Miep Gies, Director of Opekta’s, Died at 100

Dead, Hermine Santruschitz on the 11th of January 2010 at the age of 100, she is better known as Miep Gies, she was one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne Frank, her family and four other Jews from the Nazis in an annex above Anne’s father’s business premises during World War II.

Born on the 15th of February 1909, she was Austrian by birth, but in 1920, at the age of eleven, she was taken in as a foster child by a Dutch family to whom she became very attached.

Although she was initially only to stay for six months, this stay was extended to one year because of frail health, after which she chose to remain with them, living the rest of her life in the Netherlands.

In 1922, she moved with her foster family to Gaaspstraat 25 in Amsterdam.

Gies was an honour student, and described herself as “reserved and very independent”; after graduating high school, she worked as an accountant and then as a secretary with the Dutch branch of the German firm Opekta.

Otto Frank had just relocated from Germany and had been appointed managing director of Opekta’s recently expanded Dutch operations.

She became a close friend of the Frank family, as did Jan Gies, her long-time fiancé.

After refusing to join a Nazi women’s association, her passport was invalidated and she was ordered to be deported within ninety days back to Austria (by then annexed by Germany, which classified her as a German citizen).

Miep finished her schooling at 18 and got a job in the office of a textile company, where she worked until she was 24, when she was laid off due to the Depression.

After several months of unemployment, a neighbour alerted Miep to a possible position at Nederlandsche Opekta, a company that provided ingredients for making jam.

She interviewed with Otto Frank, who due to Nazi oppression of the Jews had fled Germany with his family and his business.

They bonded through their fractured Dutch and fluent German, and when Miep passed her jam-making test she immediately began working for him.

During the Nazi occupation of Holland the Austrian-born Dutch woman risked her life daily to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis.

For more than two years, Miep helped the Franks and four other people evade the Gestapo by bringing food, comfort and news of the world to them in a tiny hideout in the canal-side building that housed the family business.

It all ended on August 4, 1944, when their hiding place was betrayed and the family was arrested by the Nazis.

A few hours later, wandering mournfully through the four small upstairs rooms, Miep discovered the plaid-cloth-covered diary kept by the young teenager.

Miep and her boyfriend, Jan Gies, courted for years but couldn’t afford to get married.

Miep gave birth to her and Jan’s son, Paul, in 1952.

Although Anne’s diaries had been published in 1947, Miep had never read them, but Otto finally persuaded her to do so in their second printing.

She published a memoir, Anne Frank Remembered, in 1987, which provides an illuminating bridge to the Secret Annex.

As a woman of courage and conviction, she toured and lectured on the lessons of the Holocaust and Anne Frank’s legacy, but Miep always insisted she was not a hero; she simply did what many other “good Dutch people” did.