What did Frank Reith discover

Was Anne Frank betrayed?

Research over years

Explanations for the discovery are mainly based on statements, since there are no more official documents about the police action in the Secret Annex. For a long time, treason was the focus of the arrest of those in hiding, but doubts have recently arisen. There could have been other reasons as well.

This question is still being researched to this day. The Anne Frank House recently investigated the police action, and a former FBI agent announced in 2017 that he would try to use an international cold-case team and new techniques to find out who betrayed the people in hiding.

Assured knowledge about the discovery

  1. On August 4, 1944, police officers discovered the eight people in hiding and also arrested two helpers.
    Both five helpers and the only survivor in hiding, Otto Frank, agree on the date of the arrest. An official document does not exist.
  2. In any case, three police officers were involved in the house search and arrest: the Austrian Karl Silberbauer and the Dutch Gezinus Gringhuis and Willem Grootendorst.
    At the end of 1945, Otto Frank and his helpers recognized two Dutch police officers in photos: Gezinus Gringhuis and Willem Grootendorst. At the time, both were in prison on Havenstraat and remembered the matter when asked, said helper Johannes Kleiman. Kleiman named Karl Silberbauer, Gringhuis and Grootendorst in a letter to the Political Investigation Service of the Criminal Police in 1946.

Karl Josef Silberbauer, around 1943.

Source: Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, SI AS 1931, Republiški sekretariat za notranje zadeve SRS, No. of box: 811

