Miep Gies died last week at the age of 100. I’ve known her name since The Diary of Anne Frank came crashing into my life as a little girl and left me forever changed. I’m not sure I can name a book that has had a greater influence on my life, and I’m sure I could walk out my door right now and find five people to say the same thing without leaving my block. In my upcoming memoir, I write briefly about the psychic imprint Anne left on me. If it hadn’t been for the heroism of Miep Gies, who rescued the papers off the floor of the annex where Anne and her family hid for two years, the world would be a different place.
A striking example of the far reaching influence of The Diary of Anne Frank can be found in Ted Conover’s book Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing. Newjack tells the story of Conover’s year as a maximum security corrections officer. In Sing Sing, he meets a prisoner convicted of armed robbery and keeplocked for extorting other inmates. The prisoner has tattooed down his back these lines of Anne Frank’s, translated into Spanish:
When everybody starts hovering over me, I get cross, then sad, and finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if…if only there were no other people in the world.
Above is a page scanned from my scrapbook from days long gone, when I did things like backpack around Europe by myself. My friend Garrett and I flew from Rome to Amsterdam and with all the hell we raised there, my most memorable moment was my tour of the Anne Frank House. Winding through that tiny attic, I felt the full import of my own freedom.
My gratitude to Gies… there aren’t words.