Wednesday, October 15, 2008

October Ovation: Miep Gies

Imagine if one day your boss walked up to you and said, "Hey, I'm wondering if you'd be willing to help me and my family out with something? Something secret." Before you have a chance to answer, he holds up his hand like a stop sign and adds, "Wait. You should know that if you get caught, you'll be severely punished, thrown in prison or deported or even shot."

This is, very roughly speaking, what Otto Frank presented to his four office employees around the spring of 1942 in Amsterdam. He asked them to hide him and his family, the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer from the Nazis in a sealed-off part of the office building.

Miep (rhymes with keep) Gies (rhymes with peace) said, "Of course."

This was her reasoning: "My decision to help Otto was because I saw no alternative. I could foresee many sleepless nights and an unhappy life if I refused. And that was not the kind of failure I wanted for myself. Permanent remorse about failing to do your human duty, in my opinion, can be worse than losing your life."

Miep's job was buying the vegetables and the meat. In order not to arouse suspicion, she'd make several trips a day to the market, never carrying more than one bag. Miep also brought news, awful news, of the outside world to the people in the Secret Annex. And she spent a night in hiding, because she wanted to understand what the exiled people were experiencing. She helped for two years.

On August 4, 1944, an anonymous informant told the Gestapo about the hidden people. After they were deported. Miep gathered up Anne's diary and hung onto it until after the war at which time she gave it to Frank Otto.

From left to right, front row: Miep Gies, Otto Frank, and Bep Voskuijl. Back row: Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler (October 1945.)

All the helpers were brave and selfless.

In Miep's words: "It seemed perfectly natural to me. I could help these people. They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn. I always emphasize that we were not heroes. We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need."
Sounds extremely heroic to me.

The following bloggers have graciously posted about a person or people they admire. Please pay them a visit.

Stacy Nyikos, a fellow 2k8er
Ellen Booraem, a fellow 2k8er
Maureen McGowan
Elizabeth--About New York
Jason--Scribblings of a Madman
Becky Levine
The Adventures (and Misadventures) of Amy
Sandy--Peaceful Heart Stained Glass
Gabe--Gabe's Meanderings
Shari Green
Debra--From Skilled Hands
Patti--Welcome to the Patti-O
Patti Abbott--pattinase
Beth Yarnell
Travis--One Word, One Rung, One Day
Through the Tollbooth
The Tainted Archive
Patti's People and Places
Larramie--Seize A Daisy who has put up a post as well as linked to all the October Ovation participants. Thank you.

Sources:
http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=280&lid=2
http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?PID=110&LID=2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miep_Gies
http://teacher.scholastic.com/frank/tscripts/miep.htm

37 comments:

debra said...

I have always admired Miep Gies, Barrie. Thank for writing about her. And for this wonderful blog event
xo

Elizabeth said...

Well done, Barrie.
Thanks for organizing this.
A super choice of admirable person.

Sheri said...

I read The Diary of Anne Frank and other books on the subject. It was a horribly heinous time in history.

This was a great posting, thank you for sharing.

beckylevine said...

Barrie--

What a wonderful choice. Miep is one of the people that always makes me think about what I would do, what I would be brave enough to do, in this kind of moment. I hope, of course, that I would be as strong as she was.

And she was a hero. They all were.

Thanks for setting this up. My post is up, too.

Sarakastic said...

"We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need." That is one of the best things I've ever heard. Ever.

Barrie said...

Sarakastic, I'm with you. I actually choke up at that line.

Ellen Booraem said...

Anne Frank's diary was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. I always wondered if I'd have the courage to do what Miep Gies did. Making the decision would have been heroic enough, but keeping at it day after day, month after month...that's real heroism.

J.K. Mahal said...

What a wonderful post. What a wonderful example.

Charles Gramlich said...

A great choice. It's always good to be reminded that courage is out there in the human race.

Ello said...

This was an excellent choice for a post! Thank you for reminding us of this important story.

Beth said...

Great post. How can you not admire people who fight injustice and do what is right, not what is easy?

Patti said...

i love stories like this. my german grandmother hid jewish friends in her basement and i have always been sorry that i never had the chance to meet her. extraordinary human beings...

Larramie said...

A very thoughtful and inspirational post, Barrie...although you did surprise me. ;)

Michele said...

An excellent reminder to take the courageous stand. Like others have noted, I wonder how I would've answered in such a frightening situation... I'd like to think I would've helped.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Excellent post, Barrie, and a wonderful idea.

Terrie

gabe said...

They had no idea we'd be talking about them in 2008. None. Great choice.

And Barrie, thanks for doing this.

Kellan said...

I enjoyed this and I love the story of Anne Frank!

Have a good afternoon - Kellan

Kelley said...

This was really neat to read. I read all the posters and I think Patty's was my favorite. What a really cool idea Barrie.

Shari said...

Permanent remorse about failing to do your human duty, in my opinion, can be worse than losing your life.
Wow - what an amazing woman. Thank you for posting this!

ARCHAVIST said...

I love this concept and I posted an october ovation on my blog. The Anne Frank story is both sickening and heart warming.

Amy said...

I've always been extremely interested in the Anne Frank "story" and that whole (horrible) part of history. Thanks for the great tribute to Miep.

Eileen said...

Courage is being afraid and yet still moving forward. When I lived in Europe I went to Anne Frank's house and was so very moved.

Bee said...

I took my girls to the Anne Frank house a couple of years ago and we found it really moving. I can vividly remember reading the diary for the first time -- when I was in 7th grade. Not only did Miep act in a selfless, courageous way -- but she did so much to preserve this amazing story.

It is always a good thing to remember how marvellous human beings can be . . . especially when we are exhausted by the news.

Stacy Nyikos said...

Awesome post. Miep Gies really is the best kind of hero there is. Someone who did something selfless because she thought it was right, despite great personal danger. She is an inspiration.

Travis Erwin said...

Great post.

laughingwolf said...

good stuff, thx barrie....

Travis Erwin said...

Great post

ChrisEldin said...

This gave me goosebumps. Two years That is a God-awful amount of time. That's what I can't get out of my head.

Carleen Brice said...

Wow. Sometimes people can really rise above, can't we? Awesome!

keri mikulski :) said...

Love this event. Great blog, Barrie. :)

Alyssa Goodnight said...

What a very inspiring post! And a great idea--I wish I'd been organized enough to participate.

Ray said...

Anne Frank's diary was compulsory reading back in those days when I went to school - at the time the events in the book were just a few years old.
Over the years much has been made of Anne Frank's Diary that I expect to hear that it's been turned into a musical.
So, it was refreshing to read something that was new and absorbing - thank you.
Might join the club next time - but the memory might have to be jogged as not much good with dates.

TJ Brown said...

Great, great blog post.
Teri

~Virginia~ said...

wonderful post. i still remember the first time i read the diary of anne frank--so incredibly moving.

Britta Coleman said...

Great post. Anne's diary is such a powerful work, and I enjoyed this look into the people who helped her family.

Angela said...

It is quite amazing.
I was able to visit when I lived over in Germany.
It certainly gives you something to think about.

courtneywrites said...

I have been re-reading Anne Frank's diary because my 13 year old stepbrother had to read it for school. Thank you for this post.