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Readers

Sender: Barbe Sylvester-Carr
Date: 27/02/05
From: Germany

Dear Hetty Verolme,

Two months ago I read your wonderful sad book "The Children's House of Belsen". Since, then, it has haunted me, both day and night. I can not get it out of my head what terrible things that all of your can your families had to go through.

I am also of the Jewish faith and our family we're lucky. My parents we're French and all of the family got out of France in time, before the Germans came. I was born in Ireland. Somehow, I have never faced up to what happened to the Jews during the war. It was just like a dream. My God your book changed all that! I have driven a number of times passed Bergen-Belsen on the autobahn. I never had the courage to stop and visit it, but that won't happen again. From now on I will stop and go in and confront the past.

What courage you all had, you, your bothers, Louky, Robby and poor Leni. What a gift from God, Sister Luba, Hermina and Hella and all the other German Sisters. Leni's photo haunts me, there isn't a day goes by that I don't look at it. My most important task is how to visit Bergen-Belsen and pray for you all.

How I wish that your book would be made compulsory reading in German/Austrian schools. Maybe then the young people would learn what you all went through.

Please Hetty Verolme, do tell me if you ever got back the pen from "Hermann" and if Sister Luba is still alive. I wish you all well, and most of all peace of mind. God Bless "Hetty Werkendam" I am sad that your childhood never was. I am sad that there were/are humans who can do such things to others. I am sad that so many died horrible deaths. But I am happy that you were born, I am happy that you wrote the book and I am happy that I can now face the truth about my own people's past.

Thank you, Thank you. I will be at Bergen-Belsen on April 15, 2005 and I wil remember all of you and pray for all who died.

I wish you peace,

Barbe Sylvester-Carr


Sender: Anthony Anderson
Date: 26/12/03
From: Californica

Hetty! Hello!

A few years back I heard about book "The Children's House of Belsen". Something I have done where I work (the University of Southern California) is to collect all books (in English) that one way or another deal with the Holocaust and Holland.

As your book is published in Australia it took some time before the library finally got it on the shelves. I read it almost immediately. I found it an extraordinary book! One of the best Dutch Holocaust memoirs I had come across. (Over the last 10 years I have read practically every such book I could find (in English as well in Dutch.)

I found your writing extremely vivid, especially the portrait of that magnificent Russian nurse. I teach every year at USC a class dealing with Holland and the Holocaust; each student must (among other things) read a Dutch Holocaust memoir and make a report on the book. Back in September one of my students and gave a report on your book in class and very much shared my enthusiasm for the book (sad and as harrowing as it often is....) So know that you and your book have been the subject of classroom discussion in California.

Thank you again for writing. You will forgive the haste with which I written here, but I wanted to respond before leaving on my trip.

All the best to you in 2004.

Sincerely yours,

Anthony Anderson


Sender: Pinkhof Helene Adele
Date: 17.11.01
From: Jerusalem

Dear Hetty,

Since I don't know if you still speak Dutch, I'll write to you in English.

I too, was one of Lubba's Children on the list I was Pinkhof Helene Adele born 14.10.38 in Amsterdam.

Now, my name is Helene Eolan Pinkhof (I am divorced). I have three sons and 4 (nearly 5) grandchildren.

I write to you because I just read your book. Since I was so little when everything happened, I didn't remember everything; only certain circumstances.

First of all, your book is in my opinion very well written! In your book I was "one of the little ones " (5+ years old or maybe 6) I had also all the illnesses possible (Typhoid etc) also I want to thank you if you helped taking care of me. Since, I didn't remember I could not thank you before.

But another reason I write to you is on page 294 (Dutch version of your book), it shows a picture of Sister Luba with a child on the swing. Are you sure that is Mieke, because I think it is me and looks very much like my face on the picture of that time. I was small for my age and started growing only when I was 13 years old. Maybe you can find out if it was me?

I couldn't go to Luba's reunion, because I don't leave my address in Miami. But she was very ill. After a few lovely letters she stopped writing and I hope it is not what I think (reason she stopped writing).

How are you doing? I usually don't think for contacts with my past but I wanted to write to you after reading the book. It is good I finally got a more general picture of what happened to us.

