Frieda Roos-van Hessen knows what it’s like to live in the shadows. A survivor of the Holocaust, she spent years on the run from the brutal Nazi regime and death at her heels every day.
Today she looks back and sees God’s hand in everything that happened in her life. And although it’s difficult to relive the pain of that heartrending time, she’s grateful to the Lord for bringing her through it…and giving her a voice to tell the story of His faithfulness.
Frieda was born into a Jewish family of musicians in Amsterdam in the spring of 1915. She and her brothers shared the same passion for music and became trained in opera, violin, and piano. Her music career skyrocketed at the young age of 19, when she was asked to sing as the Dutch Snow White – quickly becoming one of Holland’s foremost performers. It was then that she won the Grande Diplome at the World Contest in Geneva, Switzerland, claiming the title as “one of the eight best singers in the world.”
From Famous to Fugitive
Despite her popularity, Frieda was instantly stripped of her fame and fortune when the Nazis took over Holland, forcing her to become a fugitive in her own country for over four years. She remembers exactly when she realized the war had begun. “I was awakened by my brother grabbing me by my arm, shaking me and shouting, ‘We are in war! This is war! The Germans are attacking us!’” she shares.
Frieda’s life of pure joy was about to turn into a nightmare.
Eight different times during the Holocaust, Frieda escaped being taken to concentration camps. These escapes seemed nothing short of a miracle, and Frieda later realized God kept her alive because He had a purpose for her life.
The first escape occurred during Passover in 1942, foreshadowing what God would do for her during this treacherous time. While the Jewish people gathered to pray in synagogues and hotels, the Nazis attacked, capturing Jews and sending them to their deaths in concentration camps.
She recalls, “Paralyzed by fear, our secret group of Jews hoped to God that somehow this would be a real Passover for us, that the Nazis would somehow ‘pass over’ our small hotel.” Amazingly, their hotel was indeed the only one overlooked in that area, and her people were saved!
Frieda was now running for her life, aided by Gentile allies known as “The Underground.” Yet one day Frieda was discovered and – after hiding for years – was captured by the Nazis. During fierce interrogations by German officials, she found herself face to face with the prospect of death.
But with much tenacity, courage, and confidence, Frieda spoke in perfect German and convinced the officials she was not Jewish but instead one of them. It was the only hope for her freedom, and it worked! She was released that afternoon.
Each time her life was spared, it became clear to Frieda that she was being protected for a reason. Someone was saving her from the hand of death and sparing her life.
One afternoon, she heard the voice of the Lord say, “Don’t worry. You are not going to be killed.” Recounting that pivotal moment, she says, “Even though I had never known Him, I was convinced of His protection and said, ‘Okay, God.’”
Free at Last!
On May 8, 1945, the war on Jews finally ended. However, the damage already done was overwhelming. Six million Jews had been killed in concentration camps, and many other Jews had succumbed to suicide.
In an attempt to rebuild her life after the war, Frieda moved to Canada, where she began to seek a personal relationship with God. After reading Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, she joyfully accepted Christ, realizing it was He who had saved her during the Holocaust.
Today, Frieda Roos-Van Hessen is 103 years old and resides in North Carolina. She has forgiven the German nation but prays no one will forget the tragedy of the Holocaust. She lives to share her story of God’s protection and saving grace, in which He mercifully saved her from the shadow of death – just as His Son Jesus offers salvation for our sins through the cross.
“God kept me alive to be what I am…a witness,” she confidently tells. “The Holocaust killed my entire family – almost 40 relatives. I believe that I survived to tell my story.”
Frieda’s book, Life in the Shadow of the Swastika, is available on Amazon and in select bookstores.