Wednesday 13 January 2010

To Miep Gies protector of Anne Frank diaries

Anne Frank tours

I first visited an Anne Frank [1] exhibition in a church in Islington in North London some 16 years ago, the pictures and detail of the suffering of the Jews in the Second World War were harrowing but there were as personal story too, the diary of a teenage girl who was hardly in her teens about their daily life the courage of the very few who strove to keep her and her family from the grip of Nazi-occupied Netherlands.

Two days ago, the last of the Dutch citizens to aid and shelter them from harm died at the age of 100, her name was Miep Gies [2].

On my second visit to Amsterdam, in 1996, the Anne Frank Museum [3] was a must see for us and on that dull afternoon we trundled to the almost non-descript house and walked around the house, the enclave and noted the observations of Anne Frank on panels and boards all around the house, it really had that very old feel to it.

A tourist’s itinerary

My third visit was a chaperone to the parents of my friend with whom I visited 10 years before, the whole setup had changed, adjoining buildings had been acquired and the place now looked like a very commercial tourist attraction, probably one of the most visited in the Netherlands and for all intents and purposes, it is worth a visit.

Without going into much detail, Miep Gies, her husband and 3 other Dutch citizens helped conceal Anne Frank, her family and a number of friends, all of whom were Jews in a annex of the office they worked in.

It was an act of exceptional courage in a time of great suspicion and deception, it was difficult to know who to trust, the risk they took could have cost them their freedom as well as their lives.

Unfortunately, Anne Frank and her concealed colleagues were discovered and transferred to Nazi concentration camps where she died at the age of 15.

The preservation of memories and memorials

Miep Gies found the diary Anne Frank kept during the times of concealment and when Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father returned to the Netherlands, that diary was published and has made Anne Frank probably one of the most talked about victims of the Holocaust.

Coincidentally, the concentration camp site at Auschwitz in Poland is falling into disrepair [4] and there are appeals for aid to keep the infrastructure from falling apart and hence preserve an essential piece of memory about man’s inhumanity to man.

The narratives are very clear, the need for exceptional courage and bravery in preserving our humanity, the utility of documenting our daily lives for posterity and fact that we cannot afford for monuments of remembrance to waste away just because they look like relics of times long gone.

All these are signposts of history from which hopefully we can learn lessons to live better lives for ourselves, our communities and humanity at large. Rest in peace, Miep Gies and thank you for showing us your deep humanity and preserving the memories of times we must never forget.


[1] Anne Frank - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] Miep Gies - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam - the official Anne Frank House website

[4] Auschwitz asks Britain for help to preserve decaying death camp - Times Online

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