All the best to you, thank you again.

Heleen


Sender: Rhonda McSevery
Date: 28/03/01
From: Sydney, Australia

Dear Hetty,

May I call you "Hetty", rather than Mrs Verolme? I have just finished reading "The Children's House of Belsen" and you have let me into your life and heart. I have valued the opportunity to view from a safe distance the horrors experienced by so many of my fellow human beings.

My letter is simply to respond to you, to thank you for what you have helped me learn and understand better. My love comes to you, too, that there have been many deep joys in your life during the years since, that God has revealed his love for you and your family in many mercies and kindnesses.

I am a Teacher Librarian at Preparatory to Year 12 Christian School in North West Sydney, and your story (and all those brave and wonderful companions in your book) is now on our shelves to be read by many.

Thank you for sharing your story.

The Lord Bless You,

Rhonda McSevery


Sender: Fred Saunders
Date: 21.02.01
From: Sydney, Australia

Dear Mrs Verolme,

My daughter and son-in-law gave me your book "The Children's House of Belsen" for my birthday end of December last. Thank You for sharing it with us, I sincerely hope many Australians as well as others read it and take it in.

To help you understand my appreciation of you writing your book I must give you a brief history of myself. I was born in South Wales (UK) Dec 1932 and lived in a rural area we experienced bombing mainly because not far from us was a munitions factory, from our bedroom window we could see the lines of Avonmouth, but we had nothing compared to Bristol, London or Conventry or cities on the continent.

Of course we read about Belsen and many others, but your book brought back the memory of a friend of the farmer my father and I worked for, he came home on leave after the war, and was an army Truck driver into Belsen, and all he would say was "it is soo horrible to talk about".

Thank you again for the story and for being such an assett to Australia and ambassader for both Holland and Australia.

Best Regards,

Fred Saunders


Sender: Alexander Cortese
Date: 16/11/00
From: Sydney, Australia

Dear Hetty,

Hello, How are you? You don't know who I am but I feel like I know you, or at least the young you from your book. "The Children's House Of Belsen". I hope you don't mind me calling you by your first name. I don't mean any disrespect on the contrary I have enormous admiration for you. I have just this morning finished reading your book and I felt in my heart that I should write to you and let you know how much your book meant to me.

This very morning I wrote to your publishing house asking them to forward your mailing address. If and when I receive it this letter will be waiting to be mailed to you. That will explain the early date above. I wanted to write to you while the book was fresh in my mind.

What does one say to a person that has been through so much, spends years recovering from such horrors and then has the courage to relive the whole nightmare again by sharing it with the world? Well done!

Congratulations. Good for you. The only word that comes to mind is simply thank you. I do not come from a Jewish home or background nor do I know very many Jewish people. In fact the very first time I was made aware of the Jewish race was back in the 70's when they screened Holocaust on television. Up until then I was completely oblivious that in the modern world man could stoop to atrocities to fellow man. I was above 13 at the time and it made quite an impression on me.

Over the years I have picked up the occasional book or article relating to "those years", but never had I read an account written through the eyes of a child. You wonder about what it must have been like for those innocent babies you seldom read about it. I'm sure there are books out there but I have not gone out of my way to find one. Your book was sent to me as a replacement to the one I had actually ordered through the book club I belong to. I decided to keep it and read it one day.

Well as I said, I've just finished reading it and it stirred and moved me so much; I spent most of the time reading through blurred vision. As I continued to pore over the the pages, I too became attached to the children and I kept flicking to the back of the book to look at their little faces and as I did this you all became more real to me. I think what your book has accomplished for me is that it has made me realise that the whole appalling event actually occurred, it was real, with real people who felt real pain and bled real blood.

Hetty, you are truly a remarkable person. I applaud your strength and resilence to the shocking things you and your kin have endured. I am born again Christian and I know that my God is the same as your God and I believe he spared you and your wonderful family for a reason. We don't always understand why things happen the way they happen, I know I certainly don't but I live by the rule that states simply "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding". Proverbs 3:5.

