Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Farewell, Miep Gies . . .

"and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Yesterday came the news that Miep Gies, who, together with her husband, hid Anne Frank and nine other people from Nazi capture in Amsterdam for more than two years, died at the age of 100 after a brief illness.

 July 16, 1941, Miep Santrouschitz married her boyfriend, Jan Gies, a social worker and member of the Dutch underground. Miep, Jan and three others risked their lives daily and acted as helpers for the people in the annex, and brought them food, supplies and news of the world outside the darkened windows.

Miep's friendship with Anne Frank was especially strong - Anne adored her, trusting her with her biggest secrets. When she wrote the diary, Anne changed all the names of the people in it, to protect them from Nazi retribution - except for Miep, whose first name remained the same.

Miep brought her blank accounting books so Anne could continue to scribble her thoughts after she filled the checkered diary. Miep bought the maturing teenager her first pair of heels, secondhand red pumps, which Anne teetered around on, biting on her lip, until she mastered them. Miep even supplied some lavender peonies to Peter, who presented them to Anne as a sign of his affection.

One night, Anne persuaded Miep to sleep over in the attic. Miep spent a suffocating, sleepless night on Anne's small, hard bed. She listened to the church clock across the garden chime at 15-minute intervals, listened to her own heart pound. She became aware of what it meant to be imprisoned in those small rooms and felt a taste of the helpless fear these people were forced to endure day and night.

It all ended on August 4, 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed. Miep Gies hid the precious diary, keeping it for a year until official word arrived that Anne was dead. On that dreadful day, she reached into her desk drawer, removed the sheaves of paper, and handed them to a shattered Otto Frank.

'Here,' she told him, 'is your daughter Anne's legacy to you.'

Otto Frank lived with Miep and Jan Gies for seven years. He died in 1980.

Miep Gies didn't just help the eight people in the annex. She and Jan Gies hid a young Jewish student in their apartment. Miep never told Otto Frank about that.

Today, more than fifty years later, Miep Gies has spoken all over the United States and Europe on behalf of the Anne Frank Center, an international organization dedicated to tolerance. She lives alone in Amsterdam. Her husband, Jan, died in January 1993, 87 years old. He was honored after the war for his work in the resistance, receiving the Yad Vashem medal in Israel in 1977.

In 1987, Jan and Miep Gies were honored with an award from the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith for their courage in a ceremony that remembered not only the victims of the Holocaust, but those who risked everything to try to save them. A few years later West Germany awarded its highest medal for civilians, The Federal Cross Of Merit First Class, to Miep Gies because of her crucial role in hiding Anne Frank and her family: "In spite of her experiences with Germans, she has eliminated the word hate from her vocabulary," the West German Embassy said.

In 1994 she received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for Bravery, in May that same year, she received The Righteous Amongst the Nations Award - along with Emilie Schindler - and in 1997 she was knighted by Queen regnant Beatrix of the Netherlands.

Her book Anne Frank Remembered was turned into a film that won an Academy Award for best documentary.

H/t: Michell Malkin

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