Memory saviorMiep Gies

A Dutch secretary and clerk, Gies was one of the people who helped hide her boss’s family from the Nazis in Amsterdam, behind a bookshelf at his office: Otto Frank, his wife Edith, their daughters Margot and Anne, and four other Dutch Jews. But her contribution didn’t end when the family was arrested after 25 months in hiding. After the arrest, Gies noticed a notebook and papers that the youngest girl, Anne, had left behind. She gathered them up and saved them, unread, in hopes she could give them back to her after the war. But the girl died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp shortly before her 16th birthday, so Gies gave the papers to Otto, the family’s only survivor.

The first edition, from 1947.

Those papers were published in 1946 under the title Het Achterhuis (“The Rear Annex”), but it’s better known to English readers as The Diary of a Young Girl or The Diary of Anne Frank. “I am not a hero,” Gies said in her 1987 memoir, Anne Frank Remembered. “I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more — much more — during those dark and terrible times.” When she finally read Anne’s diary, “The emptiness in my heart was eased. 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.” After her own memoir was published and her role became known, Gies — by then in her 80s — traveled the world speaking against intolerance. She was given West Germany’s highest civilian medal in 1989, and knighted in 1996 by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. She died January 11 at 100.

From This is True for 10 January 2010