Frieda Roos, a gifted opera singer with a bright future, becomes a haunted fugitive after the Nazi invasion in Holland. Almost her whole family was killed in concentration camps. By reading the Bible, she discovers that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and she finds peace and inner healing. Watch this testimony: “Frieda Roos, Holocaust survivor found peace after World War II”.
Subtitles from youtube video
“It’s very difficult to explain to people what it means to live as a fugitive. And that’s what we were. Nothing except ourselves and the clothes on our back.”
Frieda van Hessen is one of the few remaining holocaust survivors. At age 92, she can still vividly recount the frightening years that stole her freedom, her dignity and her career as an opera singer.
“When I was 6 years old I already had, what they call a beautiful voice more noticeable than the other children and I had always that desire to become a singer.”
Hers was a happy childhood. Frieda was born in 1915 and grew up in Holland, the only daughter of affluent parents. Frieda’s father was an official in the Dutch army. Her mother, a singer, encouraged Frieda’s natural talent for opera. Frieda became a rising star at the music conservatory. Singing to sold-out audiences. The Van Hessens were Jewish, but gave little attention to Jewish holidays or education.
“I never knew the story about anything, I didn’t know who Moses was. I never ever experienced anti-Semitism until the Germans came.”
The Nazis imposed strict regulations for Dutch Jews. Frieda and her family had to wear the star of David on their clothes and as a Jew, Frieda was no longer allowed to perform for non-Jewish audiences.
“I had had a dream about big, big black birds flying over our house and I never knew what that meant of course. It was an icky dream, let’s say it that way. Not very pleasant.”
In May of 1940, German bombs landed in the Netherlands for the first time. Overnight Frieda’s life changed from that of a concert performer to a fugitive who would be on the run for the next 4 years.
“In the middle of the night, all of a sudden, my brother was standing at my bedside and shaking me, he said, “Frieda wake up, wake up, we are in war!” When we looked what was happening, those big black birds, that I had been dreaming about, they came straight over our house.”
The Van Hessens, along with Frieda’s friend Mieke, escaped to another house where they hid for several days. Frieda’s parents were in a different room when a car stopped in front of the house.
“So when I peeked behind the curtains to see what it was. I saw this gigantic black limousine and I saw the German soldiers with a bayonet standing next to it and I said, “oh My God,” I said, “Mieke,” I said,” there’s trouble, trouble.””
The Nazis captured Frieda’s parents but didn’t find Frieda or her friend.
Frieda didn’t know it at that time, but her parents were led to Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp where over a million Jews were murdered at the hand of the Nazis.
“The last time I saw my parents, with a bayonet in the back passing by my window, they never looked up. They were terrified to betray us, I’m sure. They looked straight forward and then, of course, I collapsed, then I screamed. I just lost it totally.”
From that day until the war ended, Frieda and Mieke lived in terror. They hid in eight different locations provided by sympathetic non-Jews. Whenever they suspected discovery, they ran to another hiding place.
“The most fearful part of the whole thing was actually that we were 24 hours not knowing what was going to happen next. Like we were always whispering. We couldn’t trust anybody. You know, if you couldn’t even trust family. You never knew, it could come from any side.”
Did you ever just feel like giving up?
“No, actually I did my exercises. I had a little a tiny little bit of a lipstick, like a sample. I put some lipstick on every day, I did my ballerina exercises and I wanted to look very pretty when the war was over, because I knew that I was going to be Frieda. And I always said, if they want me, they have to kill me because they can’t get me alive.”
For four and a half years Frieda fought to survive. Then one day, it all ended.
Let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that God will preserve it always. These proceedings are closed.
“We were just all of a sudden told that the war was over when the bomb came on Japan. There was just a total rejoicing, the flags went up, the people were dancing in the streets. Everybody went crazy, because there was peace. But we were so afraid, we had been so long in this one room. That when we were actually out, we had no roof over our head. But I was so petrified to look up. I was afraid of the sky, I was afraid of the stars. I was just so scared, it was so big. I guess that’s how people feel if they are in lifetime prison or something like that. That was very strange to be able to buy things, to go to places. That was just a miracle.”
Did you ever think that you would live to see that day?
“No, it’s something very hard to describe. When you have been so void of everything. Void of associations, void of food, void of liberty, void of my own heart. I lost totally my memory, where it came to my music.”
It took years for Frieda to pick up the pieces of her life. Nearly all of the people and places she knew were gone. Six million Jews had been killed. This rubble was all that remained of Frieda’s home and from this family photo, only five members, including Frieda, survived the holocaust.
Canadian soldiers were stationed in the area and Frieda caught the eye of one young Christian man, Keith Saunders.
“I thought he was handsome, also thought he was very arrogant.”
The two married and planned to move to Canada. That’s when Frieda’s uncle made a strange suggestion.
“He started saying to me that I should become a Christian and it really blew my mind. So I told him, I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Well, if that ever happens again, if there’s going to be another war again, then they will probably do the same thing to you again.” And well, I sat still for a minute and said, “I will never do that, because if I change and I become a Christian that means that Hitler won the war after all.””
Frieda decided to change her religion for safety purposes only. She walked into a church and asked to
see the pastor.
“All I had on my mind was a piece of paper, telling the people that I was a gentile.”
The pastor introduced Frieda to Elizabeth, a woman from the church. She started with Jesus, with Joseph and with the baby in the stable and all kind of things, it made no sense to me whatsoever. And I thought she’d lost it. And I said, actually I told her. I said, “I thought that you were an intelligent person. How can you believe all this nonsense?”
Elizabeth asked Frieda to read Isaiah chapter 53 and Psalm chapter 22 in her free time.
“And so I kept reading and then I came to the sixteenth verse and there it says, the second half it says ‘they pierced my hand and my feet.’ And I just let out one big yell that’s Jesus! I was all alone in a little room, there was nobody there to twist my arm. I just ‘boom’ I just saw that that was Jesus. I sat down and I said, “How could I have lived like that, all these years without that.” It was something like coming out of a dark hole into the light. I never knew that He was called the Light of the world, I knew nothing. Then I went to Isaiah 53 and then, it was just like that, I’d understand every word. So I called Elizabeth and she raced over and then we went over Isaiah 53 and the 22nd Psalm and she expounded to me more what it all meant and so. I just was instantly saved, just like that.”
That was over 60 years ago. These days Frieda spends her time creating beautiful paintings and tapestries. She’s also the only woman I’ve met over 90 with her own blog.
“I have a blog now, but I don’t know what it means, but I have it.”
Frieda says that she forgave the Nazis a long time ago. Her prayer now is for the Lord to use her experiences in life to share the power of His transforming love.
“I went for the first time to Israel in 1987 that’s all I asked the Lord, to be a servant and so He has answered my prayers, He had made me a servant. Telling people, about all the miracles that He has done and is still doing.”