In 1942, during World War II, Anne Frank’s older sister Margot Frank was told to report to a ‘labor camp’ by the Nazis. Her parents, Otto and Edith Frank sensed that this was not about work and immediately went into hiding to protect her. They hid in an annex of Otto Frank’s company building and requested for his colleagues to help. One of these people was Miep Gies, who had worked with Otto Frank for a few years.
Miep Gies and her fellow ‘helpers’ who helped the 8 Jews hide in the Secret Annex provided them with provisions including food, magazines, and information from the outside. They risked their lives to aid and shelter their Jewish friends and managed to conceal them for 2 years until an unidentified person reported them to the German secret police, the Gestapo. The 8 Jews that were hiding there were captured and transported to concentration camps. The Gestapo ransacked the Annex, but fortunately, Anne’s diary was not taken away. Miep Gies later discovered this diary and decided to keep it safe until Anne came back. When the war ended and the single survivor out of the 8 Jews, Otto Frank, got out of Auschwitz, she returned it to him. This diary became published and acknowledged worldwide as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, which gave the world a close perspective on Jewish people’s lives during World War II. After this title was issued, Miep Gies spent most of her life delivering orations in different nations as a symbol of courage and morality. Miep Gies was a hero not only for discovering Anne Frank’s book, but for her courage for helping the Jews and her efforts to spread conviction throughout the world.
Born in 1909, February 15, Miep Gies was a frail child. She became severely malnourished because of the shortage of food, consequently to the First World War. World War I had commenced when Miep was only five years old, and when she turned ten, her parents were told that she “would die if they did not take measures” (Gies and Gold 12). Accordingly, she was transported with other weak Austrian children from Vienna to Leiden, Netherlands, where she met her adoptive family. She quickly established a strong bond with the country and her family there. In 1925, when she was 16, she was taken back to Vienna to see her blood-related parents. However, by then, as she wrote in her book, her “sensibilities were Dutch, the quality of my feelings also Dutch” (Gies and Gold 16), and wished to stay in the Netherlands with her adoptive parents. Her natural mother acknowledged this and granted consent for her to continue living with them.
At eighteen, she was employed by a textile company, and there she met her husband, Jan Gies. The two immediately felt a connection towards each other and started a relationship. Unfortunately, when Miep turned 24, The Great Depression caused her to be discharged. It was 1933, and Miep had been searching for work until an acquaintance of her mother introduced her to a company that was looking for a temporary replacement. She took the opportunity right away and met her second director: a man named Otto Frank. Miep Gies and Otto Frank became trustworthy friends to each other in a short period; she and Jan Gies were invited to have dinner together frequently, and they were even often invited to tea parties where Jews would gather together and discuss their worries about the Second World War.
Miep and Jan Gies had a strong and unbreakable bond, but they were not able to get married until they Miep was 32 and Jan Gies 36. It was primarily because of financial problems. They did not have enough money to get married, so they agreed to get married after they had accumulated enough money. Lamentably, the Nazis conquered the Netherlands just before they achieved their goal. Miep was ordered to return to her home country, Vienna because she was officially Viennese, not Dutch. To marry a Dutch and remain in Amsterdam, she had to prove her Aryan birthright; that she was not of Jewish birth. Luckily, her uncle in Vienna managed to send her birth certificate to her in the authorized time, permitting her to marry.
In such ways, the starting of the Second World War caused many to experience fear, discrimination, and unjust treatment. Jews especially got the severest treatment, as they were slowly segregated from other people. Miep’s director, Otto Frank, and his family weren’t an exception. After a few months, Jews could not do anything freely: at first, they could not drive streetcars or shop or sit wherever they liked; then had to wear the Star of David; and one by one they were sent to labor camps. The Frank family decided to go into hiding with 4 other Jewish friends so that they would not be harmed, and asked only their closest friends to help them. Miep was one of them, and she did not hesitate to accept. The Frank family was one of her closest people, and she could not bear to see the Frank girls taken away to labor camps. After Margot Frank was ordered to be sent to a labor camp, the Franks immediately left their home and hid in a compartment planned and made in advance by Otto Frank.
After a few months of hiding the Jews in the Secret Annex, the helpers started to adjust and develop new routines. They visited the Annex as often as they could when the other employers were absent and gave them information, food and things for entertainment. Miep would be in charge of shopping and supplying the people in the Annex food. Others had different jobs, like Jan, whose job was to inform them of the situation of the war. Miep was also always very careful to be cheerful and not to show how weary and stressed she was when she was inside the Annex.
Although Hitler and the Nazis used propaganda and force to make the society discriminate Jewish people, quite a few people were in favor of helping out: there were underground sources which provided ration coupons to people who were Jews, friends that ran shops lent a hand by saving the food that was to be bought by helpers, and people who hid Jews in their homes. Miep and the helpers of the Secret Annex utilized as much help they could get from these people to satisfy the constant needs of the people hiding. One of the direst need for the Jews was company; Anne and the others had asked various times for Miep and Jan Gies to stay for the night at the Annex. Only once had Miep slept in the Annex, and she wrote in her book:
I never slept; I couldn’t close my eyes. I heard the sound of a rainstorm begin, the wind come up. The quietness of the place was overwhelming. The fright of these people locked up here was so thick I could feel it pressing down on me. It was like a thread of terror pulled taut. It was so terrible it never let me close my eyes. (Gies and Gold 128)
That night, she realized truly what it was like to live as a Jew in hiding, and what it was like in the long night of the Annex.
The Annex managed to be hidden for two years until an anonymous person reported them to the Gestapo. The day when the Secret Annex was found was August 4, 1944. Nazi officers quickly raided the Annex and arrested all the people involved in hiding the Jews. Only Miep Gies and another helper managed to avoid arrest; Miep escaped because she got sympathy from the officer who was from the same city as her. After the shock of the arrest, she noticed Anne’s diary and decided to keep it safe until she returned after the war. She then risked her life again to meet the officer once more and inquire if she could pay him money in exchange for freeing the Secret Annex members. The officer did not accept, although she managed to get out unharmed.
After some failed attempts to get her friends back, she remained at Otto Frank’s company and started running it until he came back. She was the person who had the most experience of running the company out of the remaining employees, hence she took charge. After 3 tough years, only Otto Frank had survived. He came to Miep’s house as soon as he was liberated and lived with the Gies for a long time. Once it was clear that Anne Frank did not survive the camp, Miep gave Anne’s diary to Otto Frank, who published it. It was read by millions in the world and spread widely the fear, cruelty, and discrimination that Anne faced during World War II. Miep herself also started to travel and give speeches and inspire people to do what is right, even though there may be consequences. She was also given many awards, such as the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Yad Vashem Medal.
Miep Gies was a hero and an anti-war activist who helped inspire bravery and conviction in the world. Although she did not consider herself a hero, as she stated in her book, “I am not a hero. I stand at the end of the long, long line of Dutch people who did what I did or more- much more during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always in the hearts of us who bear witness” (Gies and Gold 1), she helped her 8 Jewish friends hide for 2 years, risking her life multiple times, and continued to do what is right all her life. Even after the publication of Anne Frank’s diary, she continued to inspire numerous people all over the world. For this, she is considered a symbol of morality and strength.