Marlies was one of thousands of European Jewish children who were separated from their parents, given new identities and hidden in private homes, on farms, and in convents by sympathetic anti-Nazis at great risk to themselves. They came to be known and honored as Righteous Gentiles after the war.
I was born in Zwolle, The Netherlands, three weeks before the Germans invaded in the spring of 1940. For two years we continued to live with increasingly rigorous restrictions, but finally, my father felt it was time to go a "work" camp, and my parents prepared to do so. People went to these camps believing they would be given work there, and they were even encouraged to bring their sewing machines. Soon after arriving at the work camp, however, they were stripped of their possessions and sent to concentration camps.
We were going to go to the work camp as a family. My mother labeled our clothes and gave the neighbors our things to store. The camp we would probably have gone to was Westerbrook, and the conjecture is that from there we would have been sent to Bergen Belsen.
The last night prior to our departure a member of the Dutch Underground, known to my parents, came and spent hours arguing my father out of his decision.
My mother spent the rest of the night removing the names from our clothes, and the next day this same gentleman from the Underground came and took my mother and me to our new hiding place in a village called Oldebroek. My father traveled separately, Our family was hidden by a laborer and his wife in the first of what were five houses, all housing and hiding Jewish people and opponents of the Nazis. The family had five children at that time, but by the end of the war they had eight. Theirs was a large but unsophisticated house, where the goat stall was located off the back entrance and the bathroom facility was an outhouse.
The mother was an extremely brave lady who several times during Nazi raids searching for hidden Jews showed unusual courage in the face of danger to herself and her family. After I was caught during one such raid, but was let go because I couldn't keep up with my captors due to my extra large wooden shoes, it was decided that I should be boarded apart from my parents, because I was a danger to them.
I remember a scary ride during which we were shot at because I had no papers. The boy on whose bicycle I was traveling decided to make a run for it, and I spent one night hiding under a haystack. I think a woman was with me when I slept under the haystack, but I can't remember any more, because I was very little then. I got to my destination and ended up with the Hoekman family.
I was listed in the Hoekman family register as their middle child, and this was noted in the records at the city Hall in Kampen. Initially I was very homesick for my parents, and they took me back with them for two weeks, but only to convince me I had to stay with the Hoekmans. So I went back and adjusted, and I never told anyone that these people were not my parents.
There was one period when it became too dangerous even there, and I spent two weeks on a houseboat. But I also had the honor of attending the wedding of my foster father and his sister-in-law, who had moved in prior to my arrival after her sister died.
As soon as our town, Kampen, was liberated, my parents came to get me. My father had some fear because of his German accent, which he felt might make him a candidate for retribution. We spent several months after the war with the last family with whom my parents were hidden, until we could reclaim our home.
In 1947, when I was seven years old, we came to America. The adjustment was extremely difficult for me. For many years, and perhaps until today, I have found it difficult to make friends and felt very unpopular in a time when popularity was everything. Things like being overlooked for the honor society in junior high school and the chorus at Hunter cut deeply. I believe that my years at Hunter were a good growing experience, but they were difficult years, because of my feeling of always being on the fringe.
As I aged, I found that service could substitute for friendship, and to this day I seem to lead my life this way. I am currently a geriatric care manager. I am also the outgoing Chair of the National Association of Social Workers, Sarasota/Manatee Unit and outgoing President of Women's American ORT, Greater Sarasota Area Council.
It took many years before I could talk about the war years, even though I was so young at the time. In the last 20 years it has become easier. I now feel it is my responsibility because I am of the last generation that was there. It is not a responsibility I particularly want. Although the Holocaust helped to formulate me, it does not define me. Hopefully, I have more to speak for my existence than something over which I had no control.
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