Dutch Publisher of ‘The Betrayal of Anne Frank’ Halts Publication


AMSTERDAM — A Dutch publisher has said that it will no longer publish a best-selling book, “The Betrayal of Anne Frank,” which claimed to identify the informant who alerted Nazi police to the teenage diarist’s hiding place, because of doubts about its conclusions.

The publisher, Ambo Anthos, which released the Dutch translation of the book by the author Rosemary Sullivan in January, said on Tuesday that it would halt publication in response to a “refutation” by five prominent Dutch historians that called the findings into question.

“Based on the conclusions of this report, we have decided that, effective immediately, the book will no longer be available,” Ambo Anthos, which had apologized for the book last month, wrote in a statement on its website. “We will call upon bookstores to return their stock.”

“The Betrayal of Anne Frank” received worldwide attention in January after a self-described “cold case team” led by a retired F.B.I. investigator whose work formed the basis for the book was featured on the CBS News program “60 Minutes.”

The team accused Arnold van den Bergh, a Dutch Jewish notary, of pointing the Nazi police to the address of Prinsengracht 263, the location of the secret annex in Amsterdam where the Frank family and four other Jews had been hiding for two years.

Historians and other experts on World War II and the Holocaust very quickly expressed doubts about the finding, questioning a central premise of its argument: that the notary had lists of Jewish hiding places that were compiled by the Amsterdam Jewish Council, an organization the occupying Nazis had set up in 1941.

Pieter van Twisk, the lead researcher for the cold-case project, said in an interview with The New York Times at the time that the evidence for the lists was “circumstantial, but circumstantial evidence is still evidence.”

On Tuesday night, Bart Wallet, a professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Amsterdam, summarized the findings of the refutation, written by Raymund Schütz, an expert on Dutch notaries during the German occupation; two experts on the Amsterdam Jewish Council, Laurien Vastenhout and Bart van der Boom; and two other researchers, Petra van den Boomgaard and Aaldrik Hermans.

“We felt we had to step in because we owed it to our discipline,” Professor Wallet said. “For such a claim to be made,” he added, the historical context “had to be solid as a rock.” But he said, this was “not the case, not at all.”

“It’s clear that the argumentation doesn’t hold up,” he concluded. “Due to misinterpretation and tunnel vision, the investigation wrongly identifies Arnold van den Bergh as Anne Frank’s betrayer.”

Mirjam de Gorter, granddaughter of Arnold van den Berg, had made an emotional public appeal to HarperCollins at an event where the report was released, asking that the publisher issue a retraction and cease publication.

She said that she had repeatedly informed the investigators and the author of the location where her grandfather and his family were in the summer of 1944, when Anne Frank was betrayed. They ignored her, she said, and claimed that Mr. van den Bergh had won his freedom by giving up addresses to the Nazis.

“My grandfather, Arnold van den Bergh, has been portrayed worldwide as an international scapegoat,” she said. “Meanwhile, Anne Frank’s worldwide prominence is exploited in a particularly dishonest way.”

Ambo Anthos had previously paused printing and distribution of the book. “A more critical stance could have been taken here,” wrote Tanja Hendriks, publisher and director of the company. Ms. Hendriks did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

The publisher’s website now states, “We would once again like to offer our sincere apologies to everyone who has been offended by the contents of this book.”

Mr. van Twisk, Ms. Sullivan and the documentary filmmaker Thijs Bayens, who was a member of the team that was assembled to identify Anne Franks’s betrayer, also did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The cold-case team’s lead investigator, the former F.B.I. detective, Vince Pankoke, defended the team’s work in a rebuttal to the report released on Tuesday.

“Until now, we have not been presented with any piece of evidence or any new information that had enough strength to challenge our conclusion,” he noted. “The van den Bergh scenario is, in our opinion, still the most viable theory about the betrayal of the Prinsengracht 263.”

HarperCollins U.S., which released the book on Jan. 17 with plans to publish it in more than 20 languages, has so far offered no response to the criticisms.


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