Jewish Survivor Turns 100
Young author Daniel Gittleman was a guest at Frieda Roos 100th birthday party. Friends and family gathered on Saturday April 25, 2015 to celebrate the centenarian's special day. Miss Frieda's birthday wish is that Daniel's book be distributed to public libraries and schools throughout North Carolina. Daniel's father has set up a GO FUND ME and you can donate here:
BIRTHDAY SPECIAL: In honor of Frieda's birthday we are offering both From Singer to Survivor and Deb Bowen's bookA Walk With Esther for $24.98 (a $28.98 value). A Walk With Esther tells the stories behind the stories of the survivors with their young authors and includes Daniel and Frieda's story
I was born Frieda Ella van Hessen on April 24, 1915, in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. My parents were Izak van Hessen and Sarlina Diamant. We had a very close family life, held together by love and our combined interest in music, art, and sports.My mother had a beautiful soprano voice, which she inherited from her father who had a wonderful baritone voice. He was a member of the then famous Apollo Choir, participating in many of their performances. My mom studied with Anton Averkamp, a renowned voice teacher at that time.
I adored my dad. Being the only girl between my two brothers, I was "his little girl." He was a businessman and captain of the Corps of Engineers in the Army Reserve. During the Dutch mobilization, he was asked to become a full-time officer.
Before the war, my brothers and I gave many live home concerts together, which were "cool" events in those days; they were called "home concerts." I also made many live broadcasts. Our home was big enough to seat thirty-five or forty people, whom we entertained with piano and violin sonatas, as well as trios of violin, piano, and cello in which my fiancé, Anton Dresden, performed. Everyone enjoyed my singing repertoire. These were wonderful events, indeed.
My own career started with singing the role of Mimi in the opera La bohème 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. I performed and was accompanied on the piano by my fiancé. He was the son of Sem Dresden, who was the Director of the Conservatory of Music in Amsterdam.
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. Soon, my fiancé was told by his parents to end our engagement. He was half Jewish. They thought by marrying me he would be considered full Jewish and might be deported to a concentration camp.
Soon, the Nazis 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 didn't 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, I'm sure. They looked straight forward. Then, of course, I collapsed. I screamed. I lost it, totally.
From that day until the war ended, my friend Mieka and I lived in fear. We hid in eight different locations provided by non-Jews. We were fugitives for four years. Whenever we suspected discovery or betrayal, we ran to another hiding place. We were always whispering, because nobody could be trusted. Betrayal could come from any side.
When the war was over and freedom was won, my life started to become normal. However, in the beginning it felt very strange even going outside after having spent almost two years in one room. 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.