Miep Gies died Monday night. She was 100-years-old, and while we will miss her spirit, we must not weep for her. Miep’s life life was filled with good deeds and her legacy in the arc of human suffering is evergreen and must never be forgotten; she was one of those rare, grand, people, who live a proper and righteous life. Without Miep Gies, we would not have Anne Frank.
Mrs. Gies sought no accolades for joining with her husband and three others in hiding Anne Frank, her father, mother and older sister and four other Dutch Jews for 25 months in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. But she came to be viewed as a courageous figure when her role in sheltering Anne Frank was revealed with the publication of her memoir. She then traveled the world while in her 80s, speaking 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.
When the Gestapo raided the hiding place in the annex to Otto Frank’s business office on Aug. 4, 1944, and arrested its eight occupants, it left behind his daughter Anne’s diary and her writings on loose sheets of papers. The journals recounted life in those rooms behind a movable bookcase and the hopes of a girl on the brink of womanhood. Mrs. Gies gathered up those writings and hid them, unread, hoping that Anne would someday return to claim them.
But when Anne’s father, Otto Frank, returned to Amsterdam at the end of World War II, having been liberated from Auschwitz, he was the lone survivor of the family. Anne Frank had died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp three months before her 16th birthday. Her sister, Margot, died there at age 19 and their mother, Edith Frank, died at Auschwitz.
Mrs. Gies gave Anne’s writings to Mr. Frank, and they were first published in the Netherlands in 1947 in an abridged version. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” has since been translated into dozens of languages in several editions, read by millions and adapted for the stage and screen, a voice representing the six million Jews killed by the Nazis.
Every child the world over should be required to read Anne’s diary as part of their international education and every child should then be required to watch the stage production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” to learn firsthand in and real time — with the vital protection of the fourth wall — just what it was like to live in constant terror as a young girl in a burning Amsterdam.
By rescuing the writing of Anne Frank, Miep Gies saved her — for us — forever.