Miep has been described by someone who met her after the war as "a small, delicate, intelligent young woman." She was born in Vienna, and she was sent to Holland after World War I as an "under-nourished child" in whom a welfare organization had taken an interest.
She remained in Amsterdam, and in 1933 she met Mr. Frank, who hired her to work for the Travis company. When Austria was absorbed by Germany, she was given a German passport, and after the Germans occupied Holland, in 1940, she was asked to join a new club called "The German Girls Club in the Netherlands." She declined, stating quite bluntly that she did not want to join. A few days later she was summoned to the German Consulate, her passport was stamped as being invalid after three months, when she would have either to become a Dutch citizen or emigrate as "a stateless person."
At that time, Miep and Henk van Santen, a young Dutchman, intended to get married, and the situation created by the Nazis obliged them to move the date forward. There were various technical and bureaucratic difficulties, but in the end, with the cooperation of other Dutch citizens, Miep and Henk were married in July 1941, and Miep was legally able to remain in Holland.
Henk, like many Dutch people, worked in the Dutch underground resistance organization, which helped Jews and opponents of the Nazis hide from their oppressors. Miep and Koophuis knew or guessed what Henk was doing, but neither ever tried to stop him.
Throughout the period when Anne and the other members of the group were in hiding, Miep helped and encouraged them. She brought them food and visited them in their hiding place, bringing news from the outside and a breath of fresh air when she came. Anne longed for someone new to talk to, and Miep was a good friend to her. Together with Elli, she arranged little gifts and surprises on birthdays and festivals, brought wild flowers, and generally did her best to make the situation of the group in hiding a little more tolerable.
Miep and Henk even spent a night in the "Secret Annexe," because the children wanted "to have guests" so badly. It was a night of terror for them; however, and only the others slept soundly, having grown accustomed to the fear and discomfort.
When the police came to take the group in hiding away, Miep was in the office, together with Mr. Kraler, Mr. Koophuis, and Elli. They were all, except Mr. Kraler, ordered to remain where they were, while the search for the "Secret Annexe" was conducted. Mr. Koophuis tried to persuade Miep to leave, because it was obvious that they would all be arrested too, but she refused to go. Then Mr. Koophuis gave her the office keys and told her to insist that she had not known what was going on. "You can't save us," he said. "Save what can be saved. First and foremost, make sure that you are not involved."
Miep was in the office when the group in hiding went down the stairs, under police guard. She said, "I could hear the heavy boots, the light footsteps [of the others], and the very light footsteps of Anne. Through the years, she had taught herself to walk so softly that you could hear her only if you knew what to listen for. I had seen her only the day before, and I was never to see her again, for the office door was closed as they all passed by."
After the Franks and the others had been driven away in a police van, Miep was questioned by one of the policemen. She did as Mr. Koophuis had told her. She claimed that she had not known about the group in hiding. The policeman accepted her story, but told her to continue to come to the office every day, threatening that if she did not, her husband would be arrested and hinting that he knew about his resistance activities.
Henk and Miep sat up until late at night, discussing what action to take, but there was nothing they could do. When Miep was in the office the following day, one of the firm's traveling salesmen phoned, and Miep told him what had happened. He suggested that Miep try to bribe the police, and that she should do this quickly, while the prisoners were still in Amsterdam. He offered to contribute his own savings, and the baker from whom Mr. Koophuis had been buying bread for the group in hiding also offered to contribute something. Miep went to Gestapo headquarters in Amsterdam a few days later and attempted to secure the prisoners' release for money but was told that although that had been possible in the past, that was no longer the case.