Anne Frank Home
Miep Gies, the woman who risked her life daily to help hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis, visited the Scholastic Web site in May 1997. During this project, students had the opportunity to ask Miep questions about Anne Frank, her family, and the other people in hiding.
Below are Miep's answers to questions from students.
Click the following categories to see specific questions and answers
from the interview:
Hiding the Franks
How did you react when you heard that you were going to be taking in Anne Frank? Did you agree right away or did it take time to convince you to do this?
I agreed right away to take care of the Frank family. I simply could not do anything else, First, because Otto Frank had been a wonderful boss all the years I had known him. Further, I had often met with his family, who were also great and received me at their home most friendly numerous times. By the way, I did not take them into my home. They were going to hide at Otto Frank's business. I also felt very sorry for them. I had to help.
What were your feelings about the Franks going into hiding?
I was glad that Otto Frank decided to go into hiding, because I was extremely concerned about him and his family, seeing what was happening to the Jews in Amsterdam. Every day you saw trucks with Jews heading for the railway station, from where the trains left for the camps. Nobody ever heard from them again, so I thought Otto did wise to go into hiding.
What was it like to watch Anne and her family in hiding? What was Anne's personality like?
I found it extremely painful to see people who would love to go out and live in freedom now sitting in a small place and worrying all the time what the future would bring. It is truly awful to watch people living in fear. Otto had been my boss for many years. Now, all of sudden, he was dependent on me.
How was it determined who would hide in the Annex?
Otto Frank decided who would stay in the hiding place.
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Did you know about the secret room before the Franks hid there?
The hiding place was initially just part of the business. It was the laboratory, used for product development. During the war there was no development of new products, so Otto Frank decided to transform this space into a hiding space.
Why did you take on the responsibility of hiding the Franks?
My decision to help Otto was because I saw no alternative. I could foresee many sleepless nights and an unhappy life if I refused. And that was not the kind of failure I wanted for myself. Permanent remorse about failing to do your human duty, in my opinion, can be worse than losing your life.
Did your husband agree with you about hiding the Franks, or did you have to convince him?
My husband was in full agreement with my efforts to help the Franks. Actually, he was just as active in assisting them and often visited with the families.
What was it like knowing that the fate of eight people rested in your hands and that you were one of their most valuable resources?
I certainly felt responsible. Particularly to find them enough food so they would stay healthy, that was always on my mind.
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Was it hard to keep the people in hiding a secret?
It was not easy to keep the people in hiding a secret. They were asking questions all the time, but you did not want to upset them with what happened to the Jews in Amsterdam. Anne particularly kept asking and it was her that I told more about the trucks with Jewish families heading for the railway station.
We both read Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary and thought it was great. We also think you are very brave to help the Franks and the Van Pels. We would like to know how old you were. Who were you closest to in the Secret Annex?
I was a young woman in my thirties. I was closest with Anne and with her father, Otto. Anne, because she was the one asking me questions all the time; particularly about what was going on in the world outside the hiding place. As a matter of fact, I liked talking with her. I was 20 years older than she was, but it was like talking to a much older person than a teenager. With Otto I had a close contact because together we were actually managing the logistics of their stay in the hiding place.
Did anyone ever suspect that you were hiding people?
Nobody, not even my own foster parents knew about the people in hiding. Therefore, I had no reason to believe that anyone would suspect this. By visiting several different suppliers a day and not buying everything at the same place, I avoided suspicion with the grocery shops.
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How did you keep the workers at the factory from becoming suspicious?
We kept the workers at the factory from becoming suspicious by avoiding as much as possible to enter the hiding place during office hours. Further, the people in hiding would not flush the toilet during the day and avoid making any other noises.
How did you manage to live when you were giving most of your food away?
I had to buy food in the "black" market. My husband Jan also helped by providing me with so-called ration cards he had obtained illegally. I also knew suppliers, like for instance the greengrocer, who understood what I was doing and would help as much as he could.
When you were going back and forth transporting food and goods to the Franks, did you have to wear a disguise or have some type of plan so the Nazis wouldn't see you?
