When Miep Gies became an assistant to the owner of a pectin manufacturing company in Amsterdam during the 1930s, she never could have dreamed that events would make her a pivotal character in one of the 20th century’s greatest dramas.
It’s an amazing story of loyalty and friendship flourishing in the midst of unspeakable evil. Without Miep’s devotion and courage to a young girl and her family, this heart-rending tale would have been swept into the dustbin of history. Instead, people around the globe know and admire Miep’s dear friend.
The girl’s name was Anne Frank.
Anne’s father, Otto, oversaw the Dutch branch of a German company selling an ingredient for manufacturing jam. He hired Miep in 1933 and she became a trusted employee and friend. Miep and the Franks watched with great concern as the Nazi persecutions began to escalate across Europe.
By July 1942, as thousands of Dutch Jews were transported to concentration camps, the Frank family went into hiding in unused rooms above Mr. Frank’s office. As millions of readers know, the annex also became a refuge for three members of the Pels family and a dentist.
Mrs. Gies helped shelter them and it was an assignment fraught with peril. She risked death if caught by the Nazis. Despite the danger, Miep found food for the group and served as a link to news from the outside. Touched by Anne’s intelligence and curiosity, Miep gave her books and magazines. She even brought extra paper for the teenager who kept busy writing during her confinement.
“It seems as if we are never far from Miep’s thoughts,” wrote Anne in the diary that would eventually become world famous.
Miep had plenty to ponder in a country ravaged by war where every movement was dangerous. To sustain those under her care, Miep secured extra food ration cards from the underground resistance. She cycled around the city, alternating grocers, to avoid suspicion.
Despite Miep’s heroic efforts, the group was betrayed and the German police raided the hideout in August 1944. She was there that fateful morning as the Gestapo captured her friends and drove them away. Eventually they all were deported to concentration camps.
Miep avoided arrest. Upon returning to the hiding place, she found Anne’s writings. Miep gathered the papers but did not read them and remained hopeful that Anne would someday return to claim the material.
She never saw Anne again. Unfortunately, the teen died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Of those in the annex, Otto Frank was the lone survivor of the war and Miep gave Anne’s precious writings to the mourning father.
First published in 1947, “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” has been translated into dozen of languages, read by millions and adapted for the stage and screen. Anne’s story has come to symbolize the plight of six million Jews killed by the Nazis and her words have touched generations born long after the war.
But for Miep, the diary she preserved was a bittersweet testament to a cherished friendship.
“The emptiness in my heart was eased,” Gies said. “So much had been lost, but now Anne’s voice would never be lost. My young friend had left a remarkable legacy to the world.
“But always, every day of my life, I’ve wished that things had been different. That even had Anne’s diary been lost to the world, Anne and the others might somehow have been saved. Not a day goes by that I do not grieve for them.”
Until she died in January 2010 at age 100, Miep never forgot her friends and went into seclusion every August 4, the anniversary of the raid. Somewhat unknown to the public for decades, she eventually wrote a book about Anne and appeared in a documentary.
If Anne Frank’s story is remarkable, then the life of Miep Gies is equally compelling. She was a Good Samaritan who never wavered in her devotion to the Franks despite differences of faith and the enormous risks confronted each day. Miep was the embodiment of Proverbs 17:17 - truly a friend who loved at all times and was there for others facing adversity.
In the book of John it says that “greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Miep proved repeatedly that she was willing to make that sacrifice.
Anne once reflected that “in spite of everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” Blessed with a loving friend who stared evil in the eye and never blinked, Anne Frank may have envisioned Miep Gies when writing that memorable sentence. Their enduring friendship should be an inspiration for each of us.
We should never become prisoners, trapped by walls of ignorance and intolerance, of a fallen world. Like Miep, let’s courageously break loose from the complacency of our selfish age and embrace a faith that emboldens us to help others in need, no matter what the cost.
Kendall Wingrove is a free-lance writer from East Lansing, Michigan.
“Real Answers™” furnished courtesy of The Amy Foundation Internet Syndicate. To contact the author or The Amy Foundation, write or E-mail to: P. O. Box 16091, Lansing, MI 48901-6091; firstname.lastname@example.org.