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Miep Gies, Anne Frank & Blue Peter

January 12, 2010

Leslie Judd interviews Anne Frank’s father Otto on the BBC’s Blue Peter in May 1976

The Diary of Anne Frank was something I chose to read when I was few months shy of my tenth birthday.

Even if the reality of her wartime confinement was lost on me at that age, the painful irony of her daily confessional wasn’t.

Maybe it was the school holiday trip to the Netherlands which encouraged me to read the book. It was a school trip after all. There were tulips to observe, a huge tower in Rotterdam to go up and what I now appreciate is the obligatory pilgrimage to the Frank’s Annexe to nose around in. The fresh spring air probably left its mark too. Whatever the root cause, Anne Frank left her posthumous mark.

News that one of her protectors Miep Gies has died today has prompted an opportunity to pause and reflect.

Anne Frank’s story is one everybody knows. If they don’t they should make a point of immersing themselves in it.

Miep Gies was employed as a secretary by Anne Frank’s father Otto. When Holland fell to the German war machine in the Second World War the Franks transported their lives to the Annexe above Otto’s factory. Miep kept a supply of food and reading material flowing. She also saved the diaries the teenage Anne wrote during her isolation. It’s the kind of story movies are made of. Plenty have been made, the most recent TV dramatisation from the BBC early last year.

Today, the internet is awash with the inevitable throwaway references to “hero” and “rest in peace”. The Anne Frank museum has marked her passing with a condolence book and a selection of photographs documenting the woman’s life. Some others attempt to provide a fitting tribute justifiably describing Gies as “a hero”. What might at first read like easy throw-away comments are unusually fittingly appropriate.

Years ago Otto Frank appeared on the BBC’s Blue Peter. During the memorable edition of the programme, then presenter Leslie Judd asked a key question about the diary she flicked through as she spoke to him. Why had he chosen to have the saved document published? Because others had suggested it would be a good idea, he replied.

It was a special moment. It was a moment of television. A carefully constructed interview with a man who’s story was indescribably painful to the young and impressionable audience who watched it. The teenager may have seeming like history but her story of the girl who wanted to be a journalist still resonated. Such a shame presenter Leslie Judd repeatedly makes such a pigs ear of pronouncing the girl’s name to her father.

On the day the death of Miep Gies was announced, I end up watching footage of the Blue Peter interview in a different light.

It’s not with predictable sorrow that an old lady had passed away (and let’s be honest – at 100, Gies looked adorable). Nor that she represented a link with individual childhoods which demanded marking. It’s more the surprising reality that Anne Frank wouldn’t be a teenage girl we all know of if it wasn’t for Gies. This not because she delivered the food parcels or refused to reveal the Frank’s hiding place, but because it was her who saved the diaries in the first place.

No diaries. No story.

Makes you wonder why then Blue Peter’s interviewed Otto Frank. Miep Gies would have been a better guest.

:: Watch Episode One of The Diary of Anne Frank via BBC iPlayer (UK Only)
:: Review of last year’s broadcast of Episode One of The Diary of Anne Frank (BBC)

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One Comment
  1. cyberguycalif permalink

    Is it right to publish the diary of someone?

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