It was difficult to bring food to the building where the Franks were hiding. I could not bring everything at once because it would raise suspicion. I never carried more than what one shopping bag could hold or what I could hide under my coat. So, I had to make several trips every day.
I understand that you got food for the people in hiding. But, how exactly did you get enough food for everyone in hiding and yourself?
I felt permanent concern regarding the food situation. By visiting several grocery shops and markets a day, I developed a good feeling for the supply situation.
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I would like to know what it was like to spend a night in the hiding place.
Spending that night in the hiding place, together with my husband, opened my eyes for the awful position of my friends. To live with eight people in such a small place, never being allowed to go out, never being able to talk to friends and always fearing the coming of the police.
Why didn't the Franks sleep during the day when they were in hiding in the attic?
Why did the Frank's not sleep during the day and be up during the night? A good question. I think our biological rhythm makes it difficult to do that. Further, during the night, the neighbors would have more easily noticed noises.
What did the people in hiding do with their trash?
The trash (which is very little in times of scarcity) was burned at night in the stove.
What was life like for Margot, Anne, and Peter in the attic?
Life for Peter, Margot, and Anne, being so young, was particularly difficult. They could never go out to play and meet with friends. They could not do any sports, go to the beach, walk through the forests, or do any shopping.
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What happened to Mushi, Peter's cat?
After they were arrested, the cat was still there. It did not run away. But the cat did not feel at home anymore. It missed Peter. But one day the office cleaner asked if she could take the cat. She took Mushi and gave the cat a new home.
Who was the most difficult in hiding?
I can't point at anyone who was difficult to hide. After the war Otto told me (half jokingly) that only Anne's somewhat provocative attitude caused problems.
Was it hard on the people in the Secret Annex to stay quiet for such a long period of time?
I think it must have been very hard for the people in the attic to be quiet for such a long period. I always feel that they were the true heroes during those years.
How did the people get along being locked up for so long?
From Anne's diary we know that it was not always easy for the people in hiding to get along pleasantly. I myself never noticed tensions when I visited with them. After the war, I learned that Otto sternly warned them not to bother the helpers with their conflicts.
How did it feel knowing that you could be raided at any moment, and if the Franks were found, even killed?
I can't remember that I was really afraid while I was hiding the families; I was too busy finding food and other supplies to find time to worry. When I saw my bed in the evening, I would just fall asleep.
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Did you ever consider telling on those in hiding in order to save your own life?
I never considered betraying the Franks, whatever benefit this might have meant for me.
Was there a time when you almost got caught?
Before the arrest, I believe, we never had a narrow escape.
Did you ever feel like the suspicion was mounting and felt that you did not want to be responsible for the Franks and wanted them to leave (and all the other residents)?
I agree that Anne's diary reflects her growing concern about the future. I myself was more optimistic, because the war was gradually coming to an end and during the two years no serious threats became evident. I certainly never considered to stop helping or have them leave. I never wanted to skip responsibility for my friends.
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Tell us about the day the Germans arrived to take the Franks away. Did you try to warn the Franks that day? Or did you come home to visit them, and they were gone? Did you try to find them that day?
I would have tried, of course, but it was impossible. One morning, sitting at my desk, I looked up and saw a man pointing a gun at me and saying, "Don't move, keep silent!" The next day I went to the German police office to try to find them. I offered money to buy them free, but I did not succeed. I was very scared when they came that day!
Could you describe for me the last time that you saw Anne?
The last time I saw Anne was at 9:00 on the morning of the arrest. About 11 o'clock the police came. I can't remember what Anne said that last time. I think it was her usual "Hello Miep, and what is the news?"
How did the Nazis find the attic? Who do you think turned the Franks in to the Green Police?
