Led By A Retired FBI Agent, These Researchers Are Using Artificial Intelligence to Finally Identify Anne Frank’s Betrayer

Left - The Famous Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Yair Haklai - CC-BY 2.0 Right: Anne Frank at her desk in school.
Left - The Famous Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Yair Haklai - CC-BY 2.0 Right: Anne Frank at her desk in school.

A team led by Vince Pankoke has reopened the investigation in an attempt to find out who betrayed Anne Frank. The team will use artificial intelligence software provided by Xomnia. Xomnia is a software company based in Amsterdam. Their technology allows researchers to analyze huge amounts of data to find new clues in cases.

Vince Pankoke is a retired FBI agent. During his time with the force, he would track drug cartels in Columbia. He earned a medal from the Columbian government for his work in helping them fight the cartels.

In 2005, he was in Amsterdam on a case when his Dutch partner informed him that no one had ever discovered how the Germans knew that Anne Frank and her family were hiding in a room in her father’s warehouse.

Surprised to hear this, Pankoke decided to research the case. Some people, including Anne’s father, Otto, have believed that one of the workers in the warehouse tipped off the authorities. Historians have never been able to prove that though.

After the war, Otto insisted that the Dutch authorities investigate to find out who betrayed the families hiding in the “Secret Annex.” Those investigations came to no conclusion.

In 2016, the Anne Frank House conducted their own research into who gave away the secret. Their research did not reveal a smoking gun. Rather, they determined that it was possible that the Germans discovered the hidden families by accident.

The Anne Frank house and the Prinsengracht Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands.Chowells/Dontworry – CC-BY SA 3.0
The Anne Frank house and the Prinsengracht Canal, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Chowells/Dontworry – CC-BY SA 3.0

Pankoke will look into all 30 people who have been suspected of tipping off the Germans. He is also bringing in detectives, data analysts, profilers, historians, and criminologists to find the guilty party. They will accept tips from the public and will reenact statements received from witnesses in the past.

The whole process will be filmed by Proditone Media for their “Cold Case Diary” project. The project is a crowd-funded investigation into the mystery of who betrayed the Franks.

The Anne Frank House has welcomed the investigation and provided access to their records and artifacts for the team to research. Ronald Leopold is a spokesman for the AFH. He noted that their investigation did not deny the possibility of a betrayer, but only showed that there is no conclusive evidence to rule out other possible ways the Germans could have discovered the families. AFH is happy that someone is working to find more evidence and hopefully settle the case once and for all.

Pankoke said that he was leery that anyone would ever be able to pinpoint how the Franks were discovered because there is just too much data to sift through. Now, though, he is optimistic that the AI software will provide the necessary power to find the proof in all of that information.

The team will announce their findings on the 75th anniversary of the day the Franks were discovered, August 4, 2019. Pankoke said that the date was chosen to honor the families who were torn from hiding on that date 75 years ago. He insists, though, that they will not compromise the investigation just to reach a conclusion on a specific date.

Inside the Anne Frank House. Rossem, Wim van / Anefo – CC-BY SA 3.0
Inside the Anne Frank House. Rossem, Wim van / Anefo – CC-BY SA 3.0


Anne Frank’s diary is one of the most famous historical documents in the world and introduces many school children to the horrors of the Holocaust. The Franks hid in a secret room in her father’s warehouse for over two years before being discovered and arrested by the Nazis. There were eight people in the room in all: the Franks, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer.

Anne’s father, Otto, was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp and the others were split up and sent to different camps. Otto was the only one of the eight to survive. He convinced the government of Holland to investigate a worker from Otto’s warehouse, Wilhelm van Maaren. Otto believed that this man was the betrayer, but the investigation failed to find proof that van Maaren was to blame.

Van Maaren was investigated again in 1963, but again was cleared of wrongdoing. After that, Otto stopped trying to discover the identity of the person he believed must have betrayed them.

Since then, many people have tried to solve the mystery but to no avail. Now, the “Cold Case Diary” team hopes to finally put to rest the question of who betrayed Anne Frank and document once and for all what led to the destruction of her family.


Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE