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Miep Gies Dies - Hid Anne Frank and Family
#1
On the Death of Miep Gies

Category: shoah
Posted on: January 12, 2010 11:33 AM, by Sharon Astyk

Until I saw Ilargi's lovely obit for Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis and who rescued Anne's diary, I hadn't realized that she had died at 100. I can only add that there is a life worth mourning, and Ilargi's piece is well worth reading:
The Dutch language would be a hell of a lot poorer if not for the centuries of Jewish culture that enriched the country, and most of all Amsterdam. Rembrandt and Vermeer, and all of their 17th century peers, would not have created what they did without the Jews. The tulip bubble, well, perhaps, but the spice trade that made the city the center of the universe would never have happened without Amsterdam's Jordaan people. And no, rich they were not. In fact, for most of them most of the time, they were the poorest of the poor.

And it's all still there, the culture, the songs, the humor, the words. It's just that the people are not. They were renditioned away.

Through the ages, Holland was a refuge for Jewish people from all over Europe. In the 1940's, they were put on transport trains to camps, and 90% never came back, including Anne. The city center, and the Jordaan, may now be populated with well-to-do 21st century citizens, but if you take the time to stand still on one of the many bridges in the hood and you listen well, you can still feel the emptiness left behind by those who were forced to die like so much cattle.

And that, my friends, is my personal hinterland. That is me.

And don't worry, I know about the Dutch part in the slave trade, and a 100,000 other despicable trades. My people are about as guilty as they come. And that is me too. But my people were also welcoming the Jews for centuries when they were cast out everywhere else.

History is a multi-pronged tool, a bird of many feathers and a beast of many moods. Nothing changed there, and nothing ever will. We are a blood-thirsty species, more, much more, than we are willing to allow. It will decide our way forward as it has our ways in the past. And we will not make it a pretty picture. We simply can't. We'll be cruel as can be. As we are.

But we will also have always another Anne Frank and another Miep Gies. One lived to be 15 years old, the other 100. Both saw, first-hand, more gratuitous violence than most of us will ever see in our lifetimes. There is some layer of comfort in there, and I hope you will forgive me for not being able to identify it off the bat. I'm just sure it's there.

Here's Miep Gies in her own words:

I am not a hero

'More than twenty thousand Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years. I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough.

There is nothing special about me. I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time."
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Miep Gies, the last survivor among Anne Frank’s protectors and the woman who preserved the diary that endures as a testament to the human spirit in the face of unfathomable evil, died Monday night, the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam said. She was 100.
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Steve North/Associated Press

Miep Gies displayed a copy of her book “Anne Frank Remembered” at her apartment in Amsterdam in 1998.
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Times Topics: Anne Frank | Holocaust and the Nazi Era
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Anne Frank House, via Associated Press

Miep Gies, front left, and Otto Frank, center, in a 1945 photograph. With them are those who helped hide the Franks: Johannes Kleiman, back left, Victor Kugler and Elizabeth Voskuijl.

The British Broadcasting Corporation said Mrs. Gies suffered a fall late last month and died at a nursing home.

“I am not a hero,” Mrs. Gies wrote in her memoir, “Anne Frank Remembered,” published in 1987. “I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more — much more — during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those of us who bear witness.”

Mrs. Gies sought no accolades for joining with her husband and three others in hiding Anne Frank, her father, mother and older sister and four other Dutch Jews for 25 months in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But she came to be viewed as a courageous figure when her role in sheltering Anne Frank was revealed with the publication of her memoir. She then traveled the world while in her 80s, speaking against intolerance. The West German government presented her with its highest civilian medal in 1989, and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands knighted her in 1996.

When the Gestapo raided the hiding place in the annex to Otto Frank’s business office on Aug. 4, 1944, and arrested its eight occupants, it left behind his daughter Anne’s diary and her writings on loose sheets of papers. The journals recounted life in those rooms behind a movable bookcase and the hopes of a girl on the brink of womanhood. Mrs. Gies gathered up those writings and hid them, unread, hoping that Anne would someday return to claim them.

But when Anne’s father, Otto Frank, returned to Amsterdam at the end of World War II, having been liberated from Auschwitz, he was the lone survivor of the family. Anne Frank had died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp three months before her 16th birthday. Her sister, Margot, died there at age 19 and their mother, Edith Frank, died at Auschwitz.

Mrs. Gies gave Anne’s writings to Mr. Frank, and they were first published in the Netherlands in 1947 in an abridged version. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” has since been translated into dozens of languages in several editions, read by millions and adapted for the stage and screen, a voice representing the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.

But Mrs. Gies remained largely anonymous until an American writer, Alison Leslie Gold, persuaded her to tell her story and worked with her on “Anne Frank Remembered.”

Miep Gies was born Feb. 15, 1909, as Hermine Santrouschitz, a member of a Roman Catholic family in Vienna. When she was 11, she was sent to Leiden to be cared for by a Dutch family, being among the many Austrian children suffering from food shortages in the wake of World War I. She was given the Dutch nickname Miep and later adopted by the family.

When she was 13, the family moved to Amsterdam, and in 1933 she became a secretary to Otto Frank, who was overseeing the Dutch branch of a German company selling an ingredient for manufacturing jam. Mr. Frank had fled Hitler’s Germany, and he was soon joined by his wife and daughters.

Miep became a trusted employee and friend of the Frank family and joined in its alarm over the persecution of German Jews. In May 1940, the Netherlands fell in Germany’s invasion of the Low Countries. In July 1942, when thousands of Dutch Jews were being deported to concentration camps, the Frank family went into hiding in unused rooms above Mr. Frank’s office. He asked Mrs. Gies if she would help shelter them, and she unhesitatingly agreed.

The annex became a hiding place not only for the Franks but for three members of a family named van Pels — the father a business colleague of Mr. Frank’s — and Mrs. Gies’s dentist, Fritz Pfeffer.

Having married a Dutch social worker, Jan Gies, in 1941, Miep Gies joined with him and three other employees of Mr. Frank’s business in sheltering the eight Jews and caring for their daily needs. The protectors risked death if caught by the Nazis.

Mrs. Gies, while continuing to work for Mr. Frank’s business, which remained open under figurehead Christian management, played a central role in caring for the hidden. She found food for them, brought books and news of the outside world and provided emotional support, bringing Anne her first pair of high-heeled shoes and baking a holiday cake. On one occasion, Miep and Jan Gies (he is referred to in the diary as Henk, one of many pseudonyms Anne used) spent a night in the annex to experience the terror there for themselves.

At their apartment a short bicycle ride away, Mrs. Gies and her husband, a member of the Dutch resistance, hid an anti-Nazi university student.
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