Herengracht 380, 1016 cj amsterdam

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Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD)

Herengracht 380, 1016 CJ Amsterdam


Who betrayed Anne Frank?


David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom

© NIOD, Amsterdam

Amsterdam, April 25, 2003

For more information:

Press Officer David Barnouw:

Who betrayed Anne Frank?

  1. Introduction

  2. Persecution of the Jews


Persecution apparatus

  1. Going into hiding and arrest in Prinsengracht 263

  2. Supplies to the Wehrmacht

  3. Three suspects

Wim van Maaren

Lena Hartog-van Bladeren

Tonny Ahlers

  1. Guilty?

Wim van Maaren

Lena Hartog-van Bladeren

Tonny Ahlers

1. Contacts between Ahlers and Otto Frank

2. Blackmail during and after the war

3. Betrayal of Prinsengracht 263 by Ahlers?

  1. Other betrayers?

  2. Conclusion

  3. Notes, sources, bibliography and abbrevations

1. Introduction

In 1986 the forerunner of the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, published De Dagboeken van Anne Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, Doubleday, 1988/2003). This critical edition of the diaries of Anne Frank, edited by Harry Paape ( 2001), Gerrold van der Stroom and David Barnouw, included all of the diary entries by Anne Frank that were known at the time. The introduction contained a chapter on the background to the betrayal of the Frank family and the others who were in hiding with them. The conclusion was that it was impossible to identify the person who betrayed them.

In the meantime two books have appeared which each advance a new betrayal thesis: Melissa Müller, Anne Frank. De biografie (1998), and Carol Ann Lee, Het verborgen leven van Otto Frank [The hidden life of Otto Frank] (2002). The latter puts forward a blackmail hypothesis connected with the business activities of Anne’s father, Otto Frank.

The NIOD therefore decided to instigate a follow-up inquiry to look into two issues: a) an inventory of the betrayal hypotheses that have been mentioned to date and an evaluation of their probability or improbability, and b) the opportunities for blackmail during and after the war, partly in view of the role of Otto Frank in the business activities of Opekta, Pectacon and Gies & Co during and after the war.

Although our investigation focused on the three main suspects, that does not mean that we have overlooked other possible suspects (see Chapter 7).

We have made use of the same (archival) material as the authors of the two studies referred to above.

It is regrettable that two foundations that are in control of relevant archival documents, the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam and (the president of) the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel do not (yet) have inventories of their archives at their disposal. This means that we do not know which archival documents there are or were. It is thus possible that as yet unknown material may turn up at a later stage.

The critical edition of De Dagboeken van Anne Frank already devoted dozens of pages to the possibility of betrayal by Van Maaren and to the arrest of the Jews in hiding. Melissa Müller has been the first author to look into another direction then Van Maaren. Her betrayal-theory is brief and we have treated her theory briefly too.

The largest part of the present study is devoted to a third betrayal thesis, and one that finds support in a large amount of source material: the thesis that Otto Frank and the others were betrayed by Tonny Ahlers. The possibility of blackmail has also been raised. It is therefore only natural that the main emphasis has come to rest on him.

An abridged version of this report will be incorporated in the next impression of De Dagboeken van Anne Frank. The footnote on page 381 of that work will also be amended. That footnote refers to a certain F.J. Piron as the buyer of Prinsengracht 263. However, his name was F.J. Pieron, and he sold the premises.
We are grateful to the authors mentioned above - Melissa Müller and Carol Ann Lee - with whom we have had regular contact, to the National Archive in The Hague, especially Sierk Plantinga and Nico van Horn, the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, especially Teresien da Silva and Yt Stoker, and the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel, especially its president Buddy Elias. In addition we owe a debt of gratitude to Anton Ahlers, Miep Gies, Paul Gies, Gerlof Langerijs, Jan Oegema, Eric Slot, Cor Suijk and J.W. Veraart. It is to be regretted that some of the relatives of one of the prime suspects refused to talk to us. In view of the fact that they have spoken to the media in the past, we consider that their refusal to talk to us has not seriously hindered the investigation.
2. Persecution of the Jews
Anti-semitic measures were gradually introduced under the German Occupation, but there were as yet no signs of a large-scale persecution.

