Miep Gies probably expected to live a quiet, unadorned life. Instead, she became the publicist and helper of Hope:
Without Miep Gies, the story of Anne Frank might never have been known.
The former office secretary who helped hide the Jewish teenager from the Nazis for two years gathered up the scattered diary pages after the Frank family was arrested and sent to concentration camps. She locked the papers — unread — in her desk until Frank’s father Otto returned, the only family member to survive.
Gies died Monday from a neck injury suffered when she fell last month, the Anne Frank House museum said. She was 100 and had been one of the few people still alive who knew Anne Frank.
Gies (whose full name is pronounced ‘Meep Khees’) was the last of the “helpers,” the six non-Jews who smuggled food, books, writing paper and news of the outside world to the secret attic apartment of the canal-side warehouse where Anne, her parents, sister and four other Jews hid during World War II.
Condolence messages poured in to an online registry at the rate of about 100 per hour Tuesday, said museum spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker. Neither Queen Beatrix, who knighted Gies in 1995, nor the Dutch government immediately issued a statement, however.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, in a letter to the Dutch queen, said Gies “won the hearts of all of us” through her efforts to save the Frank family and rescue the diary. “Miep’s selfless humanitarian deed inspires us to continue believing in the goodness and integrity of human beings in the face of unfathomable evil,” Peres wrote.
Not that Gies was in any sense infallible. The following observation, by her, was surely wrong:
resisted being made a character study of heroism for the young.
“I don’t want to be considered a hero,” she said in a 1997 online chat with schoolchildren.
“Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.”
Nothing could be further from the truth.