Someone must have betrayed them to the Nazis. We never found out. Don't forget that many people lived in that neighborhood and possibly noticed something by day or heard something at night. It could have been one of the burglars that came to that place. It could have also been one of the people working in the building. We will never know. The Austrian policeman was interviewed afterward, but he did not know who had called the police with the information. The Nazi who took the call died. So they could not ask him who had called. No one knows. Twice, after the war, the Dutch police made an extensive effort to find the person who turned my friends in. Without success! There were suspicions. Some people were pointing at the man working in the warehouse, but the Court decided there was no evidence. Also, in my opinion, I don't think this man has done it. So, we don't know!
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How did you find out about the Franks' capture?
If you read my book Anne Frank Remembered (Simon & Schuster), you will see that I was in the office at the moment the police came. I regret to notice that the play and from other publications give a wrong perception regarding the arrest. There was no phone ringing prior to the arrest. This is just dramatization by the playwright.
How did you feel when the Franks got caught?
When the police found the hiding place I mainly felt a tremendous disappointment that so close to the end of the war my friends were caught. We honestly thought that we had made it. Paris was already captured by the Allies. Their troops were less than 250 miles from Amsterdam. Germany had actually lost the war. And then this happened.
What happened to the Franks' house and the possessions in it?
Everything in the Franks' home was taken away by the Germans and sent to Germany. Otto Frank never found his furniture again.
Did you get in trouble when the Nazis found out that you were hiding them?
Of course I was in trouble, but my luck was that the police officer in charge came from Vienna, the same town where I was born. I noticed this from his accent. So, when he came to interrogate me, I jumped up and said, as cheerfully as I could, "You are from Vienna? I am from Vienna too." And, although he got very angry initially, it made him obviously decide not to arrest me. Apart from the shock, the fear and my heart-breaking concern regarding the fate of my friends, nothing happened to me.
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What helped you to carry on after the Franks were captured?
The hope that they would return safely. The war had almost come to an end and the Franks were healthy at the time of their arrest.
Did you ever feel like you could have done something more to help the Franks when they were captured?
I honestly believe we could not have done anything more to help the Franks.
While the Frank family was in a concentration camp, were you able to get any information about them?
After the arrest, I never heard from my friends again, they were not allowed to write.
If you found out who was the one who told on the Franks, what would you say to them?
If I ever found out the person who betrayed my friends, I would not exchange one word with that criminal.
Which camp did Anne and Margot go to when they were caught?
Anne and Margot went first to a transit-camp called Westerbork in the Netherlands. From there they went to Auschwitz and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where they both died.
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Did Anne know anyone in the concentration camp besides her sister?
Much to her surprise she discovered that in another part of the camp (Bergen-Belsen), her friend "Lies" was sitting, the one she writes about a lot in her diary. Her true name is Hanneli Pick-Goslar, who now lives in Israel.
What were some of the horrible things the Nazi party did to other people? Did you ever witness any?
The most horrible thing in my opinion was that they were discriminating against people for a reason those people could not help or change. Just for being Jewish. It made those people feel defenseless. What could they possibly do? Just sit there and wait in fear. This was terrorizing the poor Jews, even at the time that they could still live in their own homes. What I never forget myself was the day that the Franks were arrested. I still hear their steps in the stairway when they were brought outside.
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After the War Otto Frank
How did you meet Mr. Frank?
I met Otto Frank in 1933, nine years before he had to go into hiding. I was looking for a job and heard from a neighbor that a certain Mr. Frank looked for an office assistant. I applied and got the job.
Do you know how Otto Frank escaped death when the rest of his family and the other families in hiding didn't?
Otto's escape from death is a miracle. When the Russians finally liberated him in Auschwitz, he was ill, very weak, and extremely skinny.
When Otto Frank returned, was he bruised, really skinny, pale? What was his physical condition? What was his mental condition?
Otto Frank was very skinny when he returned from the camp. However, he was mentally in good condition.
What happened to Mr. Frank after the war?
Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam. He picked up his business again, but after the publication of the diary, he was very busy answering the thousands of letters he received from children about the diary. He moved to Switzerland after the war. He was the only survivor from the Secret Annex.
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After the war, was it hard to see Mr. Frank again and not see the others?
