Dutch publisher pulls Anne Frank betrayal book amid critique

FILE - Ronald Leopold, executive director Anne Frank House, answers questions next to the passage to the secret annex during an interview in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. 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. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
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Associated Press

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — The publisher of a new and controversial work about Anne Frank is pulling the book after a group of Dutch historians released an in-depth criticism of its “most likely scenario” of who betrayed the Jewish teenage diarist and her family in German-occupied Amsterdam during World War II.

Meanwhile, the U.S. publisher of “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation” announced Wednesday that it will continue to sell the book.

The cold case team’s research, published early this year in a book by Canadian academic and author Rosemary Sullivan, immediately drew criticism in the Netherlands.

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, Ambo Anthos, repeated an earlier apology and announced Tuesday night it was withdrawing “The Betrayal of Anne Frank.”

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

The Dutch historians reviewed the team’s work and concluded 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.”

In response, the cold case team’s leader, Pieter van Twisk, told Dutch broadcaster NOS 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 the book’s publication in January, the 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 Van den Bergh.

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

Not all publishers were dropping the book. In the U.S., HarperCollins Publishers issued a statement saying it stands by “The Betrayal of Anne Frank,” adding that “While we recognize there has been some criticism to the findings, the investigation was done with respect and the utmost care for an extremely sensitive topic.”

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 WWII and it quickly became an enduring symbol of loss and resilience, read by millions around the world.

Ronald Leopold, the director of the Anne Frank House museum based in the building where the Frank family hid, said in January that there remained “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.”

On Wednesday, Leopold said question marks the museum had in January about the cold case team’s conclusions “are supported by the counter-examination of leading historians. You may not consign someone to history as Anne Frank’s betrayer if you do not have conclusive proof. We hope that this counter-investigation clears Van den Bergh’s name from blame, also for his relatives, including granddaughter Mirjam de Gorter.”