Thursday, May 7, 2015

A Note by Miep Gies

Starshine, none of us can walk away from the life we must live...

In our lives we are the heroes and heroines. Strangely enough, there will also be times when we seem to play the villain or villainess in our own epic tales as well...

Each human life never being one that is absolutely good nor absolutely evil; the story of our lives itself - to be real - must be able to brook the shadows in between. This is why it is never a good thing to judge the final merits of any one life while the story is still being told. It is simply presumptuous to do so.

Now as all these tales go, the story must always be told in behalf of the protagonist - as a record of either our victory or our defeat in the myth of our own making.

In the background of our lives, if we pay close attention, there are other heroes and heroines at work.

There are other "heavies" in the landscape of our human experiences at play as well.

While the role of bad people and their influence in our lives are significant, if our focus is on victory, then our focus should be on the good ones and their influences. Think about it.

(I think a certain movie Jedi said this to his Padawan once: Your focus determines your reality?)

To recognize the sources of good influences in our lives is therefore, paramount to the life of the hero and the heroine. Often influences that are benign in our lives are quite subtle, quite calm, and almost invisible. But invariably, the sources of all that is good in our lives are other heroes and heroines too.

In the life of Anne Frank, this was also true.

For there were indeed heroes and heroines too in the period in which Anne Frank lived, terrible and dark as it was... Miep Gies is one of these heroines in the story of our Anne.

Through this post I wish to share with you, an important thought from Miep.

This thought is from the book, "Anne Frank, The Biography" by Melissa Muller and it has certainly contributed to my own thinking about one of the defining events of the 20th century, an event to which I have a personal affinity to in the person of Anne Frank, herself a heroine in my own life.

The influence of the good in human history is subtle and often almost quiet.

Were it not for these influences however, we would be living a reality that is always far worse...

Above the constant din of the world, these guiding lights are ever present. If these influences are to be found and had, Starshine, as in those quests of old, they must often be bravely sought...

A Note by Miep Gies

Over the past fifty years, ever since the publication of Anne Frank's diary, I have been asked again and again how I found the courage to help the Franks. This question, posed sometimes with admiration and sometimes with disbelief, has always made me uncomfortable. Yes, of course it takes courage to do one's duty as a human being, of course one had to be prepared to make certain sacrifices. But that's true in many life's situations.

Why then, I keep asking myself, do people ask such a question? Why do so many hesitate when the time comes to help their fellow human beings?

It took me a long time to understand. Most children are told by their parents from an early age on: "If you are good and well-behaved, everything will work out for you later in life." The logical reverse of this philosophy is: Anyone who gets into trouble must - must - have behaved badly and made some serious mistake. It's that simple. Everyone gets the life he or she deserves; it's that simple. If we really believe this, it's easy to go on minding our own business and to decide against helping people in need. But is it that simple?

My life taught me better. I learned early that people could find themselves in trouble without necessarily having done anything wrong. I was born in Vienna and was five years old at the beginning of World War I. My mother kept telling me that I was a good little girl, that she loved me, and that she was pleased with how I was doing at school.

When I was nine, we did not have enough to eat. I still remember the hunger pangs distinctly, the piercing pain in my stomach and the unpleasant fits of dizziness I had to try to overcome. And I shall never forget the shock when my parents sent me to Holland. A relief action to help starving children had been organized. On a bright and bitter-cold December day in 1920 my parents took me to a train, hung a big sign with a strange name on it around my neck, said good-bye, and left me. They had no other choice, of course, but I did not understand that till much later. I was extremely underweight and suffering from tuberculosis, and I felt terribly lonely. What had I done to deserve being so sick and alone? Hadn't my mother always assured me that I had done nothing wrong?

So I experienced as an eleven year old how quickly people can find themselves in difficulty - and through no fault of their own. That, I knew from personal experience, was exactly what was happening to the Jews in World War II. And therefore it was only natural for me to help as much as I could.

When we are shocked to think that six million children, women, and men were driven to their deaths and we ask ourselves, "How could such a thing happen?" we should keep in mind the indifference of normal human beings the world over, good, hard-working, God-fearing individuals. Of course, it was the Nazi regime that was responsible for the mass murder, but if not for the apathy of people not just in Germany and Austria but everywhere - basically decent people, no doubt - the horrible slaughter could never have assumed the proportions it did.

When, as actually happens even today, young people come to up to me saying they can not believe that Hitler could have murdered the Jews for no reason at all, I fear this remark reflects precisely the view that no such thing could befall truly innocent, blameless people. Then I tell them about Anne Frank and ask them if this child, this young girl, could conceivably have done anything that could justify the cruel fate she suffered,

"No, of course not," they answer, usually quite mortified. "Anne Frank was innocent."

"Just as innocent as the other six million victims," I then add.

Thus, Anne's life and death have special meaning for all those who are subject to prejudice, discrimination, and persecution today. Anne stands for the absolute innocence of all victims.

I should like to use the publication of this biography of Anne Frank as an opportunity to clear up another common misunderstanding. It is often said that Anne symbolizes the six million victims of the Holocaust. I consider this statement wrong. Anne's life and death were her own individual fate, an individual fate that happened six million times over. Anne cannot, and should not, stand for the many individuals whom the Nazis robbed of their lives. Each victim had his or her own outlook on life; each victim occupied a unique, personal place in the world and in the hearts of his or her relatives and friends.

In their racial madness, Hitler and his accomplices tried to claim just the opposite: they portrayed the Jews as a faceless enemy even as they annihilated six million individuals, extinguished six million individual lives. Most of humanity did not even want to know what was happening.

Anne Frank was only one of the Nazis' victims. But her fate helps us grasp the immense loss the world suffered because of the Holocaust. Anne has touched the hearts and minds of millions; she has enriched all of our lives. Let us hope she has also enlarged our horizons. It is important for all of us to realize how much Anne and all the other victims, each in his or her own way, would have contributed to our society had they been allowed to live.

To my great and abiding sorrow, I was not able to save Anne's life. But I was able to help her live two years longer. In those two years she wrote the diary that gives hope to people all over the world and calls for understanding and tolerance. It confirms my conviction that any attempt at action is better than inaction. An attempt can go wrong, but inaction inevitably results in failure.

I was able to save Anne's diary and thus make her greatest wish come true. "I want to be useful or give pleasure to people around me who don't really know me," she wrote in her diary on March 25, 1944, about one year before her death. "I want to go on living, even after my death!" And on May 11, she noted: "You've known for a long time that my greatest wish is to become a journalist someday and later on a famous writer."

Through her diary Anne really does live on. She stands for the triumph of the spirit over evil and death.

Amsterdam, January 1998

(Anne Frank, The Biography by Melissa Muller pp. 303-306)

Thank you, Miep... Via con Dios.