February 15, 2009

Anne Frank guardian reaches 100

The last surviving member of the group who helped hide the Jewish girl Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis in Amsterdam has turned 100 years old.

Miep Gies was planning a quiet celebration of her birthday with friends and relatives. She said she was not deserving of the attention, and others had done far more to protect Jews in the Netherlands. She paid tribute to "unnamed heroes", picking out her husband Jan for his courageous defiance of the Nazis.

"He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard," Miep Gies said in an email to the Associated Press this week.

Mrs Gies was an employee of Anne Frank's father, Otto, who kept them and six others supplied during their two years in hiding in an attic in Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944. But the family were found by the authorities, and deported. Anne Frank died of typhus in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen later.

It was Mrs Gies who collected up Anne Frank's papers, and locked them away, hoping that one day she would be able to give them back to the girl. In the event, she returned them to Otto Frank, and helped him compile them into a diary that was published in 1947. It went on to sell tens of millions of copies in dozens of languages.

She became a kind of ambassador for the diary, travelling to talk about Anne Frank and her experiences, campaigning against Holocaust denial and refuting allegations that the diary was a forgery.

For her efforts to protect the Franks and to preserve their memory, Mrs Gies won many accolades.

"This is very unfair," she told the Associated Press. "So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work."


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