Those are the words of Miep Gies, who died yesterday at 100, when she gave Otto Frank his daughter’s diary on his return to Amsterdam from Auschwitz in 1945. His wife, Edith, and daughters Margot and Anne, died in Bergen-Belsen, but Anne’s diary is our window into her family’s life while hiding from the Nazis in the attic at 263 Prinsengracht, Amsterdam.
That’s where Miep Gies comes in. Gies worked for Frank’s father, and from July 1942 to August 1944, she hid the Frank family and several of their friends:
For two years Miep Gies and her husband Jan, a municipal employee whom she had married in 1941, risked their lives to smuggle in food and provisions and news from outside, begging, buying and bartering what they needed from farmers and shopkeepers. They were helped throughout by her colleagues Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Bep Voskuijl.
In a 1998 interview, Gies explained how she and her colleagues cared for the Franks:
‘Bep took care of bread and milk. Kugler and Kleiman kept the business going and brought books and magazines along with them for the people in hiding. And my job was fetching vegetables and meat. I stilll have a shoppinglist that Mr. van Pels wrote for the butcher. Usually I threw them away, but I found this after the war in one of my coat pockets. And I’ll tell you, I’m very glad I did.’
After their discovery and arrest in 1944, Gies visited Gestapo headquarters to bargain for the Franks’ release, but was unsuccessful. She did find Anne’s diary scattered on the attic floor, and held it in her desk, hoping to return it to Anne. After Otto returned, and learned of his daughter’s death, Miep remembered the diary and gave it to him, with the words, “Here is your daughter Anne’s legacy to you.”
For the rest of her life, Miep Gies devoted herself to sustaining Anne Frank’s legacy, answering letters from all over the world. In 1987 she published a book, Anne Frank Remembered. In it she observed: “I am not a hero. 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 years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those of us who bear witness.”
More on Miep Gies
- Miep Gies Personal Website
- Miep Gies remembers Anne Frank – the official Anne Frank House website
- Miep Gies – Jewish Virtual Library
- Letter from Otto Frank to Yad Vashem (pdf) petitioning for Miep Gies, Jan Gies, Elisabeth van Wijk-Voskuyl (‘Bep), Victor Kugler, and Johannes Kleiman to be awarded “Righteous Among the Nations”
Miep Gies photo by Alice Berkman, Weatherford, Texas. Courtesy of The Anne Frank Center USA.