Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank, dies at 100
Published: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:52 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 4:52 p.m.
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Without Miep Gies, the story of Anne Frank might never have been known.
The former office secretary who helped hide the Jewish teenager from the Nazis for two years gathered up the scattered diary pages after the Frank family was arrested and sent to concentration camps. She locked the papers — unread — in her desk until Frank's father Otto returned, the only family member to survive.
Gies died Monday from a neck injury suffered when she fell last month, the Anne Frank House museum said. She was 100 and had been one of the few people still alive who knew Anne Frank.
Gies (whose full name is pronounced 'Meep Khees') was the last of the "helpers," the six non-Jews who smuggled food, books, writing paper and news of the outside world to the secret attic apartment of the canal-side warehouse where Anne, her parents, sister and four other Jews hid during World War II.
Condolence messages poured in to an online registry at the rate of about 100 per hour Tuesday, said museum spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker. Neither Queen Beatrix, who knighted Gies in 1995, nor the Dutch government immediately issued a statement, however.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, in a letter to the Dutch queen, said Gies "won the hearts of all of us" through her efforts to save the Frank family and rescue the diary. "Miep's selfless humanitarian deed inspires us to continue believing in the goodness and integrity of human beings in the face of unfathomable evil," Peres wrote.
The diary chronicles Anne Frank's life as a budding teenager, from her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942 a few weeks before she went into hiding, until August 1, 1944, just days before police broke through the apartment door concealed behind a moveable bookcase.
Frank died of typhus at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in March 1945 — two weeks before the camp was liberated.
Gies said she never read the diary until she gave the pages to Otto Frank, saying even a teenager's privacy was sacred. Later, she said if she had read them during the war she would have had to burn them because they incriminated the "helpers."
Otto Frank published it in 1947. "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 70 languages.
The diary was the basis for two other popular art works: a 1959 movie that won three Oscars, and a Pulitzer Prize winning play. Both were titled "The Diary of Anne Frank."
"Every day for over two years she put herself in danger by hiding Jews from the Nazis," said Anne Frank's cousin, Bernd "Buddy" Elias, who last saw Gies on her 100th birthday. "If they had caught her, she would have been put in a concentration camp herself."
Gies brushed aside the accolades for helping hide the Frank family as more than she deserved. "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 in February.
She 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 when she was 11 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 company 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.
In her e-mail to the AP in February, Gies remembered her husband, who died in 1993, as one of Holland's unsung war heroes. "He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard," she wrote.
In her own book, "Anne Frank Remembered," Gies recalled being in the office when the German police, acting on a tip that historians have failed to trace, raided the hide-out in August 1944.
A policeman opened the door to the main office and pointed a revolver at the three employees, telling them to sit quietly. "Bep, we've had it," Gies whispered to Bep Voskuijl.
After the arrests, she went to the police station to offer a bribe for the Franks' release, but it was too late. On Aug. 8, they were sent to Westerbork, a concentration camp in eastern Holland from where they were later packed into cattle cars and deported to Auschwitz. A few months later, Anne and her sister Margot were transported to Bergen-Belsen.
Two of the helpers, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, were sent to labor camps, but survived the war.
Around 140,000 Jews lived in the Netherlands before the 1940-45 Nazi occupation. Of those, 107,000 were deported to Germany and only 5,200 survived. Some 24,000 Jews went into hiding, of which 8,000 were hunted down or turned in.
After the war, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam and lived with the Gies family until he remarried in 1952. Miep worked for him as he compiled the diary, then devoted herself to talking about the diary and answering piles of letters with questions from around the world.
After Otto Frank's death in 1980, Gies continued to campaign against Holocaust-deniers and to refute allegations that the diary was a forgery.
She suffered a stroke in 1997 which slightly affected her speech, but she remained generally in good health and mentally alert.
Her son Paul Gies said last year she was still receiving "a sizable amount of mail" which she handled with the help of a family friend. She spent her days at the apartment where she lived since 2000 in the northern town of Hoorn reading two daily newspapers and following television news and talk shows. She recently moved to a nursing facility, before the fall at her home.
She is survived by her son and three grandchildren.
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