Educate your pupils on Miep Gies, one of the most important individuals in the story of Anne Frank. The Dutch woman hid Anne, the rest of Anne's family and four other Jews in her house to prevent the occupying Nazis take them away.
Purpose: To introduce and explore the theme for HMD 2013 Communities Together: Build a Bridge
Target Audience: Primary (Year 5/6)
Note to teachers
It is up to the discretion of the teachers to determine which pupils this story is suitable for. Therefore, the introduction is at its simplest level. If you are using this assembly resource with older primary school children, you may want to explain a little more about the Holocaust. See notes within Introduction to Primary Resources.
Please ensure that you deliver supporting workshops if you choose to introduce the Holocaust at this stage. Please visit the Holocaust and genocide education organisations page for more in depth information on how you teach the Holocaust to Primary children (particularly The Holocaust Centre and Imperial War Museum links).
Click here to download the PowerPoint presentation that accompanies this assembly.
This week it will be Holocaust Memorial Day. Each year on or around 27 January we learn about events that have happened in the past when people were treated unfairly, so that we can learn from them and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
This year the theme for Holocaust Memorial Day is Communities Together: Build a Bridge.
Today, I would like to talk to you about the importance of everyone in the community working together. It doesn’t matter that we are different in age or heights. It doesn’t matter if we look different or celebrate different occasions with our families. Imagine we are all individual pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We need all the different pieces to join together to build the whole picture. It is the same with our community – each and every one of us has an important role to play; each and every one of us is both completely unique and also an important part of the jigsaw. We are all individuals who share this world together, and it is important that we support one another, treat one another fairly and celebrate differences.
During World War Two, communities were discouraged from coming together. Rumours were spread to make people turn against each other. Whole groups of people were classified and if they were in a particular group, discriminated against and treated unfairly – it didn’t matter to the authorities who they were as individuals. Many Jewish families had to go into hiding or risk being arrested and taken away to work camps. They needed the help of non-Jews to keep them hidden and to provide food for them. Anne Frank was a young girl who had to go into hiding with her family to stay safe. The family friend who helped her was Miep Gies.
Miep (bottom left in the photo) was born over a hundred years ago in 1909, in Vienna. During World War One, when she was very young, she didn’t have enough food and as a result, Miep often became ill. In 1920 a Dutch family offered to look after her and help her get better. Miep’s parents thought that this was the best thing for her and that Holland would be a safe place for her to be.
When she was older, Miep started working for a Jewish man called Otto Frank. Otto had moved to Holland from Germany in the 1930s with his wife Edith and daughters Margot and Anne. Germany had become dangerous for Jews and Otto thought Holland would be safer.
Jewish people across Europe were being treated unfairly and were losing many of their rights. Soon it was no longer safe for Otto and his family in Amsterdam. Otto knew he had to hide his family to keep them safe. So on 6 July 1942, Otto and his family went to the upper rear rooms of his office building where he had created a hiding space for them, a secret room. As well as the Frank family, some of Otto’s Jewish friends also hid here as they needed somewhere safe to hide too. It was Miep Gies, Otto’s employee and friend who helped them stay hidden and safe for over two years. During this time, whilst hidden away, Otto’s daughter Anne kept a diary of her thoughts about what it was like for a young girl to live in one room for all that time, always living in fear.
Miep knew that if she was found helping a Jewish family, she could be arrested. She did everything possible to avoid being caught and didn’t even tell her own parents what she was doing. Miep sourced food from different places and would make several trips each day so she never had to carry more than one or two bags at a time. Sometimes she would hide other things under her coat. She avoided visiting the hiding place during office hours so that other people she worked with would not grow suspicious and those in hiding were asked to keep as quiet as possible during the day.
It was years later that Miep said 'They were powerless; they didn't know where to turn... We did our duty as human beings: helping people in need’.
One morning in August 1944, Miep was sitting at her desk when she looked up and saw an officer with a gun; he had come to arrest everyone in hiding. Having been betrayed, the hiding place was found and the Franks were arrested and everyone was taken away.
Miep had been truly courageous for hiding the Franks and their friends for all of this time. This was at a great risk to herself, and it was only because the arresting officer was from her home city of Vienna, that she escaped arrest herself – because the officer was from Miep’s community she was safe.
Miep still wanted to help, she couldn’t let the Franks down now. She collected all of the money she could find and went to the police station to see if she could have Otto and his family freed – but this was without success.
When Miep visited the secret room after the arrest, she rescued Anne’s diary and locked it away, keeping it safe for Anne’s return. Of the Frank family, only Otto survived. After the war, Miep gave the unread diaries to Otto. Anne had always wanted to become a famous writer. Tragically, his only happened after she had died. It was because of Miep that Otto survived. Miep wasn’t Jewish, she just saw the Franks as friends that needed her help.
A time to reflect
Let us take a moment to remember those who lost their lives and honour those who survived.
Many people who fled from communities that became too dangerous to live in have rebuilt their lives in Britain. Today, we each have responsibilities as individuals and as members of our own communities. We can start by getting to know and support the different communities in the UK and the individuals who make up the whole. We can respect each other’s differences. Ultimately, some of the ways in which you can prevent hatred and people being unfair are by making connections with, and between, communities.
On Holocaust Memorial Day 2013 we can all take action by getting to know, respect and support our communities. On 27 January 2013 we can come together and build a bridge to a safer, better future.
We learn lessons from the past, so we can make sure that they don’t happen again in the future.
‘What can one person do? You make friends, of course, and do what you can.’ Daoud Hari, Darfuri refugee