Small Light - a terrific series about Miep Gies, the woman who sheltered Anne Frank

Have you read "The Diary of Anne Frank"? I remember very well how at the age of 12 I borrowed a small magazine "Asylum" from the library and immersed myself in the sincere musings of a growing girl, not even knowing what fate awaited her at the end of the story. At the time, the Holocaust seemed unreal to me, and the complexity of living locked up for two years was hard to comprehend. And certainly at that time I didn't pay attention to the people who made such a long survival of the Frank family possible. I remembered that some woman had brought them food, and that was it.
Having comprehended the story of Anne Frank in several works of fiction, the world has gone further. In memory of the little, lively and sincere Jewish girl, there is now not only a book and a museum, but also several excellent feature films, including a German one. And now the book "I Hid Anne Frank" has been published - an alternative history of what happened, written by the very "woman who carried food" - Mip Gies. She always remained in the shadows, but it was she who made, in fact, a real feat. The book is literally read in one day - so easy and encouragingly written. But even when Mip was awarded for this book and invited on stage, she looked at the applauding audience and thought: "It should have been Anna.

Miep Gies was only 33 when she started hiding the Frank family.
And in 2023, the simply wonderful, incredibly beautiful and exciting mini-series "Little Light" was released. Only 8 episodes, but how much colour, life and visual joy is in it! The series tells the same familiar story of Anne Frank, but on behalf of the young and pretty Mip.

The title is taken from her own words, which Mip liked to end her speeches to young people with:
But even an ordinary secretary or a housewife or a teenager can, within their own small ways, turn on a small light in a dark room.
This technique in storytelling is called title drop - when you take some word combination and lines of the character and put it in the title.
I think it's a separate art form to make films and series with an already known ending in such a way that they are watched in one breath. Having switched on "The Little Light", we don't wonder what will happen at the end, we rather wait with horror for 4 August 1944, when the very same Essesocev, who was informed about the hiding Franks and Van Pels, enters the office of "Opekta". By the way, an interesting point: in the books, both in "Hideout" and in Mip Gies' book, all the characters and companies are named with pseudonyms that Anne Frank came up with while sitting in her little room. This makes all the events seem a little unrealistic and the characters get a little lost. For example, Mip's husband there is called Henk, not Jan, as in reality. But in the series all names and even surnames are in place.

Let's understand what makes the series so enjoyable that you want to rewatch it again and again, despite all the tragic nature of the story. I will not write that there are spoilers in the article, because we already know how this story will end.

A brief recap of those events

Anne Frank, a Jewish girl, was born in 1929 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. In 1933, her family moved to Amsterdam to escape the growing anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany. In 1940, however, the Netherlands was invaded by the Nazis, and Jews faced new dangers.

In 1942, the Frank family decided to hide from the Nazis, like many other Jews at the time. They planned to do so later, but Margot, the eldest daughter, received a summons to a labour camp and had to hurry.

A rumour spreads through the Netherlands that all four members of the Frank family have gone to Switzerland, but for two years they have been hiding in a secret hideout - in rooms behind the office of Otto Frank, the father of the family. They are joined by the van Pels family (Gertrude, Herman, Peter) and Dr Fritz Pfeffer. During this time Anna keeps a diary in which she describes her thoughts, experiences and hopes. Her diary became a testament to a life of secrecy and the struggle for survival.

In 1944, following a denunciation, they were arrested and the Frank family was sent to various concentration camps. Anna died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen camp in March 1945, just before the camp was liberated by Allied forces.

After the war, Anne's father, Otto Frank, the only surviving member of the family, returned to Amsterdam and found his daughter's diary, which was preserved by Miep Gies. Its publication in 1947 brought Anne international fame. Anne Frank's diary became one of the most powerful testimonies of the Holocaust and continues to be an important literary work, a reminder of the horrors of war and the need to fight for tolerance and justice.
The main thing that makes the series so compelling is its truthfulness. We realise that it's all true, that it all really happened. And having read Mip Guice's book, I can say that there are indeed literally a few facts distorted, for example, Mip didn't actually know what Jan was doing in the Resistance at all, whereas in the series we are shown very specific cases. Mip (Hermina by birth) has kept in touch with her real Austrian relatives all her life.

Mrs Stopelman's family that came with Jewish children, as well as some of the other characters in the series, did not really exist - all of them are collective images that characterise the people of that time. Although we see some historical heroes - these are resistance members Willem Arondeus, Frieda Belifante and Beth Van Beeren. Well, the book also describes life after the end of the war and the occupation in more detail. Otherwise, everything is just as the series creators filmed it.


Of course, one of the secrets of the series is Mip Gies herself and Ben Pauli, the actress that breathed life into the character. So much she turned out cool: charismatic, charming, in any difficult situation ready to smile and translate everything into a joke, very beautiful. It seems to me that an attractive main character is generally a good trick to make more people fall in love with a series (for example, "Stranger Things" is a good example of this).

