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The "traitor" should be found - at any cost

The claim was high: "An international team has finally solved the mystery that has occupied generations since the end of the Second World War.

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The "traitor" should be found - at any cost

The claim was high: "An international team has finally solved the mystery that has occupied generations since the end of the Second World War." This is what it says on the back cover of the book "The Betrayal of Anne Frank". . However, this claim was far too high: a good six months after the publication in January 2022, which was accompanied by a lot of international media interest, the volume, written by the Canadian Rosemary Sullivan on the basis of the research of a 20-strong "Cold Case Team" (CCT) , finally exposed as dubious.

The Dutch publicist Natasha Gerson has published an 81-page report on the Internet platform jonet.nl, which is dedicated to Jewish issues in the Netherlands. He lists additional criticisms of the volume, which is said to have appeared in a dozen and a half languages. The announced German translation of the work is of course on hold: "There are currently no plans" to publish the book in this country, said a spokeswoman for HarperCollins WELT on request. The Dutch translation that has already appeared has been withdrawn by the publisher there.

Unusually, in the summary of her report, Gerson admits to being "angry": "Anger fueled my research. I am furious that three arrogant men, completely ignorant of the complicated issues of war, occupation and the Holocaust, have blundered into this sensitive issue and have been able to rake in a lot of money, including public funds, without being asked any critical questions.”

It is well known that anger is not a recommended guide, so it is good that the author may have been driven by it, but that the anger does not drown out her argument. Especially since the genre of such a report is difficult anyway: Authors of "error lists" are rightly not very popular. Two high hurdles that Gerson had to overcome.

The "Cold Case Team" around the journalist Pieter van Twisk, the filmmaker Thijs Bayens and the longtime FBI investigator Vince Pankoke had reacted offended to the point of abusiveness to the criticism of their book. "To date, we have not been presented with any evidence or new information strong enough to challenge our conclusion," Pankoke wrote on the CCT website on March 21, 2022. Since then there has been silence, except for a brief comment on July 1, stating that "all the considerations set out in the grant application have been met".

In view of the substantial objections to the book, for example by Yves Kugelmann from the Anne Frank Fund in Basel and the historian and world war and Netherlands expert Gerhard Hirschfeld, these are two downright adventurous claims. Now, Natasha Gerson's investigations add to previous criticism of Sullivan's band.

It no longer assumes incorrect research in the course of the exuberance of underqualified researchers - none of the three main people responsible for the CCT is an experienced contemporary historian - but of deliberate fraud. Perhaps the CCT started its work in earnest in 2017.

But after receiving significant amounts of money in the form of advances on book fees, donations, and government grants, Gerson said, "What happens when there's no result, when you don't find anything?" seems to have become a problem. So if it could not be clarified how the secret of the Frank family was discovered - through betrayal or at least an unfortunate coincidence. Possible answer according to the publicist: "No result was obviously not an option."

According to their report, three misrepresentations, among other things, speak in favor of this assumption: Firstly, a central remark about the supposedly decisive document from (possibly) autumn 1945, which allegedly accused the notary Arnold van den Bergh of being a traitor to the hidden Frank family, has been mistranslated. This remark comes from a letter that Johannes Kleimann, confidant of Anne's father Otto, wrote after March 31, 1958.

According to the translation of the original Dutch in Sullivan's English-language book, the remark should read: "I have read the anonymous letter that was sent to me by Notary van Hasselt." But the correct translation would be: "I have the anonymous letter that was sent to the notary read out to van Hasselt.”

A clear difference that at first glance might seem insignificant - but that would be a mistake. The decisive factor is whether Kleimann only found out about the anonymous note in 1958, when it is said to have been sent to him; That is the interpretation of the CCT, which links to the speculation that the former main helper of the people in hiding was kept from this note for a dozen years. However, it is correct that Kleimann himself read this note to the notary van Hasselt in 1958.

A native speaker, writes Natasha Gerson from the Netherlands, would not have made such a mistake. However, when the actual original wording is entered, the Google Translator program returns the exact English sentence in Sullivan's book. The meaning-distorting translation should have caught the attention of the two Dutchmen Pieter van Twisk and Thijs Bayens at the latest. As a result of this error, an essential piece of the CCT thesis breaks away that the betrayal by the Frank family was “less an unsolved mystery than a well-kept secret”.

A second inaccurate point of the CCT for the allegation of Arnold van den Bergh revolves around the two main people responsible for the deportation of Jews from the Netherlands to the death camps in German-occupied Poland. According to Sullivan's book, the Jewish notary enjoyed "the (indirect) protection of Ferdinand von der Fünten and Willy Lages" - for Pankoke, van Twisk and Bayens a key indication for their thesis that van den Bergh had contacts with the highest circles of the Nazi occupation authorities had in Amsterdam. However, in 1963/64, both SS officers – who had been sentenced to life imprisonment, by the way – had testified that they did not know the name of Arnold van den Bergh.

In view of this, thirdly, it is no longer surprising that there is not the slightest trace of the central alleged evidence for the CCT thesis, the lists with the addresses of hidden Jews. They are said to have been run by the "Judenrat", an organization forced upon the local Jews by the German occupation. From the beginning, critics of Sullivan's book had doubted that addresses of people in hiding were collected there, that someone should have informed the "Judenrat" about the hiding places. Natasha Gerson is now citing a statement by Fünten, who claims he never knew about such lists.

On 16 pages, the report goes through all 45 chapters of the Sullivan book individually, briefly summarizing their content, examining the comments and contrasting them with the results of serious archive research. Given the wealth of knowledge gained, it is difficult to reject Natasha Gerson's thesis, which is certainly pointed out: It can hardly be a matter of misunderstandings, mistakes or short-circuits that can happen to any researcher. Rather, there is at least the suspicion that there may have been deliberate deception. Perhaps because the "traitor" should be found in any case - at any price.

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