It has been so long since I have read Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl that I could only remember a few of the details. I don’t even actually remember reading it (I think I must have been in 7th grade), but many of us are familiar with Anne’s story of her life in hiding for two years.
While this book suggests a remembrance to Anne, it is more specifically Miep’s own story of courage and survival as she helped the Franks into hiding in German-occupied Holland during World War II. While working for Otto Frank in the early 1930s, Miep also became his confidant as life became more and more difficult for the Jewish population in Amsterdam. Eventually, Frank asked Miep and her husband Henk to help hide his family and eventually another family (altogether eight people) in the cramped upper level living quarters of Frank’s business.
Over the course of more than two years, Miep and her husband Henk provided sustenance, safety, and above all friendship to the families they kept in hiding. As I was reading this book, I was struck by Miep’s undying compassion and courage to do unthinkable things–putting her life at risk to helps those around her whose lives were also in such grave danger. I simply cannot fathom the things that these people had to live through. Things that people are currently living through. This book broke my heart, but at the same time the strength of all of those who resisted the cruelties of the Nazis showed such hope for mankind.
Miep’s writing style is effortless and flowing; she has the natural voice of a storyteller, which made this book absorbing. My grandmother has a beautiful accent (she is Swiss but also studied in France and England before moving to Toronto after the war–so her accent is a little mixed), and I could hear her voice through Miep’s writing. Soft but at the same time urgent:
“As I sat, I became aware of what it meant to be imprisoned in these small rooms. As this feeling registered, I felt a taste of the helpless fear that these people filled with, day and night. Yes, for all of us it was wartime, but Henk and I had the freedom to come and go as we pleased, to stay in or go out. These people were in a prison, a prison with locks inside the doors” (128).
My only regret about this book is in the ending. It seems as though Miep isn’t quite sure how to end such an important story and so the last few pages are a little forced and awkward. Otherwise, this was such a powerful and important read. There are only little bits and pieces about Anne in the book, so it really makes me want to re-read Anne’s diary. In addition to this book, I’d also recommend The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom–also a woman who helped in the Dutch Underground during WWII.