Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Goodbye, Miep.

Just reading the obituaries for Miep Gies. Like many people, I have read the diary, her book, and seen the play. Everyone but her thought she was a great humanitarian. I think she was.

In high school I met Barry Spaanjard, the only American citizen interned in the concentration camps. He met Anne Frank briefly there. On hearing that he was an American, she wanted to know if he had met any of her favorite movie stars. He hadn't.

At his presentation, Spaanjard showed his old camp uniform, yellow stars, and a bar of soap made from human flesh. He silenced the room when he described the mentality of the times. "It would be like people here saying, 'Let's go kill a bunch of Mexicans.'" After that, he said, "Well, it's not as if anyone around here is mad at the Czechoslovakians."

In reading De eeuw van mijn vader, it's clear that nobody anywhere on the spectrum in the NL had any idea what was coming. In debating Hitler and eventually coming down against him, they didn't realize that it would be the end of millions of lives, including many of their own.

When it was time to act, Miep Gies risked her life and helped the Franks live a few more years than they would have. Otto Frank lived to a normal life span, and again thanks to her efforts, we have the diary which lives for all time.

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