Early Years
Anne Frank




Miep 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:

When 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.

As 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:

The 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 him willingly.

After several weeks, some of Miep's strength began to return. 

Young 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.

In 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.

The 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 or execution.




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