The University Record, October 3, 1994

Woman who sheltered Franks from Nazis to give Wallenberg Lecture

By Bernie DeGroat
News and Information Services

Miep Gies, the woman who helped care for Anne Frank and her family while they hid from the Nazis during World War II, will deliver the fifth annual Univer-sity Wallenberg Lecture at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 11 in Rackham Auditorium.

Gies, whose free, public talk is titled “My Choice to Care,” will give a first-hand account of the heroics of those who sheltered the Franks and their companions during the Nazi persecution of Jews in German-occupied Holland. She also will receive the Raoul Wallenberg Medal, established in honor of Wallenberg, a U-M alumnus and Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.

“In choosing University Wallenberg Lecturers, we traditionally seek out individuals who can serve as models to our faculty, students and staff, and to members of the community,” says Elaine K. Didier, chair of the selection committee and associate dean of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies.

“Recognizing that there are few enough heroes in the world, the committee wishes everyone to have the opportunity to see, hear and speak with persons such as Miep Gies who have had the courage to stand by their beliefs and humanitarian principles, even in the face of great personal danger.”

Gies and the man who would become her husband, Jan Gies, helped provide food and other necessities to Anne Frank and her parents and sister, and four other Jews who hid together in Amsterdam for more than two years. Miep Gies had worked for Anne Frank’s father, Otto, a food products businessman, who brought his family to Amsterdam in 1934 after fleeing Frankfurt, Germany, a year earlier.

After Otto Frank had been forced by a German decree to leave his business, many Dutch associates and employees remained loyal friends. Secretly, a group of rooms at the top and back of the building that served as a warehouse and office for the business was prepared as a hiding place, which the Franks entered in July 1942.

But in August 1944, the Gestapo learned of their refuge from a Dutch informer, and the Franks and their four Jewish friends were all sent to German concentration camps. Only Otto Frank survived the war.

Months after the war ended, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam, where Gies gave him Anne’s diary and other papers left behind in the hiding place. In 1947, The Secret Annexe, later published in the United States as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, was first published.

Gies, who was born in Austria in 1909 but moved to the Netherlands in 1920, still lives in Amsterdam. Her war-time experiences are recounted in her book Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family.

“My story is a story of very ordinary people during extraordinary times,” Gies says. “Times, the like of which, I hope with all my heart will never, never come again. It is for all of us ordinary people all over the world to see to it that they do not.”

Established in 1985, the Wallenberg Endowment funds the annual lecture and medal presentation, and provides support each year for doctoral students whose scholarly work is related to the goals and values of the lectureship. The endowment is made possible through the contributions of nearly 500 individuals and organizations in the United States, Canada and Europe.

Previous recipients of the Raoul Wallenberg Medal are Nobel-laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel; Jan Karski, courier for the Polish underground resistance during World War II and an early witness to the Holocaust; Helen Suzman, a long-time South African legislator and crusader against apartheid; and Buddhist leader Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

For more information on the Wallenberg Lecture, call Vi Benner, Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, 747-4566.