Fiorel­lo’s Sis­ter: Gem­ma Laguardia Gluck­’s Story

Rochelle G. Saidel, ed.
  • Review
By – December 9, 2011

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.

Arlyne Samuels a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege, taught and super­vised Eng­lish in New York City for 40 years. She was the coor­di­na­tor of the book club of the Greater Worces­ter (MA) Chap­ter of Hadas­sah. Arlyne passed away in May 2009 and will be missed by the Jew­ish Book World team.

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