Miep Gies wrote in her book that she loved to dress well. She didn't always have enough money, so she just sewed outfits for herself all the time. In the series we do not see this, but we see how Mip is always dressed with a needle. Her costumes are a special treat.

Mip's main quality is her humanity. She is ready to help everyone who needs it, because she cannot pass by suffering. It is hard to imagine how difficult it was for someone with such a big heart and a bright soul to live in a Nazi society when Holland was occupied by the Germans. 20,000 Dutch people sheltered their Jewish friends. The Gies family is like an epitome of all these people fighting quietly underground.

In the show, by the way, it's not entirely clear why Mip so unconditionally agreed to help the Franks and risked literally everything for her boss.
The book reveals it better - she worked at the Opekta for almost 10 years, since 1933, and at the time of 1942 she was a very close friend of the Frank family. So they didn't just drop by Otto's house for dinner once and meet Anna there, they met each other for dinner every week, arguing about politics, asking each other for advice, and Jan always came along with Miep. And with Anna Miep was very close to her in a feminine way, their energy coincided the most, and they became even closer in the asylum. Mip even slept there once with Jan to better understand the forced prisoners.
When they filmed the first film adaptation of Mrs Giss's book, The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank, in the late 1980s, the real Mip was present on the set and was deeply impressed by how much the events being filmed resembled her real life. It's a shame she didn't live to see this series, I think she would have enjoyed it even more. She is such a Cool Lady and Spirited Young Lady - bold, modern, brave and yet empathic and deep.

Miep and Jan's Love

A lot of attention is paid to Mip and Jan's relationship in the series (and even more in the book), especially to the romantic prism through which Anna looked at them. For her, it was the only example of a relationship between young people, a relationship that was happy and healthy. And, of course, the girl romanticised them very much, believed in their family as a role-model, wanted to be like them. I myself am very fond of such "regular" couples in films, who have a real and fabulous love that survives all adversity. Probably because I was such a little girl myself that I wanted to believe in such love. Perhaps because now that I've grown up, I know for sure that it exists.
Jan and Mip's relationship really looks like a healthy and strong one: they support each other, sincerely love and appreciate each other. They have similar moral values and outlook on life. Yes, they lie to each other from time to time, but it's still such a difficult time and sometimes a necessity of life. But they are each other's main treasure, which the Guises try their best to preserve.
They also laugh all the time. Even when they fight, they laugh. Even when Mip takes offence at something, they laugh. And even when they have nothing to eat, they laugh too. There are so many beautiful moments in their story - even the same field where Jan proposed to Miep. It's all very heartwarming and very beautiful. I think that including their feelings is what got them through that terrible war and occupation. And this line is definitely an embellishment of the series, which makes it even more clingy.

Shelter dwellers

It is impossible to tell the story of Miep Gys in isolation from the fate of the inhabitants of the asylum. Otto Frank, the intelligent, sensible and very prudent head of the family, took on the role of leader during these difficult years, although he was by nature much less decisive.

His wife was Edith Frank, a woman from a very rich and distinguished German family, a real old money. That's why it was so hard for her to be confined in small, stuffy rooms.

Their daughters Margot and Anna are complete opposites, Margot is quiet and shy, while Anna is rebellious by nature, incredibly sincere and charismatic. This is probably why she quarrelled so often with the other residents of the asylum - especially with the adult Van Pels.

The adult inhabitants of the asylum, the Franks, the Van Pels, the Dr Pfeiffer are not idealised in the eyes of the teenagers - on the contrary, they are presented as very human and vulnerable, with their doubts, fears and mistakes.

The love that Anna had with Peter might never have happened if the teenagers had been in a normal situation. But they were in a confined space, and Anna's bursting spirit needed somewhere to go. It is absolutely normal that in a limited social circle some sympathies appear, they even seem quite natural.

You can easily find a map of the asylum on the internet - Anna drew it in her diary, and the rooms are still there. They probably looked almost the same as in the TV series, except that in terms of light and details the artists made the picture more cinematic.

The asylum itself is a "secret place" , the kind of archetypal trope in film that is often used in stories like this.

It's harder now to imagine what it was like to sit inside four walls 24 hours a day in the mid-20th century - yes, we all went through covids, quarantines and restrictions, but we have a much stronger cinema and internet.

For the same reason it is harder to imagine the situation of Jews without jobs and the usual amenities of life - we can now go anywhere in the world and be anything we want to be there.

