Gies, tiny, gentle and courageous, is now 95 years old. An
unfamiliar name to most people, but without this remarkable woman, there
would be no The Diary of Anne Frank. During the Nazi
occupation of Holland the Austrian-born Dutch woman risked her life daily
to hide Anne
Frank and her family from the Nazis. For more than two years, Miep
helped the Franks and four other people evade the Gestapo by
bringing food, comfort and news of the world to them in a tiny hideout in
the canal-side building that housed the family business.
all ended on August 4, 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed and the
family was arrested by the Nazis. A few hours later, wandering mournfully
through the four small upstairs rooms, Miep discovered the
plaid-cloth-covered diary kept by the young teenager.
saving the diary from the debris left by the Nazis, Miep Gies made sure
that Anne Frank’s name was known around the world - since its initial
publication in 1947, The Diary of Anne Frank has sold more than 25
million copies in 54 languages. After the Bible, it is the most widely
read book in the world - for many children, their first direct brush with
the horrors of the Holocaust. Though Anne Frank never lived to see her
16th birthday, her innermost thoughts scribbled on scraps of paper still
challenge us a full fifty years after her death ...
since, Miep Gies has devoted her life to keeping the memory of her beloved
friends alive. She is the only person mentioned in The Diary of Anne
Frank who is still alive. Every year on August 4, she closes her
curtains, ignores the doorbell, the telephone. Every year on August 4, Miep
Gies grieves for her lost Jewish friends.
Gies was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909 as Hermine Santrouschitz. She
was five years old, when the First World War began and because of the
serious food shortages during the war, she soon became undernourished and
sick. In her book Anne Frank Remembered Miep recalled:
I was ten years old, my parents had another child; another daughter. Now
there was even less food for us all. My condition was worsening, and my
parents were told that something had to be done or I would die.
part of a relief program to help malnourished children she was sent by her
hard-pressed parents to live with a middle-class Dutch foster family in
Leiden in Holland:
train was filled with many children like me, all with cards around their
necks. Suddenly, the faces of my parents were no longer in sight anywhere
and the train had begun to move. All the children were scared and
apprehensive about what was to become of us. Some were crying. Most of us
had never even been outside our streets, certainly never outside Vienna. I
felt too weak to observe much, found the chugging motion of the train made
was pitch-black, the middle of the night, when the train stopped. The sign
beside the still-steaming train said Leiden:
the exhausted, sick children crowded a group of adults. Suddenly, those
adults came at us in a swarm and began to fumble with our cards, reading
off the names. We were helpless to resist the looming forms and fumbling
hands. A man, not very big but very strong-looking, read my tag. Ja,
he said firmly, and took my hand in his, helping me down from the chair.
He led me away, I was not afraid and went with him willingly.
several weeks, some of Miep's strength began to return.
Miep thrived in her new Dutch home, she came to love her new family very
much - five children, not much money, but great kindness. They taught her
generosity. She never lived with her parents again. She was a good
student, a reliable secretary, had a lively social life and was one of the
first girls in Amsterdam to learn the Charleston.
1933 she took a job as an office assistant for Otto Frank, who had brought
his Jewish family to Holland from Germany to escape the Nazis and
reestablished his business in Amsterdam. Miep soon became good friends
with the Frank family - Otto, his wife Edith, and their daughters, Margot
family's feelings of security collapsed, however, when in 1940, Adolf
Hitler and his troops conquered Holland and the freedom of the Jews
began to be severely restricted. Dictates on where Jews could shop, swim
or go to school became a part of everyday life. As the brutality of the
Nazis soon accelerated with murder, violence and terror, the seeds of
their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Otto Frank in
all its horror. He spent 1941-42 preparing and stocking an annex behind
his business office at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. The entrance
to these rooms on the third and fourth floors was concealed by a moving
bookcase which could be closed.
came to his loyal employee and friend Miep Gies with a question that
would, in a split second, change her life forever. 'Miep,' he said,
'Are you willing to take on the responsibility of taking care of us if
we go into hiding?' There was an immediate reply: 'Of course'. Of
course, she said without asking for details. She agreed to help the
Franks go into hiding in the secret annex despite threat of imprisonment,
deportation or execution.
her 13th birthday in 1942 Anne received as a gift from her parents, a
diary. She immediately took to writing her intimate thoughts and musings.
A few short weeks later, however, Margot received a notice from the Nazi
SS to report for work detail at a labor camp. On July 5th, 1942, Anne and
the Frank family moved to the 'Secret Annex' ..
people eventually came to live in the secret annex. There were the four
members of the Frank family, Otto Frank, Edith Frank, Margot and Anne,
three from the Van Pels family, Herman and Auguste Van Pels and their son
Peter, and an elderly man named Pfeffer, Miep's dentist.
