Miep Gies died yesterday at age 100, after a brief illness. While her name might not seem familiar, Miep was the young Dutch Christian woman who hid the family of Anne Frank for more than 2 years during Nazi occupation in Holland. She was Otto Frank’s secretary. Hiding Jews during this time put anyone at risk, yet Miep not only confronted the Gestapo, but she also sequestered Anne Frank’s diary away until after the war. After the war, she returned to diary to Anne’s father, Otto Frank.
According to Business Week:
Gies was the last survivor of a group of co-workers who hid the Frank family and four other Jews in a secret annex of an Amsterdam office building owned by Anne’s father, Otto. From July 6, 1942, until Aug. 4, 1944, Gies, her husband, Jan, and the other helpers risked arrest and possible death by providing the Jews with food, supplies, news and a link to the outside world.
After the Gestapo raided the annex and sent the Franks and the others in hiding to concentration camps, Gies and a fellow worker, Bep Voskuijl, sifted through the debris and found Anne’s cloth-covered diary. Gies hid it in a desk drawer until after the war, hoping to return it to its young author.
Upon learning that Anne and her sister, Margot, died at Bergen-Belsen, Gies gave the diary to Otto Frank, the only family member who survived the camps. He published it in 1947
Miep Gies dedicated her life to keeping Anne Frank’s story alive. She traveled to different countries and spoke at schools and to civic and church groups. Every August 4, the day the Franks were taken away, Miep shut herself up in the house with the curtains drawn to commemorate the taking of her friends.
Gies received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for bravery in 1990 and the Order of Merit from Germany in 1994. In Israel, the Yad Vashem memorial pays tribute to Gies as a member of the Righteous Among Nations, a list of non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust. She humbly accepted the accolades, insisting that what she did during those two years wasn’t extraordinary.
“I am not a hero,” Gies wrote in her autobiography, “Anne Frank Remembered” (Simon & Schuster, 1988). “I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more — much more — during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness.”
Gies was born Hermine Santrouschitz to Christian parents on Feb. 15, 1909, in Vienna. Austrians were suffering from a food shortage after World War I, and Gies was sent to Leiden, the Netherlands, as part of a relief program to help malnourished children. She lived with a foster family, who gave her the name Miep, believing that Hermine was too formal.
Anne Frank, the Diary of a Young Girl has sold more copies than any non-fiction book other than the Bible. Several films have been made of the story. Oddly enough, I watched the 2001 film starring Sir Ben Kingsly as Otto Frank over the weekend. It was quite different from the earlier version. The viewer actually traveled with the Frank family from being a solidly middle class family into the horrors of the concentration camps. Miep and her co-workers stood out as those who took that extra step to do the right thing, to correct a wrong, even when their very lives were at risk for doing so.
How wonderful that Ms. Gies had such a long life with little illness involved. The people of the world will be forever indebted to her for her contributions and because she reminds us of the evil men can and will do until good and decent people stand up and say NO MORE.
What is it that makes a person silently stand up against wrong-doing? Is it the person, it is the situation? How come some people could turn their heads to what was happening all around them and others were called to take unthinkable riskly steps of bravery that not only could impact their way of life but their very lives?
The extreme bravery of Miep Gies does not die with her. Her bravery and courage jumps out of every page of the the Anne Frank books and off of every frame in the films. Her bravery has impacted several generations of readers and will continue to do so. She will serve as a model when people question how to do the right thing.
Miep Gies Resources
There are many others.