A Woman to Know: Miep Gies

I did what any decent person would have done. — Miep Gies

(image via Wikimedia)

She kept Anne Frank and her family safe, for as long as she could. As a young woman in occupied Amsterdam, Miep volunteered to help her employer, Otto Frank, escape the Nazis. She and her husband, along with her parents and sister, worked together to keep the family's new home — the annex hidden behind a trick bookcase — a secret from Gestapo soldiers.

Eight people eventually lived in the annex, hidden away for 25 months. Miep brought them food, books and news of life outside the hiding place. Anne even wrote of her in the famous diary: "We are never far from Miep's thoughts."

On Aug. 4, 1944, someone (still unknown to this day) betrayed the Frank family and alerted the Gestapo to the hiding place. Soldiers barged in and confronted Miep, who was then working at the front desk. They raided the annex and shipped the eight Jews to concentration camps. Miep was unexpectedly spared — when she recognized the soldier's Viennese accent, she told him they were from the same hometown, and he decided to let her go. Miep tried to bribe him to spare the lives of the Franks and the other captives, to no avail.

Revisiting the annex, she found Anne's diary. Years later, she gave it to Anne's father, Otto, the only member of his family to survive the camps. He gave it to the world.

The annex building is now a museum, and Anne's diary is required reading in schools around the world. Miep continued to visit the annex every August 4, in remembrance of the raid that destroyed the Franks' dreams of surviving. She would tour the museum with visitors and speak to audiences about her experience in the war. She died in 2010, just a month before her 101st birthday.

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