Please write back if you wish, I would love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Alexandra Cortese


Sender: Alexia Lennon
Date: 01/08/00
From: Perth, Australia

My Dear Hetty,

On behalf of the President of the Karakatta Club Mrs. Jane Thompson, members, guests, and particularly myself, may I offer you our sincere thanks for making yourself available to address us. I know you made a special effort to return to Australia to keep your date with us and we are deeply honoured that such an inspiring woman as yourself took so much trouble to share with us the experiences so gently written in your book.

As I stood at the lectern during Question Time I could see how deeply moved your audience was. Since reading your book I was unable to find the appropriate words to express my feelings. However, on reflection, the word is "profound".

To see you now, with your beautiful smile, in your glowing pink suit, profound is the only word to describe the admiration I and the members of the Club felt as you described experiences that defy understanding.

It is seldom that one is priviledged to meet a person who has overcome what is unspeakable to become a human being of such significance.

Stories like yours need to be told. We grandmothers need to give your book to our children and our children's children to remind us to be ever vigilant. Your presence with us today reminded us that wars are won but the battle continues. Each one of us left encouraged by your example. We have all manned the barricades from time to time, indeed, that is what the Karrakatta Club is all about. Women of ability who might be long in years but keenly aware that without our experience and expertise, the younger members of our community could easily lose their way.

Those of us who listened to you today, and all who read your book can only be uplifted by your indomitable spirit. May I say again that it was an honour to meet you and your words, so gently spoken, with your smile that is so genuine, will live with us for a long time to come.

God bless you - Shalom.

With Sincerity and humility,

Alexia Lennon


Sender: A. Richards
Date: 16/07/00
From: Perth, Australia

Dear Hetty,

I hope my letter finds you in good health. My name is Allan Richards and I am from Leonara in WA. I am 41 years old with two teenage kids and two young girls aged 6 and 3. I have read dozens of autobiographies of people's experiences in war zones from 1914 - 1992. My wife and I sponsor a boy in war-torn Uganda.

When one reads about the suffering of soldiers or adults in war you hope that the result of a better country or democracy will somehow justify the turmoil of the period. But, when children get involved nothing can justify their suffering.

I often wonder how an intelligent race of people can let themselves be conned and tricked by megalomaniacs and fools, with a gun in their hand and a crazy idea in their head. This applies to countries all over the world, not just Nazi Germany.

But anyway, back to your wonderful book. It really made me feel alive when I read your "in your face" book. It pricks at the conscience, and your own concepts of good and evil. Most rank the holocaust and genocide as the most evil. Sadly, six million people's lives were taken in the battle, but good did triumph over evil and that in itself must be a good thing.

Your book affected me like no other I have read. At times I could only read five or six pages at a time as the emotions your book stirred in me were so strong. I just wanted to reach into the book and offer the children some help. When I read the last page and realized that you and your immediate family had survived the war I was elated. I closed the book, but could not put it down on the table for fear I would lose the bond I felt I had built up with you by reading your book. It was the most moving story I've read. So, Hetty, thank you very much for giving myself, and others, the privilege of reading about yourself and your family and friends.

As a father, and having felt the pain of losing a two year old son many years ago, I believe the feeling of despair and foreboding your father must have felt as he left the camp on the back of a truck and waved goodbye could never be put into words. I just admire everybody who kept their dignity and faith. As for the SS and their supporters, I'm sorry, but I have nothing but pure hate in my heart for them. But that is my problem and I'll live with that.

I believe you have done proud the memory of those people who never came back through those gates. May you see many mild summers in the future. Thanks again.

Many Regards,

Allan Richards


Sender: Wilhemus Heggers
Date: 29.05.00
From: Perth, Australia

Dear Hetty,

Thank you for writing your story on "The Children's House of Belsen". I consider it a great privilege that you have let us read what you and your family have had to endure at the hands of the Nazi's.

Even though I was born in Netherlands shortly after the war, I have strong memories of the war, from many stories told by my parents and other family and friends. As a young man, I immigrated to this beautiful country in the late sixties and I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and four children. I now realise how fortunate my life has been and still is in being a successful emigrant.

I am truly thankful that you have found the courage to recite so much of your horrendous experience that you have given us to the privilege of receiving little comprehension of the suffering endured by so many. Your story is very valuable for us to reflect and appreciate how extremely fortunate we are. Thank you again for a wonderful narrative, which captivated me for a few nights and felt reluctant to put down when I ran out of pages to read. I am looking forward to reading a book on the rest of your life story.

