by Kai Sprunger (Class of 2024)
This is part of a series of articles written by journalism students from Pine View School in Osprey, Fla., based on in-depth interviews the students conducted with Holocaust survivors.
It was April 5, 1940, only a few weeks before the Germans invaded the Netherlands. On this spring day when the flowers were just beginning to bloom, Marlies Gluck was born in Zwolle, Netherlands. Her father was a German citizen who had recently graduated from law school, eager to begin his career in law while her mother was a secretary who aspired to be a nurse. The two had met years prior when her father came to Zwolle and played a few games of bridge, a difficult and complex strategy game, with Gluck’s uncle – her mother’s brother. Through this game of bridge, Gluck’s father met her mother, and they began to get to know each other, later getting engaged. They started a life together in Zwolle, the Netherlands, giving birth to Gluck.
However, just after her birth, Hitler and the Nazis took power in the Netherlands, and for two years, the family of three lived with steadily increasing severe restrictions. Eventually in September of 1942, Gluck’s father received a summons to leave on a bus to a work camp. That evening, Gluck remembered her mother staying up late into the night, stitching their names in their clothes. However, a member of the Dutch Underground came over to the house, greatly against Gluck’s father’s decision to leave for the work camp. For hours and hours, the member argued with her father, trying to convince him not go to the work camp, but rather go into hiding despite the risks.
“He [the member of the Dutch Underground] said, ‘Come on, we’ll hide you, we will find a place for you, don’t go.’ And my father said, ‘well yeah, but it is also useless. I might as well go now.’” Gluck said, describing the conversation between the two.
The next morning, the member’s wife came over to the house and managed to persuade Gluck’s father. The names that Gluck’s mother had so intricately stitched into the clothing were removed and the family made preparations to leave and hide. Hastily packing every single item they would need, the family bid farewell to their home, not knowing when they would see their house again. Gluck and her mother travelled on a train while her father travelled with the gentleman to their destination: a small village, and now their new home, Oldebrook.
During their stay at Oldebrook, they lived on a farm with a family of five children, soon to be a family of eight after the war ended. Goats wandered all around the farm, doing as they pleased while members of the household would have to walk outside to use the bathroom. The house was quite different but would be what Gluck called home for a short period of time. In the dining room of the house, there was a closet which, when opened, would reveal a double bed. This bed was where Gluck’s parents not only slept but would hide during raids when Nazi soldiers tore apart villages, trying to take away Jews.
One day, while two-year-old Gluck was playing with other children outside in the village, Nazi soldiers began to raid the village. They found Gluck and took her away due to her dark brown hair which stood out amongst the other blonde-haired children. However, while they were walking, Gluck would frequently stop to slide her shoes back on which kept on slipping off her feet.
“I had on new wooden shoes, which were painted blue and said, ‘Netherland my Fatherland’ and I was so proud of them,” she said, describing the shoes.
Eventually, the soldiers got tired of Gluck’s shoes constantly slipping off her feet and they left to look for Gluck’s parents. Instead of finding Gluck’s parents, who were safely hidden awaynb, they found Mrs. Funchal, a brave lady who saved Gluck’s family.
“I cannot think of a more heroic person than Mrs. Funchal, who said, ‘I don’t have any Jews,’ and [the Nazi soldiers] said, ‘but there was a star that was removed from your coat.’ She said, ‘Oh no, I bought that at the market at Zwolle’ and completely denied it and got away with it because if they had found my parents or other evidence, she would have been shot,” Gluck said.
After Mrs. Funchal was able to convince the Nazi soldiers to leave, several adults gathered around, discussing Gluck’s fate, wanting her to be safe. They all agreed that it would be best for her to live with another family as it was very hard to safely hide a lively two-year-old in the village.
“You can’t keep a two-year-old in a box,” Gluck commented.
She left the village and was brought to the Hoekman family, where she was hidden as one of their children. The Hoekman family had two children: a boy who was around the same age as Gluck and a girl who was older than Gluck. To make it seem like Gluck was one of the Hoekman family’s children, the age of the boy was changed to be younger than her so that she would appear to be the middle child. During childbirth, their mother had died, and her sister decided to stay with Mr. Hoekman to help care for the children. Later on, Mr. Hoekman decided to marry his sister-in-law because they felt that it was odd for unmarried adults to live together. Gluck, along with his two other children, had the honor of attending their wedding.
While staying with the Hoekman family, Gluck would play and spend a lot of time with her new siblings. One game they played often was school, where Gluck and the other children would act as if they were in a classroom setting with teachers and students. Yet, however much she liked the Hoekman family, she missed her mother and father greatly and was very homesick. This homesickness was so great that it soon led to Gluck being sent back home to her family for a few weeks.
“I think I always knew I would be reunited with my family because they knew where I was, and I knew where they were. And even though I didn’t want to be away from them, and in fact, when I first was left with [the Hoekmans], I was very homesick and I still remember myself, even as a two-and-a-half or three-year-old staring out the window and missing my parents, really wanting to be with my parents,” she said. So, they did send me back to my parents for a week for indoctrination and they talked me into it so that by the end of that week, I said, ‘Okay I don’t want to go, but I will.’”
After a short visit with her parents, that convinced her she couldn’t stay, Gluck was sent back to live with the Hoekman family. Even though she was safe living with the Hoekman family, sometimes it was dangerous and for around two weeks, Gluck was sent to live on a houseboat. Gluck did not have many memories from this time but remembered the people who took care of her on the houseboat attempting to bleach her dark brown hair. However instead of her hair turning blonde, it turned a green hue, which stopped them from trying to bleach her hair again. After a while, it was soon safe again for Gluck to live with the Hoekman family, so she returned.
When Kampen, where Gluck lived with the Hoekmans, was finally liberated from the Nazis, she was able to go back home to her family. Although Oldebrook, where her father and mother lived, was liberated before Kampen, it was too dangerous for Gluck to go back home until Kampen was freed as well.
“… the happiest [memory] is the day my parents picked me up and my father had my dog carriage on the back of his bike and my mother had me on the back of her bike,” Gluck said, reminiscing, “…my father was nervous because with a German accent, he was afraid the local people might tear him to pieces.”
After reuniting with her parents, Gluck and her family continued to live in the Netherlands together. A few years passed, and when Gluck turned 7, they decided to move to New York, where Gluck grew up, later moving to Florida.
In Florida, she worked as a geriatric care manager. For a few years, she also worked as the Chair of the National Association of Social Workers (Sarasota/Manatee Unit) as well as the President of Women’s American ORT (Sarasota Area Council). Gluck wants future generations to know about the Holocaust and feels that it is important for everyone to hear the stories of Holocaust survivors. She often feels dismayed when people say that the Holocaust never happened.
“It’s like saying, ‘You’re not sitting there,’” she said, “… It flies in the face of reality.”