Mail ideas. Who really betrayed Anne Frank?

  • context 🧭 : In a book published earlier this year, a team of researchers and former police officers claim to have established with a high degree of probability the identity of the Frank family whistleblower in 1944.
  • Summary of the debate 📋 : the authors of the investigation claim to have solved the enigma by approaching it in the manner of a cold box (an unsolved case), in particular by mobilizing the tools of artificial intelligence. An approach that some historians judge very harshly.

It embodies “courage, resistance to persecution, the death of the innocent”; his face is reproduced “on statues and posters around the world”; and his diary, first published in 1947 in the Netherlands, is among the most widely read and translated books.

However, critic and writer Ruth Franklin points out in The New York Review of Books, Anne Frank will always remain shrouded in a mystery as tragic as it is dizzying. What woman and what writer would she have become if she had not perished, at the age of 15, in the Bergen-Belsen camp? How were his last moments? What day in February or March 1945 did she die?

Lack of consensus

By comparison, the issue of Anne Frank’s arrest may, at first glance, seem more approachable. Different theories have circulated about the circumstances that led the Gestapo to the cache (called the Annex in his diary) where the teenager lived with her family for two years, in the center of Amsterdam, before being deported to Auschwitz in the summer of 1944. But there is no consensus among historians.

It is in the hope of clarifying this enigma that the documentary filmmaker Thijs Bayens and the journalist Pieter van Twisk formed, from 2016, a team of around twenty researchers and investigators placed under the leadership of Vincent Pankoke, a recently retired special agent from the FBI. In this group, historians, but also former police officers, a criminologist and a former Australian army officer who became an investigator at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. All united in one objective: to deal with the question of the probable denunciation of the Frank family in the manner of a cold box (an unsolved case), in “re-examining all previous investigations in the hope of finding new clues”, explains the Spanish daily El Pais.

To finance their work, Bayens and van Twisk sought private funding, as well as a grant from the city of Amsterdam, explains Ruth Franklin in The New York Review of Books. Then, after building a vast database of all the information at their disposal, they called on specialists in artificial intelligence (AI) to develop software intended to “spot patterns in the data that may have escaped the human eye”.

It was at this stage that Rosemary Sullivan was contacted by the American publisher HarperCollins to recount the progress of the investigation in detail. Such as the presents the Toronto daily The Globe and MailSullivan is a “winning Canadian author for her meticulously researched works of non-fiction” (including a biography of Stalin’s daughter which has remained unpublished in French).

A culprit

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Mail ideas. Who really betrayed Anne Frank?


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