Miep Gies, the last surviving member of the Dutch family who hid Anne Frank's family from the Nazis, has died at age 100. Gies was the safekeeper of Anne Frank's diary until she was able to come forward with it after the war - thus helping to preserve not only the Frank family, but one of the most important first-person records of the fight for survival under genocide that we have.
This woman, her family, and so many of her compatriots were the everyday, unsung heroes of their era. I had a Dutch friend once, and mentioned to him that I had visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. He said, we Dutch are very proud of how many people hid Jewish people during the war, but we are also ashamed that not everybody did. I was stunned. He was ashamed that not everyone risked their own lives to defend others? What beautifully high standards of humanity.
I'm sure many of you have been to the Anne Frank House. I've been in Amsterdam only once, on my first trip to Europe in 1982. Although I had read The Diary of Anne Frank more than once, standing in that tiny, cramped space where the whole family lived, spending their days in silence and fear, was the first time I truly felt in my bones what they may have been through.
The museum is also a testament to genocides everywhere - not to Jewish suffering, but to all victims of genocides, everywhere, bringing the specific experience of the Franks out to the universal experience of human rights. It's quite wonderful. Perhaps I'll see it again one day.
The Diary means a lot to me - as a reader and writer of work for young people, and as a Jew, and as a person who cares about freedom. Most of it read it in high school or junior high, but if you haven't re-read it as an adult, I recommend it.
Thank you, Miep Gies.