It was not difficult to meet Mr. Frank when he returned from Auschwitz. I was of course very happy. Not easy was my time with Otto Frank after he had learned he had lost his whole family. For me this was awful, too.
What do you remember most vividly about your meeting with Otto Frank after the war?
My most vivid memory of Otto is the day that he learned about the death of his two children, and my giving Anne's diary to him at that very sad moment. I cannot forget the way he looked at that time.
Did you and Mr. Frank remain friends?
My husband and I were close friends with Otto until he died in 1980, at ninety-one years old. The first seven years after the war he even lived in our home in Amsterdam, until he remarried in 1952. Then he moved to Basel, Switzerland.
What year did Otto Frank die?
Otto Frank died in 1980 at the age of ninety-one in his home Buchenstrasse 12, Birsfelden; a small town near Basel, Switzerland.
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About WW II
How exactly did the war start? Why did it take so long to end it?
The war started because Hitler wanted to control all of Europe and maybe the whole world. So, reluctantly the other countries decided to stop him. It did take so long to defeat Hitler, because in previous years the rest of the world had delayed action and Hitler used that time to build a very strong army.
What other places did people hide in besides the Secret Annex? Did most people have someone to bring them food and other supplies, or did they have to sneak out and get the supplies themselves? How many people actually lived through the war in hiding without being discovered?
The usual places to hide people in were the attics of homes. Others stayed in the woods or in sheds. People in hiding were always dependent on others for food; they could not do it alone. In Holland, 20,000 people went into hiding. Only 11,000 were not caught.
Students here are studying WW II and have noticed the symbol SS on the sleeves of the Nazis. What does that stand for?
SS stands for "Schutz Staffel," which means "Protection Flight" or "Defense Squadron."
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Did the Germans carry guns when they searched?
The Germans always carried guns when they searched places.
What was the percentage of the people in Holland that persecuted the Jews? If you didn't know the Franks, would you have still helped other Jews?
About 2 or 3 percent of the Dutch people were Nazis or in support of them. Many others were indifferent to the fate of the Jews and preferred to look away from it. If other Jews than the Franks had asked for help, I would, of course, helped them too. Actually, my husband did such in several cases.
How did the treatment of the Jews compare with the treatment of the Christians who helped the Jews?
The Dutch who helped the Jews were also sent to a camp, but with a milder regime than the camps for Jews. My male office colleagues were put in such a camp and both survived.
Was Hitler liked at first and then later hated for his meanness?
Initially many liked Hitler. Germany was economically in very poor shape and people (like many tend to do also today) were looking for somebody to blame for the misery. Hitler offered the Jews as scapegoats and that certainly made him popular. He also promised jobs at the cost of the "non-Aryans" (the non-Germans). Hitler promised to take their civil rights away, like he did shortly after he came to power. For instance, the Jews, who were German citizens, lost this position overnight. Today we call this ethnic cleansing. In may places, all over the world, lots of people again support the idea of having immigrants thrown from the country.
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How has Holland changed since the end of World War II?
I hope and believe that many Dutch people will be more helpful in the future than they were during the Holocaust. Only 11,000 Jews were safely brought through the war. The others, about 105,000, perished and that could have been a considerably lower figure if all Dutch people understood their responsibility to help.
Do you think it's possible for something like this to happen again?
I certainly think that another Holocaust can happen again. It did already occur, think of Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia.
What message should the young people of today pass on about Anne's story?
The message to take from Anne's story is to stop prejudice and discrimination right at its beginning. Prejudice starts when we speak about THE Jews, THE Arabs, THE Asians, THE Mexicans, THE Blacks, THE Whites. This leads to the feeling that all members of each such group think and act the same. That results in prejudice. Lumping entire groups of people together is RACISM, because it denies the fact that everyone is an individual. Even our own brothers and sisters or parents are not exactly like we are. So how do we dare to lump entire groups of people together? If any German had ever asked Anne to tell something about herself, I think she would be still with us today. However, nobody asked: she was just a Jew! Therefore, never base your opinion about anybody else on the color of that person's skin, or on the passport that a person carries, or on the family that person comes from, but only on what the person says and does and on NOTHING ELSE.
