Miep and the Most Famous Diary: The Woman Who Res­cued Anne Frank’s Diary

Meeg Pin­cus, Jor­di Solano 

  • Review
By – October 10, 2019

Anne Frank’s trag­i­cal­ly brief life has become inex­tri­ca­bly tied to the mem­o­ry of her Dutch pro­tec­tors. For two years, sev­er­al employ­ees of Otto Frank’s busi­ness chose to hide his fam­i­ly from arrest in Nazi-occu­pied Nether­lands. Miep and the Most Famous Diary chron­i­cles the extra­or­di­nary courage of Miep Gies, the young woman whose tire­less efforts on behalf of Anne ulti­mate­ly could not save her. Pin­cus and Solano por­tray Gies as she her­self did — a per­son for whom the moral choice was the most nat­ur­al one regard­less of the dan­gers it entailed. Their book shows the cru­el aban­don­ment of morals and human­i­ty which reduced Anne to liv­ing her life in fear — and Gies’s unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to defy­ing that reality.

The book’s front end­pa­per fea­tures pho­tographs of Anne and her Dutch helpers mount­ed on the plaid back­ground of Anne’s diary cov­er. Read­ers imme­di­ate­ly enter the sto­ry as if it were a nor­mal fam­i­ly album, only to begin with a pic­ture of Miep Gies clos­ing her eyes in fear as she lis­tens to the sound of sol­diers’ foot­steps mount­ing the stairs to the Secret Annex. Pin­cus describes Gies’s ter­ror using a hier­ar­chy of events and emo­tions: Worse than the World War II bomber planes buzzing over Amsterdam…worst-ever sound, on this, Miep’s worst-ever day.” Chil­dren who have nev­er expe­ri­enced fear of this mag­ni­tude will still relate to the sense of dread, as all Gies’s care­ful­ly planned efforts to shel­ter her friends col­lapse around her.

Solano’s pic­tures com­bine the spare pre­ci­sion of build­ings and rooms as clear as a trompe l’oeil paint­ing, with facial expres­sions as evoca­tive as a silent film. The whole book has a cin­e­mat­ic pace to tell the sto­ry of Gies’s life, nar­rat­ing each moment with deep emo­tion, and even employ­ing sound effects to high­light par­tic­u­lar events. After Gies presents Anne’s diary to her father, he urges her to read it, but Gies refus­es: But, even as Anne’s book is pub­lished world­wide, Miep still can­not bear to read it.” The pic­ture shows Gies’s hand spread over a page of the open book; she cov­ers Anne’s words, but her fin­ger­tips only touch the edge of a small pho­to of Anne, leav­ing it vis­i­ble to read­ers. On the fol­low­ing two-page spread, Gies is seat­ed at her desk with the diary but she has lift­ed her hand from the text. Images of Anne sur­round her as she recalls her young friend’s life and deter­mines to read what her diary has left to the world.

Since this is a book for young read­ers, it nec­es­sar­i­ly offers an opti­mistic cast to Anne Frank’s tragedy and to the inabil­i­ty of Miep Gies to effect a dif­fer­ent end­ing. The book incor­po­rates Anne’s most opti­mistic quotes, includ­ing her famous state­ment of faith that peo­ple are good at heart.” The com­plete ver­sion of her diary tells a some­what dif­fer­ent sto­ry, as does the near tri­umph of evil which end­ed her life in the Bergen-Belsen con­cen­tra­tion camp at the age of fif­teen. Care­givers and edu­ca­tors should be pre­pared to dis­cuss with chil­dren some of the most painful aspects of this sto­ry which are left unsaid, like when Otto Frank learns that Anne and her sis­ter did not sur­vive the war. Ill­ness over­took them just two months before the Nazi surrender.”

This high­ly rec­om­mend­ed recount­ing of Anne Frank’s life includes Author’s Notes,” More About Miep’s Courage,” and an acces­si­ble Time­line of Miep’s Life.”

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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