Miep Gies was born Hermine Santrouschitz in Vienna. Austria on February 15, 1909. After World War I, Austrians were suffering from a food shortage and she was sent to Leiden, the Netherlands, as part of a relief program to help malnourished children. In 1933, she heard about an opening as an office assistant for Otto Frank. She took the job and became good friends with Otto Frank and his family. The German occupation of the Netherlands began in May 1940. Having lived in Germany, Otto Frank knew the situation would only get worse and in the spring of 1942, he called Gies into his office and told her of his plan to hide his family and four other Jews in a secret annex. From July 6, 1942, until August 4, 1944, she and others brought them food, supplies, and news of the outside world. After the Gestapo raided the annex and sent the people in hiding to concentration camps, she found Anne Frank's diary in the debris and hid it in a desk drawer until after the war, hoping to return it to its young author. Upon learning that Anne Frank died at Bergen-Belsen, she gave the diary to Otto Frank and he published it in 1947. After the book was published, she devoted the rest of her life to keeping the memory of Anne Frank alive by travelling to dozens of countries, giving speeches at schools and always responding personally to letters from children. She received the Raoul Wallenberg Award for bravery in 1990 and the Order of Merit from Germany in 1994. In Israel, the Yad Vashem memorial pays tribute to her as a member of the Righteous among Nations, a list of non-Jews who helped Jews during the Holocaust. She wrote an autobiography entitled Anne Frank Remembered in 1988. She died after a short illness on January 11, 2010 at the age of 100.
Erin Gruwell is the president of the Freedom Writers Association and the author of The Freedom Writers Diary and Teach With Your Heart. The 2007 film Freedom Writers starring Hillary Swank is based on Gruwell's inspirational story. She lives in Long Beach, California.