Anne Frank summarized on July 20, 1942 the following ant-Jewish measures

Now that the Germans rule the roost here we are in real trouble, first there was rationing and everything had to be bought with coupons, then, during the two years they have been here, there have been all sorts of Jewish laws.

Jews must wear a yellow star; Jews must hand in their bicycles; Jews are banned from trams and are forbidden to use any car, even a private one. Jews are only allowed to do their shopping between three and five o'clock and then only in shops which bear the placard Jewish Shop; Jews may only use Jewish barbers; Jews must be indoors from eight o'clock in the evening until 6 o'clock in the morning; Jews are forbidden to visit theaters, cinemas and other places of entertainment; Jews may not go to swimming baths, nor to tennis courts, hockey fields or other sports grounds; Jews may not go rowing; Jews may not take part in public sports; Jews must not sit in their own or their friends' gardens after 8 o'clock in the evening; Jews may not visit Chris­tians; Jews must go to Jewish schools, and many more restrictions of a similar kind, so we could not do this and we were forbidden to do that.

During two raids in the centre of Amsterdam on 22 and 23 February 1941, more than four hundred Jewish men, most of them young, were captured and deported to Mauthausen. They were followed by a number of scattered raids in Amsterdam, in the eastern region of the country close to the German border, and in Arnhem, Apeldoorn and Zwolle. The first systematic calls to report started in the summer of 1942. Margot Frank, who was sixteen at the time, was one of the first group of a thousand persons, mainly German Jews, including a number of young people, who had received a registered call to report on Sunday 5 July 1942 from the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung. She was supposed to report there for work in Germany. This call forced Otto Frank to bring forward his well-prepared plan for going into hiding, and a day later the Frank family, Otto, his wife Edith and their daughters Margot and Anne found themselves in the ‘secret annex’ of Prinsengracht 263, the office and warehouse of Pectacon and Opekta. A few days later the Van Pels family, Hermann, Gusti and their son Peter, joined them, to be followed later still by the dentist Friedrich Pfeffer. They thus totalled eight Jews in hiding in the centre of Amsterdam.

There are no precise figures available on the number of Jews who went into hiding. The most recent estimate is 14,500.1 Nor can a picture be formed of ‘the’ Jew in hiding or what conditions were like, because the differences between individual cases are too large for that. One thing is certain: babies and small children who went into hiding had a high chance of survival, and it was rare for a whole family to go into hiding. It was very rare for a number of Jews - eight in this case - to go into hiding in the same place; most of those who did so moved from one hiding place to another in the course of time.

Persecution apparatus

German security and police matters, including the persecution of the Jews, were run from The Hague, but Amsterdam, like other major cities, had its own Aussenstelle (Outpost) of the Sicherheitspolizei and the Sicherheitsdienst. This Aussenstelle was first established in Herengracht 485-487, but it eventually ended up in the High School for Girls, Euterpestraat 91-109. The members of the Aussenstelle were generally known as the Sicherheitsdienst (SD), but they were also called the Grüne Polizei because of their green uniform.

Willy Lages was in charge of this Aussenstelle from March 1941 to the end of the Occupation. From October 1944 on he was also formal head of the Zentralstelle für Jüdische Auswanderung that was to be set up.

The persecution of the Jews was not a priority at first, but measures to isolate and discriminate against the Jews slowly but surely got under way. The nazi organisations in the Netherlands included radical anti-Semites who engaged in anti-Semitic actions in the streets in an attempt to get the Germans to adopt a more active policy. However, the German apparatus set to work in a circumspect manner, especially after the February Strike in and around Amsterdam in 1941. A Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung was set up in Amsterdam a month after those strikes; this mock-agency was to enable Jews to emigrate legally. The United States was not yet involved in the war and the Zentralstelle seemed to be a good solution. To make the façade even more attractive, the Jewish Council that had been set up in February 1941 was to install a liaison office - the Expositur - with this Zentralstelle. Numerous Dutch civil servants who were not nazis were involved in the preparation of all kinds of anti-Semitic measures.The same is true of the final implementation of the so-called Endlösung; hundreds of Dutch police, some nazis and some not, were involved in the raids, security services and tracking down Jews who had gone into hiding. Of course, whether their persecutors were nazis or not was hardly a concern of the victims.