If you could, would you ever speak to the neo-Nazis that live in Germany today? What would you say to them?
I would urge them to realize that racist ideas caused the death of Anne Frank, an ordinary and innocent child, and also the death of millions of people.
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When was Anne's birthday?
Anne was born June 12, 1929.
How long did you know Anne?
I knew Anne since 1935 when Otto (my boss since 1933) invited me to come to his home to meet his family.
What was your relationship with Anne Frank before the war? Did you ever think that the Nazis would find out and kill you and your family?
A very superficial one. She was just a child, who I did not pay much attention to. I saw her at her home, when I visited with her parents. Sometimes she would come with friends to my office and play with the house phone. I was deeply disappointed that so close to the end of the war the Nazis found Anne. Before that I was rather convinced that we would make it. Being probably killed myself by the Nazis never crossed my mind. If I was ever concerned, it was about the people in the hiding place.
What type of person was Anne Frank? Was she nice? Was she fun to be with?
I would describe Anne as an ordinary, normal young girl before she went into hiding. I saw her as a friendly, cheerful, fun-loving, and somewhat loud girl, with very curious eyes. After going into hiding her eyes grew gradually pensive as well. Although she loved to talk, she would immediately be silent, if someone else would speak, observing that person very closely.
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Did Anne like to do some of the hobbies children her age do, like playing sports and doing crafts?
Anne was not really a sports girl. As a matter of fact, she was not what you would call a strong or sturdy person. As far as I know she was not doing crafts, but enjoyed working at her diary and writing short stories. She also liked illustrating them. Further she took a keen interest in movies and actors.
Where did Anne go to write her diary? How did Anne keep the others from reading her private information?
Most times Anne wrote her diary in her bedroom. This room she had to share with the dentist, so she had to work out an arrangement with him. From her diary we know that this was not always easy, because Dussel could not imagine that a young girl really needed a workplace. During the weekends her father allowed her to go downstairs and sit in his former office. This space was not part of the hiding place. Its furniture was not taken away after their arrest; therefore, the chair that Anne had been sitting and the desk at which she was writing are still there. Anne had a briefcase where she kept her diary that could be locked. The edited version contains also some very private parts, but there was some more to it. In the edited version, most of her unpleasant remarks about her mother were left out and also the rather graphic (but delicate) description of her developing body and sexuality. Furthermore, her concern about the position of women (entered the day after her 15th birthday) was initially not included.
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Was Anne always as cheerful as she was in her diary?
I would describe Anne as an ordinary, normal young girl before she went into hiding. I saw her as a cheerful, fun-loving, and somewhat loud girl, with curious eyes. After going into hiding her eyes grew gradually pensive as well. Although she loved to talk, she would immediately be silent if someone else would speak, observing that person very closely. My funniest memory of Anne Frank is going to the attic in the morning to pick up the shopping list. All of the people would silently stand in line, waiting for me to begin, except for Anne, who would always break the silence by saying, "Hello Miep, and what is the news?" Her mother strongly disliked that, knowing that the other people in hiding would afterwards blame Otto for what they would call "the result of a too liberal upbringing." A sad memory I have is one day when I entered the hiding place and found Anne writing in her diary. She felt her privacy abused and probably thought that I was spying on her. She closed her diary with a bang and gave me a hostile look. Her mother came in and said, noticing the tense situation between the two of us, "You should know, Miep, that my daughter is writing a diary." I did not know that; I was the one giving her blank paper, after she had run out of space in her little diary. Anne stood up, looked down on me and said, "And about you too," then left the room.
How old was Anne when she went into hiding?
Anne was thirteen when she went into hiding and fifteen when arrested.
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What memories do you have of the relationship between Anne and Peter?
I never noticed a close relationship between Peter and Anne. Once Peter asked me to buy flowers for Anne. That was the only time I understood that Peter liked Anne.
Did Anne ever get very sick in the Annex? If so, what did she have?
