>Miep Gies, one of five people who hid Anne Frank's family and four other people, died on Monday night. She was 100 years old. I read parts of her memoir, "Anne Frank Remembered," a few months ago when I went to research at the Holocaust museum in New York City.
"I am not a hero," she wrote. "I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did and more - much - more during those day and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the heart of those of us who bear witness."
If anyone can read those lines without crying, I don't understand how.
Today the New York Times published a letter from someone praising Mrs. Gies and lamenting the lack of "empathy, courage, and selflessness" that exists in people today, noting that these "were once the kinds of behaviors we valued most in human beings." This is a nice sentiment, but it is not true. It has never been true. If we really valued these behaviors, the Holocaust would not have happened. Years of institutionalized and individual racism would not exist because people would have stood up and said, "This is wrong," no matter what the cost. People were as narcissistic and self-involved back then as they are today. That is what makes Miep Gies so special.
Mrs. Gies said that she was "only one" of many who acted so humanely and courageously, but that is another indication of her generous nature. Then and now, people pay enormous lip service to the "sanctity of life." Most people will not risk their own lives to stand up for others. I think often about what I would do if I were in Mrs. Gies situation. I only hope that I would act as she did.