More than 100,000 Jews were arrested in the Netherlands and deported between the first calls to report in July 1942 and the last large raid in Amsterdam on 29 September 1943. From October 1943 on policy was aimed at tracking down the remaining Jews in hiding and sending them to the exterminationcamps.

At this time the Zentralstelle für jüdische Auswanderung was housed in the Protestant High School in Adama van Scheltemaplein 1, but the premises were mainly used as an archive and canteen because the Zentralstelle did not really have any function after the end of 1943.2 Much more important and still extremely active was the Aussenstelle of the SD, located opposite the Zentralstelle in the High School for Girls.

The Germans were as interested in what the Jews owned as in the Jews themselves, and a large part of the value of their possessions was already transferred to the account of the Lippmann-Rosenthal bank before their deportation. The Germans also appropriated the contents of the houses that were now unoccupied. This activity was organised by the Hausraterfassung, which consisted of four divisions (Colonnes). One of those Colonnes, the Colonne Henneicke, named after the leader of this group, did not confine its activities from October 1942 onwards to registering the contents of vacant Jewish houses, but it turned into a group of hunters who were well paid for hunting Jews. Its members, operating in pairs, were active inside and outside Amsterdam until the end of 1943. Besides their regular pay, from March 1943 on they received a bonus for each Jew caught. The sum of ƒ 7.50 is often mentioned, but it could rise to a maximum of ƒ 40.3 A notorious hunter of Jews, Abraham Kaper, also head of IVB4 (Judenreferat) described this bounty as follows: ‘Initially it amounted to ƒ 2.50 per person, but this was later raised to ƒ 40. This money had to cover payment of informers and other expenses’.4 Whether the hunters of the Jews were German or Dutch, their hunt would not have been so successful without information or tip-offs about Jews in hiding. During one of his interrogations Kaper stated: ‘This office worked sporadically with so-called traitors. Reports came in, both signed and anonymous letters about Jewish activities, which led to the setting up of an inquiry’.5 No reliable statistics are available. ‘Actions were often carried out “on the basis of information received”, but there is no way of telling how many cases this involved.’6 We do have many postwar statements by members of the SD and their Dutch collaborators, but there is no tangible evidence such as betrayal notes or daily, weekly or monthly reports with names. That is probably due to a large extent to the fact that the Zentralstelle was used as an archive. That archive must have been destroyed when twenty-four British Typhoons bombarded both school buildings on Sunday November 19, 1944, half destroying the Zentralstelle and causing such damage to the SD headquarters that the SD had to move to the Apollofirst hotel. Dozens of homes were destroyed during this bombardment. In all probability, the loss to human life was fifty civilians and only four members of the SD.7 A lot of archival material was also destroyed by the SD during September 1944.8
3. Going into hiding and arrest in Prinsengracht 263
We have already mentioned that it was the calls to go and work in Germany on 5 July 1942 - Margot Frank had also received one - that prompted Otto Frank to bring forward the plans for him and his family to go into hiding. On Monday 6 July they closed the front door of Merwedeplein 37-II behind them, never to return. Anne wrote:
Not until we were in the street did father and mother tell me piece by piece about the entire plan for going into hiding. For months we had been moving as many of our possessions and clothes out of the house as we could, and now we had reached the stage of wanting to go voluntarily into hiding on 16 July. This summons made us bring the plan ten days forward, so that we would have to be content with less well arranged apartments.9
This case of going into hiding was not a typical one. Otto Frank and his family were refugees from Germany and thus did not belong to the Jewish-Dutch community, but Frank had many business contacts with non-Jews who would be able to help him.10 That was true not only of Miep Gies, Frank’s prop and stay, and her colleagues, but also of the Opekta representatives who visited the firm each week, and who had proposed to raise the money to buy the Franks’ freedom after the Sicherheitsdienst had raided the house.

