Woman Who Helped Hide Anne Frank Dies At 100
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
Back in 1998, NPRs special correspondent Susan Stamberg visited a woman in Amsterdam and asked her a simple question.
SUSAN STAMBERG: How do you say diary in Dutch?
Ms. MIEP GIES: Dagboek.
STAMBERG: Dagboek? Oh, daybook.
Ms. GIES: Yes. Daybook.
Ms. GIES: Yes.
Ms. GIES: Boek.
STAMBERG: Is diary.
AMOS: That woman is Miep Gies. The diary shes referring to is Anne Franks. Miep Gies�helped Anne Frank hide with her family during World War II and saved Annes diary after she and her family were captured by the Germans. Gies died yesterday at the age of 100. Teri Schultz has this remembrance.
TERI SCHULTZ: Miep Gies said she did not like being called a hero. Yet, she risked her life many times over to help the Frank family during the two years they hid from the Nazis in a secret annex built into the Trading Company office in Amsterdam where she'd worked for Otto Frank almost a decade.
Providing refuge to Jews, she noted later, carried a punishment of at least six months in a concentration camp. Still, the Austrian-born Dutch woman, knighted by the governments of Germany and the Netherlands, recipient of a medal from Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, always insisted she had done nothing extraordinary.
Ms. MIEP GIES: I, myself, I'm just a very common person. I simply had no choice. I could foresee many, many sleepless nights and a life filled with regret if I would have refused to help the Franks. And this was not the kind of life I was looking for at all.
SCHULTZ: Gies explained another motivation for emphasizing her modesty. She said if people are allowed to think it takes remarkable qualities to act boldly on behalf of others, few will attempt it.
Ms. GIES: People should never think that you have to be a very special person to help those who need you.
SCHULTZ: But Gies clearly was very special, even when someone still unknown betrayed those she called the hiders and they were taken away at gunpoint to death camps. Gies was not intimidated. She sneaked back into the secret hideaway to try to preserve any belongings of the Franks that hadn't been destroyed or taken. And there she found what would eventually become a treasure of the entire world.
Ms. GIES: I saw Anne's diary scattered all over the floor. I took it with me. I hoped I could return it to Anne after the war. I wanted to see her smile and hear her say, Oh Miep, my diary.
SCHULTZ: That day would never come, as Anne did not survive the Nazi death camps. But Otto Frank did. And he made his way back to Amsterdam in 1945 returning to stay with Gies and her husband. On the very sad day that year that he learned both his daughters had died in a camp, Otto Frank later explained in a documentary, Gies delivered him what he called a miracle.
Mr. OTTO FRANK: When I returned and after I heard the news that my children would not come back, Miep gave me the diary.
SCHULTZ: Gies described that moment herself years ago in an interview with the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam.
Ms. GIES: (Foreign language spoken)
SCHULTZ: Gies said she took the diary out of the desk where she'd saved it and she handed it to Otto Frank with the words: this is the legacy of your daughter Anne. She had never read a word of it, and in fact, could not bring herself to do so until after Otto Frank published the diary in 1947, two years after Anne's death.
The diary of Anne Frank is a legacy Miep Gies gave not just to Otto Frank, but to the world. It's been translated into some 65 languages and remains one of the best read books internationally. To the end of her century of life, Gies said she thought with sadness every day about the friends she had lost.
On her website she wrote it was her greatest sorrow that she and the others had been unable to save Anne, but she was pleased they'd been able to give the young woman two more years of life, and in that period Gies noted, Anne had written the diary with her message of tolerance and understanding.
For NPR News, I'm Teri Schultz.
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