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.
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