The Last Secret of the Secret Annex

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From The Wall Street Journal:

After two years in hiding in Amsterdam, 15-year-old Anne Frank was arrested in August 1944, along with her sister, mother, father and four other Jews. All but Anne’s father, Otto Frank, perished in Nazi concentration camps, along with three-quarters—more than 100,000—of the Netherlands’ Jewish population. Anne’s adolescent diary, first published in 1947, has since become one of the most celebrated and poignant artifacts of the Holocaust. A flood of literature on the Frank family and the Dutch people who helped them survive has followed. Among the nagging questions that remain: Who betrayed the Franks and the others in hiding with them?

The Last Secret of the Secret Annex” is both a fascinating attempt to unlock this mystery and a case study in how Holocaust trauma can ripple through the generations. It comes from the Belgian journalist Jeroen De Bruyn, who confesses a lifelong obsession with Anne’s story, and Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl, whose mother, Elisabeth “Bep” Voskuijl, was, in her early 20s, the youngest of the Franks’ Dutch “helpers.” The authors met when Mr. De Bruyn was just 15, and eventually became partners in the enterprise.

Narrated in Mr. van Wijk-Voskuijl’s voice, “The Last Secret of the Secret Annex” updates and expands an earlier book by the duo, published in 2015 in the Netherlands, and self-published in the United States three years later as “Anne Frank: The Untold Story.” The current volume details the courage of the narrator’s mother, who foraged for food for those in hiding, and his maternal grandfather, Johan, who built the revolving bookcase that concealed the “annex” in which the Frank family lived. It also takes withering aim at the multiyear “cold case” investigation chronicled in Rosemary Sullivan’s 2022 book “The Betrayal of Anne Frank.”

Led by former FBI special agent Vince Pankoke, that inquiry—in which the authors cooperated—concluded that the culprit was likely the notary Arnold van den Bergh, a member of Amsterdam’s Jewish Council. Citing an anonymous accusation and other evidence, it posited that he traded addresses of Jews in hiding to the Gestapo in exchange for his family’s survival. Dutch scholars found that scenario far-fetched, and their criticisms led to the Sullivan book’s withdrawal from circulation in the Netherlands.

Messrs. De Bruyn and van Wijk-Voskuijl propose a different possible informant: Mr. van Wijk-Voskuijl’s maternal aunt, Bep’s younger sister Nelly. During the Occupation, the then-teenage girl was, in the authors’ words, “seduced by everything German.” High-spirited and combative, Nelly had Nazi boyfriends and worked for the German military. Two survivors of that period—another of Bep’s sisters, Diny, and Bep’s wartime fiancé, Bertus Hulsman—attested that Nelly knew her relatives were helping Jews in hiding. Both recalled her angrily saying “Just go to your Jews!”—or words to that effect—to other family members.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal