Anne Frank likely died of typhus in a Nazi concentration camp about a month earlier than previously thought, the Amsterdam museum that honors her memory said today on the 70th anniversary of the officially recognized date of her death. Anne likely died, aged 15, at the Bergen-Belsen camp in February 1945, says Erika Prins, a researcher at the Anne Frank House museum. The new date of her death changes little about the tragic lives of Anne and her sister, Margot, notes Prins: "It was horrible. It was terrible. And it still is." But she said the new date lays to rest the idea that the sisters could have been rescued if they had lived just a little longer.
The earlier March 31 date of Anne's death was set by Dutch authorities after the war, based on accounts suggesting she and her sister died sometime in March. At the time, Dutch officials did not have the resources to establish an exact date. Allied forces liberated the Nazis' Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on April 15, 1945. "When you say they died at the end of March, it gives you a feeling that they died just before liberation. So maybe if they'd lived two more weeks ..." Prins says, her voice trailing off. "Well, that's not true anymore." The new research studied existing eyewitness accounts, documents, and archives, including at least one new interview. Witness accounts said Anne and her sister already showed signs of typhus in early February. Researchers cited Dutch health authorities as saying most typhus deaths happen around 12 days after the first symptoms. (The bodies of WWII soldiers were recently found in a long-sealed cave.)