Miep Gies

The woman who risked her life to hide people from the Nazis

Miep Gies was not going to stand by as the Nazis arrested people in the Netherlands and sent them to prison camps just for being Jewish. Instead, she risked her life to help them.

Born Hermine Santrouschitz on February 15, 1909, “Miep” was sent from her home in Vienna, Austria, to live with a family in the Netherlands when she was 11. At 24, she began working in Amsterdam for Otto Frank, a Jewish businessman who owned a company that made ingredients for jam. He had a daughter named Anne.

Right about that time, dictator Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party took control of Germany and began enacting laws against the Jewish people who lived there. They were banned from holding professional jobs, and many Jewish businesses were destroyed. They were even stripped of their German citizenship. Then in 1939, Germany invaded Poland, sparking World War II. Other invasions followed, including the Netherlands in 1940. Jewish men, women, and children throughout the continent were now being sent to concentration camps, where they were forced to live in cramped and dirty conditions, work long hours with little food, and even killed.

Knowing his family was in danger, Otto Frank asked Miep Gies (who had married Jan Gies in 1942) to help hide his family. She became one of several people who hid the family in a secret apartment for more than two years. Even though she would’ve been sent to prison—or worse—if she had been caught, Gies illegally bought meat and vegetables to sneak to the family. And she kept bringing in more Jewish people, including the family of Frank’s business partner and her own dentist. Gies and her husband were also hiding a Jewish student in their home.

In 1944, the attic was discovered, and the families were sent to concentration camps. Gies again risked her life, unsuccessfully trying to bribe officials to release them. She also kept Anne’s diaries, hoping she’d one day be able to return them to her.

Only Otto Frank and the student survived the Holocaust. But because of Gies, Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was published in 1947, helping to make sure the horrors of the Holocaust would not be forgottenGies’ bravery will also never be forgotten. Throughout her life, until she died on January 11, 2010, she insisted she wasn’t a hero; she was just doing what “good Dutch people” did.

(Learn more about Miep Gies and the National Geographic Channel miniseries about her life A Small Light.)