The one time Anne needed a doctor was when her eyesight became poor. She probably needed spectacles. I offered to bring her to a doctor, but Otto did not agree.
Was Anne ever scared?
Anne never told me that she was scared, but from her diary we know that she had such moments.
Did Anne talk to you more about happenings in the Secret Annex or were your conversations more centered around the progress of the war?
My discussions with Anne were mainly about the things going on in Amsterdam. She never talked or complained about the other people in the hiding place. About the progress of the war, Anne talked with her father. He was pretty well-informed because he secretly listened to British radio.
I've heard different stories about Anne. One is that she almost cost the Franks and the Van Daans their lives because of noises she would make. Could you give me an example of one and how did you try to cover for it when other people heard it?
I strongly deny that Anne ever made noise or threatened to do so.
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When did you find out that Anne had died?
In August 1945 a letter came for Otto Frank from a nurse who had been with Anne in the same part of Bergen-Belsen, telling him that his two daughters had died.
What day did Anne die?
The precise date is not known. All we know is that she died some day in March 1945. She died of a disease called typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. I still have the letter informing Otto, written by the lady who was in the same camp as Anne, telling him that Anne had died.
What would be different if Anne never existed or if she had lived through the Holocaust?
If Anne had never existed, we would not have had her diary that touched the heart and gave inspiration to millions and millions of people. If she had lived through the Holocaust, the question is whether she would have published the diary herself. I think she would have done so, but I am not sure. In my opinion, one thing is certain: She would have combined her writing skills and her ability to observe, becoming a great journalist.
How old was Anne's mother when she died?
Anne's mother was only forty-four when she died in Auschwitz.
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How do you think Anne would react to all of this attention and fame if she were alive today?
I think that Anne would have liked the fame if she were alive. Already as a young girl she liked to be in the middle of her friends' attention. Maybe this could have changed later in life, but not very likely.
What is the most outstanding memory you have of Anne Frank and the horrors of the war?
My most outstanding memory of Anne is meeting with her in the morning, when I visited the hiding place to pick up the shopping list. It is an indelible memory of Anne standing at the top of the stairs and hearing her cheerful voice: "Hello, Miep, what is the news today?" The horror of the war I experienced most deeply was the day that the Nazis came to arrest the Frank family and their friends. Every year I stay at home on August 4, the day of their arrest. I close the curtains and don't answer the phone or doorbell.
If Anne had lived, do you think that Anne would be as positive as she was?
I can't answer the question about whether Anne would be just as positive as she was in hiding. Speaking for myself, I am still optimistic about our future world. Also Anne's father kept basic confidence in people, so Anne might have kept hers.
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Are you proud of Anne for never losing faith?
I am proud of Anne, because notwithstanding her very difficult situation, she always found the energy and the perseverance to write her diary.
Do you miss Anne Frank?
Of course I miss her very much. She was always such an attentive listener to what I told her. I liked her intelligent questions. Therefore, I am grateful for her diary. It is as if I hear her voice again.
What were the last words Anne said to you before she got captured?
At the time of her arrest, I was not with her. That morning I had seen her for the last time, when I came to the hiding place to pick up the shopping list, as I usually did. At that time, she greeted me the way she always did: "Hello Miep, what is the news today?"
If you were put in Anne Frank's position, how would you react?
Till today, I am impressed by the patience and perseverance of the people in the hiding place. I really wonder how I would have been under such circumstances. Would I have had the discipline and courage to keep a diary? I wonder. Would I have been always so friendly and cheerful as Anne was? I doubt it. I consider Anne and the others in hiding real heroes. Further, I believe the Franks could not do anything beyond what they had done. I also would have gone into hiding. There were no other options besides obeying the German orders.
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After not wanting to have Anne's diary published, what suddenly caused you to change your mind?
I never opposed publication of the diary. Initially, I did oppose reading it because I feared it would cause me just more pain. This changed completely when I finally agreed to read the diary.
Did you have a part in publishing Anne's diary?
