Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Death of a Quiet Hero: Miep Gies

Miep Gies passed away last month. Who was Miep Gies? Perhaps an exceptional lesson for our students to learn from.


Time: the early 1940s.
Place: Holland
Situation: Conquered by Nazi Germany in 1940, Holland was an occupied land. An order came down from the military: arrest and deport the Jews and other undesirables.

Your decision: You know of a Jewish family. Do you turn them in? Or do you try to help them avoid the order – and risk imprisonment and/or death if you are discovered?

That was a decision a young Dutch girl named Miep Gies had to make. Her decision affected not only the family she chose to support, but also revealed to the world the courage of individuals in the face of adversity and the horrors of the Nazi regime.

Gies was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1909, under her maiden name of Hermine Santruschitz. Following World War I, she was one of many malnourished children from Austria and Hungary that were invited to spend several months in the Netherlands to recuperate from the effects of the Great War. Her Dutch foster parents offered her a permanent home, and Gies was able to move to Amsterdam, where she grew to adulthood.

She was hired as an office assistant by a man named Otto Frank in 1933. As another war moved closer, Gies saw Austria annexed by the Germans, Poland invaded, and finally, on May 10, 1940, Holland occupied by the Nazis. She felt first-hand the bias of the Nazis when she applied for a marriage certificate – and had to prove her Aryan, non-Jewish heritage. She was able to do this with the help of family members, and on July 16, 1941, married Jan Gies.

Jan Gies became a member of the resistance, and became active in hiding those individuals wanted by the Nazi invaders. Miep Gies helped him, which provided her the experience to agree to provide supplies and support for Otto Franks, his family, and four of his friends when they went into hiding in the Annex.

After the Annex was discovered and the Franks were arrested, Gies visited the Annex one more time – and picked up the papers that had been the diary of the young Anne Frank. She preserved the diary until after the war, and upon learning of the death of Otto Frank’s wife and two daughters, sought him out to return the diary to him.

The impact of that diary kept by a teenage girl has resonated around the world during the last 60 plus years. Millions of people around the world are aware of who Anne Frank was – and have read her diary. Over 25 million copies of the diary have been published since 1947, in 54 languages. Few are aware of the role that Miep Gies had in trying to provide and protect Anne and her family, and then preserving the Diary of Anne Frank so that posterity would know what happened at the Annex from July 5, 1942 to August 4, 1944.

Miep Gies passed away January 11, 2010, at the age of one hundred. As Gies said repeatedly over the years, “I just did what I could to help.” It would be a worthwhile effort of Social Studies teachers to bring the acts of this courageous and compassionate woman to the attention of their students and to discuss the choices each person makes when tyranny threatens civilization.


Anne Frank Museum
BBC News
Jewish Virtual Library
Miep Gies: Her Own Story
New York Daily News
Times Online


Miep Gies in early 1930s, Miep Gies: Her Own Story
Miep and Jan Gies, wedding day, 1941, Anne Frank Museum
The Diary of Anne Frank, Jeff Werner

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Teaching American History Grant at the Old Courthouse

Our Teaching American History grant crew had the distinct pleasure of having their second colloquium at the old Citrus County Courthouse, which was built in 1912 and is a National Historic Preservation Site.

The 35 members of the TAH grant spent February 4 & 5 learning teaching strategies specific to the social studies, and excellent in-depth historical presentations on the American Revolution and it's European connections, as well as the influence of the Revolution on France and England.

The group, along with Kathy Thompson, our Old Courthouse resource officer and our three presenters - Robby Brown, Anthony Fitzpatrick, and Dr. Patricia Behre - enlighened, educated, and motivated our teachers on this era of history, expanding their horizons, and encouraging them to carry the knowledge and strategies back to the classroom.

This Federal grant provides funding to provide in-depth knowledge on American history and additional instructional strategies to K-12 teachers throughout the nation.