Home Crime Retired FBI agent leads investigation into 1944 arrest of Holocaust diary writer Anne Frank in Amsterdam – TribDem.com

Retired FBI agent leads investigation into 1944 arrest of Holocaust diary writer Anne Frank in Amsterdam – TribDem.com

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Retired FBI agent leads investigation into 1944 arrest of Holocaust diary writer Anne Frank in Amsterdam – TribDem.com

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Updated: February 4, 2022 @ 12:41 am
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Johnstown native Vincent Pankoke is shown at the Amsterdam City Archive during an investigation into the arrest of Anne Frank and her family in 1944. Pankoke, a retired FBI agent, led the effort to determine who told the Nazis where the Frank family was hiding.
Vincent Pankoke Sr., second from left, is shown during his time in World War II. His division helped liberate a concentration camp in 1945.
Vincent Pankoke Jr.
Vincent Pankoke Jr., left, is shown with Richland Police Department Captain Art Watts during an investigation into a bank robbery in a photograph taken at the Conemaugh Township, Somerset County, Police Department.
Vincent Pankoke Jr., left, stands on the podium during his graduation from the Johnstown Regional Municipal Police Academy in 1980.

Editor
Johnstown native Vincent Pankoke is shown at the Amsterdam City Archive during an investigation into the arrest of Anne Frank and her family in 1944. Pankoke, a retired FBI agent, led the effort to determine who told the Nazis where the Frank family was hiding.
Vincent Pankoke Sr., second from left, is shown during his time in World War II. His division helped liberate a concentration camp in 1945.
Vincent Pankoke Jr.
Vincent Pankoke Jr., left, is shown with Richland Police Department Captain Art Watts during an investigation into a bank robbery in a photograph taken at the Conemaugh Township, Somerset County, Police Department.
Vincent Pankoke Jr., left, stands on the podium during his graduation from the Johnstown Regional Municipal Police Academy in 1980.
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – A retired FBI agent has been on the global stage for leading a cold-case investigation into the arrest and death of Anne Frank, whose diary is one of the best-read accounts of the Holocaust.
Vincent Pankoke appeared on the Jan. 16 episode of the CBS news show “60 Minutes,” where he outlined efforts to uncover who was responsible for the raid that sent Anne Frank and others to a concentration camp in 1944.
The Johnstown native’s law enforcement career began with the Richland Township Police Department after Pankoke had graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
After more than 25 years with the FBI – including heading up the bureau’s unit tracking drug cartels in Columbia – he retired in 2014.
Two years later, he got the call to guide a team of investigators in Amsterdam – piecing together the story of Anne Frank and her family.
“People didn’t truly understand the task that awaited my team,” Pankoke said in a telephone interview from his Florida home.
He called the project “a search for the puzzle pieces” – but “there are still missing pieces and we’re continuing to fill them in.”
Pankoke said he had worked many cold cases in his career, but “this was frozen.”
He was interviewed for the CBS report, titled “The Betrayal,” which unpacked the six-year investigation concerning the Frank family members, who were in hiding in an annex behind a warehouse owned by father Otto Frank in Amsterdam.
“Two Dutch police inquiries and countless historians have come up with theories, but no firm conclusion,” the network said in promoting the show, which can be watched online.
Pankoke’s team was also the focus of a new book – “The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation” – by Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan, who reports:
“Using new technology, recently discovered documents and sophisticated investigative techniques, an international team – led by an obsessed retired FBI agent – has finally solved the mystery that has haunted generations since World War II: Who betrayed Anne Frank and her family? And why?”
For his investigation into the arrest more than 70 years later, Pankoke headed up what he called “a dream team” of 30 professionals, including specialists in artificial intelligence and advanced technology.
Pankoke said while cold-case investigators typically attempt to contact the original team, but none of those individuals were still alive.
His team dug for answers to the “questions we would have asked them had they been alive. It was quite an undertaking.”
They spent “countless hours” scanning newspaper archives, reading through city records, watching decades-old news video interviews and tracking other first-person accounts, meticulously pulling together “fragments” of the story, he said.
“With a normal cold case, you go to the police records room and pull out the folders from the case,” Pankoke said.
Despite the challenges, Pankoke said, “I saw shortcomings in what had been done, and thought, ‘I think we can do a better job.’”
