She never wanted special recognition for her heroism. In her memoir, Miep Gies wrote "there is nothing special about me."
The world, of course, has a different view of the one-time secretary, known the world over as the woman who hid Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis in wartime Amsterdam. And now, hundreds of thousands around the globe are mourning her death. Miep Gies passed away on Monday evening at the age of 100.
Gies worked as a secretary for Anne Frank's father, Otto, who ran a spice business. As the Nazis began rounding up Holland's Jews in 1942, Otto asked her to hide his family -- including his wife and his daughter Margot in addition to Anne -- and four other Jews in an annex behind a warehouse on the Prinsengracht canal.
'Didn't Know Where to Turn'
"I answered, 'Yes, of course,'" Gies recalled years later. "It seemed perfectly natural to me. I could help these people. They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn."
Together with four other Frank employees, Gies provided food and other necessities to those living in the shelter. Gies biked across Amsterdam, procuring supplies at different shops in order to avoid raising suspicion about the quantity of food she was buying.
Despite the heroic efforts of Gies and the others, the Nazis raided the secret annex on the morning of Aug. 4, 1944 and deported its residents to Auschwitz. Anne Frank, spared immediate death in the Auschwitz gas chambers, died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp just weeks before the end of World War II. She was 15.
It was Miep Gies who saved Anne Frank's notebooks from the annex shortly after her arrest and locked them in a drawer. She didn't read the documents, planning to return them to Anne following the war. In the end, however, she handed the diaries to Otto -- the only member of the Frank family to survive the war -- upon his return and he published them in 1947. "The Diary of Anne Frank" has since been read by millions of people around the world and translated into 65 languages.
'Never a Day Goes By'
Miep Gies was born in 1909 in Vienna as Hermine Santrouschitz before moving to Amsterdam in the early 1920s due to food shortages in post-World War I Austria. She married her boyfriend Jan Gies, thus avoiding deportation after having refused to join a Nazi organization in 1941. Gies spent much of her later life answering letters about the Anne Frank diaries and countering Holocaust deniers who claimed that the diaries were forgeries. "Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then," she wrote on her Web site.
Gies received numerous awards and acknowledgements throughout her life, including the "Righteous Gentile" designation handed out by the Israeli Holocaust museum Yad Vashem. The German government awarded her the prestigious Bundesverdienstkreuz 1. Klasse (Cross of Merit, First Class). Still, the ever-modest Mies constantly reminded her admirers that she was just one of many who helped hide Jews in Holland.
"More than 20,000 Dutch people helped to hide Jews and others in need of hiding during those years," she wrote. "I willingly did what I could to help. My husband did as well. It was not enough."
cgh -- with wire reports
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