February 13, 2009

Anne Frank helper turns 100

Source:

Miep Gies, who helped hide Anne Frank and her family for two years in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam in the 1940s and guarded Anne’s famous diary after her arrest and deportation, turns 100 on Sunday.

Miep Gies (photo: Anne Frank Museum)

Miep has declined interviews and plans to celebrate her birthday quietly with family and friends, the Anne Frank museum announced in a statement this week.

Born Hermine Santrouschitz in Vienna, Austria, Miep w as transported to Leiden in the Netherlands from Vienna in December 1920 to escape the food shortages prevailing in Austria after World War I. In 1922 she moved with her foster family to Amsterdam. There, in 1933, she met Otto Frank when she applied for the post of temporary secretary in his spice company, Opekta.

Whole family in hiding

With her husband, Jan Gies, Miep helped hide Edith and Otto Frank, their daughters Margot and Anne Frank, Hermann and Auguste van Pels, their son Peter, and Fritz Pfeffer in the sealed-off back rooms of the company’s office building on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht from July 1942 until 4 August 1944. The Amsterdam annex is now a museum.

”For two years, together with the other helpers, she made sure that the people in hiding were supplied with food and other essentials, putting their own lives at risk,”
according to the museum statement.

The statement quotes Miep as saying

”I’m not a hero. It wasn’t something I planned in advance, I simply did what I could to help.”

The diary

In theory, Miep and the other helpers could have been shot if they had been caught hiding Jews. In practice, however, those caught hiding Jews were more commonly sentenced to up to six months of hard labour.

After the hideaway group was betrayed and arrested in August 1944, Miep Gies found Anne Frank’s diary. She kept the documents in a desk drawer for Anne’s return. Once the war was over and it was confirmed that the girl had perished in Bergen-Belsen, she gave the diary back to her father, Otto Frank, the only one of his family to return from the Nazi concentration camps after the war. He arranged for the book’s publication in 1947.

Celebrities

Once the book was published and widely translated, Miep and Jan Gies became celebrities in the Netherlands and their courage was recognised with awards from several international organisations. Among others, the couple won the Raoul Wallenberg Award for Bravery and the Righteous Among the Nations award. A year later, Miep Gies received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 1995, she was awarded the Yad Vashem medal. In 1997, she was knighted by Queen Beatrix.

Now at the age of 100, ”Miep is in reasonably good health and remains deeply involved with the remembrance of Anne Frank and spreading the message of her story,” according to the museum statement.

(Sources: AFP, Wikipedia, Anne Frank museum)