Born on 21 June 1911, Karl Josef Silberbauer was an Austrian police officer, SS member and undercover investigator for the German Federal Intelligence Service. Posted to Amsterdam during the Second World War. During the conflict he was promoted to the rank of Hauptscharführer(1). It was he who commanded the Gestapo raid on the Secret Annex and the arrests of Anne Frank and her seven fugitive companions and their kind protectors. In the sixties Silberbauer was a police inspector in Vienna.
On August 4, 1944, his superior, Second Lieutenant SS Obersturmführer(2) Julius Dettmann, ordered Silberbauer to investigate information indicating that Jews were hidden in the rooms of 263 in Prinsengracht.He then took with him some Dutch policemen. They question Victor Kugler about the entrance to the hiding place.Miep Gies and Johannes Kleiman are questioned. While Kugler and Kleimann were arrested, Gies was allowed to remain at the scene.
Otto Frank and Karl Silberbauer were both questioned after the war about the circumstances of the raid, both describing Silberbauer’s surprise that those who were hiding had been there for more than two years. Frank remembered that Silberbauer was confiscating their valuables and money, carrying these remains in Otto Frank’s briefcase, which he had emptied on the floor by scattering the papers and notebooks that constituted Anne Frank’s diary.
Shortly thereafter, their protectors, 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 the Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam. Margot Frank and Anne Frank were quickly transferred to Bergen-Belsen, where they both died of typhus, Three weeks before the British forces liberated the camp, Victor Kugler and Jo Kleiman were sent to labour camps. Of the ten, only Otto Frank, Kugler and Kleiman survived.
In April 1945, Silberbauer returned to Vienna. He is serving a 14-month prison sentence for using excessive force against members of the Austrian Communist Party. After his release, Silberbauer was recruited by the German Federal Intelligence Service(3). Like former Nazis such as Klaus Barbie, Silberbauer spent ten years there as an undercover agent. Peter-Ferdinand Koch, a reporter at the Der Spiegel, learned of his post-war activities when he investigated the employment of former Nazis by the BND. Silberbauer infiltrated neo-Nazi and pro-Soviet organizations in West Germany and Austria, because the managers of the BND rightly believed that Silberbauer’s seniority in the SS would blind the neo-Nazis.
Probably due to pressure from the BND, Silberbauer was reinstated by the Viennese Kriminalpolizei(4) in 1954, four years after the German publication of Anne Frank’s diary. He was then promoted to the rank of Inspektor.
Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal began searching for Silberbauer in 1958. It is then challenged by the Austrian deniers to prove that Anne Frank really existed.One Holocaust denier said that if Anne Frank’s arresting officer was found and recognized him, he would change his mind.
As part of the 1948 Dutch police investigation into the raid on the Secret Annex, Silberbauer’s name had been leaked under the name Silvernagel.Members of the Dutch police who had participated in the raid were identified by Miep Gies, who recalled that his commander had a working-class Vienna accent. they claimed to remember only one erroneous form of their superior’s surname.
Wiesenthal considered contacting Anne’s father, Otto Frank. But then, the Nazi hunter learned that Otto Frank was speaking out in favour of forgiveness and reconciliation.Otto Frank also believed that the person responsible for reporting to the Gestapo, not the arresting officers, had the greatest responsibility.Wiesenthal, he was determined to discredit the growing Holocaust denial movement and to continue his search for “Silvernagel”. In the late spring of 1963, after dismissing many Austrians with similar names, Wiesenthal was lent a Gestapo telephone directory in wartime by Dutch investigators. On a two-hour flight from Amsterdam to Vienna, Wiesenthal found the name “Silberbauer” attached to “Sektion IV B 4.”
Upon his arrival in Vienna, Simon Wiesenthal immediately telephoned Dr Josef Wiesinger, whose mission was to investigate Nazi crimes on behalf of the Austrian Ministry of the Interior. Wiesinger insisted that there were “at least six men in the Vienna police” with the same surname and asked for a written request. On 2 June 1963, Wiesenthal submitted a detailed request, but was told for months that the Vienna police were not yet ready to publish its findings. In fact, the Vienna police identified InspektorSilberbauer almost immediately.When Siberbauer recognized his role in the arrest of Anne Frank, the department was terrified of the bad press that would result from the disclosure of her past.Therefore, The Vienna police suspended Mr. Silberbauer du Kripo without pay, ordered him to “keep quiet” about the reasons for his suspension, but instead deplored his suspension and explained the reasons to a colleague. This colleague, a member of the Austrian Communist Party, immediately disclosed this information to the party’s official journal, which published it on 11 November 1963. After the Izvestias praised the “detective work of Austrian comrades,” Wiesenthal leaked Silberbauer’s speech. When the journalists came across Silberbauer’s house in Vienna, the policeman freely admitted that he had arrested Anne Frank.
Asked about Anne Frank’s diary, Silberbauer said: I bought the little book last week to see if I’m in it. But I am not. “After being told by a journalist that he “could have been the first to read it,” Silberbauer laughed and said, “Maybe I should have taken him down.”
The former Hauptscharführer Silberbauer remembers the arrest of the inhabitants of the Annex. When Frank asked Otto Frank how long they were hiding, Frank said, “Two years and a month”. Silberbauer was naturally incredulous. Otto then shows her the marks made on the wall to measure Anne’s size since they arrived in the annex, which shows that she had grown even after the last mark.Silberbauer said that Anne “looked like pictures in books, but a little older and prettier.” You have a lovely daughter, said the former SS to Mr. Frank. Although he revealed what he knew, Silberbauer was unable to provide any information to assist the Dutch police investigation into the Dutch collaborator who led to the arrest.He explained that the appeal had been taken by his commander, Lieutenant SS Julius Dettmann, who only stated that the information came from “a reliable source”. As Dettmann committed suicide after the end of the war in a prisoner of war camp (Huis van Bewaring, Havenstraat 6, Amsterdam, The Netherlands), the second investigation also reached a stalemate.
The Austrian government said the arrest of Anne Frank “does not justify the arrest or prosecution of Silberbauer as a war criminal”. Nevertheless, the Vienna police called a disciplinary hearing against Silberbauer.Among the witnesses was Otto Frank, who said that Silberbauer “did his duty and behaved properly” at the time of the arrest. The only thing I ask is to never have to see the man again.
As a result, the Police Review Committee exonerated Silberbauer from official guilt. His unpaid suspension was lifted and the Vienna police assigned him to a desk job at the “identification office” or Erkennungsamt.
Inspector Karl Joseph Silberbauer died in Vienna on 2 September 1972. He is buried in the Mauer Friedensstrasse cemetery where his wife Barbara is also buried.