HETTY Esther Verolme is an extraordinary woman, at 87 she is a child survivor of the horrors of Hitler’s Nazi Germany concentration camps and she has since made it her mission in life to ensure that these horrific deeds will never be repeated nor forgotten.
The author of several books on the subject, recently spoke to Year 11 /12 students, staff and parents at Helena College in a move history teacher Dave Bannister hoped would inspire and imbue all whom attended with a positive message.
Year 11 student Grace Hercik-Saul said she thoroughly enjoyed Hetty’s presentation and appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the Holocaust from a person who was a firsthand survivor.
“Hetty is an inspirational legend whose personal story needs to be heard,” Miss Saul said
“I was able to increase my personal knowledge of the Holocaust from Hetty’s words and stories.
“She is a real victim who has a true story to tell, which makes the learning experience more realistic and different from just reading about it.”
Mrs Verolme described how she was torn asunder from her family in Amsterdam in the Netherlands following the 1940 German invasion of that country.
She recounted stories of her life in Amsterdam following the outbreak of the war, stories that detailed the immense hardships of her daily life and being forced to wear the Jewish Star of David.
Mrs Verolme described how at the age of 13 she and her brothers were separated from their family in 1943 and sent to Barracks 211 of the children’s house at the Belsen concentration camp.
As one of the elder children at the Belsen concentration camp she became known as the ‘little mother’ where she took it upon herself to care for her siblings and other younger children.
There Mrs Verolme organised games and activities in order to distract from the children’s pain and anguish at being separated from their parents and the ever present feelings of being dirty, cold and hungry.
At the Helena College event, she signed copies of her two books, Hetty: A True Story and The Children’s House of Belsen, for the college library and also signed copies for students.
A college spokesperson said, while Mrs Verolme’s stories were painful and sometimes difficult to hear they had a profound effect on the college’s students.
“Her recollections left the students in attendance with an overwhelmingly positive message that no matter what happens, or how hard life your life appears to be, it is imperative to always believe tomorrow will be a better day.”
By Andrew Carter