Anne Frank rescuer lives on

“Isn’t it wonderful that no one need wait a single moment to make the world a better place?”

Anne Frank wrote these immortal words in her diary when she was a young teen during World War II. She was able to do so because she and her family were kept alive by Miep Gies, a Dutch woman who died this week at the age of 100.

Gies stepped forward with four others to hide Anne’s family from the Nazis for two years during the German occupation of Amsterdam. After the Frank family was discovered and hauled away by the Gestapo, she gathered the loose pages of Anne’s diary. Gies carefully guarded Anne’s writings until Anne’s father, the only survivor from her family, returned to Amsterdam after the war.

Anne Frank was one of the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust and her story would have been lost without Gies. We would not have known Anne’s face and her story to help connect us with the countless victims of Nazi terror.

Most importantly, Gies did not wait a single moment to help and indeed, made the world a better place.

Today, 65 years after her death at Bergen-Belsen, Anne’s story lives on. The house at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, opened as a museum in 1960, welcomes a million visitors each year who travel from around the world to stand where Anne stood and to connect with her story. Anne’s diary has been translated into 65 languages and remains one of the best-selling books of all time.

Now, the last living link to Anne’s story has passed away. The woman who worked as a secretary for Anne’s father, who helped hide Anne’s family and who saved Anne’s diary is gone. But her legacy endures.

As a witness to one of the darkest chapters in human history, she responded to the call for help and kept alive the remembrance of those who were lost.

In Atlanta, we have a long history of answering the call to help those in need and working to make our city and our world better.

Mayor Kasim Reed hit that chord in his Jan. 4 inaugural address, saying, “When we sacrifice self-interest in the name of collective responsibility, when we stand with others rather than going it alone, we do so because we recognize that the responsibilities that we have are greater than any one of us.”

At the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, we work each and every day toward this goal. Our mission calls for us to “care for the vulnerable and rescue the imperiled.” We use the phrase, “The Good We Do Is Up To You,” to emphasize our individual and collective responsibility to help others.

Throughout her life, Gies shied away from the role of hero. Instead, she called herself, “simply an ordinary human being who was willing to do what was needed. “

“Of course it’s nice to be appreciated. But I only did my duty to my fellow man. I helped people in need. Anyone can do that, can’t they?”

Indeed we can. As Jews, our heritage calls on us to help one other. As Atlantans, our history compels us to work together for a brighter future.

The lesson from Miep Gies is clear: When we help the most vulnerable in our midst, we have the potential to change our world.

Steven A. Rakitt is president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.