Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Miep Gies, Rest In Peace

It's one thing to theorize about courage and moral responsibility.It's very different to act on those principles, when acting on them means death.

Miep Gies, who passed away Monday at 100 years old was one such person who passed that ultimate test.

During the Nazi occupation, Miep Gies was one of a team of Dutch citizens who helped to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis for two years, and the person who saw to it that Anne Frank's diary did not fall into the hands of her Nazi murderers:

The family stayed in the secret room from July 1942 until August 4, 1944, when they were arrested by Gestapo and Dutch police after being betrayed by an informant. Two of Gies' team were arrested that day, but she and her friend, Bep Voskuijl, were left behind -- and found 14-year-old Anne's papers.

"And there Bep and I saw Anne's diary papers lying on the floor. I said, 'Pick them up!' Bep stood there staring, frozen. I said, 'Pick them up! Pick them up!' We were afraid, but we did out best to collect all the papers," Gies said in a 1998 interview with The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

"Then we went downstairs. And there we stood, Bep and I. I asked, 'What now, Bep?' She answered, 'You're the oldest. You hold on to them. So I did."

The girl had chronicled two years of the emotions and fears that gripped her during hiding, as well as candid thoughts on her family, her feelings for friend-in-hiding Peter van Pels, and dreams of being a professional writer. Mixed into the entries were the names of the Dutch helpers, who risked their lives to keep the family's secret.

"I didn't read Anne's diary papers. ... It's a good thing I didn't because if I had read them I would have had to burn them," she said in the 1998 interview. "Some of the information in them was dangerous."

The diary was sheltered in Gies' desk drawer and later turned over to Otto Frank when he returned after the war as the only surviving resident of the annex. Anne died at northern Germany's Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.

After the war, Ms. Gies turned the diaries over to Anne's father, Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family.

Miep Giles apparently never considered herself a hero.Perhaps she didn't realize exactly how heroic she was, because her kind of courage is much rarer than that found on the battlefield.

I have no doubt that Miep Gies bravery has now been recognized by the Father of us all.

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