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Who betrayed Anne Frank? New technology may solve mystery


It is one of the more enduring puzzles in history. For nearly 75 years, investigators have been trying to determine who tipped off the Nazis about Anne Frank and seven other Jews who were hiding in a secret room in an Amsterdam home during World War II.

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Hoping to solve the riddle is a former FBI investigator who is working with a production company, and he is placing his faith in a new tool — an artificial one, The Washington Post reported.

Vince Pankoke is leading a team of 20 researchers, data analysts and historians to investigate what he calls “one of the biggest cold cases” of the 20th century. He will be using a piece of specialized software that can cross-reference millions of documents — police reports, lists of Nazi spies, investigative files for Frank family sympathizers — to find connections and new leads, the Post reported.

The company, which asked Pankoke to lead the investigation, has also asked people with information or previously undisclosed documents to submit them on its website.

“The bottom line is until this day, there is nothing that’s really held water or been definitive,” Pankoke told the Post. “The point of the investigation is fact-finding just to discover the truth. There is no statute of limitations on the truth.”

Anne Frank’s family spent more than two years in the secret annex at the back of her father’s store. They were discovered on a summer day in 1944 and sent to concentration camps.

Before World War II was over, seven of the eight people were dead, including Anne, who died of typhus at age 15 at Bergen-Belsen camp in Germany.

Her father, Otto — the only person who hid behind the bookcase and survived — spent the rest of his life trying to figure out who tipped off the Nazis, the Post reported.

He also published his daughter’s diary, which has become required reading for students worldwide.

Otto Frank believed for a long time that his family was betrayed by Willem van Maaren, a recently hired employee who was not privy to the secret behind the bookcase. Van Maaren was suspicious and would set “traps” to discover anyone in the office after hours, the Post reported.

In 1963, Otto Frank told a Dutch newspaper: “We suspected him all along.”

Through the decades, others have been identified as potential betrayers, including Tommy Ahlers, a prominent Dutch Nazi; and the wife of an employee who helped the Frank family hide.

Investigations in 1947 and 1963 turned up nothing. Otto Frank died on Aug. 19, 1980, in Birsfelden, Switzerland.

There are still mountains of documents, including some that have been shipped to the United States and transferred to microfilm. Some of that information could be crucial in finding out how the Nazis learned about the Franks.

Pankoke conceded that his challenge was difficult. A key piece of data could have been destroyed, or there may be some substance to a recent report that says there was no betrayer at all, and that Anne Frank’s discovery was an unfortunate coincidence, the Post reported.

In a statement this week, the Anne Frank House said it was keeping an open mind about Pankoke’s research and has cooperated with his team.

“The background to and the exact details of the arrest of Anne Frank are issues that many people still find very compelling,” the statement read. “We want to tell the life story of Anne Frank as completely as possible, so it is also important to take a close look at the raid that brought an end to the period in hiding.”


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