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“Marianka” Marianne Z. May, a 70-year resident of Pine Bush, passed away peacefully at home, with her daughter Lori at her side on October 9th, 2022. She was 99 years old. The daughter of Arnold and Hilda (“Loewy”) Zadikow, she was born May 26th, 1923, in Munich, Germany.
In 1933, the Gestapo were outside their home, nightly, watching her father. He had shut off a restaurant’s radio while Hitler was shouting venom. On the street, her father had torn swastikas off a brownshirt’s uniform.
The precarious situation made them reunite in Prague, Hilda’s hometown, after Marianka’s father had worked 1933-1936 as a sculptor in Paris. Hilda earned a living in Prague painting and giving art lessons. Marianka learned Czech and English, and went to concerts before they were forbidden to Jews. Marianka would have liked to become a pediatrician but the Nazi laws forced Jews out of schools and most jobs. She worked as a hat-maker in her teens. She took courses given by Jews to Jews: microbiology lab technician, cook, and baby nurse courses.
The family made futile attempts to leave Europe.
Other rights of Jews were taken away in gradual increments. Eventually in 1942, the Zadikow family was compelled to report to a train to the Terezin/Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. There was hunger, cold, overcrowding, and the loss of family and friends, due to scarcity of adequate medical care, and frequency of transports to the dreaded “East”. Marianka’s life was saved by medicine smuggled in by a Czech policeman, Constable Salaba. Her father died there, despite the best efforts of well-meaning Jewish doctors and nurses, hampered by Nazi rules which delayed, too long, his surgery for appendicitis. His daughter’s grief and shock were immense.
During her time in captivity, Marianka was among a group of Concentration Camp prisoners assigned to assemble a device for the de-icing of German planes. They purposely took care to assemble the parts of these devices in the wrong order. When the devices were attached to the Nazi aircraft, of course most of them failed to work. The planes could not fly in very cold conditions. The Nazis immediately reassigned this group of forced laborers to make non-strategic things, like tobacco pouches for German soldiers. They never found out which of the factory workers had done the sabotage.
In Terezin, a friend gave Marianka something that, because of its scarcity, seemed precious: writing paper. A man who was a bookbinder before becoming a prisoner, made a small book for Marianka. She used it as an autograph book. She asked for the signatures of many people whom she knew and liked and also of a few people who were known for high achievements in their former careers (theater, music, medicine, etc.). Artists, including her mother, drew and painted a page or two in her book. People wanted to wish her well in the uncertain future. Some expressed hopes of meeting her again, in freedom. Words of appreciation and encouragement were given by people. Original thoughts were written down. Meaningful biblical quotations were added to her book. Not knowing whether they had a future, each person wanted to be remembered.
The autograph book’s entries were all translated and published in 2008 by the University of Chicago Press. They gave it the title, “The Terezin Album of Marianka Zadikow.”
Marianka has devoted much of her life to reminding the world about these people who raised each other’s spirits, faith, and hope – the gifted and the good; the ordinary and the extraordinary; the senselessly destroyed.
After the War, she was employed in the Jewish Community Center in Prague using her three languages to help people find relatives and friends if they had survived. She helped them to obtain documents to return to their former homes, often countries bordering Czechoslovakia. After coming to America in 1947, Marianka worked for four years bringing loving care to children in an orphanage in Far Rockaway, New York.
She met her husband, Eric May in America. He was, as she said, “an American war hero.” He had been a Staff Sergeant in General Patton’s infantry, in the Normandy invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, and the fighting in France, Belgium, and Germany. He had helped to liberate the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp, the one which General Eisenhower visited, ordering that it be filmed. Eisenhower had a premonition that if it were not filmed, people would not believe that these conditions had ever existed. He forced the local German population to come and see the conditions under which Nazi Germany had caused so many to become emaciated, and many to die.
Eric May was also a member of “the Ritchie Boys”, featured on CBS television’s “60 Minutes”. He was among German-speaking men, born in Europe, who had enlisted in the American Army after Pearl Harbor. They had been given special training at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, and had consented to go back to Europe embedded in forward units, as part of Army intelligence. They knew it involved extra risk but each wanted to fight against Hitler.
Eric May was also a poet and a writer of songs. Marianne and Eric raised their daughters, Lori and Liesi, with music as a part of daily life on their farm in Pine Bush.
Marianka spoke at schools and places of worship. She convinced people to avoid prejudging individuals by their religion, political affiliation, appearance, or place of origin. She encouraged people to seek reasons to be grateful and hopeful each of their days. She kept her faith, under all conditions. She was among brave chorus singers in Terezin. Their story in the film “Defiant Requiem”.
She was predeceased by her husband, E. Eric (Erich) May with whom she ran Windmill Farm. Survivors include her daughter, Lori Zadikow May, daughter Liesi Shannon (husband Tim Shannon), granddaughters Bevin Vasaturo (husband Joe Vasaturo), and Tara Bruyn (partner Phil Renart), great-grandchildren Shannon Pizzo, Shayla Pizzo, Kalina Vasaturo, and Joe-Joe Vasaturo, and many friends and a few relatives.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, November 13 at the Millspaugh Funeral Home at 22 Bank Street in Walden, NY. Visitation 2-3pm. Service will begin at 3pm. Memorial contributions can be made to Defiant Requiem Foundation (defiantrequiem.org), or to Doctors Without Borders (www.doctorswithoutborders.org). For directions, online condolences visit millspaughfuneralhome.com. For those who can’t attend, please contact the funeral home for a Zoom link.
For those who want to share a few thoughts, speaking at the memorial, please contact her daughter, Lori, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or post them on the Tribute Wall at millspaughfuneralhome.com.
Doctors Without Borders
333 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10001-5004,
Defiant Requiem Foundation