On August 4, 1944, the police of Nazi-occupied Amsterdam stormed the house of Anne Frank, arresting her along with seven others who had been hiding in a secret annex for two years. Most of her incredible and tragic story before this day is well-known thanks to her famous diary entries. However, over the past 70 years, no one has ever figured out who tipped-off the police, revealing that Frank and her companions were hiding in a room behind the house's bookcase.
A retired FBI agent and a team of 20 investigators are now hoping to employ the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to solve this enduring mystery.
“This is the ultimate cold case,” Vincent Pankoke, the former-FBI investigator leading the project, told Reuters.
“We are going to load every piece of data we can find from the time period,” he said. “There is so much information that is out there that has never been looked at.”
There are over 30 people who historians already suspect could be the informer, from the cleaning lady to one of the house’s neighbors. Among some of the more interesting theories include Ans van Dijk, a Jewish woman who became a Gestapo agent after being threatened with deportation. There’s also Joseph Jansen, a man who denounced Frank’s father, Otto, in 1941 after suspecting him of having an affair with his wife.
Prepped to finally solve this case are an Amsterdam-based team consisting of police officers, historians, criminologists, and two data scientists from the big date company Xomnia who will help develop the AI. They hope to compile an extensive collection of information and use algorithms to reveal patterns, trends, and associations within the vast amounts of data.
The team is also seeking crowd-funding “to remain independent and impartial” and claims it will present its findings on August 4, 2019.
"Xomnia is building an information storage and retrieval system that allows the researchers to record any information they find in the historical archives. Our software allows them to search the data and visualize it new ways,” Marius Helf, Chief Data Scientist at Xomnia, said in a statement.
“This has already led to a few new traces. In the future, we plan to make the system more intelligent, in the sense that it will be able to automatically connect persons, events, and places.”
“We hope that this way we can find important and new clues to understand what actually happened in the weeks preceding the arrest of the Anne Frank family August 4, 1944 and eventually be able to identify the traitor with high confidence."