Eventually, after eliminating some suspects and focusing on others – individuals who had access to information and possible motives – they believed they had their man.
The investigative team eventually decided that the Frank family had been turned in by Jewish businessman Arnold van den Bergh.
In 1940, Otto Frank and his family fled Germany for Amsterdam, where he set up a business. The family went into hiding two years later in an annex to his warehouse – through a hidden passage behind a bookcase.
That annex is now part of the Anne Frank House museum – called by Pankoke the most visited crime scene in the world.
Anne Frank received a diary for her 13th birthday, and kept track of activities – and her feelings – in hiding starting in 1942.
She and seven others were discovered and arrested in August 1944, and taken by train to Auschwitz, Poland – then transferred to a camp at Bergen-Belsen, Germany. Anne Frank died a year later at Bergen-Belsen, likely of typhus and exposure, historical accounts show.
Her writings found their way to her father, the lone Frank to survive the ordeal. He published the text in Dutch in 1947. The diary was translated to English in 1951 and published in that language in 1952 – and has since been read by millions in many languages, according to various accounts.
“The diary ends three days before the raid,” Pankoke said. “When I first read the diary, I never really thought beyond the moment, that the reasons for the raid had never been told.”
Clues that were run through computer models ultimately pointed to van den Bergh, an Amsterdam notary who served on the city’s Jewish council.
In the “60 Minutes” interview, Pankoke said the team mapped individuals who had lived nearby, and developed a list of ways the Frank family could have been compromised.
Were they seen in a window?
Did someone hear them from outside?
Did someone learn of their hiding spot and betray them?
“We were looking for those hidden connections,” Pankoke said.
The conclusion was based on circumstantial evidence that was “pretty convincing,” Pankoke said, but unlikely enough to get someone convicted. “There would be some reasonable doubt.”
He said Otto Frank received an anonymous note that van den Bergh was the one who had notified authorities of his family’s hiding place.
He added: “We’ve been fighting the narrative that we outed him … But, oh no – his name was in the public record.”
Pankoke said van den Bergh likely didn’t know whom he was turning in – and would have been given the terrible choice of providing evidence about Jews in hiding or seeing his own family taken off to a concentration camp.
The Nazis “forced him to act in order to save his life,” Pankoke said.
“The question we encountered here was: What would you do?” he said. “There were some who chose not to cooperate and went to the camps themselves, never to return.”
Pankoke said he is angered and saddened at people “trying to compare the Holocaust to being confined because of COVID.”
During the Nazi period, an estimated 6 million Jews were killed, along with millions of others.
“I’m not Jewish. I’m human,” Pankoke said. “This relates the work on a much grander scale.”
He added: “We must not have done a very good job of educating the next generation. People are still claiming the Holocaust didn’t happen.
“If we don’t understand the mistakes of history, we are doomed – as the saying goes – to repeat those mistakes.”
The now-famous Anne Frank case was not Vincent Pankoke’s first connection to World War II and the Holocaust – nor his family’s.
His father, Vince Pankoke Sr., was one of four brothers who served in the second world war.
In April 1945, Vince Sr.’s division in Germany helped liberate a small concentration sub-camp in the town of Garmisch, more than 400 miles south of Bergen-Belsen, where Anne Frank reportedly died.
“My dad would talk to me about the war, but not about this particular camp story – until I had reached adulthood and we saw the movie ‘Schindler’s List’ together,” Vince Jr. said.
Michael Burgan, Richland Township’s chief of police and Pankoke’s former colleague, sees the Amsterdam investigation as a full-circle experience for his friend – from Vince Sr.’s involvement in the liberation of a concentration camp in 1945 to Vince Jr.’s work to explain what happened to Anne Frank seven decades later.
“It’s amazing the stuff our parents and that World War II generation went through,” Burgan said. “This investigation was one way Vince paid homage to his father.”
Chip Minemyer is the editor and general manager of The Tribune-Democrat and TribDem.com, GM of The Times-News of Cumberland, Md., and CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.
To learn more about the investigation into the arrest of Anne Frank and her family in 9144:
• Watch the 60 Minutes segment featuring Johnstown native Vincent Pankoke:
www.cbsnews.com/news/anne-frank-betrayal-investigation-60-minutes-2022-01-16/
• Learn about Anne Frank and her diary:
www.annefrank.org/en/anne-frank/who-was-anne-frank/
Editor
Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune-Democrat and TribDem.com, and CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina. He can be reached at 814-532-5091. Follow him on Twitter @MinemyerChip.
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