Hermine Santruschitz (15 February 1909 – 11 January 2010), better known as Miep Gies (Dutch pronunciation: [ˈmip ˈxis]), was one of the Dutch citizens who hid Anne Frank, her family (Otto Frank, Margot Frank, Edith Frank-Holländer) and four other Jews (Fritz Pfeffer, Hermann van Pels, Auguste van Pels, Peter van Pels) from the Nazis in an annex above Anne's father's business premises during World War II. She was Austrian by birth, but in 1920, at the age of eleven, she was taken in as a foster child by a Dutch family to whom she became very attached. Although she was initially only to stay for six months, this stay was extended to one year because of frail health, after which she chose to remain with them, living the rest of her life in the Netherlands.
In 1933 she began working for Otto Frank, a businessman who had moved with his family from Germany to the Netherlands in hopes of sparing his family from Nazi persecution because they were Jewish. Gies became a close, trusted friend of the family and was a great support to them during the two years they spent in hiding. She retrieved Anne Frank's diary after the family was arrested and kept the papers safe until Otto Frank returned from Auschwitz in 1945, and learned of his younger daughter's death. She was happy that the entries in Anne's diary were not revealed or else she would have to destroy it as it incriminated the identities of all the people who helped the Franks in their hard times at the annex. Together with Alison Leslie Gold, Gies authored the book Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family, first published in 1987.
Born in Vienna to Mathias and Genofeva (neé Jakuschitz) Santruschitz, (later spelled as Santrouschitz in the Netherlands), Gies was transported to Leiden from Vienna in December 1920 to escape the food shortages prevailing in Austria after World War I. The Nieuwenburgs, a working-class family who already had five children of their own, took her as their foster daughter, and called her by the diminutive "Miep" by which she became known. In 1922, she moved with her foster family to Gaaspstraat 25 in Amsterdam. Gies was an honour student, and described herself as "reserved and very independent"; after graduating high school, she worked as an accountant and then in 1933 as a secretary with the Dutch branch of the German firm Opekta. "But the office was not the only thing in my life. My social life at this time was very lively. I loved to dance and belonged like many young Dutch girls, to a dance club" - wrote Miep.
Otto Frank had just relocated from Germany and had been appointed managing director of Opekta's recently expanded Dutch operations. Miep became a close friend of the Frank family, as did Jan Gies, her fiancé. After refusing to join a Nazi women's association, her passport was invalidated and she was ordered to be deported within ninety days back to Austria (by then annexed by Germany, which classified her as a German citizen). The couple faced some difficulties, but fortunately they were married on 16 July 1941 so that she could obtain Dutch citizenship and thus evade deportation. "Anne was impressed with my gold ring. She looked at it dreamily. (...) Because times were hard, we had only one ring, although the custom was for a couple to have two. Henk [In her book Miep called Jan Gies by the name of Henk, because Anne Frank in her diary used such a pseudonym] and I had barely scraped together enough money for one gold ring. He had insisted that I should wear it." Gies' fluency in Dutch and German helped the Frank family assimilate into Dutch society, and she and her husband became regular guests at the Franks' home.
Hiding the families
With her husband Jan Gies, and the other Opekta employees, Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, and Bep Voskuijl, Miep Gies helped hide Otto and Edith Frank, their daughters Margot and Anne, Hermann and his wife Auguste van Pels, their son Peter, and Fritz Pfeffer in several upstairs rooms in the company's office building on Amsterdam's Prinsengracht from July 6, 1942 to August 4, 1944. In an interview, Gies said she was glad to help the families hide because she was extremely concerned about them seeing what was happening to the Jews in Amsterdam. Every day, she saw trucks loaded with Jews heading to the railway station from where the trains left for Nazi concentration camps. She did not tell anyone, not even her own foster parents, about the people in hiding whom she was assisting.
When purchasing food for the people in hiding, Gies avoided suspicion in many ways, for example by visiting several different suppliers a day. She never carried more than what one shopping bag could hold or what she could hide under her coat. She kept the workers at Opekta from being suspicious by trying not to enter the hiding place during office hours. Her husband also helped her by providing ration cards which he had obtained illegally. By visiting several grocery shops and markets a day, Gies developed a good feeling for the supply situation.
On the morning of 4 August 1944, sitting at her desk, Gies looked up and saw a man pointing a gun towards her, Voskuijl, and Kleiman and said, "Stay put! Don't move!" The families had been betrayed and the Grüne Polizei arrested the people hidden at 263 Prinsengracht, as well as Mr. Kugler and Johannes Kleiman. The next day, Gies went to the German police office to try to find them. She offered money to buy their freedom, but did not succeed. Gies and the other helpers could have been executed if they had been caught hiding Jews; however, she was not arrested because the police officer who came to interrogate her was from Vienna, her birth town. She recognized his accent and told him they had the same home town. He was amazed; then started pacing and cursing at her. "You should be ashamed, protecting Jewish scum!" Then he decided to let her stay. Gies remained safe with Jan in Amsterdam throughout the rest of the war.
Before the hiding place was emptied by the authorities, Gies retrieved Anne Frank's diaries and saved them in her desk drawer. Once the war was over and it was confirmed that Anne Frank had perished in Bergen-Belsen, Gies gave the collection of papers and notebooks to the sole survivor from the Secret Annex, Otto Frank. After transcribing sections for his family, his daughter's literary ability became apparent and he arranged for the book's publication in 1947. Gies did not read the diaries before turning them over to Otto, and later remarked that if she had she would have had to destroy them because the diary contained the names of all five of the helpers as well as their black market suppliers. She was persuaded by Otto Frank to read it in its second printing. As 1947 came, she and Jan Gies moved to Jekerstraat 65, by the Merwedeplein. Otto Frank moved with them.
Honors and awards
In 1994, Gies was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany as well as the Wallenberg Medal by the University of Michigan. The following year, Gies received the Yad Vashem Righteous Among the Nations medal. In 1997, she was knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. The minor planet 99949 Miepgies is named in her honor.
On 30 July 2009, the Austrian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Wolfgang Paul, presented Grand Decoration of Honour for Services to the Republic of Austria to Gies at her home.
On 11 January 2010, Miep Gies died in Hoorn after suffering from a fall. She outlived her husband, Jan Gies, by 17 years. She was survived by her son and daughter-in-law, Paul and Lucie, and her three grandchildren, Erwin, Jeanine, and David.