Return to Our Parents
was the first to respond to my call for picturesand bios of Holocaust survivors, posted by their children.
This is apicture of Richard’s mother, Hester Wass-Kool, and the van Westering children, for whom she was a nanny during the war.Read Hester’s Story.
My name is Hester Waas-Kool. I was born on 2 May 1927 and grew up inZandvoort, Holland. My father was Benedictus Waas, my mother was SarahTeKorte-Waas, and my brother Isaac. I was the only survivor of the family. InZandvoort, I lived in the Vila Dudley on the Paralellweg, kitty-corner and acrossthe street from the local orphanage, about two blocks from the ocean. Before ourdeportation to Amsterdam, we lived at Ten Katestraat 20.
When we were deported to Amsterdam, we stayed with my father’s sister Rachelle,who lived in at Nieuwe Kerkstraaat 113.
My rescuer was Paul Christiaan van Westering, born in 1911 and died in March 1991at the age of 79, and is buried in Algemene Begraafplaats at Heemstede. Hiswife, from whom he separated right after the war, is still alive but wantsnothing to do with anything that happened at that time. The children that I tookcare of while living with the van Westerings are still alive, and I havecorresponded in the last year with the eldest daughter, Loes. His third wife,Mrs. C.H. van Westering – Duyvendak is also alive.
During the war years, while in hiding, I lived in 54 Ramplaan, Overveen. Throughthose years as a teenager, I worked as a nanny and maid for the van Westerings,taking care of their three children. Mr. van Westering for a time worked as anengineer in the Hoogovens, and later became a church organist performing in theHaarlem area. I attended some of his performances in the Haarlem churches. Healso, during the war years, composed or wrote out music at home. In theProtestant churches in Holland, his name is very well known even today for hismusical setting of the Confession, which is used every Sunday in the majorchurches. After the war, he was a musical advisor for the late queen Wilhelmina,an author and composer. He also, in the post-war years, was very active withconcerts, judging choirs, and writing. He composed musical settings for churchmusic and was involved in writing music for popular screenplays.
Some time during the summer of 1942, my mother, father and brother receivednotification that they were to report to the Hollandse Schouwburg for transport.The last time I saw my family, they were walking down the street to theSchouwburg.
If they came for my parents, they would come for me as well. A friend of mine,Rosa Cymbalist, was already involved with the underground. “You’re going” shetold me, and with forged papers and a new name, Helene Waasdorp, I had to leaveAmsterdam and head south in the spring of 1943.
I remember passing through other houses, staying in two other places for a nightbefore arriving at the van Westering’s home. I took the tram from Amsterdam toHaarlem for this rendezvous, having to travel as Gentile, not Jew, and alwaystraveling closer to my home of Zandvoort.
Early in April 1943, I arrived in Haarlem with the knowledge that I should go toa church where I would meet my rescuer. I now have no memory of which church itwas. A man was waiting for me, sitting in a pew. The first thing he asked in thisinterview was for me to say “eighty eight” in Dutch- a number that was spoken byAmsterdam Jews with a particular accent. Having grown up in Zandvoort, I saidthis magic number to the satisfaction of my interviewer, who was convinced that Iwould not give myself away as a Jew by the way I spoke.
My job with the van Westerings was a maid and nanny. I worked at taking care ofthe two young children. While I was there, a third was born. I cooked andcleaned and cared for the babies.
While I did not formally “hide” as my features were not very “Jewish”, I onlyrarely could go outside. I remained with the van Westering family from April1943 to January 1946. After the liberation, I continued in my role as nanny andmaid until my departure. I had a room in the attic of the house.
As far as I can tell, there were no financial arrangements made in terms of myliving with the van Westerings. I worked for them in the house, and I figurethat covered the cost of my expenses while living there. While after the warthere was some controversy about my surviving family providing compensation tothe van Westerings ( Mr. van Westering did request compensation for hisexpenses), nothing as far as I am aware was paid to him from my family. Iunderstand that he did receive some money for me from the Stichting 1940-1945.
I do not really know why the family decided to take me in. I can only assumethat they were sympathetic to the plight of the Jews, as they had taken in othersfor shorter periods of time. With my light hair and blue/green eyes, I couldeasily be present in their house as a nanny without raising suspicion. As far asa cover story goes, I was simply their nanny and maid. I am not aware ofanything more than that. As I didn’t go out of the house often, there was littleneed for coming up with a story.
I guess that Mr. Van Westering was involved with resistance activity, through, asthere was a time when the Gestapo came looking for him and he had to gounderground. I was told by some that perhaps I should leave at that point, but Ididn’t.
One of the few regular times that I did leave the house was to continue myeducation. Mr. Van Westering arranged for me to have a tutor who helped me withEnglish and German during the evenings.
During the period I was with the family, I became close to the children. Theadult van Westerings were rather cold, and my relationship to them was veryformal. However, this may have been part of their sense of my cover. I was onlya maid after all, and not part of the family. I only remember I always had to eatin the kitchen by myself. I didn’t eat with them. I cooked, I served them andcleaned up, and then I could eat in the kitchen.
Through the war years, as far as I know, I was the only one that the vanWesterings hid in their home. However, I remember that before my arrival, theyhad allowed their house to be used as a way station for people on their way to amore secure hiding location. The only other person that I know who was helped bythe van Westerings is Sonja van Son.
Immediately after the war, I wanted to get away from the family and away fromHolland. My goal was to join my grandfather in New York City. My separationfrom the van Westerings was not a pleasant one, in that I wanted to re-join myaunts and uncles who had survived one way or another, and the van Westeringswanted to keep me on as their maid and nanny. Through the fall of 1945, I wasincreasingly despondent and regularly seeing social workers who were trying tosort out the situation. When I left the van Westering house in January 1946, Inever looked back nor had any contact with them again.
By all accounts, the van Westering family saved more than just my life. While mydealings with them after the war were not all that pleasant, I realize that I owemy survival to their kindness and bravery.
By Hester Kool, © 1996 All Rights Reserved