‘Anne Frank died a month earlier than presumed’

Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who wrote her world-famous journal while living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II, is seen in this 1942 photo. Foto AP

New research by the Anne Frank Foundation has found that Anne Frank most likely died a month earlier than previously thought. According to official Red Cross documents, Anne, aged 15, died from typhoid fever in the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen on 31 March 1945. However, new witness reports suggest that Anne was already too ill by February to have survived for two more months.

Researchers from the Anne Frank Foundation reconstructed Anne and her elder sister Margot’s final months by studying several archives and testimonies by survivors. Their conclusions were published today (in Dutch).

Witness testimonies

Like tens of thousands other victims from concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, the time and place of death of Anne Frank and her sister Margot remain unknown.

They arrived in the German concentration camp on November 3rd, 1944. Apart from a few witness testimonies, little is known about that period. Nannete Blitz, a former classmate of Anne, recounts meeting Anne a few times up to January 1945:

“By then she already looked like a skeleton. She was covered in a blanket. She couldn’t wear her own clothes anymore because they were swarming with lice.”

Typhoid symptoms

The last time a camp survivor met with Anne dates back to the beginning of February 1945. At the camp’s fence, Anne met a girlfriend from Amsterdam, who gave her a food package. This had been arranged by Auguste van Pels, who had spent time into hiding with Anne in the Achterhuis at the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam.

This encounter must have taken place before February 7th, because on that day Auguste was transported to a forced labor camp. Other acquaintances of Margot en Anne from the Westerbork camp were on the same transport. They had seen the Frank sisters were showing symptoms of typhoid.

Suffering from this deadly illness, it is highly unlikely that Anne and Margot survived until March. According to the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, most patients die twelve days after the first symptoms present themselves. Because they arrived in Bergen-Belsen in such a feeble state, they probably died sometime in February 1945. Their exact time of death remains unknown. (NRC)