The European Jewish Congress (EJC) has asked the American publisher Harper Collins to withdraw the English-language edition of The Betrayal of Anne Frank from sale and to distance itself from the book’s controversial historical claims.
At the very least, Harper Collins should suspend the printing of The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation until these claims are proven, the EJC wrote in a letter to Harper Collins CEO Brian Murray.
Meanwhile, Harper Collins Deutschland said that it would have external experts assess the book’s claims before publishing. The German translation was due to appear March 22.
The request to the management of Harper Collins in New York to withdraw the book from circulation was sent by Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress (ECJ). This organization represents Jewish communities in more than 40 European countries and brings together 2.5 million European Jews. The EJC, based in Brussels, picked up on the criticism in the Dutch press and then decided to take action.
The EJC is outraged by the book’s central thesis, which is that Jewish notary Arnold van den Bergh allegedly betrayed the people in hiding in the Secret Annex (Achterhuis).
“At a time when antisemitism and the denial and distortion of the Holocaust are on the rise, such a potentially incendiary claim would have to be substantiated beyond a reasonable doubt, and following a critical review process by qualified experts before being considered for publication.” Kantor wrote.
The letter quotes the criticism of Professor of Modern Jewish History Bart Wallet, who calls the book’s argumentation “extraordinarily unsatisfactory” because it has not been shown that Van den Bergh had “the knowledge, motive and opportunity” to betray the Frank family. T
he publication has created ‘malicious headlines’ highlighting Van den Bergh’s Jewish origins and propagating the ‘promoting the insidious narrative that one of the most well-known Jewish victims of the Holocaust and the author of one of its most important accounts had been betrayed by one of her own,’ the letter continues.
Kantor is referring to the decision by Dutch publisher Ambo Anthos to suspend any subsequent printings of the book. Ambo Anthos says it relied on Harper Collins’ judgment in deciding to publish the book. Ambo Anthos apologised later for the uncritical way the publication was handled, but placed the main responsibility for it on Harper Collins because the global rights were bought by Harper Collins, therefore they determined the content.
“As a publisher it is not possible to judge all details of the argument of a team of researchers and author for correctness or substantiation, but we are responsible for the publication in the Dutch language area. We realize that we have gained momentum with the international publication and that a more critical stance here would have been possible,” read Ambo Anthos’ explanation to its own authors.
Harper Collins bought the global rights to The Betrayal from Marianne Schönbach’s Netherlands-based literary agency in the spring of 2018. It was one of the most talked about deals at the London Book Fair. It is not known what was paid for it. Schönbach’s agency represented Proditione Media BV, the firm of project managers Thijs Bayens, Pieter van Twisk and Luc Gerrits. Harper Collins sold the rights to 23 countries.