Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Marlies Adams DiFante describes her harrowing experiences of being trapped in Nazi Germany as a young child.
CLARENDON – A talk by Rochester author and Naples native Marlies Adams DiFante drew a large crowd to the Clarendon Historical Society meeting Wednesday evening.
DiFante made those in the audience both laugh and cry as she discussed her book, Queen of the Bremen, an autobiographical account of her childhood experience of being trapped in Nazi Germany with her family during World War II.
In 1939 at age 5, Marlies traveled with her parents and brother to her parents’ native Germany. The family wanted to visit Marlies’ dying grandfather. Marlies’ mother was pregnant with her third child at the time and Hitler invaded Poland shortly after they arrived, closing German borders and ports. The Adams were not allowed to leave the country due to the fact Marlies’ mother was so close to her due date.
The family endured what Marlies describes as a seven-year “living hell” during the war, suffering starvation, homelessness, abuse, bombings and constant fear.
“I never intended to put it into a book,” Marlies said. She began taping her story only as a way to preserve her first-hand experiences for her grandchildren.
The Clarendon Historical Society Museum Barn meeting room was filled Wednesday evening for a presentation by local author Marlies Adams DiFante.
Marlies’ daughter-in-law transcribed the tapes, typing everything down for her Master’s thesis, but at the time, Marlies said she was not ready to share the story with anyone other than family. Eventually, her feelings changed and she decided to publish the book.
She described the horrors of the war, including severe food rationing, being bombed out of her home, and the British dropping of dolls and fountain pens embedded with explosives.
“Children were maimed and killed,” she said. “The German people had nothing but fear in them…. Hitler took everything, the German people had no control at all. I felt sorry for the German people, that they let that monster take over like he did.”
Marlies also detailed an especially harrowing year she spent with an aunt, who was a Nazi informant. She suffered horrific neglect, and turned to the animals on the farm for companionship. She became attached to one of the cows, in particular. “That cow was my best friend,”
Marlies said, and added that she believes the cow was really an angel whose comfort helped her survive the ordeal.
She also discussed the power of forgiveness and how their strong faith in God helped her family to cope and survive. “If you don’t believe God watches over you, He does,” Marlies said.
“I’m so proud that God let me be born in this country,” she said of her native United States.
Marlies Adams DiFante speaks with Clarendon residents following her talk.
Marlies mentioned the recent violence at protests in Charlottesville, VA. “When I see the swastika… it’s a good thing I am not in that town,” she said, and called the swastika a symbol of evil. “It’s the worst symbol that ever came out …… (the Nazis) destroyed everything…. we can’t let that ever happen again.”
Marlies’ son, Tom DiFante, who serves as Clarendon town justice, attended the presentation with his family.
“She does a fantastic job,” he said of his mother. He noted the book, “has given her a new purpose. It makes me proud and I appreciate what she’s endured.”
Tom’s wife, Amy, agreed. She said it is remarkable that the Adams family was able to survive their ordeal and move on with their lives.
“They stepped beyond it. I’m amazed at how strong she is,” Amy said, and noted Marlies’ story is inspiring. “She shows that it doesn’t matter how hard it gets, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Tom and Amy’s daughter, Marlayna, and son, Mitchell, also attended the presentation. Mitchell, 13, enthusiastically promoted his grandmother’s book. He said his grandmother has taught him much.
“It’s hard to explain how much she’s gone through,” Mitchell said. “She’s spectacular. I thank God for all the blessings we’ve had and she’s had.”
He said his grandmother’s experiences make him more appreciative of what he has.
“It makes me realize how much I take for granted and that I might need to re-focus.”
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