July 16, 1941, Miep Santrouschitz married her boyfriend, Jan Gies, a
social worker and member of the Dutch underground. Miep, Jan and three
others risked their lives daily and acted as helpers for the people in the
annex, and brought them food, supplies and news of the world outside the
friendship with Anne Frank was especially strong. When she wrote the
diary, Anne changed all the names of the people in it, to protect them
from Nazi retribution - except for Miep, whose first name remained the
Miep brought her blank accounting books so Anne could continue to scribble
her thoughts after she filled the checkered diary. Miep bought Anne her
first pair of heels, secondhand red pumps, which Anne teetered around on,
biting on her lip, until she mastered them. Miep even supplied some
lavender peonies to Peter, who presented them to Anne as a sign of his
night, Anne persuaded Miep to sleep over in the attic. Miep spent a
suffocating, sleepless night on Anne's small, hard bed. She listened to
the church clock across the garden chime at 15-minute intervals, listened
to her own heart pound. She became aware of what it meant to be imprisoned
in those small rooms and felt a taste of the helpless fear these people
were forced to endure day and night.
all ended on August 4, 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed,
probably by a Dutch woman Lena Hartog-van Bladeren. She was one of the
cleaning women working in the office in front of the annex ...
eight who lived in the annex were arrested by the Nazis and taken to
Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam, where the courageous Miep rushed to
plead for their release - in vain. Two of the five who hid the group were
sent to concentration camps. She herself was spared only because she was
Austrian by birth, like the arresting officer.
the Nazis searched the annex for valuables such as money, the briefcase in
which Anne kept her writings was opened and the papers were scattered on
the floor. Little did these men realize the eventual value of these
who had supplied all of the notebooks for her young friend' s diary, was
determined to retrieve them, despite the enormous threat from the Nazis.
Using a spare set of keys, she visited the ransacked attic after the
arrests, in defiance of Nazi orders. There, among the scattered papers on
the floor, she found Anne's red-checked diary. Without opening it, she put
it in an unlocked drawer of her desk, hoping to return it to Anne after
Frank was the only survivor of the eight hidden Jews. Herman Van Pels was
gassed upon the group's arrival at Auschwitz,
September 6, 1944. His wife died between April 9 and May 8, 1945, in
Theresienstadt KZ camp in Czechoslovakia. Their son Peter died on May 5,
1945, in Mauthausen KZ camp in Austria, after a forced march from
Auschwitz. Fritz Pfeffer died December 20, 1944, at Neuengamme KZ camp.
Anne's mother died January 6, 1945, at Auschwitz-Birkenau and her older
sister, Margot, died at Bergen Belsen a few days before Anne.
Gies hid the precious diary, keeping it for a year until official word
arrived that Anne was dead. On that dreadful day, she reached into her
desk drawer, removed the sheaves of paper, and handed them to a shattered
she told him, 'is your daughter Anne's legacy to you.'
Frank decided to fulfill his daughter's wishes and arranged for the diary
to be published in 1947. He lived with Miep and Jan Gies for seven years.
He died in 1980.
Gies didn't just help the eight people in the annex. She and Jan Gies hid
a young Jewish student in their apartment. Miep never told Otto Frank
more than fifty years later, Miep Gies has spoken all over the United
States and Europe on behalf of the Anne Frank Center, an international
organization dedicated to tolerance. She lives alone in Amsterdam. Her
husband, Jan, died in January 1993, 87 years old. He was honored after the
war for his work in the resistance, receiving the Yad Vashem medal in
Israel in 1977. In 1987, Jan and Miep Gies were
presented with an award from the Jewish organization B'nai B'rith. In 1994
she received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for Bravery and in May that same
year, she received The Righteous Amongst the Nations Award - along
long ago Miep Gies told about her friends hiding in the Annex:
have no word to describe these people who were still always friendly and
grateful. Yes, I do have a word, Heroes. True heroes they were.
People sometimes call me a hero. I don't like it .. I myself, I'm just a
very common person. I simply had no choice. I could not save Anne's life.
However, I did save her diary and by that I could help her most important
dreams to come true. She tells us that she wants to live on after her
death. Now, her diary makes her really living on in a most powerful way.
And that helps me in those many hours of deep grief.
has happened that people walk up to me and ask me what I would answer to
those who deny that the Holocaust even took place. My response is that on
August 4, 1944, at 9'oclock in the morning I did meet a healthy and strong
15-year old girl, Anne Frank. The next thing I saw was her name in a
German list of people on a cattle train to Auschwitz. So please, tell me
where Anne Frank lives at this moment if the Holocaust did not take place,
because Anne Frank would still be with us today ..
Frank would have been nearly 73
years old now. What would she have become? In an interview with Steve
North, Jerusalem Post, Miep Gies has no doubt:
Oh, a writer, of course. A good, famous
writer ... and a grandmother. She would have been a grandmother ..