Influence: Miep Gies

Welcome, one and all, to a new feature on The Height of Life I like to call “Influence.”  Actually, that’s what everyone will be calling it… because that is its name.   It’s really important to have positive role models, especially ones who reflect who you are and who you want to be.   Fortunately, these role models really are all around us, although they might not be in the spotlight.  I thought I’d expand past the usual suspects of bonafide celebrities in my search for people who give good influence (not hatin’ on celebrities, not saying that there aren’t plenty of role models to be found within the glossy pages of Tiger Beat, but I just want to cast the spotlight on some lesser-known but fully deserving interesting people who are doing interesting things.   Some of these interesting people also happen to be tall.  Others are not, but are tall in character.  I’m always on the lookout for new subjects for Influence, so if you have any suggestions (or would like to nominate your fine self) please shoot me an e-mail.   Any feedback is totally appreciated.

I’m thrilled to announce that Miep Gies is the very first subject for Influence.  Best known as one of five Dutch citizens who worked together to hide Anne Frank, her family, and other friends from the Nazis in World War II, Gies truly is a lasting example of courage and heroism.  She passed away on January 11th, 2010.  She was 100 years old.

I first read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was eight or nine years old.  That book acted as a gateway to the history, literature and testaments of the Holocaust for me- – so much that I ended up getting an MA in War Studies, with a focus on genocide, memory and denial.  When I was younger, my teenage flair for the melodramatic, combined with my runaway imagination, would often will the events of only half a century ago to seep into the present.  I would examine ever room in my house for the best places to hide, or to hide someone else.  I’d hear a knock on the door and imagine that a Nazi inspector was standing there.  All this bizarre activity on my part was an attempt to understand what it was like to hide for your life, and what it was like to hide others, often at the risk of your own life.   What it was like to be Anne Frank.  What it was like to be Miep Gies, who was the last surviving member of the small group who hid Anne and her family in the Secret Annex, and more famously, the woman who saved Anne’s diary in hopes of returning it to her at the end of the war.     

Earlier this year, Miep Gies passed away at 100 years of age, and so the last living connection to Anne was severed.   The entire world mourned, especially the girls who loved to read Anne’s diary, for they would grow up to be women who loved Miep Gies, and who hoped, if ever the situation called for it, that they would have the strength and character to do what she did.   The very existence of the Holocaust denies us any chances for closure, or any fist-pumping, “triumph of the human spirit”- types of happy endings.   However, the stories of the Annes and Mieps which later emerged give us a small bit of hope and belief in humanity.  They provided us with something, anything that was positive and redeeming, in the midst of an irredeemable “no man’s land of the mind,” as Elie Wiesel once described Auschwitz (the death camp he survived) and the Holocaust.  I believe that is why the popularity of Anne’s story continues to endure. 

Although the monstrous dictates of the Holocaust and the Second World War were created by world leaders and other People of Great Importance, there was no shortage of ordinary people willing to carry them out.  Thankfully, there were also committed, ordinary individuals of limited means who were still willing to risk everything and perform acts of extraordinary courage and kindness.  Miep’s story is not one of glorious triumph and heroic recognition.  Rather, Miep’s story is defined by an unwavering sense of human duty and belief in the inherent humanity of others, as well as a quiet, humble courage.  It speaks volumes that Miep didn’t even read Anne’s diary before handing it over to her father, the lone survivor of the Secret Annex.   As a society, we tend to think that it must be extraordinarily difficult to be a truly horrible person, even in times of war and chaos, but the truth is is that it is extraordinarily difficult to be a truly good person, especially in times of war and chaos. 

According to Miep Gies, “You don’t have to be a hero to do your human duty… who was a hero?  I was not.  I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.”

A grateful and humbled world begs to differ.  We should all strive to be so “ordinary.”


3 Responses to “Influence: Miep Gies”

  • Fran Says:

    Hey Kylie!
    Just got your email. So far I’ve read about the dutch model and this dutch woman who helped hide Anne Frank. Are you of Dutch heritage? I’m not, but everyone keeps telling me I should go to the Netherlands. “What’s your shoe size?”
    “Usually 10.”
    “you should go to Holland, that’s the DISPLAY size.”
    “What?! Are you serious?”
    “Oh yeah. 10 is the size you can just grab off the shlef and try on to see if it fits.”
    “Oh my god, I have to go to the Netherlands.”
    Not to mention that the men are all hot and tall too. North America, what the hell? After China (I grew up in China) I expected to come back and for all the men to be at least 5″10. Ha! They are not.

    ANYWYAS…Love you blog Kylie! Check mine out too: http://www.franinfrisco.wordpress.com

  • Latest gossip Says:

    Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!

  • Mya Says:

    This was novel. I wish I could read every post, but i have to go back to work now… But I’ll return.

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