Death of Miep Gies

11 Jan 2010 18:30
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"Miep looks like a pack mule. She goes out nearly everyday in search of vegetables, and then cycles back with her purchases in large shopping bags. She’s also the one who brings five library books with her every Saturday." Anne Frank July 11, 1943

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Miep Gies, the last surviving and best known helper of Anne Frank and the people who shared her hiding place in an Amsterdam canalside house, has died in Hoorn on 11 January at the age of 100. Right until the end Miep remained deeply involved with the remembrance of Anne Frank and spreading the message of her story. Every day she received letters from all over the world with questions about her relationship with Anne Frank and her role as a helper. “I’m not a hero’, she once said, “It wasn’t something I planned in advance, I simply did what I could to help.” Miep Gies leaves a son, a daughter in law and three grandchildren behind.

Hermine (Miep) Gies-Santrouschitz was born in Vienna in February 15 1909, and came to the Netherlands when she was 11 years old. From 1933 she worked as Otto Frank’s secretary at Opekta, his trading company in gelling agents for making jam. When Otto approached her in the spring of 1942 to ask her help him and his family go into hiding, Miep did not hesitate. For two years, together with other helpers, she made sure that the people in hiding (Otto Frank, his wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne, Hermann and Auguste Van Pels and their son Peter, and Fritz Pfeffer) were supplied with food and other essentials. Her husband Jan Gies organised ration coupons, and like Miep visited the secret annexe regularly. By helping, they were putting their own lives at risk.

Immediately after the arrest of the people in hiding, on August 4 1944, Miep Gies took Anne’s diary papers into safekeeping. When Otto Frank returned from Auschwitz after the war, the only one of his family to survive, Miep gave them to him. Today, the Diary of Anne Frank has been translated into 70 different languages and is one of the most read books in the world.

As the diary became more well known Miep Gies’s brave role in the story received worldwide attention. She received many honours, among them the Yad Vashem medal and a knighthood from the German government; the Bundesverdienst Kreuz. In 1995 she was knighted in the Netherlands, as Ridder in de Orde van Oranje Nassau, and in 2009 she was awarded the Goldener Rathausmann by her home city of Vienna.

The Anne Frank House always maintained close contacts with Miep Gies.