A heroine has left us. Miep Gies has died at age 100.
She was the Dutch woman who helped hide the family of Jewish businessman Otto Frank, and a few other Jews, from the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II. She and her husband Jan and four other gentiles brought food and other sustenance to the hiding Jews in their secret living quarters within an office annex for two years, until the Gestapo uncovered the fugitives through an informant’s tip and deported them to concentration camps in Eastern Europe. There they all perished except for Otto.
The sad and anxious, yet mundane, circumstances of the Frank family’s secret existence during the period of hiding was detailed in a series of notes written by Otto’s teenage daughter. This became the basis for the world-famous book, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Miep discovered the writings in the living quarters following the Gestapo raid and kept them for Anne. When Otto returned after the war and disclosed that his daughter had died in captivity, Miep turned the notes–unread–over to him. He had them published.
A young girl’s musings, hopes and dreams for her life in the face of desperate circumstances thus live on forever, abetted and saved by Miep’s heroic conduct. Miep was the last survivor of the small band of heroes who took extraordinary risks in helping the Frank family and others. Two of them, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, were arrested and sent to concentration camps for their involvement, but both survived the war. Miep later wrote a book about the dreadful times, Anne Frank Remembered.
Miep was so fearless that she even went to Gestapo headquarters after the raid to unsuccessfully try to secure the release of her friends through bribery. In current times, when many Americans desperately want to ensure their own safety and security above everything else and treasure their own lives to a paralyzing degree, it is gratifying to contemplate the selfless and heroic actions undertaken by persons such as Miep and her friends.