I had no part whatsoever in publishing Anne's diary.
Is everything about the characters in the published diary true?
The characters as Anne described in her diary reflect, of course, her opinion. I myself consider some of the people more genteel than Anne did, like her mother and the dentist Dussel.
Is anybody else in Anne Frank's diary alive?
I am the last one of the helpers still alive. Anne's friends Jopie and Lies (true names Jacqueline van Maarsen and Hanneli Pick-Goslar) are still living. Both travel regularly to the U.S. to speak at schools.
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Why did Mr. Frank change the names of the people when he wrote the book?
It was Anne (and NOT Otto Frank) who changed the names of the people. Like other authors do too, Anne felt she should not use the real names. This gives me the feeling that she planned publication of the diary after the war.
Did you ever think at the time what an impact your actions and Anne's diary might have?
I never foresaw the impact Anne's diary as well as my saving that diary would have. I just picked it up in order to give it to Anne when she would return.
How did your life change after you found the diary?
After the diary was found by me and published by Otto, my life gradually changed. I did a lot of travel worldwide to tell about Anne. Hundreds of letters came to my hands every month. I have almost become a kind of public property.
How do you feel about the diary having become so memorable, truly a classic? Do you still have the original diary and photos of Anne Frank?
The diary became so important because it is the only memory of Anne. After the war I gave the diary to Otto Frank, the only one of the Frank family who survived the concentration camp. Otto Frank died in 1980 and donated the original diary to the Dutch government.
When you read Anne's diary, what came to your mind when you saw your name and realized that she had mentioned you?
I was moved to read my name in Anne's diary and the nice things she said about me. I was surprised that she had changed the names of all the people, except mine. Did she feel too close to me to give me another name? I will never know, but it really touches me.
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About Miep Gies
How did you feel at first with your adopted family?
Meeting my foster parents, I was surprised that such generous people did exist. They had little money themselves and already had five children, but always shared all they had with other people.
How old were you when the Holocaust started?
I was thirty-four when Hitler came to power and forty-one when the Holocaust started.
As a girl, did you ever imagine something like WW II happening?
As a child I could never imagine that people would be so cruel towards others. Even during the war we refused to believe the reports about the gas chambers.
How did you feel about Hitler's ideas and rules?
I despised Hitler from the first day that he opened his mouth. He was a racist, hating all immigrants and other non-Aryan (non-German) people, like the Jews.
What was your job at Mr. Frank's factory?
I was a secretary at Mr. Frank's office.
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Did you ever feel like you were part of the Frank family?
In a certain way I felt very close to my friends in hiding. Still I always looked up to the Franks as the family of my boss.
How did it feel to help many people who needed you to survive?
I think that it creates a rewarding feeling to help people. Therefore, the more the better. This, at least, I feel. Think of the many doctors and nurses who accept at a very low pay an uncomfortable (often even dangerous) task in faraway countries, just to help people.
Weren't you terribly frightened during the time you hid Anne Frank? Wouldn't it be easier for you just to live your life as a German without this burden? What could you tell us today about caring for others instead of just thinking of ourselves?
Of course, initially life is more comfortable if you stay out. You might silence your concern about injustice or cruel things happening to other people by telling yourself that those people should solve their problems themselves. It is a very selfish attitude, but, as I said, safe in the beginning. But, I could foresee that there would come a day that my conscience would start to bother me. This would be a kind of burden. Just like many people, all over the world, are unhappy and restless today because they did not help the Jews during the Holocaust. Think for instance of the ships with Jews that tried to enter the U.S. and were sent back! So, my conclusion is that really thinking of yourself is often better served by making some sacrifices today than having a miserable life later, feeling remorse about the help you failed to give to those who needed you. By the way, I am born Austrian, not German.
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How did it affect your family life to help Anne Frank and her family? Did it make you feel good?
Both Jan, my husband, and I felt really grateful for the opportunity to help them. It brought a lot of sense to our lives. It is always nice to feel needed by other people. This, at least, is my understanding of living a worthwhile life.
