Role Models & Heroes: Miep Gies (2013)

By June 23, 2013 November 15th, 2018 Bnei Mitzvah, Heroes & Role Models
The following essay on Miep Gies was written by Yelena Keller-Wyman, a middle schooler, enrolled in City Congregation’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah program. Students spend a year and a half researching their heritage, values and beliefs, and write on a Jewish subject of their choice, their major project; an example of this can be seen below. The process  improves both the student’s writing and critical thinking skills, as well as his/her self confidence and overall maturity.

Yelena Keller-Wyman
June 15, 2013

The terms, “heroes” and “role models” are often interchangeable. In reality, a hero does one brave or “heroic” thing and a role model represents values that you agree with and uses them throughout their life. That is not to say that someone cannot be both a hero and role model.

A woman named Miep Gies is both a hero and role model to me. Gies was a gentile (non-Jew) who hid Anne Frank and her family during the Holocaust. She was a hero to the Frank family, along with the others she helped to hide. Although this doesn’t directly affect me, I still feel that this was a very heroic and brave act. She is a role model to me because I respect her values and share some with her. Miep Gies has many values that make her a role model and hero.

Miep Gies had a very interesting life. She was born in Vienna, Austria in 1909. However, she was sent to the Netherlands when she was 11 years old , after the First World War, because Miep Gies was undernourished and wasting away. A family , strangers, took her in. She was supposed to have only stayed for 3 months, but ended up staying for another 3 months, and another 3, and so on, and never went back. These people became her family. When Miep was 24, in 1933, she started working for Otto Frank. She had met her future husband, Henk, earlier in her life and had kept in touch. In 1937, Miep and Henk were invited for dinner at the Franks’ house. It was there that she met Anne and her sister Margot, and Otto’s wife Edith. Although Miep Gies was not Jewish, she did not support Hitler and his ideas.

In 1940, Miep, still working at Travies and Company with Otto Frank, moved with the company to a new location. This is where the Frank family would later hide. Also that year, Hitler and his German soldiers were attacking Holland. Miep and Henk found rooms to live in, which they rented from a Jewish woman. Miep had been asked to join a girl’s Nazi group, but she refused. Because of this, she either had to return to Vienna in 3 months or marry a Dutchman. She and Henk had wanted to marry, so they decided to get married soon and did so on July 16, 1941.

Anti-Jewish laws had already been passed in Holland. In 1941, a new law was passed. All Jews had to have a ‘J’ on their identity cards. They weren’t allowed to have pet pigeons, which could be used to carry messages, or have access to their bank accounts. Jewish children had to go to separate Jewish schools. Some people, including Miep, were not happy with these new rules. She felt the Germans were trying to isolate the Jews and force them into poverty. In July of 1942, Margot Frank got a postcard saying that she was being shipped off to a work camp. The Franks decided to go into hiding. Miep and Henk helped to carry what they needed to their hiding place, which was in the storage rooms in the back of the office building. Meip started bringing supplies to them. She was risking her life. If a non-Jew was caught helping to hide a Jew, they could be killed. Miep wanted to help them anyway.

Miep helped the Frank family and the others in hiding throughout their time in the annex. She brought them food even when she could barely get enough food for herself and Henk. She brought them news. Miep helped other Jews find places to hide. She and Henk even housed someone for some time. All of these were putting her and Henk’s lives at risk, but they did it anyway. She was one of the Franks’ only contact with the outside world. She was their lifeline. She didn’t just keep them alive, she tried to make their time as enjoyable as possible. Miep brought them presents, slept over, and answered all of their questions. She allowed them to live and gave them hope.

Unfortunately, their good luck ran out. On August 4, 1944, a German man came with a gun. He knew about the Jews in hiding. He took the Franks along with others who were hiding there, but he let Miep go. The Jews were taken to concentration camps. Miep went upstairs to the annex and collected Anne’s diary and other papers. She didn’t read them; she put them away for when Anne came back. Unfortunately, only Otto Frank made it back. Miep gave him the writings and he later published them.

Miep helped Jews and sympathized with them even though she wasn’t Jewish. I think being taking in by strangers when she was just a girl and in need of help caused her to want to help others, regardless of who they were. Her brave actions show many important values, including equality. I also believe in the value of equality. Miep Gies treated everyone the same, even the people who others were treating unfairly. This showed that Miep believed in equality. Miep also exhibited charity. She helped people who were less fortunate than she and thus kept them alive for many years. Miep also lied when necessary. This kept her and the people she was hiding alive. It was illegal to help to hide a Jew. She was breaking the law and lying to the government. However, lying is sometimes necessary. Miep put so many people before herself. She was feeding 10 other people when it was hard enough to get food for one. These are some values that illustrate why Miep Gies is a hero, role model, and a personal inspiration to me.