From Singer to Survivor : Frieda Roos-Van Hessen

A Book by Me

I was born Frieda Ella van Hessen on April 24, 1915, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My mother had a beautiful soprano voice, which she inherited from her father. I adored her and my father too. Before the war, we loved to sing and my brothers and I gave many live home concerts together. These were cool events in those days they were called home concerts. I also made many live broadcasts. My own career started with singing the role of Mimi in the opera La boheme for Avro, Radio Holland and with concert performances. The Nazi disaster ended it. My last performance was as soloist at concert with the Apollo Choir in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. This was the Dutch equivalent of Carnegie Hall in New York. The next day the review consisted of only one sentence, Because the soloist is a Jew, and after all the suffering we have done already because of the Jews, I feel not called to review her performance. That became my last official concert performance in Holland. The Nazis now occupied The Netherlands and registered all the Jews. It became mandatory to wear a piece of cloth printed with the Star of David on all of our clothes. The colors were the same as those used during the Middle Ages to warn people of The Plague-a yellow background with a black Star of David. In bold, black letters was the word Jood [YOT], meaning Jew. Choices were limited for Jewish families-either be taken away to concentration camps or try to hide. My friend Mieka and I escaped to a house where we hid. My parents were hiding in an adjacent house. One day a car stopped in front of that house. When I peeked out from behind the curtain, I saw a gigantic black limousine and German soldiers with the bayonets standing next to it. I said to Mieka, Oh, my God ... my parents are in big trouble! The Nazis captured my parents that day, but they did not find me and my friend, we escaped. I didnt know it at the time, but my parents were taken to Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp where over a million Jews were murdered at the hands of the Nazis. The last time I saw them was with bayonets to their backs passing by my window. They never looked up. They were terrified to betray us, Im sure. They looked straight forward. Then, of course, I collapsed. I screamed. I lost it, totally. My friend Mieka and I lived in fear hiding in eight different locations provided by non-Jews for four years. Whenever we suspected discovery or betrayal, we ran to another hiding place. The war was over and my life started to become normal. In the beginning it felt very strange even going outside. I remember even the sky seemed so high it scared me, and I hardly dared to look up at first. Though I rejoiced over being liberated by the Allied Forces, the pain of losing my entire family (except my older brother Bernard and his wife Daisy) never left me. God did spare my life, and at the age of 100, He still opens up doors so I can tell others about His great love and protection.