Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Angels Wear Red Shoes

Miep Gies died yesterday. Miep was the young secretary who with four others aided the Anne Frank family during their annexed hiding in Amsterdam during WWII. She died at age 100. A piece of history goes with her. Of that dangerous time she said, ““I am not a hero. I stand at the end of the long, long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more – much more - during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those of us who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened then.”

I learned something about Miep today when I went to her web page. She once brought Anne red shoes to the hideaway, sensing the girl’s sensitivity to having to wear clothes that didn’t fit her growing body and shoes that no longer fit her feet.

The back of the Frank House showing the upper windows

I took the following directly from her web page:

“Over the course of the period in hiding, everyone's clothes gradually became a bit tattered and shabby. Anne moreover physically grew out of her clothes, everything became too short and too tight, and her shoes no longer fit her feet. This was, at the same time, the period in which girls become very concerned over their appearance and wish to look pretty and adult. I sympathized with her situation and went in search of something that would make Anne feel particularly attractive. Of course, in the midst of war it was next to impossible to find a beautiful piece of clothing that was also affordable, but during one of my quests I came upon a handsome pair of shoes. “

Miep was often sympathetic to Anne's plight. For all the occupants, being in hiding was incredibly difficult and taxing, but especially for Anne, in the midst of her pubescent period, it must often have been awful. She loved the film stars in the weekly magazine Cinema & Theater, and she will certainly have imagined, from time to time, how glamorous she herself could look. But the reality of the situation was that her clothes not only started wearing thin, but also and especially started becoming too small.

Miep at sixteen...

Anne had grown out of everything she had, which brought Miep to the resolution:

"I became determined to find something grown-up and pretty for Anne in the course of my searches. One day I stumbled onto just the right thing. I had found a pair of high-heeled red leather pumps. They were secondhand, but in good condition. I hesitated about the size: how awful if they didn’t fit her. But then I thought, Buy! Take a chance. I brought them up to the hiding place behind my back. I went to Anne and stuck them in front of her. Never have I seen anyone so happy as Anne was that day. And quick, on went the shoes, and they fitted just right.

She got very quiet then: she had never felt herself on high heels before. She wobbled slightly, but with determination, chewing on her upper lip, she walked across the room, and back, and then did it again. Just walking back and forth, up and back, more and more steadily each time."

Miep during the war...

In her diary entry of August 10, 1943, Anne writes of her immense happiness with the red high heel shoes that Miep managed to acquire for her. Every week, Anne would devour the weekly magazine Cinema & Theater, which Victor Kugler always brought for her. She knew every film star and pored over their beautiful dresses and glamorous hairdos. Wearing her new shoes, she must also momentarily have felt like a star.

From the diary:

"Everywhere I go, upstairs or down, they all cast admiring glances at my feet, which are adorned by a pair of exceptionally beautiful (for times like these!) shoes. Miep managed to snap them up for 27.50 guilders. Burgundy-colored suede and leather with medium-sized high heels. I feel as if I were on stilts, and look even taller than I already am."

The diary, given to Anne on her thirteenth birthday. One month later, she went into hiding.

God bless you, Miep Gies.

“'I am one hundred years old now. That is an admirable age, and I have even reached it in fairly good health. So then it's fair to say you've been fortunate, and being fortunate seems to be the red thread running through my life.” ~~ Miep Gies

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Blogger Ronda Laveen said...


This is a wonderful, touching, insightful post. Loved it.

Blessings ot Miep and you.

12:36 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Ronda: I was going to write about K2 and mountaineering...or the Queen Mother, and then I stumbled on this. I thought I knew everything about Anne Frank, but I never noticed the shoe story before. And 100 and still lucid. Amazing.

8:32 AM  
Blogger home before dark said...

A somber yet joyous remembrance. In America we have grown so out of touch with the meaning of sacrifice.Perhaps it comes from borrowing money from China to hire others to fight wars that weren't neccessary. Do remember Bush telling America after 9/11 that we should as a country just go shopping.

