[She] says to me "I can get you into hiding because eventually they will get you also." So she got me a false passport and I had to go on the train and I had to meet this gentleman in a church... and I stayed in his house for two and a half years.
Born to a Jewish family in Amsterdam, Hester (Waas) Kool and her brother Isaac were raised by their parents in the small town of Zandvoort alongside the North Sea.
On May 10, 1940 Nazi forces invaded and occupied the Netherlands. Hester was thirteen. All Jews in the Netherlands were forced to sew the yellow star on their clothes and all families living along the coast were forced to move. Hester's family was among those who were moved to Amsterdam in May of 1942. The Waas family stayed with an aunt and Hester, not allowed to go to school, worked as a seamstress in a factory, sewing materials for the Germans.
Hester's mother, father and brother received a notice to report for a work camp. They were deported to Westerbork and from there taken to Auschwitz. "I didn't get a notice to report so my parents told me to stay behind. I never saw them again." (Hester Kool, 2002 interview)
Hester never received an order to leave and remained in Amsterdam. Shortly after her parents were deported, her friend Rosa, a member of the Dutch Resistance, helped Hester obtain a new identity and a place to hide. The van Westering family hid Hester for two years. Hester cleaned the house, slept in the attic and served as a nanny during her time at the van Westering home. All the while, she recorded her lonely experience in a diary.
When the war ended, Mr. van Westering prevented Hester from leaving their home. With great courage, Hester ran away from the van Westering house to Amsterdam. She stayed for two more years before immigrating to the United States because "there was nothing left for [her] in Holland. [She] wanted to start a new life." Hester arrived in the US in July 1947 and a month later she met her husband Sam. They were married the following May, and started a family that now includes children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Inspired by her children's questions and a Zandvoort panel at an Anne Frank exhibit, Hester started to tell her story in 1995. She is a member of the Holocaust Center's Speakers Bureau.
Video 1 – “Going into Hiding”
Video 2 – “Loneliness”
Video 3 – “My Most Precious Thing”