I remember being around 10 or so, and bringing home the beautiful Scholastic flyer of books for sale. Remember those? It was like Christmas! I loved those flyers! I would meticulously circle all of the books I wanted to read (which was A LOT). When it came time to send in my orders, along with my mom’s hard earned cash to pay for them, my mom had bought a couple of my choices as well as The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank. I was so upset; I wanted to read wild adventure books, not real life sad stories about a girl dying. The diary sat on my bookshelf until I eventually read the book in high school, but I really did not get the full impact of it until later on in life when I read it again my 20’s.
When looking for a new book to read on audio, I found this book, which is a different look at Anne Frank’s story. Miep Gies was the woman who, with the help of her husband, hid the Frank family during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Gies was an employee of Otto Frank, and a very trusted friend. He entrusted his life, and the lives of his family, in her hands where she kept them hidden above the workshop for over 2 years. Gies did everything she could to keep them as comfortable as possible in such incredibly challenging times. She brought them food and supplies, and even small gifts. Gies herself was a Jewish woman, having been born in Vienna, Austria, and had traveled to Amsterdam to visit family. She loved life in the Netherlands, however, when the Nazi power began to take hold, her visa was revoked and she was to go back home. She ended up marrying a Dutch man, Jan Gies, and becoming a Dutch citizen, thus saving her life.
Gies was incredibly smart and cunning, finding ingenious ways to bring supplies to her friends. She made friends and allies throughout the city, some hiding Jews themselves, all doing their best to keep their secrets safe from the Nazi’s. She would carry only one shopping bag at a time, and visited multiple vendors to get what she needed, using stolen and illegal ration cards to obtain enough food for all of those hidden.
Gies was there in the building the day the Frank family were captured by the Gestapo. Someone had betrayed them, though it has never been revealed who. She herself could have been executed for her role in hiding the Frank’s, however one of the officers was from Vienna, and he decided to let her live. Once the Frank’s were gone, Gies went upstairs and found Anne’s diary and loose pages scattered across the floor. She picked them up and hid them in her desk, planning on giving them back to Anne when she returned after the war. Only Anne never returned. Anne died in Bergen Belsen in February or March of 1945, just shy of the camps liberation of April 15, 1945.
When Otto returned, once they knew Anne was not going to be coming home, Gies gave Otto the diary, and after much persuasion, she convinced him to publish the last written words of his youngest daughter. She felt the world needed to know it all, know what happened, know what life was like during the occupation, hoping to educate those who could never understand what they went through.
The book was so beautiful and so touching it brought tears to my eyes a number of times. It is just such an emotional and thought provoking read! I would highly highly highly recommend it to anyone, though I would suggest keeping a box of tissues nearby!
I remember after reading Anne’s diary, I was so thankful for the life we live in Canada. I may not have everything I want, but I definitely have everything I need, and know that what we take for granted here are things people are desperate for in other places of the world. Few live to experience such atrocities as those experienced in WWII. I am a firm believer in educating people about these events, for without education, without learning from them, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes. It’s a harsh reminder of what human beings are capable of doing to each other, what happens when we let fear and hate rule over reason and acceptance.
Gies was a remarkable woman, doing what she felt was right; risking her life at a very dangerous time, doing something all too many were afraid to do. I only hope we never have to be put in her shoes, and heaven forbid we are that we can act in her image. Her story speaks for all of those heroic people who helped save the lives of many Jews, for people who were not so lucky as Gies to escape execution. Perhaps now more than ever, her story is a poignant reminder to stand up for what is right, to stand against persecution and that the actions of one person really do make a huge impact. The world remembers Anne Frank and her family thanks to Miep Gies.