How did your parents feel about you helping the Jews out in their predicament, and were they against you or were they with you helping the Jews hide?
My (foster) parents did not know about me helping the Franks. They might have worried. You would never talk with anybody about Jews in hiding. People may start talking about it to others. This was dangerous. There was a lot of betrayal. Of course my husband knew. He was my big helper.
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Were there others that you helped? Where are they now?
We kept a non-Jewish student who was wanted by the Germans hidden at our home. That person went to the United States. I don't know whether he still lives there, we lost contact.
I am a nine-year-old Jew. I am very interested in learning about the Holocaust. How could you be so heroic if you were so afraid? Did the Nazis ever find you?
Even if you are afraid, you can still find it more important to do your human duty, and that is to assist people who need more help. I don't consider myself heroic. To tell you, I was more afraid of the many sleepless nights and the unhappy life I would have afterward had I refused to help.
How does it feel to be a hero?
I don't want to be considered a hero. Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.
Have you received any recognition for helping the Franks, Van Daans, and Dussel hide from the German troops? Did you have to leave your country because of what you did?
I received recognition from Yad Vashem, from the German Government, and from the Queen of the Netherlands. I have several medallions and even an honorary Ph.D.
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What is your most valued memory from your past?
My most valued memory is Anne's diary.
Do you have any nightmares about this time?
I have no nightmares, but I can never forget what happened to my friends.
What are your husband's and child's names?
My husband's name was Jan (Henk in the diary). My son's name is Paul. He was born in 1950 and lives with his wife and three (wonderful) children a half-hour drive from my home.
How did your husband die?
My unforgettable husband for over 50 years, Jan (Henk in the diary), died of diabetes in 1994.
How old are you now?
I am eighty-eight now.
Where do you live now?
I have lived for almost 70 years, until now, in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I have a small apartment that I shared for 40 years with my husband Jan till he died in 1994.
Do you feel that you are in another world because when you were young there were no TVs and now you're on the Internet?
Yes, we live in a different world today. Children who use the Internet are much better informed than when I was young. Use this to your advantage.
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If you had to hide the Franks again, would you do it?
Yes, I would help again. Although, some people (rightfully) state that I could have not saved Anne's life, I still helped her to live another two years. During these years she wrote her wonderful diary, touching the heart of millions of people and inspiring them. Because I could rescue this diary, it was not a lost effort. From this we learn that it is always better to try. Sure failure results from not trying. My decision to help Otto was because I saw no alternative. I could foresee many sleepless nights and an unhappy life if I would refuse. And that was not the kind of future I wanted to for myself. Permanent remorse about failing to do your human duty, in my opinion, can be worse than losing your life.
What are the things you are most proud of that you have done to remember Anne? Where have you moved since the houses you lived in with Anne have become museums?
The thing I enjoy most having done is that I could save Anne's diary. Through her diary Anne is remembered by millions of people. She said in her diary that she wanted to live after her death. Through her diary this really happened. I did not live at the place where Anne was hiding. She was staying in the place where I served as secretary. It was the building in which Otto Frank, Anne's father, had his business before he had to go into hiding with his family.
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Is the Annex still standing?
The Annex is certainly still standing.
Is the house exactly as it was when Anne was in it?
Anne and her family stayed on two floors in the Annex to the main building. Those two floors are exactly like they were when Anne was in it. The rest of the building has been remodeled to serve as a museum. None of the furniture is there. They removed the furniture.
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Thank-you Notes to Miep Gies
Thank you for taking the time and effort to write back to the many children who have been touched by reading Anne's diary. You are truly a hero who so unselfishly gave of yourself to protect those who needed you. My class has been greatly impressed by you. Please receive our most humble gratitude. It was a great way to end an even greater book.
Our literature class is studying Anne Frank right now. This online event could not have come at a better time. I found that this was a very useful experience for my classmates and me!
Thank you very much for answering my question. My question asked why you changed your mind about publishing the diary. When you answered it I found out that you never objected to it, it just hurt you so much to read it. That really helped me to understand.
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