Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The importance of Miep Gies
Watching television news Monday provided a clear look at what our society has become...and why it is important to maintain newspapers.
The stories that were covered offered a wide range of interesting, though not particularly important events:
-Former St. Louis Cardinal first baseman Mark McGwire finally admitted what nearly everyone believed from the beginning, that he used steroids (though his claim that he could have hit 70 home runs in 1998 even without the chemical help was a bit hard to take).
-Former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has been hired as a contributor to Fox News (interesting, but not much of a surprise).
-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with his comments about President Obama lacking a "negro dialect" remained under fire.
-NBC's in-house drama, trying to juggle the volatile situation with Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien, and Jimmy Fallon continues with no resolution in sight.
-Simon Cowell announced he will bow out after the current season of American Idol.
While all of these stories were covered extensively in newspapers, as well as on the cable television news shows, there was one story, about the death of a woman whose contributions to society were probably more valuable than those of all of the aforementioned celebrities combined, which was almost exclusively relegated to newspapers.
It was announced Monday that Miep Gies died in a Netherlands nursing home after suffering from a fall a few days before Christmas. She was 100.
The name Meep Gies may not ring a bell with you, but Miep Gies was one of a small group that hid eight Jews from the Nazis for slightly more than two years, an act which could have cost her her life. And when the Gestapo finally discovered the eight, it was Meep Gies who managed to preserve the writings of the youngest of the eight- Anne Frank.
Her first thought, she always said, was to hold on to the diary to give it back to Anne after the war. That did not come to pass, as Anne Frank died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Eventually, Miep Gies presented the papers to Anne's father, Otto Frank, and then she helped him put them into the form that has become known to generation after generation for more than six decades, continuing to offer an indictment of the Holocaust, as well as to deliver a message of hope.
In a 1998 interview, Miep Gies said she did not consider the risks she took to protect the Frank family and the others in that annex to be heroic. "They were powerless, they didn't know where to turn. We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need."
Though it would have been nice to have seen more television time devoted to Miep Gies and her continuing contributions to the world, it was not surprising that the airwaves were filled with Sarah Palin, Mark McGwire, Harry Reid, Simon Cowell, Jay Leno, and Conan O'Brien. That left it for newspapers to pick up the slack and most of the ones I read this morning featured stories on Miep Gies, whose gift to posterity will be recalled long after the names mentioned above are just dim memories.