Fiorello's Sister: Gemma Laguardia Gluck's Story

Syracuse University Press  2007


Gemma LaGuardia Gluck was the sister of Fiorello LaGuardia, renowned mayor of New York City from 1934–1945.

Although this is considered a personal memoir, it incorporates both U.S. and European history. The LaGuardia family was an army family, the father a U.S. Army band leader. The mother was Jewish, a member of a prestigious Italian Jewish family. Gemma stayed in Europe when Fiorello left his position in Hungary to pursue his education and career in the United States. Brother and sister did not see each other again for twenty years. Gemma, who taught English, married one of her students, a Hungarian Jew named Herman Gluck. They moved to Budapest and had two daughters. Yolanda stayed in Budapest with Gemma; Irene left for the U.S. before World War II.

Gemma, Yolanda, and Yolanda’s infant son, Richard, were imprisoned in Ravensbruck, under unusual circumstances, from spring 1944 to the end of April 1945. Gemma’s relationship to Fiorello made her invaluable to the Nazis as a “political hostage.” She was spared slave labor because of her special status. Already over sixty years old, this probably saved her life.

We learn much about the LaGuardia family, Gemma’s, Yolanda’s, and Richard’s experiences, their liberation as displaced persons and their special treatment in the camps. It is noteworthy that Mayor LaGuardia refused to get them preferential treatment. They had to wait in post-war Berlin, as displaced persons, for permission to enter the U.S.

The original, My Story, now out of print, is incorporated into this version, expertly expanded and updated with newly discovered material, by Rochelle G. Saidel, an authority on Ravensbruck concentration camp, and author of The Jewish Women of Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, published in 2004.

This is a unique Holocaust experience. It must be read to understand another aspect of the darkest period in human history. Appendix, references.

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