Hermine Gies represents everything that Woman’s History month is about

Image from Creative Commons

Image from Creative Commons

Hermine “Miep” Gies was born February 15, 1909 in Vienna, Austria. Gies is best known for hiding Anne Frank and her family, along with others who stayed with the Franks in the Secret Annex, during WWII. 

In 1920, Gies left Austria for the Netherlands to escape the food shortages that were plaguing Austria during the war. She was taken in by her foster family, the Nieuwenburgs, in the city of Lieden, though they eventually moved to Amsterdam. Gies worked as an accountant after highschool, and later as a secretary for the pectin and spice company, Opekta (Gies & Company). Otto Frank became the managing director of the company in Amsterdam, which is how he became acquainted with Gies. 

During the Nazi occupation, Gies was going to be deported back to Austria for refusing to join a Nazi women’s association. Luckily, she married her fiancé Jan Gies July 16, 1941, and became a Dutch citizen, in which she did not get deported. 

When the Frank’s decided it was time to go into hiding, they stayed in the hidden top floor of the building where Otto Frank and Gies worked, which Anne called the Secret Annex. Gies, her husband, and employees Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman and Bep Voskuijl all helped to ensure the Franks remained hidden. Also joining Otto, Edith, Margot and Anne Frank in the Secret Annex were Fritz Pfeffer (a dentist), and the Van Pel family which included Hermann, Auguste and their son Peter. Miep and Jan Gies also hid an anti-Nazi university student at their apartment.

Gies would bring food, supplies, and news about the outside world to the Franks and their guests, making sure that everyone who worked in the building left before she would visit.

August 4, 1944, the Franks, the Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer were arrested by the Nazis after someone reported them to be hiding in the office building. Kugler and Kleiman were arrested while Voskuijl and Gies were not. The main suspect for who turned in the Franks is Willem van Maaren, a warehouse worker, but it has not been confirmed, and Gies doesn’t think that he is the one who betrayed them.

Gies and her husband both survived the rest of the war, along with Voskuijl, Klieman (who was released from the Amersfoort labor camp 6 weeks after the arrest), and Kugler (who ended up escaping from the Nazis in March, 1945).

Gies and Voskuijl were able to save Anne’s diary after the arrest, and gave it back to Otto Frank after the war ended. Otto Frank was separated from his family, and was the only one out of those hiding in the Annex who survived. Otto was able to publish Anne’s diary into the now bestselling book, Anne Frank, the Diary of a Young Girl.

Miep Gies was an outstandingly brave and strong woman, who helped others even when it put her own life on the line. She knew that hiding the Franks, and standing up against the Nazi’s was the human thing to do, and did everything she could to keep those she helped safe. Gies was an amazing friend to the Franks, Van Pels and Pfeffer throughout their time in hiding, and was a great comfort to all of them, especially Anne.

Gies lived to be 100 years old, passing away January 11, 2010. Before her passing, she received many awards for her bravery and was even knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau by the Queen of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix. Gies was and still is a hero to many people in the world, though she would just say that she was doing what was right. 

“Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero?” — Miep Gies.