Anne Frank 'Helper' marks 100th birthday
AMSTERDAM - Anne Frank called them the Helpers. They provided food, books, and good cheer while she and her family hid for two years from the Nazis in a tiny attic apartment.
Today, the last surviving helper, Miep Gies, celebrates her 100th birthday, saying she has won more accolades for helping the Frank family than she deserved.
"This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work," she wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press last week.
It was Gies who gathered up Anne's scattered papers and notebooks after the hiding place was raided in 1944. She locked them - unread - in a desk drawer to await the teenager's return.
Anne died of typhus in the German concentration camp Bergen-Belsen seven months after her arrest. British and Canadian troops liberated the camp two weeks later.
Gies gave the collection to Anne's father, Otto, the only survivor among the eight people who hid in the concealed attic. He published it in 1947, and it was released in English in 1952 as "The Diary of a Young Girl." Retitled "The Diary of Anne Frank," it was the first book about the Holocaust to win popular appeal, and has sold tens of millions of copies in dozens of languages.
As she looked forward to a quiet birthday with her son and three grandchildren, Gies paid tribute to the "unnamed heroes" who helped Dutch Jews escape the net during the five years of Nazi occupation.
"I would like to name one, my husband, Jan. He was a resistance man who said nothing but did a lot. During the war he refused to say anything about his work, only that he might not come back one night. People like him existed in thousands but were never heard," she said.
Jan Gies, who was not one of the four office workers who supplied the Frank family with their daily needs, died in 1993.
Such people fought a lonely battle in the Netherlands. Historians say collaborators were many and anti-Nazi resistance was light. Of the prewar Jewish population of 140,000, some 107,000 were arrested and deported. The Red Cross says only 5,200 of them survived the war.
Like the Franks, about 24,000 Dutch Jews went into hiding, of which 8,000 were hunted down or betrayed in exchange for a bounty.
After the war, Gies worked for Otto Frank as he compiled and edited the diary, then devoted herself to talking about the diary and answering letters from around the world.
After Frank's death in 1980, Gies continued to campaign against Holocaust-deniers and to refute allegations that the diary was a forgery.