Heroic Miep Gies passes away at 100
Posted by Ethan Clow on January 15, 2010
Today I was saddened to hear that Miep Gies died. For those who don’t know, Miep Gies was one of the “helpers” who protected Ann Frank and her family while they hid in her father’s office attic.
As most people know, the story of Anne Frank is chronicled in her diaries that many of us have read. In actuality there are two versions. The 1953 version is edited for content (much to the chagrin of historians) a complete version is The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition.
If you don’t know the story of Anne Frank than I’m hesitant to tell you, I’d much rather you read her diary. Her words are far more powerful than mine.
I would like to talk a bit about Miep Gies though.
She was born in 1909 in Vienna; she moved to the Netherlands after the First World War and decided to stay there.
She grew up and eventually became the secretary of Otto Frank in 1933. She became friends with Otto Frank and his family, and their daughters Margot and Anne. The Frank’s had fled Germany to escape Jewish persecution.
When Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, the Franks, as Jews, were in mortal danger. So they went into hiding. Otto asked Miep for help. She agreed to not only to hide the family and keep them a secret even though she was risking her life just for that alone. She also brought them food and supplies and companionship. For more than two years, together with her colleagues Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl. She made sure that Otto, his wife Edith and their daughters Margot and Anne were kept safe.
Tragically they were betrayed and the Frank family along with the Van Pels family, who were hiding with them, were captured and transferred to concentration camps. Miep preserved the diaries and when Otto Frank was released she returned the last trace of Anne Frank to her father.
She continued to lead a courageous life, telling the world of Anne Frank, speaking out against neo-Nazi’s who denied the diary, and corresponding with people whose lives she touched.
You can find more information about Miep and the Franks at the Anne Frank House website.
On a personal note, I visited the Anne Frank House when I was in Amsterdam. I’d like to share some the notes I wrote about that experience from two years ago.
” You can walk through the rooms and they have quotes from her diary and pictures and of her family. There are also small exhibits of stuff that was left behind, videos that show interviews with people who worked there and such. It’s pretty emotional and ultimately it’s a very tragic story.
One neat antidote I heard was from an interview with one of the helpers who was there. Miep Gies told how she came into the room one day and didn’t realize Anne was there, and when she saw her, at her desk writing Anne gave her this really angry look and slammed her diary closed. Anne’s mother came in and said, “Miep, you see, we have a daughter who writes…” And Anne looked up at Miep giving her this uppity look and said “Yes, and I’m writing about you too!” and walked out of the room. “
Miep was the last surviving members of Anne Franks protectors. She insisted for her whole life that she wasn’t a hero for protecting the Franks. She said that her actions were those of a human being helping someone in need and she did was anyone else would do. However I think the tragic lesson of the Holocaust is that Miep’s actions were far from what anyone would do…in actuality it was the opposite. Most chose to do nothing.
Miep, I know you claimed to not be a hero, but I respectfully disagree.