In the 1940s there was no such opportunity. You could only sit quietly, read, write, sleep and learn stenography, for example. And that's not to mention the detrimental effects on health.
But Anna remained the most optimistic of all - she dreamed of becoming a writer and publishing her diary one day when she was free. She is a real Polyanna Girl, a girl who sees only good in everything. Also Anna is an example of hidden depth, hidden depth, as the whole diary shows her very vulnerable and real.

It's amazing how much energy this girl had, if so much is still being filmed, written and spoken about her. The moment when Anna tries on Mip's red dress is a metaphor, an allegory for her growing up, and also a kind of Hope Spot for the girl, a symbol that one day she will leave her room and go to the real life.


A separate hero of the series is Amsterdam, a beautiful city with its cosy houses, pleasant streets and beautiful canals. Mip loved Amsterdam very much, and to leave it was tantamount to death - including that's why she and Jan decided to get married for the sake of citizenship. Although initially the whole problem started because the girl did not join the Nazi branch in Holland as an Austrian.

The Dutch always ride bicycles, and Mip before the war often saw Anna and Margot in the city on their black bicycles, then worried about how Otto even without a bicycle will move around, because the Jews were forbidden them, during the occupation, the bicycle helped her to carry huge bales of food, and on his return Otto thanked her with a new black bicycle from England.

The main Dutch colour is orange, and it is Jan's favourite colour. And then there are the tulips, of course.
But there is another side to the series, and it is represented by Mip's friend Tess. She did not find the strength to protest, neither quietly nor loudly, she submitted to the Nazi agenda and colluded with her conscience in order to continue to live a life of ease.

And it is hard to blame her, because many people in difficult times do this - co-operate or lay low to save their lives. We cannot condemn them unequivocally because we do not know how we ourselves would have behaved in this situation.

I think the strongest emotional swing in the series is in the eighth episode, which is even called "Boiling Point". It starts with an amazing stunt at the nursery, continues with a bloke getting sick that also lives with Mip and Ian, and a nurses' cover-up that eventually leads to a masquerade arrest by a Nazi. Then comes the Hope Spot - the hope that the Allies are close, and that's it, pretty soon Holland will be liberated.

But we know it's the summer of 1944, and victory is still a long way off. The Franks and the Van Pels let their guard down, become louder and more visible, and it all leads to the climax of the series - that dreadful appearance of the Gestapo on the doorstep and the muzzle of a gun to Mip's head.
And so, the journey of the hero Anne Frank is over, all the Franks were sent to different concentration camps, it is impossible to reach them, there is no news from them. But Mip is alive. And they continue to live on with Jan, and after the war - to look for their friends and wait for them at the railway station. Another highly emotional moment is when Mip arrives at the railway station and tells Jan that "They're all dead". It is so hard for her to relive this because she thought the meaning of her life was to help the little girl Anne Frank survive.
And that leads us to one of the main thoughts of the series: What is the meaning of your life, what are you living for? Are you doing your best for a higher purpose?

Ian is asking himself these questions, among others, while working for the Resistance.

And, of course, the second main point: You must continue to be human no matter what, and always help those in need.

And a couple of other TV Tropes used in the show:

- Bilingual Bonus: German is spoken in the series. English replaces Dutch, so although the action takes place in the Netherlands, Dutch is not spoken and all written material is in English.

- Bittersweet Ending: The Netherlands is liberated, and Miep survives the war with her husband and her fellow soldiers. Otto Frank returns from the concentration camp, but his entire family and all the other people who were hiding in the annex are missing. Once published, Anne's diary becomes a beacon of hope for humanity.

- Women Are More Innocent:When the asylum is discovered and its occupants are taken away, the senior male staff insist that Miep use the technique of "innocence" to escape. Instead, she notices that the supervisor is a resident of Vienna, like herself, and uses this to establish a human relationship with him. He does let her go, despite some threats.
- Hypocrite: an agent of the occupation government contemptuously calls Mip and Jan thieves, who claim that all the furniture in their flat belongs to them (and not to their former Jewish landlady), while he inspects the flat to seize all Jewish property of interest to the authorities. That is, to steal it.

- Epilogue from a real person: The end of the series details what became of the main characters after the events of the series. Real-life main characters.

- The Secret Diary: The Diary of Anne Frank is the most famous diary in history. Miep rescues it before the Nazis can take it, and then gives it to Otto Frank, who publishes it.
Mip and Jan continued to live with Otto Frank for a long time, he became a father figure to them. Even when they moved to other flats, he still stayed with them, because there he could talk about his family at any time. Until he all moved to Switzerland and met a beautiful woman there that had gone through the same horror as him and lost her entire family in the Holocaust. He remarried.

And this amazing story that the series "Little Light" tells us - it's really about staying human, showing empathy, being careful, but still continue to be yourself. And to keep your little light burning, if you manage to light it.

Did you enjoy this series? What have you read and watched about the story of Anne Frank and her family? Share in the comments.