A Mighty Girl – Born February 17, 1909
Miep Gies — who is pictured here by the movable bookcase that hid Anne Frank’s secret annex — risked her life to hide Anne, her family, and four other Jews for over two years. After the Frank family was arrested, it was Gies who saved Anne’s diary and kept it safe until after the war. Now published in more than 60 languages, Eleanor Roosevelt called Anne’s diary “one of the wisest and most moving commentaries on war and its impact on human beings that I have ever read.”
Born on this day in Vienna in 1909, Gies moved in with a foster family in the Netherlands to escape food shortages in Austria following WWI. In 1933, she began working for Anne’s father, Otto Frank, as a secretary and soon became close friends with the family. After Anne’s older sister, Margot, received a summons to report to a Nazi work camp in Germany, the Frank family went into hiding. Gies, along with a few other employees, concealed them in secret rooms in the office building where they worked — a hiding place now famously known as the Secret Annex. Gies and her husband also hid an anti-Nazi university student in their own apartment. As she didn’t dare tell anyone, not even her foster parents, of her activities, Gies developed a system for acquiring food and other supplies surreptitiously, so that no one would suspect she was shopping for more than just her own family.
Over the two years the Franks were in hiding, Gies developed a close friendship with the teenage Anne. The hiding place was discovered after the German police received a tip about the existence of the Secret Annex and everyone hiding there was arrested. Gies went to the police station and attempted to buy their freedom but sadly without success. The effort could have cost her more than money: Gies could have been executed for hiding Jews — in fact two others, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleiman, who helped hide the Franks were arrested and sent to work camps. Fortunately, the police officer who interrogated Gies discovered she was from his home town in Austria and let her go.
Before the Secret Annex was emptied by the police, Gies retrieved Anne’s diaries and hid them in her desk drawer. When the war was over, Gies turned the diaries over to the family’s only survivor, Otto Frank. She didn’t read them until the second printing and remarked that if she had read them during the war, she would have had to destroy them as they included the names of those who hid the Franks and of their black market suppliers.
Gies, who is pictured here with her husband Jan during a visit to the Anne Frank House in 1987, died in 2010 at the age of 100. While she has been widely honored for her actions during the war, including by the Netherlands, Germany, Israel, and Austria, Gies didn’t consider what she did extraordinary; rather she hoped that her actions showed that “even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.”
To introduce children to Miep Gies’ heroic story, we highly recommend the inspiring picture book “Miep and the Most Famous Diary” for ages 6 to 9 at https://www.amightygirl.com/miep-and-the-most-famous-diaryFor adult readers, Gies’ story is told in her excellent autobiography: “Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family” at https://www.amightygirl.com/anne-frank-rememberedFor many books for children and teens about girls and women who lived during the Holocaust period, including stories of other heroic resisters and rescuers, visit our blog post, “60 Mighty Girl Books About The Holocaust” at https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11586To introduce children and teens to Anne Frank’s story, you can find numerous books about her for all ages in our blog post “Hope in a Hidden Room: 15 Books About Anne Frank” at https://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=12110For several books for young readers about more heroic Holocaust rescuers, we recommend “The Butterfly” for ages 5 to 8 (https://www.amightygirl.com/the-butterfly), “The Whispering Town” for ages 6 to 9 (https://www.amightygirl.com/the-whispering-town), “Irena’s Children: A True Story of Courage” for ages 10 to 14 (https://www.amightygirl.com/irena-s-children-young-readers), and “The Light in Hidden Places” for ages 13 and up (https://www.amightygirl.com/the-light-in-hidden-places)