Miep Gies, the last of the brave helpers who hid Anne Frank and her family during World War II, died at the ripe old age of 100, but if that wasn't enough of an achievement, her actions during World War II rose her to the status of "Righteous Gentile" in her efforts to battle the Holocaust.
Miep lived in Amsterdam during the war, and had it not been for her, it's doubtful the world would ever have known the name Anne Frank. Not only did Miep help shield Frank and her family from the occupying Nazis, she hid the now-famous diary after the Nazis rounded up the Franks and deported them to a concentration camp. Anne would not survive the war, but her diary, thanks to Miep's diligence, was handed, unread, to Otto Frank, Anne's father and the sole family survivor of the war. Miep and Otto Frank worked together to compile and promote this now-famous testament to the darkest days of modern history.
Part of what made Miep a hero was that she didn't see herself as one. She did more than save lives; she has kept Anne Frank alive for countless generations.
In March, 1943, the Nazis began a ruthless deportation campaign of all Dutch Jews. They were shuttled to a police transit camp at Westerbork in the Netherlands and then sent to a secret hell-on-earth called "Sobibor" in Eastern Poland.
Sobibor was no mere concentration camp; it was an official death camp. Dutch Jews were packed and shipped wholesale to Sobibor and processed into corpses within 90 minutes of reaching their destination.
Though not as well-known as Auschwitz or Belsen, Sobibor was one of the Nazi's dirty secrets razed to the ground after a mass escape in late 1943 Sobibor was where Anne Frank and her family would've ended up had Miep Gies not been so successful.
I have walked the grounds of Sobibor. I have seen the tins of Dutch shoe polish discarded in trash heaps left behind by the Nazis who hurried to cover their tracks. I have seen the bone shards that rise from the wild blueberries that grow in the fields of Sobibor where tens of thousands of Jewish corpses were ground up.
It was by the Miep's courage that Anne Frank, in hiding from June 1942 though August 1944, never made that trip to Sobibor with her countrymen.
Anne Frank would never have had the chance to write her diary had it not been for the efforts of Miep and countless unnamed heroes who put themselves in harm's way to do what they knew was right.
Miep Gies wasn't just a witness to history. She was a participant who valued not just a young girl's humanity but all of humanity itself, and her actions guide the way for all of us to stand up to indecency, injustice, and institutionalized oppression.