Blessings on the soul of Miep and in loving gratitude for all that she did.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

And the irony in all this? Typical women and their uncomfortable shoes...here is this young girl, hiding in an attic - probably the most miserable that anyone could be - but a pair of shoes...not comfortable shoes, mind you...high heeled shoes...lifts her spirits.

I will never understand it.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Home: I think we are totally out of touch with the meaning of sacrifice. If you've ever been around older people who went through the Depression, their homes always have a rubber band ball and tons of plastic carry bags and margarine containers and all the other things the rest of us toss.

I almost added a personal piece to this entry about when I received something luxurious as a child and treasured it, but then I saw a very cranky, not so with it, Gore Vidal on Charlie Rose the other night, and he said something that struck home. How mahy people writing history now cannot overcome the impulse to throw in the personal memoir, so rather than add my "bit" to this entry? I let it be Anne and Miep...I did write out the personal in my private journal.

3:20 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

It's what makes us girls, Phil.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

What a great post! I wonder if people today would go to such lengths to hide others being pursued and even to try to make their lives a little better. This woman was an inspiration.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Barbara: You have to wonder. People are so self-absorbed these days. And would they put their own lives at risk? I love her sensitivity to a girl becoming a woman and knowing how horrible it must have been for her to be deprived of so much.

5:33 AM  
Blogger Style Redux 2 said...

A lovely post. Thank you for this.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

A beautiful tribute, Cube.

9:18 AM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

I was definitely too young at age nine to fully appreciate or understand everything that I was reading, but I do remember thinking that Miep Gies (although I think Anne called her something else) was the very nicest person in Anne's life at the time and I did remember when she got the magical red shoes because it reminded me of Dorothy's ruby red slippers.

The Anne Frank house felt very strongly to me like it was haunted by its former occupants when I visited it about ten years ago. I don't really believe in ghosts but the vibe in there was so strong that you could almost feel what they'd been through just by being there. I know that's impossible, but it sure felt that way.

Thanks for writing about this. It's made me want to read her diary again as soon as I get a chance.

2:39 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Cyndy: Your comment made me ashamed I haven't been writing more lately. I was sick half of January, and those "off" "well" weeks I was burning the candling playing catch-up...still am. Rotten way to start the new year. I'm heading back to writing.

2:53 AM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Good! I'm sorry to hear you were so sick and I know how various kinds of setbacks can more or less strangle the urge to write. Other than just throwing up a few pictures now and then I haven't been doing much either. I'll be looking forward to your next post.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Also, you shouldn't feel ashamed at all. Your posts are like beautiful works of art - meant to be savored!

5:31 PM  
Blogger home before dark said...

Just want to pop in and say hello and to make sure you haven't been snowed under beyond redemption.

9:55 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Home: I am socked in. Lost power a few times. The worst for a day. My biggest fear, over snow, is losing power for a lengthy period. I've been working from home. I want to be blogging, but have to prioritize, and when not working...digging snow...and more snow...and more snow.

I did see a disturbing sight. I put out birdseed...no birds seen in days. I dug out around an oak. Squirrels came down to eat peanuts...all shells now, but I saw patches of pink in the snow..which I think was urine, but maybe not. Whatever it was it can't be good. Either the little guys kidneys are giving out (since squirrels normally pee yellow,) or their little paws are raw and bloodied...but I'm thinking it's internal. So yeah..here...wanting to blog and buried in snow and work. Health wise? Recovered, and praying any more bugs stay away from me. I've read something like 30 books since the beginning of the year. Insane, ya?

Hellos to Cyndy, Ronda, Reya, Travis, Phil, Barbara, Velvet and all of yas.

12:46 PM  
Blogger Sheri said...

Had no power here in Reho from late last Friday night until Sunday early afternoon. Blogged about the neighbors with a generator who took my dog & I (and other people & dogs) in for the night.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Malka Sabroe-JoHanson said...

Gosh that is interesting. I was not familiar to that entire story. Nice coverage you did there, thanks.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Sources said...

great shoes! love the style and design of them.
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5:25 AM  

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