Book Review: The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation

By: Chris Chan

Anne Frank’s story has become many young people’s first introduction to the horrors of the Holocaust.  Yet while her story of two years of hiding with her family and other Jewish people has been preserved for posterity in her diary, and her tragic death shortly before the war’s end is well known, the reasons why she and those close to her were captured have remained unknown for decades.  In the Pulitzer-winning stage play based on her diary, it’s stated that an anonymous thief who broke into the offices during the night and heard the hiding people moving around eventually informed the Nazis as to their secret location.  But was this was really happened, or is it just a mistaken theory?  In The Betrayal of Anne Frank, Rosemary Sullivan tells the story of a group of historical researchers from a wide variety of backgrounds who have worked together to figure out who was really responsible for sending eight people to a concentration camp.

Using the tagline “Less a mystery unsolved than a secret well kept,” The Betrayal of Anne Frank argues that the truth of the matter was known long ago, even possibly by Anne’s father Otto Frank himself, but for various reasons, the perpetrator’s name was hidden from the public.  Who was this person?  Why has that individual not been identified before now?  Over the course of the book, Sullivan sorts through the assorted evidence that has been collected over the centuries, as well as the many theories that have been posited, culminating with her explanation of what she believes to be the truth.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the narrative is the fact that so many people have accused others for being the party responsible for turning in the Franks and their friends, and the reasons why they have done so.  In one case, someone desperately wanted a loathed family member to have been the guilty informant, hoping that this relative who collaborated with the Nazis was behind the capture of Anne Frank.  Throughout these chapters, a vivid portrait of the tense social situation is painted, where a wrong word or action could mean death for oneself or others, and survival could mean committing unthinkable acts.

The Betrayal of Anne Frank has come under scrutiny since its publication, as some researchers have challenged its conclusions, and other critics have contested the motives behind the book.  While the ultimate identity of the person or persons responsible for turning the Franks and their friends in to the Nazis may remain debated for some time to come, Sullivan’s book provides a very interesting look at how historical researchers can try to solve past crimes, as well as the complex characters who populated Amsterdam during WWII.

A particularly moving facet of this work is how Anne Frank’s story has deeply affected so many people.  People have switched careers or devoted large portions of their lives to exploring these issues, all in order to right some horrific wrongs or to keep the memories of atrocities clear in the public psyche.  It’s an always-interesting testimony to the enduring power of history to shape people’s consciences, and how one person’s life can affect others.  The twentieth and twenty-first centuries are full of atrocities and terrible crimes which have gone largely unpunished and overlooked, and it seems that a comparable team of historians, researchers, and other professionals might do valuable work in trying to find the truth behind the comparable cases. 

For more information on theories to this matter, please look at the official website of the Anne Frank House.


–Chris Chan

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation

By Rosemary Sullivan



$29.99 Hardcover

$14.99 Kindle