of the Frank papers, said Ahlers had not been a suspect until Lee started probing his background for her book, “The Hidden Life of Otto Frank,” published in March.
       But Barnouw said Lee’s case sounded credible enough for the institute to reopen its investigation into the betrayal. “We are interested, that’s for sure,” said David Barnouw, a researcher and spokesman of the government-financed historical institute. Lee “has no proof, but I can imagine this was the case.”
       Barnouw said he and another colleague will review old files and testimony for new revelations. “Sometimes you can go through the same material with fresh eyes.”
       Patricia Bosboom, of the Anne Frank Foundation which maintains the house where Anne hid, said Lee’s theory was plausible, “but it’s still only a theory. The proof is not final. It probably never will be. It’s been such a long time, and most of the people who knew are dead.”
       Lee says Ahlers not only turned in the Frank family, but may have blackmailed Otto Frank for years after the war, receiving payment for his silence about Frank’s business with Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II.

 The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation, the researchers who published the authoritative version the diary and the caretaker of the Frank papers, said Ahlers had not been a suspect until Lee started probing his background for her book, “The Hidden Life of Otto Frank,” published in March.
       But Barnouw said Lee’s case sounded credible enough for the institute to reopen its investigation into the betrayal. “We are interested, that’s for sure,” said David Barnouw, a researcher and spokesman of the government-financed historical institute. Lee “has no proof, but I can imagine this was the case.”
       Barnouw said he and another colleague will review old files and testimony for new revelations. “Sometimes you can go through the same material with fresh eyes.”
       Patricia Bosboom, of the Anne Frank Foundation which maintains the house where Anne hid, said Lee’s theory was plausible, “but it’s still only a theory. The proof is not final. It probably never will be. It’s been such a long time, and most of the people who knew are dead.”
       Lee says Ahlers not only turned in the Frank family, but may have blackmailed Otto Frank for years after the war, receiving payment for his silence about Frank’s business with Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II.

 The German-born Frank, who moved to Holland in 1933, ran a spice-trading company that sold goods to the Wehrmacht, the German army. The business continued to operate while the Franks were in hiding, although it apparently was no longer trading with the Germans.
       When Frank returned from Auschwitz in 1945, having lost his wife and two daughters, he may have feared his company would be confiscated if his prewar business with Germany became known.
       Lee says among the four men who raided the Prinsengracht warehouse on Aug. 4, 1944, was Maarten Kuiper, a Dutch policeman who was a friend of Ahlers.
       “I think he actually made the call. I think he got the information from Ahlers,” Lee said. “They were friends. Ahlers had so much information on Otto Frank. Maarten Kuiper was one of the major betrayers of Jews in hiding during that time.”
       Lee said Ahlers probably decided to tip off the authorities after his own company slid into bankruptcy and he no longer needed to do business with Frank’s company.
       “Otto Frank was of no more use to him in that sense, so he betrayed them,” Lee said in the television interview. “He may have got money for it. Certainly, Maarten Kuiper received money for the betrayals he made.”
       The Germans were paying a bounty of 40 guilders per head, which was “a large amount in those days,” she said. Anne, her sister and parents, were caught in the two-story annex with Hermann van Pels, who had worked in Frank’s company, with van Pels’ wife and teen-age son, and with Friedrich Pfeffer, a dentist.
       After Lee’s book was published, Ahlers’ son was quoted as saying he was convinced her theory is true.
       “There’s no doubt he did it,” Anton Ahlers Jr. told the Volkskrant newspaper. Ahlers said he believed his father received money from Frank, because the flow of funds stopped when Frank died in 1980.
       Barnouw, the historian, said the blackmail supposition is thin. “There’s no smoking gun, and the theory has too many loose ends,” he said. He also was distrustful of the Ahlers family, saying they simply may be seeking notoriety.
       Nevertheless, Lee’s book “is interesting because it takes a more balanced view of Otto Frank,” Barnouw said. “After the play and the book, Otto Frank was kind of like a saint. In this book, he’s much more flesh and blood.”



Behind the curtain of war, a search for answers

By Elie Wiesel, 6/1/2003

 Text: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23.08.2005, Nr. 195 / Seite 6

Verborgene Blätter


Carol Ann Lee: Otto Franks Geheimnis. Der Vater von Anne Frank und sein verborgenes Leben. Aus dem Englischen von Renate Weitbrecht und Helmut Dierlamm. Piper Verlag, München 2005. 494 Seiten, 24,90 [Euro]

Read these articles, here                           



June 28 2004 issue - MEMORIES OF ANNE


This month marks what would have been Anne Frank's 75th birthday. In addition to the permanent museum at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, exhibits around the world are commemorating the young diarist who died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945:


Anne Frank : photo taken by her father in 1932


A collection of Otto Frank's black-and-white family photographs make their world premiere at New York's Kraushaar Gallery (through July 29). Also at the Foam photography museum in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin (through Sept. 12).

"Anne Frank: A History for Today" is a traveling international exhibition that can be rented by schools, organizations, religious groups, even shopping malls; annefrank.com.

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., honors "Anne Frank the Writer" with an online exhibition culled from her notebooks; ushmm.org.

Devorah Sperber's Anne Frank-inspired sculptures grace the Garden of Remembrance in White Plains, New York, and "Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945" at Kennesaw State University near Atlanta.

—Kathryn Williams


Los Angeles Times


June 12, 2013

Anne Frank: remembering her on her birthday


By Carolyn Kellogg


Anne Frank was born June 12, 1929, 84 years ago today. During her short 15 years, she kept a diary and wrote there sorting out her emotions, describing her crushes and despair, her desires and dreams. She kept the diary from 1942 to '44, the two years that her German-Jewish family lived in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II.

"When I write, I can shake off all my cares," she wrote in April 1944.

A few short months later, in August 1944, Anne, her family and the others who were in hiding with them were discovered by Nazi authorities. They were shipped to Nazi concentration camps; Anne died in Bergen-Belsen just weeks before it was liberated.

Her father Otto was the only one of the group to survive. He retrieved his daughter's diary and had it published as a book in 1947. Since that time, Anne Frank's words have formed an enduring portrait of resilience and hope, and of deep humanity. The book has sold more than 30 million copies.

In "Anne Frank: The Biography," author Melissa Muller writes, "On the same day that Otto Frank learned of his daughters' deaths, Miep Gies gave him Anne's red-and-light-green checkered diary, her notebooks, and 327 loose sheets of onionskin paper." In August 1945, Otto wrote, "I had it in my hands but couldn't read it yet." 

Anne was one of more than six million Jews who perished during World War II at the hands of the Nazis.

In May of 1944 she wrote, "I don't believe that the big men, that the politicians and the capitalists alone are responsible for the war, oh no, the little man is just as guilty, otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There's in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind without exception, undergoes a great change wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and disfigured, to begin all over again after that!"

And yet Anne Frank and her family survived two years hidden in an Amsterdam office building only with the aid of four helpers who brought them food and news of the outside world. One of them, Miep Gies, entered the secret space after the family had been taken away and picked up Anne's papers and small diary, planning to return them to the girl some day. She never got the chance.

Anne's diary was published first in Dutch, then in German and French. The first American edition, "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," was published in 1952. Her story has been made into a Pulitzer Prize-winning play and an Oscar-winning film; an institute honors her legacy; her hiding place has been preserved as a museum

On June 15, 1944, about six weeks before her family was found out, Anne Frank wrote, "It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.”




Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, by Francine Prose

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