Is A Small Light a true story? Who was Miep Gies - real events behind Anne Frank Disney+ series explained

Drama series A Small Light on Disney+ follows the life of Miep Gies who helped to hide Anne Frank and her family from the Nazis during the Second World War

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National Geographic historical drama series A Small Light follows Miep Gies, a woman who, along with five others, helped to hide several people from the Nazis during the Second World War. Her role in resisting the Nazi regime resulted in saving the lives of two people, and preserving one of the war's most important texts.

A Small Light is an incredible story of bravery in a time of terrible oppression based on an overlooked true story from the Second World War. Everything I Know About Love star Bel Powley leads the cast as Miep Gies, whilst The Worst Witch actress Billie Boullet plays Anne Frank, and Peaker Blinders actor Joe Cole features as Jan Gies.

The eight-part series from the minds of Grey's Anatomy producers Tony Phelan and Joan Rater premiered on Disney+ on Monday 1 May, with two episodes landing on the streaming platform The series will continue with two episodes being released weekly.

This is everything you need to know about the true story of Miep Gies and those she helped during one of the darkest periods in Europe's history:

A Small Light is based on the true story of Miep GiesA Small Light is based on the true story of Miep Gies
A Small Light is based on the true story of Miep Gies

Is A Small Light based on a true story?

A Small Light is based on the incredible true story of Miep Gies, a dutch woman who risked her life to help eight Jewish people, including Anne Frank and her family, evade Nazi persecution and the horrors of the Holocaust, or Shoah as it is known by Jewish people, for more than two years.

Anne Frank is best known for her diary which survived the Second World War and was published by her father, the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most important contemporary documents about the Holocaust and recounts the author’s 761 days in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam from 1942 to 1944.

Anne hid in the annex of a house in Amsterdam with seven other people - her mother, Edith, father, Otto, and sister Margot, as well as three members of the Van Pels family who worked with Otto, and a dentist, Fritz Pfeffer.

The group of eight relied on a network of six others on the outside to enable them to survive in hiding. Among them were Miep Gies and her husband Jan. Miep was also instrumental in preserving Anne’s writing following the eventual discovery of the annex and seven of those hiding in it.    

A memorial to Miep Gies at the Anne Frank Museum in AmsterdamA memorial to Miep Gies at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam
A memorial to Miep Gies at the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam

Was Miep Gies a real person?

Miep Gies was born in Austria as Hermine Santrouschitz, but due to extreme poverty, her family sent her to the Netherlands on a relief programme when she was 11 years old.

She was taken in by a Dutch family, and as she had a much better life there, she stayed. She took a job as a typist but lost her job at the onset of the Great Depression. Otto Frank, her upstairs neighbour at the time, hired her to work at his newly opened business, which manufactured products for making jams. 

She married her husband Jan, who she had met at her first job, in 1941, and the pair moved into a property near to where the Franks lived. The Nazis had occupied the Netherlands since May 1940, and as the relocation of Amsterdam’s Jews picked up pace, Otto Frank asked for Miep’s help in going into hiding in July 1942.

Miep brought vegetables and other foodstuffs and library books to those in the annex. From 1943, Miep and Jan began hiding Kuno van der Horst, a student who had refused to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Nazis, in their own home.

Tragically, the property where Anne was hiding was raided by the SS on 4 August 1944 - all eight of them, and two of their helpers, Johannes Kleiman and Victor Kugler, were arrested. Kleimann was released after a few weeks but the others were deported to concentration camps. 

Otto was at Auschwitz when it was liberated by the Russians - he later learned that he was the sole survivor of his family as his wife and children had died in the camps. Miep had salvaged Anne’s diary from the annex and gave it to Otto on his return to the Netherlands - he stayed with her and Jan for seven years.

Kuno survived the war and remained in contact with Miep and Jan in later years - he died in Texas in 1968, aged 48. Otto died in Switzerland in 1980, aged 91. Giep died in the Netherlands in 2010, she was 100 years old.