Friday 4 August put an end to their period in hiding.11 A report had reached the SD Aussenstelle that there were Jews in hiding in Prinsengracht 263. According to his testimony in 1963 and 1964, SS-Oberscharführer (sergeant) Karl Joseph Silberbauer was notified of the fact by his superior Julius Dettmann. Even the number of Jews in hiding was specified. Dettmann was also alleged to have instructed Abraham Kaper, to send eight of his men with Silberbauer.

In fact, Silberbauer arrived from the Aussenstelle with at least three Dutch collaborators: Gezinus Gringhuis, Willem Grotendorst, and Maarten Kuiper. Accounts vary on what happened after their arrival. Wilhelm van Maaren and Lambert Hartog were working in the warehouse, Miep Gies, Bep Voskuijl, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler were occupied in the front office. An important question is whether the SD knew the whereabouts of those in hiding - in the annex - or whether they just had the address Prinsengracht 263.

Otto Frank was the only person who could tell after the war what had taken place in the annex during the raid. After the war he stated, for instance, that when Silberbauer discovered that Frank had been a reserve lieutenant in the German army during the First World War, he was no longer in such a hurry. Of course he had time on his hands too because they had to wait for a larger car to take away the Jewish prisoners. This seems to indicate that the SD was not aware that there were eight people in hiding. Kleiman and Kugler were also arrested for assisting the Jews. Bep Voskuijl was able to leave without any difficulty, and Jan Gies, who followed his usual practice of arriving at the office around lunch time, was hastily sent away again by his wife. Silberbauer, who realised that Miep was from Vienna too, first called her a traitor to her country Austria, but he did not bother her any further. In 1964 he denied that Miep Gies had later tried to bribe him at the Aussenstelle.

4. Supplies to the Wehrmacht
During the first years of the German Occupation, the Dutch economy was flourishing thanks to German orders, an expanding public spending, and a stable level of production in the agricultural and service sectors. Even the loss of jobs due to the fall in exports to many countries, except Germany and the occupied territories, was compensated by 1941. There was even a regular drop in unemployment from June 1940 on.12 This was largely the product of German orders to Dutch companies, which amounted to 14% of the gross domestic product by the end of 1940. These were both military and civil orders, but in a Totaler Krieg, the direction in which the war was rapidly heading, that was not really a significant distinction. A Dutch company that supplied the Germans with semi-manufactured goods hardly knew (and probably did not want to know) whether those semi-manufactures were going to be used in the arms industry or not. Of course, a Dutch producer who supplied toothpaste to a German company could not know whether that toothpaste was destined for German soldiers.

In the Netherlands and in the other occupied territories, Berlin tried to organise all German orders through the Zentralauftragstelle (Zast) in order to have a clear picture of the transactions and to prevent prices from rising. Priority was to be given to military orders, but they were organised through the Rüstungsinspektion. The lists of companies that traded with the Germans via the Zast have been preserved.13 They show that in the period 1941-1942 no less than 1,500 Amsterdam firms were trading to a smaller or larger extent with the enemy.

As director of Opekta and Pectacon (the former dealt in pectin, the latter in the production of chemical products and foodstuffs), Otto Frank was directly affected by the anti-Jewish measures of the occupying forces from the autumn of 1940 on.14 Large and medium-sized ‘Jewish’ firms were Aryanized, sold or run by Dutch or German nazis. Small firms were taken over for liquidation. Various constructions were devised to avoid Aryanization or liquidation. One was to set up a ‘non-Jewish’ firm in good time, run by non-Jewish friends or acquaintances, that had taken over all the activities of ‘Jewish’ firms before the registration date. That was why La Synthèse was set up on 23 October 1940, which changed its name six months later to N.V. Handelsvereniging Gies & Co., a front organisation of friends (Kugler and Gies). The intention was that Pectacon would be incorporated temporarily to prevent the Germans from gaining control of it. However, the Germans saw through Otto Frank’s plans and an administrator was appointed for the liquidation of Pectacon. That was K.O.M. Wolters, a sollicitor and barrister in Amsterdam, an active member of the Dutch Nazi Party NSB, who acted for as much as nineteen Jewish firms as administrator and liquidator. However this sollicitor prefered the East Front and he got a military training in the beginning of 1943. Events followed a different course in the case of Opekta, because the mother company Pomosin in Frankfurt protected it - not to protect Frank, of course, but to prevent a Dutch rival from taking over the business.

