Jun 29, 2009

Book Review: "Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family" by Miep Gies



Book Review: "Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family" by Miep Gies

Published June 1st 2009 by Pocket Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster
Paperback, 320 pages
isbn 1847398227 (isbn13: 9781847398222)
The Burton Review Rating: 4.5 stars

The Blurb: "For the millions moved by Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, here is Miep Gies's own astonishing story. For more than two years, Miep and her husband helped hide the Franks from the Nazis. Like thousands of unsung heroes of the Holocaust, they risked their lives every day to bring food, news, and emotional support to its victims. From her remarkable childhood as a World War I refugee to the moment she places a small, red-orange-checkered diary -- Anne's legacy -- into Otto Frank's hands, Miep Gies remembers her days with simple honesty and shattering clarity. Each page rings with courage and heartbreaking beauty."


I can't think of anyone who has not heard of Anne Frank or her diary that depicts the tragic story of the little girl who did not survive the holocaust. This is not another Anne Frank's Diary story, this is a memoir of a woman who met Anne Frank and her family during the horrors of Hitler's reign in Germany. This is the same woman who actually rescued the pages of the diary before it was trampled by the Germans when they were taken from their hiding place.

The woman who is nicknamed Miep briefly touches on her childhood of being adopted by a Dutch family out of her Austrian home due to malnourishment, though not a direct fault of her biological family. Miep writes of her growing up in the Dutch school and then when she later works in an office for Otto Frank. Otto Frank is the father of Margot and Anne Frank, and in 1940 the girls were 14 and 10 years old when Miep had already socialized with them for a few years. At this point, Hitler was Fuhrer of Germany for 6 years and his Nazi ways were beginning to strike more serious fears with onlookers. Miep mentions when England and France had declared war on Germany; while not deeply affected politically yet by these events, Miep explains how she had not hated another person as much as she had begun to hate Hitler then.

Miep details her personal life in this memoir, from her social life to advancing career in the growing office under Otto Frank and she writes in a casual tone of how she had reacted to the things going on around her. She realizes that the trouble in Germany has hit closer to home when her Austrian passport gets changed to a German passport complete with a Swastika stamp. Suddenly events turn for the worse with the increasing raids on the Jewish people, who had once found solace in the Netherlands, were now being pulled out of their homes and the streets and taken to Hitler's 'labor' camps. For years the war raged on, with the Jewish sympathisers being persecuted and tortured for information on the resistance. I was astonished and horrified as the story went on as to the treatment of all of the Dutch civilians.

For several years Miep helped to hide the Frank family in the upper floors of the office building of the company that Miep had worked at for Otto Frank. She then became a source of food, friendship, news and entertainment as two families and an eighth man were hidden in the cramped quarters. The scrounging for food became a daily struggle for Miep to procure for herself and those she helped to hide, but she did it without complaining. The details of the war via the information waves were slow to come and sometimes inaccurate but still there was little hope. Finally they hear of the Allies, that the British were coming, that America had joined the war and there was at last a glimmer of hope that perhaps Hitler would be stopped. But it did not impact the horrific way of living that the people had to survive, and my heart broke for them as Miep details simply the hardships she and her friends endured.

Otto Frank seems like a father figure to Miep and her husband, who was very calm, patient and exact with all things that occurred around him. I could feel the admiration Miep held for Otto. But Anne, how she affected Miep with her big saucer like round eyes, and how she probably haunted Miep every time she closed her own eyes. The bond the two had shared was palpable and heartbreaking; despite the age differences, Anne and Miep were close and had respect for each other, their choices of friends were limited due to their situation. Miep speaks of the little characteristics of Anne that continue to make her a real person to us today, and modestly yet powerfully she tells this story of how Miep survived the war, but others did not.

I learned about the ordeals the Dutch endured during the German Occupation, and I enjoyed looking at the pictures that were included of Miep, her friends and family, and Anne and the Frank family. I devoured this book even when my heart was breaking for Anne's family and yet I still wanted to know more of the compelling story. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in how one woman and her husband helped bring solace to many while risking their own lives to do so. Miep Gies was a wonderfully passionate woman, someone we can only hope to have on our side when sides needs to be chosen.

Miep Gies writes the afterword in this newly reissued edition, as she reaches her 100th birthday, where she also dispels some of the facts that had misconstrued previously through Anne Frank's Diary. She writes with conviction and authority, and anyone who wants to learn more about the personal ordeals of the Holocaust, and Anne Frank, this is an absolute must read. She has toured the world telling the story, although at times it seems she would rather not. She realizes that this is a story that needs to be told, over and over, lest we forget the personal horrors of one dictator.

I took Miep's advice and I have ordered "The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition" by Anne Frank. Although extremely sad, the story is still fascinating due to the nature of Anne Frank's personality, and the wonder of what was lost. Through Anne's diary, millions have felt her words and her story that should never be forgotten. And again, Miep has done the world a service by offering us her personal experiences with Anne, who is seen as one face of many who perished during the Holocaust.

Miep's official Website http://www.miepgies.nl/en/149.html