A Dutch woman who was credited for saving the lives of Jews during the Holocaust died Dec. 11 at the age of 96. Marion Pritchard died from cerebral arteriosclerosis, her family confirmed to legacy.com.
In 1981, Pritchard was recognized by Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, as one of the “righteous among the nations” — those gentiles who, seeking no reward, risked their lives to rescue Jews from the Nazi regime that had claimed 6 million lives during World War II.
Pritchard was a 19-year-old University of Amsterdam student in social work in May 1940, when the Germans invaded the Netherlands. Her father was a Dutch judge who despised the Nazi ideology. She was arrested in 1941, and sent to prison for seven months after being caught at a meeting where students were transcribing Allied radio broadcasts for dissemination.
She said in an interview published in “Voices from the Holocaust” by Harry James Cargas that the defining moment for her came in 1942 when she was riding her bicycle to the university in Amsterdam and witnessed the liquidation of a home for Jewish children.
She saw two women trying to stop the soldiers from taking the children, who were thrown into the truck as well. She said that was the moment she dedicated herself to fighting Nazi persecution in whatever way possible.
According to her online obituary, with the help of some friends, she was able to get false identity papers and find hiding places to help Jewish people escape arrest. She helped find families that were willing to take in Jews and hide them in their homes. She sometimes performed what was called the “mission of disgrace,” falsely stating that she was the unwed mother of a baby to conceal the child’s Jewish identity.
For years, she helped to take care of a Jewish family with children who were hiding in the country home of an acquaintance. One day, German soldiers and a Dutch policeman came to search the property. They were not able to find the hiding place of the family. However, the policeman came back to search again and found the family in their hiding place. Pritchard grabbed a gun and fatally shot the man.
“I would do it again, under the same circumstances,” she said in an interview years later. “But it still bothers me.”
She is credited with saving at least 150 lives during the war. After the war, her obituary says Pritchard worked as a United Nations social worker in displaced-persons camps. She met her husband, Anton, an American, while working in the camps. They moved to the United States and eventually settled in Vermont where she ran a psychoanalysis practice.
Erica Polak was one of the children Pritchard saved in that house in the country along with her father and brothers. She became a psychologist, thanks to Pritchard’s bravery.