Remembering Miep Gies

Anne Frank’s Protector Dies at 100

The first line of the play The Diary of Anne Frank demonstrated Miep Gies’s concern about the wellbeing of others. “Are you all right, Mr. Frank?” she asks a broken Otto Frank as they reunite in the secret annex after World War II.

Mrs. Gies and her husband, Jan, helped hide Anne Frank and her family, as well as four other Dutch Jews, in the annex above Otto’s office in Amsterdam from July 1942 to August 1944. She died on January 11 at the age of 100.

An employee and trusted friend of Otto, Anne’s father, Mrs. Gies gladly agreed to help shelter the family as the Nazis tore through Europe in search of Jewish people to exterminate.

She risked her life each day, knowing she faced certain death if the Gestapo discovered what she was doing. A special friend to Anne Frank, Mrs. Gies helped her through the difficult teen years with stories of dresses and parties, even bringing Anne her first pair of high-heeled shoes. In her diary, Anne described the little things that made Miep and the others who helped her, heroes:

Our helpers…have pulled us through up till now and we hope they will bring us safely to dry land. Otherwise, they will have to share the same fate as the many others who are being searched for. Never have we heard one word of the burden which we certainly must be to them, never has one of them complained of all the trouble we give.

They all come upstairs every day, talk to the men about business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties, and about newspapers and books with the children. They put on the brightest possible faces, bring flowers and presents for birthdays and bank holidays, are always ready to help and do all they can. That is something we must never forget; although others may show heroism in the war or against the Germans, our helpers display heroism in their cheerfulness and affection.1

Mrs. Gies, however, saw herself differently. In her memoir, Anne Frank Remembered, published in 1987, she wrote, “I am not a hero. 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.”2 While in her 80s, she travelled the world, speaking against intolerance.

Born February 15, 1909, as Hermine Santrouschitz, Mrs. Gies was the last survivor among Anne Frank’s protectors and the Jews of the secret annex. On August 4, 1944, the Gestapo raided the Franks’ hiding place and arrested its eight occupants. Anne’s diary and writings were left behind. Mrs. Gies was spared from arrest, perhaps because of her Austrian heritage.

She found Anne’s writings, hoping to give them back to her after the war. But Anne Frank died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp at age 15, as did her sister, Margot, at age 19. Her mother, Edith, died at Auschwitz. Otto Frank was the sole survivor.

Mrs. Gies was reunited with Otto after the war and gave him Anne’s diary, which was published in the Netherlands in 1947. It was first published in English in the United States in 1952. Over the years it has been translated into 50 languages and sold more than 25 million copies, making it one of the most significant works to emerge from the Holocaust.

ENDNOTES
  1. Anne Frank, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday, introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt (1947, Doubleday; New York, NY: Bantam, 1993), 146.
  2. Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold, Anne Frank Remembered (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1987), 11.

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