Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Miep Gies Died

For those of us who taught and read The Diary of Anne Frank, we got to know and admire Miep Gies through the words of that book and play. What courage that wonderful woman had! May she rest in peace.

When I was in Amsterdam, I saw the Frank house from a boat tour and wish we could have been there longer to see more.

This article is long but interesting, so I copied at pasted the text from MSNBC's site HERE and added the photos from other sources. HERE is a similar article with more information.

AMSTERDAM - Miep Gies, the office secretary who defied the Nazi occupiers to hide Anne Frank and her family for two years and saved the teenager's diary, has died, the Anne Frank Museum said Tuesday. She was 100.

Gies' Web site reported that she died Monday after a brief illness. The report was confirmed by museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostar, but she gave no details. The British Broadcasting Corp. said she died in a nursing home after suffering a fall last month.

Gies was the last of the few non-Jews who supplied food, books and good cheer to the secret annex behind the canal warehouse where Anne, her parents, sister and four other Jews hid for 25 months during World War II.

After the apartment was raided by the German police, Gies gathered up Anne's scattered notebooks and papers and locked them in a drawer for her return after the war. The diary, which Anne Frank was given on her 13th birthday, chronicles her life in hiding from June 12, 1942 until August 1, 1944.

Gies refused to read the papers, saying even a teenager's privacy was sacred. Later, she said if she had read them she would have had to burn them because they incriminated the "helpers."

Anne Frank died of typhus at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945, just two weeks before the camp was liberated. Gies gave the diary to Anne's father Otto, the only survivor, who published it in 1947.

After the diary was published, Gies tirelessly promoted causes of tolerance. She brushed aside the accolades for helping hide the Frank family as more than she deserved — as if, she said, she had tried to save all the Jews of occupied Holland.

"This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press days before her 100th birthday last February.

"The Diary of Anne Frank" was the first popular book about the Holocaust, and has been read by millions of children and adults around the world in some 65 languages.

For her courage, Gies was bestowed with the "Righteous Gentile" title by the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. She has also been honored by the German Government, Dutch monarchy and educational institutions.

Nevertheless, Gies resisted being made a character study of heroism for the young.

"I don't want to be considered a hero," she said in a 1997 online chat with schoolchildren.

"Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary."

Born Hermine Santrouschitz on Feb. 15, 1909 in Vienna, Gies moved to Amsterdam in 1922 to escape food shortages in Austria. She lived with a host family who gave her the nickname Miep.

In 1933, Gies took a job as an office assistant in the spice business of Otto Frank. After refusing to join a Nazi organization in 1941, she avoided deportation to Austria by marrying her Dutch boyfriend, Jan Gies.

As the Nazis ramped up their arrests and deportations of Dutch Jews, Otto Frank asked Gies in July 1942 to help hide his family in the annex above the company's canal-side warehouse on Prinsengracht 263 and to bring them food and supplies.

"I answered, 'Yes, of course.' It seemed perfectly natural to me. I could help these people. They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn," she said years later.

Jan and Miep Gies worked with four other employees in the firm to sustain the Franks and four other Jews sharing the annex. Jan secured extra food ration cards from the underground resistance. Miep cycled around the city, alternating grocers to ward off suspicions from this highly dangerous activity.


Bob said...

Like Rosa Parks, she is one of my heroes, because she did what did, not for recognition or self-gain, but because it was the RIGHT thing to do.
We could use more like her.

Eric Arvin said...

Still puts a lump in my throat...

Sylvia K said...

Thanks for posting this! I agree with Bob and she is one of my heroes, too, and for the same reason -- she did what she did because it was the right thing to do and we could most definitely use more people like her.


Beth said...

What a brave thing she did. We could all learn from her compassionate behavior.

Howard said...

An amazingly good soul, a model to live by, as apposed to some of the more silly and reckless people we have today.

Rhea said...

Her name should become as familiar to us as that of Anne Frank. Someone should build a statue to her and we should study her in school.

SteveA said...

I actually visited the house of Anne Frank a few years aback and it was awe-inspiring. It's amazing what Anne and her family and those helping them risked! Truly and amazing story!

Kyle said...

It truly was a brave thing she and her husband did for the Franks. A bright light of compassion, during a very dark time in human history.