Hester K. 1947Hester 2004 

Photo on left: Hester K., age 20, with her grandfather in New York, 1947. Hester had been in New York only about one week when this photo was taken. A Holocaust survivor from Holland, she came to the U.S. by herself to meet her grandfather. Her grandfather had come to the U.S. from Holland several years earlier.

~ ~ ~
Written by Hester K. 2002

I was 13 years old when Holland was occupied by the Germans. I lived in a small town called Zandvoort on the North Sea in Holland. I lived there with my parents, the Benedictics, Sarah Waas, and my brother Issac.

In May 1942, all the Jews had to leave the town and go on a train to Amsterdam. We had to leave everything behind. We moved in with my father’s sister who had room for us. I got a job working in a factory learning how to sew for the Germans. Shortly after, my parents and brother received a notice to report for a work camp. I didn’t get a notice to report so my parents told me to stay behind. I never saw them again.

Shortly after my parents left, I was approached by my girlfriend, Rosa Cymbalist, who, to my surprise, worked for the Resistance. She found a place where I could go into hiding. I took my yellow star off and got a new identification with a new name, Helen Waasdorp. My girlfriend was my first rescuer. She was all of 15 years old. I will always remember her courage.

I was instructed to take the train to Haarlem. It was a ride I will always remember because someone called out my name and I was afraid I was discovered. I got quickly off the train at the next stop, waited for the next train, and re-boarded. When I got to Overveen, I was to meet a man at the church who would decide if he would take me in. This man was Mr. P.C. van Westering, the local church organist. Because I did not "look" or "sound" Jewish, he accepted me. I do not remember how I got to my new home at Raamplan 54, but somehow I did. The van Westering family had three children and my duties involved taking care of them and cleaning the house. I was not allowed to leave the house. I ate alone and slept in a room in the attic. I was very lonely.

I will never fully understand why Mr. van Westering rescued me. He, too, was in danger from the Germans, and needed to go into hiding from time to time himself. What I do know is that I do not have fond memories of my time in hiding. In fact, I could not wait to leave. Many social workers were involved because he claimed he was my foster father and wanted me to stay. He said I was a part of their family. I never felt a part of their family. I only worked there and was not included in conversation or meals. I still feel bad about remembering this time because even though I am grateful for being rescued, my feelings toward him are not good.

[Even after the war ended, Mr. van Westering worked hard to prevent Hester from leaving their home.]

After much negotiation, arguments about money, and great difficulty in general, I left the van Westering home. I ran away to the home of my aunt, uncle, and cousin in Amsterdam. The thought of being caught filled me with fear. I was afraid of Mr. van Westering. Ultimately, I wanted to live with my grandfather TeKorte and the other family who escaped from Belgium and were now living in New York. There was nothing left for me in Holland. I wanted to start a new life.

I left for America in late June 1947. I came on an American cargo ship called the Madaket. There were only 13 passengers on the ship. I was sick the whole trip because the ship was so empty that it rolled around in the swells. Every night they brought a basket of oranges and apples and I couldn’t eat a thing. I stayed upstairs because if I stayed in the cabin I would get sick. I arrived in Hoboken, New Jersey in July 1947 after 10 seasick days on the Atlantic.

When I arrived, my uncle Sam TeKorte, aunt Judith, and cousin Hetty were there to greet me. We hugged and kissed and cried and were very happy to have found each other. A month after arriving, I met my husband Sam. We married the next May. I am still happily married and have three children, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Five years ago, I discovered the whereabouts of the van Westering family. I learned that the van Westerings divorced right after I left. Mr. van Westering married two more times and died just a year before my son contacted the family. The first Mrs.van Westering will not talk to us about that time.

More on Hester:

"Survivor Voices" - See video clips of Hester sharing her story
"With My Own Eyes" Exhibit Passport - Hester