Miep Gies, the woman who preserved Anne Frank’s diary and the last survivor of the Frank family’s protectors died last night at age 100.
Gies, her husband Jan and four others hid eight Jews for two years in what they called “The Secret Annex” at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. The building housed Otto Frank’s business, where Gies had worked as a secretary since 1933.
Nazi troopers raided the building on August 4, 1944, in the waning days of the war when it was apparent the Germans had lost and the group had begun to hope they’d soon be able to emerge from hiding. Recognizing the Austrian accent of the arresting SS officer, Vienna-born Gies identified herself as a countryman and was spared punishment and deportation if she promised not to flee.
After the raid Gies crept into the Annex and found the pages of Anne Frank’s diary scattered across the floor. She collected the papers and placed them in a desk drawer in hopes of returning them – unread – to Anne personally. By remaining in the building she was able to save Frank’s equipment and possessions and keep the business running until he returned from Auschwitz in 1945, the sole survivor of the group of eight.
Pages from the diary Anne Frank Foundation – Basel, Switzerland
When Otto Frank learned his daughters Anne and Margot had perished in Bergen-Belsen, just weeks before U.S. forces liberated the camp, Gies presented him with the diary, telling him ” This is the legacy of your daughter Anne.” Frank had the diary published in The Netherlands in 1947, but Gies never read it until years later.
Miep Gies remained fairly anonymous until publishing her memoir “Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family ” in collaboration with American journalist Alison Leslie Gold in 1987.
An updated edition was released to celebrate Gies’ 100th birthday in February, 2009. In the book and on her website, Gies recounts her personal history and the story of The Secret Annex in her own
words, responding to questions most frequently asked in the huge volumes of mail she received since the book’s publication.
Her motivation for risking her life to hide the Franks, aside from her long term friendship with the family, seemed to stem from her own childhood experience. Ill and malnourished in post -World War I Vienna, she was sent to The Netherlands at age 11 in hopes that her health would improve in better living conditions.
“I remember sitting lonely and crying in a train with a cord around my neck and a sign hanging from it, stating my name: Hermine Santruschitz,” she wrote. She was taken in by a Dutch family of modest means who already had five children. “Still they shared everything they had with me and sent me to fine schools. In return for this good fortune, I was now able to help other people.”
Asked if she would do the same thing again, Gies responds, “”I would believe so. Think of Anne Frank. Because of the help she received, she did live another two years, during which she wrote her diary, giving hope and inspiration to millions of people. If I think of the 750,000 Jewish children killed by the Nazis,I can’t avoid believing that some of them could have invented the cure against cancer and AIDS.”
The protectors of the Frank family in Otto Frank’s office, October 1945.
L to R: Miep Gies, Johannes Kleiman, Otto Frank, Victor Kugler and Bep Voskuijl (© AFH/AFF)
When her role in sheltering the Franks and preserving Anne’s diary became widely known, Gies traveled the world, speaking out 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.
“I am not a hero, she wrote in her 1987 memoir. “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.”
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For more info: Click here for a list of related sites
- Miep Gies: her own story – Gies recounts the story of The Secret Annex on video
- Anne Frank Museum
- Anne Frank Foundation