Karl Silberbauer

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Karl Silberbauer
Karl-silberbauer.jpg
Born Karl Josef Silberbauer
(1911-06-21)21 June 1911
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died 2 September 1972(1972-09-02) (aged 61)
Nationality Austrian
Occupation SS-Oberscharführer; Vienna Police Officer
Known for Arresting Anne Frank and seven other occupants of the "Secret Annexe"
Political party
National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party)

Karl Josef Silberbauer (21 June 1911 – 2 September 1972) was an Austrian SD non-commissioned officer holding the rank of SS-Oberscharführer (staff sergeant), when, serving in the occupied Netherlands, he arrested Anne Frank and her family in their hiding place in 1944.[1]

Biography[edit]

Born in Vienna, Silberbauer served in the Austrian military before following his father into the police force in 1935. Four years later, he joined the Gestapo, moved to the Netherlands, and in 1943 transferred to the SD in The Hague.

On 4 August 1944 he was instructed by his superior, Julius Dettmann, to investigate a tip-off that Jews were being hidden in upstairs rooms at Prinsengracht 263. He took a few officers with him and interrogated Victor Kugler about the entrance to the hiding place. Miep Gies was also questioned, but allowed to stay on the premises after Kugler and his associate Johannes Kleiman, together with Otto Frank, Edith Frank-Holländer, Margot Frank, Anne Frank, Hermann van Pels, Auguste van Pels, Peter van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer, were arrested and taken to Gestapo headquarters. From there the eight who had been in hiding were sent to the Westerbork transit camp, and then to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Victor Kugler and Jo Kleiman were sent to work camps. Of the ten, only Otto Frank, Kugler, and Kleiman survived.

Silberbauer returned to Vienna in April 1945 to begin serving fourteen months imprisonment on a charge of unnecessary brutality while interrogating members of the Communist Party of Germany.[2] After the war, Silberbauer was used by the West German intelligence service, or Bundesnachrichtendienst, to infiltrate neo-Nazi and Pro-Soviet organizations.[3][4]

He was reinstated by the Viennese Kriminalpolizei (Kripo) in 1954, four years after the German publication of Anne Frank's diary.

Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal began searching for Silberbauer in 1958, when Wiesenthal was challenged by Holocaust deniers to prove the existence of Anne Frank. Silberbauer's name had been disclosed in 1948 during the Dutch police investigation into the denunciation and arrest of those hiding in the Secret Annex. The Dutch police detectives who had assisted with the raid were identified by Miep Gies and claimed to remember nothing, other than the name of their superior, Karl Silberbauer.

Wiesenthal requested the help of Anne's father, Otto Frank, who refused. Otto Frank felt that those responsible for the original denunciation, not the arresting officer, bore the greatest responsibility. Wiesenthal disagreed and began a search for Silberbauer. In October 1963, after investigating and ruling out fourteen other Austrians with the same name, the Wiesenthal Center tracked Silberbauer down.

Silberbauer in later life

Silberbauer was suspended from the Vienna police force pending an investigation into his wartime activities. When the Dutch media learned of his whereabouts, they descended on his home. Silberbauer freely admitted to them that he had arrested Anne Frank. The story was broken to the world's press on November 11, 1963. Meanwhile, the Dutch police's investigation into the identity of the informer was reopened.

Silberbauer's recollections of the arrest[edit]

Silberbauer's memories of the arrest were notably vivid – he in particular recalled Otto and Anne Frank. When he asked Otto Frank how long they had been in hiding, Frank answered, "Two years and one month." Silberbauer was incredulous, until Otto stood Anne against the marks made on the wall to measure her height since they had arrived in the annex, showing that she had grown even since the last mark had been made. Silberbauer said that Anne "looked like the pictures in the books, but a little older, and prettier. 'You have a lovely daughter', I said to Mr. Frank".[5]

Silberbauer had only been told by his superiors that the tip came from a "reliable source" and was unable to provide any information that could help further the Dutch police's investigation. His superior officer, Julius Dettmann, who had originally taken the call, committed suicide immediately after the war. The Viennese and the Amsterdam police could not produce enough evidence of a criminal act to prosecute Silberbauer. Given Otto Frank's crucial declaration that Silberbauer had behaved correctly and without cruelty during the arrest, the judicial investigation was dropped. His suspension from the police force was lifted and he returned to work.

The Independent reports that Silberbauer made the following comments about Anne Frank's diary: "I bought the little book last week to see if I am in it. But I am not. Maybe I should have picked it up off the floor."[6]

Sources[edit]

  • The Critical Edition of the Diary of Anne Frank, Anne Frank, edited by David Barnow, 2003
  • Anne Frank House: a museum with a story, Anne Frank Foundation 1999
  • Roses from the Earth, Carol Ann Lee

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tracking Down Silberbauer". annefrank.org. 
  2. ^ Melissa Müller, Anne Frank – the Biography, p. 276.
  3. ^ Paterson, Tony (11 April 2011). "Nazi who arrested Anne Frank 'became a spy for West Germany'". The Independent (London). 
  4. ^ 11 April 2011 dated El País article (Spanish) accessed on 22nd April 2011
  5. ^ Carol Ann Lee. Roses from the Earth. pp. 245–246. 
  6. ^ Tony Paterson in Berlin (11 April 2011). "Nazi who arrested Anne Frank 'became a spy for West Germany'". The Independent. Retrieved 19 August 2012.