Gezinus Gringhuis

Collection: NIOD, Amsterdam (Beeldbank WO2) / photographer unknown

Willem Grootendorst

Collection: NIOD, Amsterdam (Beeldbank WO2) / photographer unknown

These claims are not sufficiently well founded

  1. There was talk of treason.
    In autumn 1945 Otto Frank wrote to his relatives that he and the people who helped him were trying to find out who betrayed them. They are convinced that there was treason involved. That is understandable; many people fell into the hands of the Nazis during the occupation, and it was not uncommon for this to happen through betrayal. However, there is no concrete evidence that it was also the case in this case.
    Treason as the reason for the arrest has long been the focus of research. Below is an overview of the theories that have been investigated in this scenario but are not sufficiently well founded to be true.
  2. The SD got a tip by phone about the Secret Annex and that was the reason for the police action.
    It has not been proven and can no longer be proven that someone called the SD on August 4, 1944 to betray the people in hiding. The mention of a denunciating phone call on the morning of August 4th comes from SD man Silberbauer. "Nazi hunter" Simon Wiesenthal tracks him down in 1963, and in his first written declaration Silberbauer only speaks of "a Dutchman" as the caller. However, his statements are not free of contradictions. He later explains that he is not sure if there was a call and who called. A journalist from the newspaper De Telegraaf According to Silberbauer, says the caller was warehouse worker Willem van Maaren. But even that is not credible enough: In the summer of 1944, private telephone traffic was almost idle due to extensive closures. Therefore, the likelihood that any citizen could make such a phone call is low.
  3. A woman called the SD and betrayed the people in hiding.
    The story goes around that the SD man who took the alleged call said that a woman was on the line. This police officer, Julius Dettmann, died in his cell a few weeks after he was liberated. Silberbauer has stated that Dettmann did not inform him who was on the phone. The story about the female voice comes from someone to whom Otto Frank allegedly told this. However, there is no evidence of this.
  4. Willem van Maaren was the traitor.
    The helpers distrust the warehouse worker Willem van Maaren, who has been working for the company for some time. Without knowing him or having ever seen him, the people in hiding share this suspicion. Anne mentions him in the diary and attributes very negative traits to him.
    Otto Frank and the helpers reported him to the Political Investigation Service of the Criminal Police in 1947 because they suspected him of treason. However, the investigation does not reveal any evidence of his guilt. Van Maaren denies the allegations and rejects any admission of guilt. The proceedings are terminated. After Silberbauer has been tracked down, new investigations follow. New information comes to light, but still no evidence against van Maaren.
  5. Tonny Ahlers was the traitor.
    Tonny Ahlers is a Dutch National Socialist. When he realizes that Otto Frank is speaking negatively about Germany's chances of winning in a conversation on the street, Ahlers puts Otto Frank under pressure and extorts money from him.
    In her biography of Otto Frank, Carol Ann Lee suggests that Otto's company delivered many goods to the German Wehrmacht during the occupation. According to her, Ahlers, since he had Otto Frank in his hand, played a role in the business transactions and later betrayed the people in hiding to an SD investigator in the Secret Annex. However, the only verifiable delivery is of a very small size and there is no evidence that Ahlers knew of people in hiding in the Secret Annex.
  6. Lena Hartog was the traitor.
    Lena's husband Lammert works “black” in the company warehouse on Prinsengracht 263. He talks to his wife about people hiding in the house. But it has never been established whether this will happen before or after the arrests on August 4th. After that day it would hardly be surprising: Lammert was a witness of the police action. There is no evidence that he knew about the people in hiding beforehand.
    Lena speaks to a friend about the people in hiding. This woman reacts frightened. If that was after August 4th, that's understandable. She knows Kleiman, who was also interned at the time, and rumors can compromise third parties around him.
    The theory that Lena spoke about the people in hiding before August 4th and was possibly the woman who called the SD herself comes from the Anne Frank biographer Melissa Müller. However, there is no evidence for this.
  7. Ans van Dijk was the traitor.
    Ans van Dijk was a Jew who had been arrested while in hiding and then given the choice of either being deported or helping track down other Jews. She decided on the latter and handed over a great many people to the Nazis.
    The journalist Sytze van der Zee describes in his book Vogelvrij (Bird free) Among other things, the possibility that van Dijk had contact with the night watchman who discovered a break-in in the house in 1944. However, there is no concrete evidence.
    A book was recently published in which Ans van Dijk was specifically accused of treason. This book is based on memories decades later that were written down by third parties much later. Therefore this story cannot be verified.
  8. More police officers were involved in the arrest.
    The helpers and Silberbauer themselves name a different number of police officers who were involved in the arrest. The numbers vary between five and eight. Attempts at clarification remained unsuccessful. No other police officer could be clearly identified or admitted to participating.

This claim is certainly wrong

SD head Willy Lages knew that "the caller" was a well-known informant.
This theory is based on an assumption that in itself has not been adequately proven, namely that betrayal by phone call prompted the police operation.
In 1963 the criminal investigation department investigated the matter. SD boss Willy Lages is asked whether it is logical that his former office went into action immediately after a telephone notification of people in hiding. Lages replied [10] that in such cases the credibility of the whistleblower was first checked, unless a tip came from an informant who had previously proven to be credible.
So: If someone actually called that morning and there was an immediate response to this call, then one can conclude that the informant was known and credible, says Lages. He just follows the logic of assumptions, the validity of which he does not know and does not need to know in order to give a conclusive answer.

Final remark

Ultimately, the list of individuals assigned a role in this matter is too long to describe in full. This is all the more true as it is not irrevocably certain whether it was actually a matter of betrayal. Recent research by the Anne Frank House sheds light on the possibility of an entirely different reason for the police action and makes arguments for it.

It is certain that two company representatives, from whom the helpers bought illegal brands, were arrested for their illegal trade. Warehouse worker Lammert Hartog worked “black” and director Victor Kugler did not record all of his income. There were Jews hidden in the building, but there was more going on there.

  1. See: Barnouw, David & Stroom, Gerrold van der, Who betrayed Anne Frank? (Münster: agenda, 2005).
  2. “Frank wist wie hem weghaalde”, De Telegraaf, November 22, 1963.
  3. Dutch State Institute for War Documentation [NIOD], The Diaries of Anne Frank (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 1988), Version A, April 21, 1944; Version B, August 5, 1943.