A few weeks ago, on January 11, a woman in the Netherlands died as quietly as she had lived.
If you have ever read Anne Frank’s Diary, perhaps the name Miep Gies will ring a bell. She was one of the group of trusted employees who helped Otto Frank, his family and some friends hide in the attic of their office building during the Nazi occupation of Holland. For two years, Miep acted as their lifeline to the outside world, bringing food, clothing, news, and other important necessities of life, such as friendship, laughter, and hope.
When the hiding place was discovered and its occupants arrested in August 1944, Miep rescued the pages of Anne’s diary from the floor of the attic where they had been scattered, and bundled them away into a drawer, not knowing if they would ever again see the light of day.
A year later, after receiving the news that Anne and her sister Margot had died at Bergen Belsen, Miep placed the rescued pages into Otto Frank’s hands.
The rest, as they say, is history.
A lesser known work is Anne Frank Remembered, Miep’s own account of the “Secret Annex,” published decades later, in 1987. I remember reading it with admiration and respect. What Miep, her husband Jan, and the others did to help the Franks took unimaginable courage on a daily basis, and yet to her it was simply what had to be done.
“My story,” she wrote in the prologue, “is a story of very ordinary people during extraordinarily terrible times. Times the like of which I hope with all my heart will never, never come again. It is for all of us ordinary people all over the world to see to it that they do not.”
In the midst of all the glory-grabbing, inanity and pettiness that seem to prevail these days, Miep’s story is a shining example of what it means to be a quiet hero. As the song goes, “…we can all be quiet heroes, living quiet days / Walking through the world, changing it in quiet ways.”