Austrian Press Agency (07/31/2009)
The Hague – The woman who helped and saved Anne Frank‘s diaries, Miep Gies, received the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria, according to a press release from the Austrian Embassy in The Hague. The one hundred year-old woman not only helped eight other people who had gone into hiding between 1942 and 1944, she saved the famous diariy for later generations. The “Diary of Anne Frank“ has been included into UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, World Heritage Collection.
To a large extent it is the help provided by Miep Gies, born Hermine Santrouschitz in Vienna in 1909 but today a Dutch citizen, that millions of people are acquainted with the story of Anne Frank. Moreover, it is the continued help she provided to the Jewish family of Anne Frank and other residents by offering them a hiding place in a rear building in Amsterdam that Miep Gies was presented the Grand Decoration for Services to the Republic of Austria by Austrian Ambassador to Holland, Wolfgang Paul.
Between July 1942 and August 1944, Gies risked her own life by caring for the Jewish Frank and van Pels families with food and other necessities, along with dentist Fritz Pfeffer in a rear building in Prinsengracht 267 in Amsterdam, protecting them from the National Socialists. She belonged to a small resistance group and developed a special relatlionship to Anne Frank, serving as one of the most important links to the outside world for over two years. When the Gestapo discovered the eight people in the back building, Gies, who was thirty-years old at the time together with her colleague, Bep Voskuil, sought a way to preserve Anne Frank’s diary.
The Diary was honored by being added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, included together with a series of other exceptionally valuable documents which serve as “a mirror to the world“ and to its remembrance, and preserved as a “guard against collective amnesia.“
In order to fight against collective amnesia, Miep Gies spoke a great deal in schools and to the media during the 1960s about what took place in the rear building. Her memories were published in book form in 1987. Gies is the only person still living who knew Anne Frank personally. Presentation of the decoration took place in her home since her currently poor health condition prevented her from traveling to The Hague for the ceremony.
Anne Frank, born eighty years ago in Frankfurt am Main, fled with her family to Amsterdam after the Nationals Socialists rose to power in 1933. When the Jews began to feel the “race policy“ inflicted on them by the Germans after 1940, the family went into hiding. They lived in the rear building of the company belonging to Anne’s father, Otto Frank. On August 4 they were denounced, arrested by the Germans and deported to Auschwitz where the mother died just days before the liberation of the camp in 1945. The two daughters, Margot and Anne, were sent in 1944 to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in March 1945, one shortly after the other. The only survivor of the family was the father, to whom Miep Gies gave the diary without having read it. It was through the father’s efforts that the book was published.