A book on Anne Frank that has been pulled off the sale in the Netherlands has been designated as Costco’s February “Buyer’s Pick,” the latest sign that criticism of the book is unlikely to dampen its popularity.
When “The Betrayal of Anne Frank” was released last month, it caused a stir because of its shocking conclusion that a Jew had betrayed Frank’s family to the Nazis.
The efforts of an investigative team led by a former FBI agent identified a notary named Arnold van den Bergh as the person who directed German forces to the Amsterdam hiding spot of the adolescent diarist, her parents, and sister “with 85 percent certainty,” according to Rosemary Sullivan’s book.
However, Dutch historians, European Jewish leaders, and other authors condemned the book in the weeks following its publication, claiming that it wrongly accused a long-dead Dutch Jew without sufficient evidence. Some cited evidence that van den Bergh was being maligned, rather than being the most plausible suspect in a historical mystery.
Ambo Anthos, the book’s publisher, ceased sales of the Dutch-language translation of the book last week as a result of the pressure.
“There were apparent flaws in the research, and an authors’ walkout was probably the last thing Ambo Anthos intended,” Johannes Houwink ten Cate, emeritus professor of Holocaust and genocide studies at the University of Amsterdam, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Outside of the Netherlands, however, the book is still freely available. Because it’s a Costco pick, millions of Americans will perceive it as a direct invitation to buy and read it, and many will. On January 16, the book was featured on an episode of “60 Minutes.”
In the company’s February newsletter, a Costco book buyer named Alex Kanenwisher stated, “I can still remember the effect Anne Frank’s ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ had on me.” “As a result, I’m very thrilled to share this month’s book buyer’s pick, Rosemary Sullivan’s ‘The Betrayal of Anne Frank.'” The book was described as a “contemporary whodunit” in the newsletter.
The whodunit, according to the book’s critics, is still unsolved. They say that it’s hard to establish that van den Bergh gave up the Frank family’s location because of circumstances from his life, such as the fact that he went into hiding before the Frank family was betrayed and that investigations exonerated him of Nazi collaboration after the war.
According to Pieter van Twisk, the cold-case team’s lead researcher, the data did not invalidate the book’s conclusion.
Van Twisk said in an email approved by Vince Pankoke, the former FBI agent who oversaw the squad, that “those in hiding were often pressured or extorted into participation.” “They might have left you alone if you could supply things of worth (gold, jewelry, money, stocks, artworks, and yes, addresses, etc.).”
Although Pankoke and his team have publicly defended their findings, they stated it was “extremely stupid” to claim that the conclusion was “85%” correct in a statement on their website. They wrote in Dutch, “This does not represent the degree of certainty” of the study’s findings.
The European Jewish Congress, which represents dozens of European Jewish communities, has formally requested that the book be withdrawn. In a letter to the book’s publisher, the group wrote that naming a Jewish suspect in a mystery that has captivated people of all backgrounds might be “potentially combustible” at a time of rising antisemitism.
The objections against the book do not appear to be affecting its distribution in the United States, where it is prominently displayed in numerous bookstores. The main offices of HarperCollins and numerous regional publishers have not responded to JTA’s requests for comment on the book’s criticism.
The book’s promotion at Costco is “following the trend of Americans wanting less to openly talk about the Holocaust and more to discourse near it,” according to Maris Kreizman, a Jewish author and host of a book podcast.
Critics fear that the more people who read the book, the more likely van den Bergh would be accused of betraying his fellow Jews.
“In Canada and the United States, the debate that is taking place in the Netherlands is not taking place at the same level,” ten Cate added. “I’m not convinced the genie freed by the cold case study will ever be put back in the bottle,” says the author.
The debate has now spread to Germany. Jürgen Welte, the publisher of the German-language version, indicated there that it was conducting a “internal review” ahead of the planned March 22 release date.
“We are currently undergoing an internal evaluation after two professional edits of the document,” Jürgen Welte stated in a statement. “The German-language edition’s rather late publication date demonstrates that we are addressing this difficult matter exceedingly responsibly.”