Gies was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909 as Hermine Santrouschitz. She
was five years old, when the First World War began and because of the
serious food shortages during the war, she soon became undernourished
and sick. In her book Anne Frank Remembered Miep recalled:
I was ten years old, my parents had another child; another daughter. Now
there was even less food for us all. My condition was worsening, and my
parents were told that something had to be done or I would die.
part of a relief program to help malnourished children she was sent by
her hard-pressed parents to live with a middle-class Dutch foster family
in Leiden in Holland:
train was filled with many children like me, all with cards around their
necks. Suddenly, the faces of my parents were no longer in sight
anywhere and the train had begun to move. All the children were scared
and apprehensive about what was to become of us. Some were crying. Most
of us had never even been outside our streets, certainly never outside
Vienna. I felt too weak to observe much, found the chugging motion of
the train made me sleepy.
It was pitch-black, the middle of the night, when the train stopped. The
sign beside the still-steaming train said Leiden:
Opposite the exhausted, sick children crowded a group of adults.
Suddenly, those adults came at us in a swarm and began to fumble with
our cards, reading off the names. We were helpless to resist the looming
forms and fumbling hands. A man, not very big but very strong-looking,
read my tag. Ja, he said firmly, and took my hand in his, helping
me down from the chair. He led me away, I was not afraid and went with
several weeks, some of Miep's strength began to return.
Miep thrived in her new Dutch home, she growed to love her new family
very much - five children, not much money, but great kindness. They
taught her generosity. She never lived with her parents again. She was a
good student, a reliable secretary, had a lively social life and was one
of the first girls in Amsterdam to learn the Charleston.
1933 she took a job as an office assistant for Otto Frank, who had
brought his Jewish family to Holland from Germany to escape the Nazis
and reestablished his business in Amsterdam. Miep soon became good
friends with the Frank family - Otto, his wife Edith, and their
daughters, Margot and Anne.
family's feelings of security collapsed, however, when in 1940, Adolf
Hitler and his troops conquered Holland. As the brutality of the
Nazis soon accelerated with murder, violence and terror, the seeds of
their plan for the total extermination of the Jews dawned on Otto Frank
in all its horror.
He spent 1941-42 preparing and stocking an annex behind his business
office at Prinsengracht 263 into a hiding place. The entrance to these
rooms on the third and fourth floors was concealed by a moving bookcase
which could be closed.
He came to his loyal employee and friend Miep Gies with a question that
would, in a split second, change her life forever. 'Miep,' he
said, 'Are you willing to take on the responsibility of taking care
of us if we go into hiding?'
There was an immediate reply: 'Of course'. Of course, she
said without asking for details. She agreed to help the Franks go into
hiding in the secret annex despite threat of imprisonment, deportation