New research sets Anne Frank’s death earlier.
For 70 years, Anne Frank was believed to have died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen just two weeks before allied forces liberated the Nazi death camp on April 15, 1945.
This week, however, new research released by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam concludes that the 15-year-old Jewish diarist and her older sister, Margot, more likely died in February, not on March 31. The Dutch government fixed that date at the end of World War II after the Red Cross concluded Anne and her sister died sometime between March 1 and March 31.
The researchers based their new findings on eyewitness testimonies of survivors and the archives of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Red Cross and the International Tracing Service.
“It is unlikely that they were still alive in March; their deaths must have occurred in February 1945,” the Anne Frank House said.
The exact date of their deaths remains unknown.
“One day they simply weren’t there anymore,” one camp survivor who was friends with the girls told the researchers.
Annelies Marie Frank’s famous diary tells of hiding with her family and other Jews in secret rooms behind a bookcase in the house that is now her museum. After two years of hiding, they were betrayed to the Nazi occupiers, and she, Margot and their mother were shipped by train to Auschwitz-Birkenau in early September 1944. Two months later, Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen.
In early December, Nanaette Blitz, a former classmate who was transferred to the overcrowded camp, told of finding Anne, saying it was a miracle they recognized one another.
“She was no more than a skeleton by then,” Blitz recounted. “She was wrapped in a blanket; she couldn’t bear to wear her clothes anymore because they were crawling with lice.” Lice are the main carrier of typhus, the symptoms of which include severe headaches, muscle pain, high fever, followed by skin rash and delirium.
The last time Blitz saw her was January 1945, when typhus was epidemic in the women’s camp. By that time, the researchers write, Anne Frank “was clearly already gravely ill,” and Margot “was in an even worse condition than her sister.”
Other inmates, including Auguste van Pels, who had hidden with the Franks, reported similar observations of the girls’ health before they were transferred to Raghun, another slave-labor camp, on Feb. 7, 1945.
“In fact, this is where their trail runs cold,” the researchers write.
Based on those eyewitness accounts and because Anne and Margot were already frail when they arrived at Bergen-Belsen, “it is unlikely that they survived until the end of March. In view of this, the date of their death is more likely to be sometime in February.”
The earlier date lays to rest the notion that Anne and her sister were only days from being rescued when they died, researcher Erika Prins told the Guardian.
“When you say they died at the end of March, it gives you a feeling that they died just before liberation,” Prins said. “Well, that’s not true anymore.”