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An Everyday Hero Passes On

Tuesday, January 12, 2010, 17:21 EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Miep Gies 1909-2010The last survivor among those who hid Anne Frank, her family, and four other Dutch Jews to keep them safe from the Nazis during World War II has died at the age of 100.

When the Gestapo raided the hiding place in the annex to Otto Frank’s business office on Aug. 4, 1944, and arrested its eight occupants, it left behind his daughter Anne’s diary and her writings on loose sheets of papers. The journals recounted life in those rooms behind a movable bookcase and the hopes of a girl on the brink of womanhood. Mrs. [Miep] Gies gathered up those writings and hid them, unread, hoping that Anne would someday return to claim them.

But when Anne’s father, Otto Frank, returned to Amsterdam at the end of World War II, having been liberated from Auschwitz, he was the lone survivor of the family. Anne Frank had died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp three months before her 16th birthday. Her sister, Margot, died there at age 19 and their mother, Edith Frank, died at Auschwitz.

The journals and papers were later published as Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl and offered the world a glimpse of life as a persecuted European Jew from a teenager’s point of view.

I call Mrs. Gies a hero, but like most true heroes, she shied away from the moniker.

“I am not a hero,” Mrs. Gies wrote in her memoir, “Anne Frank Remembered,” published in 1987. “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.”

But the fact that many others did what she did doesn’t diminish her actions. It merely means that there were many heroes, ordinary people doing extraordinarily selfless things despite great personal risk, for no other reason than that it was the right thing to do.

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