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Miep Gies is a real hero

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01/13/2010

Forget Mark McGwire. Miep Gies is a real hero. photo

We are living in a time where kids are taught to worship celebrities and athletes, some of whom are eventually exposed as being morally bankrupt. Their excuses for their imperfections are: “I’m only human” or “Just because I’m amazing at _______ doesn’t make me a role model.”

Actually, what doesn’t make them a role model is their behavior, not humanity’s expectations of them.

Sure enough, I woke up on Tuesday, turned on the Today Show, and heard Mark McGwire’s pitiful confession of steroid use. As my eyes were still rolling, the news mentioned that Miep Gies had passed away at the age of 100.

Miep Gies is a real hero. I happened to read “The Diary of Anne Frank” the same year Gies’ autobiography “Anne Frank Remembered” came out. While Anne Frank’s diary was of course moving, Gies’ book shaped my view of the world and our potential as individuals to work toward tikkun olam and act ethically even when it doesn’t benefit us and even when it’s not easy.

Gies moved to Holland as a child from Austria, and because her family was impoverished, she was then adopted. In 1933, she began working for Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father and eventually helped to hide the family and their friends from 1942-1944. After the Nazis arrested the Franks, Gies saved Anne’s diary and gave it to her father after he was liberated from Auschwitz.

Gies hid the Franks at great risk to herself and her husband. Her thoughtful nature led her to save Anne’s diary in hopes that she’d be able to return it to Anne one day. Although as we know, Anne never received her diary, it became the voice of the about 1.5 million children who died during the Holocaust and is thought to be the second most read non-fiction book in the world.

After Gies became famous because of the Diary, she used that celebrity to discuss the evils of anti-Semitism and to keep Anne’s legacy alive.

Maybe every athlete and celebrity should be given “Anne Frank Remembered” to read. Perhaps it would give them the courage to abstain from cheating, drug abuse and philandering, despite the tremendous pressure that they are under.

Definitely give a copy to any young person you know. It is a good read and they will admire her courage and maybe even emulate it.

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