Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Diary of War Woman Who Sheltered Anne Frank Takes Her Story of Holocaust to U.S. Schools

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Diary of War Woman Who Sheltered Anne Frank Takes Her Story of Holocaust to U.S. Schools

Article excerpt

A hush descended over the auditorium at Georgian Forest Elementary School in Silver Spring, Md., as Miep Gies, the Dutch woman who sheltered Anne Frank and her family during the Holocaust, made her way to the front of the room.

Cautiously, almost gingerly, she lowered herself into a chair, pulled her notes in front of her and, in near-perfect, albeit halting, English, she painted a picture of a 13-year-old girl who was persecuted, arrested, sent to a concentration camp and killed during World War II because she was Jewish.

"Anne was just like all children, just like you," Gies, 87, told the schoolchildren recently.

"She liked to play. She was curious and asked many questions. And she kept a diary. Every time I read it, it's as if I can hear her talking again."

As Gies spoke, the group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders sat quietly on the floor, hands folded in front of them. No fidgeting, giggles or whispers - only the sound of Gies' words as she spoke about how the war both shaped and broke the life of one child who wasn't much older than those sitting in the audience.

Gies said she stayed up until 2 in the morning the night before her talk recently to write a speech for the children at Georgian Forest, one that would help them see Anne Frank as a strong, courageous person who managed to blossom and survive the worst of circumstances.

Gies described the secret attic room Anne occupied in the canal-front home in Amsterdam, the food she ate, the books she read and the questions she asked. She talked about how rowdy Anne could get and how mischievous.

'A Common Person'

But Gies spoke very little about herself and her role in keeping Anne Frank and her family alive for 25 months before authorities discovered them.

"Miep doesn't want to be seen as a special person," said Cornelius Suijk, international director of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. "She sees herself as a common person because she believes that you don't have to be a very special person to help other people. …

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