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Miep Gies, Anne Frank's custodian, turns 100

February 17, 2009 |  7:53 am


After Anne Frank's family was found and taken away by the Nazis, it was Miep Gies who gathered up the girl's papers and saved them. She hoped, one day, to give them to Anne; instead, she passed them to Anne's father, Otto, the only family member to survive the Holocaust. They were what he published, later, as "Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl."

Miep Gies, who was once Otto's secretary, is the last survivor from the group that brought supplies to Anne Frank and her family while they remained in hiding. On Sunday, she celebrated her 100th birthday in Amsterdam.

Late last year, seventh- and eighth-grade students in Temecula, Calif., wrote  to Gies after finding her address online. Although she no longer responds to all who write to her, the class recently received a letter from her. Gies wrote: 

First I refused to read the diary, afraid of more pain. When at last I gave in to Otto's wish and began to read, I could not stop! Anne brought my friends back to life. ... Though I wept a lot, I kept thinking: "Anne, you gave me one of the finest presents I ever got."

And in an e-mail to the Associated Press this week, Gies downplayed her role in fighting the Nazis. "So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she noted, including her husband, Jan. "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."

Nevertheless, it was Miep Gies' actions that assured that Anne Frank's words would be heard.

Happy 100th birthday, Miep Gies.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: AFP Photo / Anne Frank House