The saying goes “Behind Every Great Man There Is A Great Woman” but of course it can also be said that behind every great woman there is a great man.
The Anne Frank foundation said about Miep Gies’s husband. “Jan was not a person to stand in the limelight, not even amid all the publicity surrounding Anne Frank. He was throughout his lifetime a man of few words, but many deeds.”
Most of us will have heard about Miep Gies. But probably not so much about her Husband Jan Gies.
He was a member of the Dutch Resistance who, with his wife, Miep, helped hide Anne Frank, her sister Margot, their parents Otto and Edith, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer from Nazi persecution during the occupation of The Netherlands by aiding them as they resided in the Secret Annex. Helping Jews brought the risk of severe punishments, even death, if you were caught.
Jan met Otto Frank and his family through his fiancée, Miep Santrouschitz. From 1936 onwards, he would frequently visit them on Saturday afternoons, when the Franks invited friends and acquaintances. When Jews were no longer allowed to own or even rub businesses, Otto Frank was grateful for Jan’s help. Together with Victor Kugler, Jan founded the company Gies & Co. to take over Otto’s company Pectacon, and Jan took on the role of supervisory director. This was a way to keep Otto’s business safe from the Nazis and to avoid it to fall under the control of the Nazis.
Miep had been living in the Netherlands since December of 1920, she had always kept her Austrian nationality. However because Austria no longer existed due to its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, Miep tried to obtain the Dutch nationality in 1939 by writing a letter to Queen Wilhemina.
Jan and Miep married on July 16,1941. Otto Frank was a witness at their wedding and Anne accompanied him. Edith did not attend because both Margot and Grandmother Holländer were ill. The wedding celebrations took place at Otto’s business premises. On behalf of her family and the office staff, Anne presented them with a silver plate.
Jan became involved in the resistance during the war. Because of his work as a social worker , he could easily visit people and thus, for example, distribute illegal papers. His contacts also helped him to obtain distribution coupons, and securing British newspapers free from Nazi propaganda. The couple also hid a Jewish man in their own home, and Mr. Gies provided ration coupons to members of the underground resistance. All of these activities were punishable by death.
The exact nature of his work for the resistance is unclear. Jan kept quiet about it. During the war it was a matter of course that he could not talk about what he did, and after the war he did not feel compelled to discuss it in detail.
When Otto Frank arrived on Miep and Jan’s doorstep in the summer of 1945, he would continue to live with them until 1953. His wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne had died in the camps. Miep who had found and kept Anne’s diary safe was able to give Anne’s diary to Otto , and he saw to it that they were published in 1947. Jan and Miep’s son Paul was born on 30 July 1950.
They continued to live in Amsterdam until Jan passed away in 1993.Jan died on January 26,1993.
The date January 26 has a personal meaning to me and it also has a special meaning in the context of the Holocaust victims of the Netherlands. My mother passed away on January 26,1996, and the Dutch government issued a formal and official apology on January 26,2020, to the family of the Holocaust victims in the Netherlands.
Today marks the 116 the Birthday of Jan Gies, and I often wonder how many lives could have been saved if there had been more people like him and his wife.
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