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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Good People

(Miep Gies, 1909-2010, at work in Otto
Frank’s company in Amsterdam in 1938)

By early 1942, under the occupation of the Nazis, Amsterdam had become a very dangerous place for Jews. Each day Jewish families would disappear. The residents of the city knew that they were being deported to the East.

When Otto Frank asked his secretary if she would help him and his wife and two daughters hide from the Nazis, Miep Gies immediately said “Yes,” even though she knew she could be arrested for this.

The Franks went into hiding on July 6, 1942, the day after Anne’s sixteen-year-old sister, Margot, received notice to report for deportation to a forced-labor camp. Four other Jews later joined them in the attic or “Secret Annex” of the small office building housing Mr. Frank’s business.

Years later, Miep wrote, “Mr. Vossen [another of Mr. Frank’s employees] had placed a hook on the back of the bookcase, which could be fastened by our friends. When opened by them, it would permit the whole bookcase to swing out and away, so that one could enter the hiding place. . . .

“Every time I pulled the bookcase aside, I had to set a smile on my face, and disguise the bitter feeling that burned in my heart. I would take a breath, pull the bookcase closed, and put on an air of calm and good cheer that it was otherwise impossible to feel anywhere in Amsterdam anymore. My friends upstairs were not to be upset, not to be privy to any of my anguish.”

For two years, Miep and other helpers made sure that those in hiding would have food and books and other necessities and even a little luxury now and then.

Then, on August 4, 1944, acting on a tip, the Gestapo broke down the hidden door and arrested all the residents of the Secret Annex. Miep found Anne’s diary and gave it to Mr. Frank after the war. Otto was the only one of the eight to survive the extermination camps.

Since its original publication in 1947, Anne’s diary has become one of the most-read books about the Second World War. It has been translated into more than 60 languages and has been adapted into plays and films.

(Anne Frank, 1929-1945, in May 1942, two months before
the Franks went into hiding)


From the kindness of my parents
I suppose it was that I held
that belief about suffering

imagining that if only
it could come to the attention
of any person with normal
feelings certainly anyone
literate who might have gone

to college they would comprehend
pain when it went on before them
and would do something about it
whenever they saw it happen
in the time of pain the present
they would try to stop the bleeding
for example with their hands

but it escapes their attention
or there may be reasons for it
the victims under the blankets
the meat counters the maimed children
the animals the animals
staring from the end of the world

~ W. S. Merwin, born in 1927, American poet, essayist, and translator

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

good post, added you to my RSS reader.