As long as the raw materials were still available (in 1942 the Pomosin Werke in Frankfurt supplied 120 barrels of pectin, and in the following year 30,700 bottles of pectin) both Pectacon and Opekta - under other names - continued operations. Around 1941 Frank was no longer owner or director of the firms, which supplied the Germans just as did many others. It is unclear how large those supplies were and who the clients were. Frank’s firms do not appear in the Zast lists, which cover the period 1941-1944 and were drawn up by the Economic Investigation Service after the war.15

Nevertheless, it is known that the Wehrmacht was among the clients, for in the reminiscences that Miep Gies published in 1989 in collaboration with Alison Leslie Gold the following passage appears: ‘Our representatives travelled all over the Netherlands and continued to bring back orders to the Prinsengracht. Some of those orders were placed by German army camps in the country’.16 Miep Gies also writes that one of the regular customers was a German chef who had to cook for German troops: ‘He always paid cash and told Koophuis [Kleiman] that if we couldn’t get any food we should contact him’. He was based in Kampen, but in January 1945 Miep Gies cycled all the way there to see him and returned to Amsterdam with food.17

In Van Maaren’s testimony of 2 February 1948 he mentions ‘the German soldier from Naarden, a member of the SS, who received supplies and whom Mrs Gies and Mrs Brokx went to see in Kampen to fetch food supplies’. He goes on: ‘The company supplied a lot to the Wehrmacht throughout the Occupation through middlemen’.18

However, the Opekta profit and loss accounts for 1942, 1943 and 1944 do not contain any direct deliveries to the Wehrmacht. The Pectacon order book contains a record for 19 September 1940, when pepper and nutmeg (a total of 1,000 kg) were supplied to the Wehrmacht Verpflegungsamt in The Hague. This nursing unit’s activities included the purchase of food for the Wehrmacht. On another occasion it is clear that the company to which delivery was made was purchasing for the Wehrmacht or acting as a middleman. This was the NV Sunda Compagnie in The Hague, to which various items were to be supplied on 5 June 1940, according to the Pectacon order book. The delivery was to be made in accordance with the conditions laid down by the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW). In her account, Carol Ann Lee states that Otto Frank had delivered through middlemen to the Armee Oberkommando, ‘personally led by Hitler’.19 The name of Hitler has disappeared from the (American) Harper edition, but the Armee Oberkommando still plays its menacing role. It will not be possible to trace exactly how much in all was supplied to German firms or to the Wehrmacht.
5. Three suspects
For years Wim van Maaren, an employee of Opekta, was the only serious candidate suspected of betraying the eight in hiding in Prinsengracht 263. The names of two other suspects have been put forward in recent years: Lena Hartog-Van Bladeren (in 1998), and Tonny Ahlers (in 2002).

Investigations of the betrayal were concentrated in the immediate postwar period, in 1963/1964, and in the first half of the 1980s20 with respect to what actually happened during the German raid, and in particular the activities of the warehouse hand Van Maaren.

Wim van Maaren

Van Maaren was taken on in the spring of 1943. He was already viewed with distrust before the raid, because he was suspected of stealing from the warehouse and because he tried to find out who could have been in the warehouse at night. The fact that he was given the key to the premises by SS-Oberscharführer Silberbauer, who was in charge of the group that conducted the raid, thereby becoming de facto manager, is another ground for suspicion. He acted as manager until J. Kleiman, who had become director of Opekta and was arrested as an accomplice during the raid, returned. Kleiman had been detained in the camp in Amersfoort, but was released at the instigation of the Dutch Red Cross because he had become affected by a haemorrhage of the stomach. He was discharged on 18 September.

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