I praise God for your gift of writing.

Yours Sincerely,

Wilhelmus (Bill) Heggers


Sender: John Fransman
Date: 15/05/00
From: Europe

Hello Hetty

I don't know if you remember me from our meeting with my cousin Maurice in Belsen during the 1995 commemoration trip. Maurice recently gave me a copy of your book which I am finding very interesting and reminds me of some of my own experiences there the first time. I know it will also appeal to some of my friends who were also in the camp there and I wonder whether your Mala knows of the book yet? I can make contact with her and would be pleased to get her a copy as well as for the others. Do you know how I can get further copies in the U.K?

The Imperial War Museum in London is about to open a new Holocaust section in June with the Queen doing the opening. Again, I am sure they would want copies if they do not already have them. I look forward to hearing from you.

My best wishes,

John Fransman


Sender: Margaret Forrest
Date: 20/02/00
From: Sydney, Australia

To Hetty Verolme,

I have just finished reading your book about the Children's House of Belsen and it is good to read of your survival and other survivors - your own survival has enabled the story to be told. It was absorbing reading.

To gain full dictatorial powers it is usually expedient to fain majority support by giving them someone to hate and reinforcing this by constant one sided propaganda, which is what Hitler managed to secure so convincingly. In this setup the fanatics, bully boys and thugs always rise to the top. Jews were not the only ones to suffer but to a Jew it would have seemed so as so many were affected.

I was born in 1922, a 3rd Generation Australian. My school years were blighted by the Great Depression, and this was followed by World War 2. You experienced the European horrors, and the threat from Japan dominated our thinking.

The man I married spent almost 4 years as a prisoner of the Japanese. When he returned home he was bony with tropical ulcers and eyes staring as though in a nightmare, but he returned to health and sanity. He never condemned the Japanese. He always said that soldiers are brutalised first by their training, then more so by their experiences in war, especially if they are on the winning side and have disarmed their opponents.

Like most people my life has been dominated by my own troubles, tribulations, struggles, successes, failures, joys, griefs. I reached my forties before I began to study the experiences in life of people of other backgrounds, religions, cultures and so on. Through my studies I came to feel that no race, religion, or political system is perfect - there is a mixture of good and bad in one and all, but if the extremists in any group assume power, then look out!

I am a widow now, aged 78, and one of my pleasures is to read biographies and autobiographies. I feel I have gained some wisdom over the years, but there is little time left to use it.

I am so glad you managed to make a new life in Australia and I wish you and your family all good things.

Yours Sincerely,

Margaret Forrest


Sender: Gaye Smith
Date: 12/02/00
From: Unknown

Dear Hetty,

I hope you don't find this letter intrusive but I feel compelled to write a few words regarding "The Children's House Of Belsen".

It is so sad and so difficult to try and comprehend such atrocities could take place in this world, brought on by man for his own selfish desires (or whatever other reasons). How any human being could inflict such pain to another is beyond my understanding, let alone to make innocent children suffer as the way you and thousands others did.

I know your story is only a "tip of the iceberg", so to speak, and to think there are millions of people "out there" who maybe still suffering one way or another, directly or indirectly due to war is inconcievable.

My father served in the WWII and even though he didn't speak much about it, I knew at an early age that he was affected by terrible memories. His brother (my uncle) was a POW and escaped 13 times, which didn't go down well with the Germans. He was later awarded the BEM. Unfortunately, no medal or any other award could erase the pain people endured (my thoughts).

Hetty, I wish you well and I'm so sorry you and thousands of other children and adults had to experience such atrocities and sadness. No child should be robbed of their innocence.

Take care & God Bless you and your family.

Gaye Smith


Sender: Muriel Love
Date: Unknown
From: Melbourne, Australia

Dear Mrs Verolme,

You may not remember me but I met you at The Melbourne Hyatt. When you were in Melbourne.

As a result of that meeting I have acquired your book. I found it one of the most informative books I have ever read and can't imagine how you had the courage to write this. I just had to congratulate you and also the way you have grown. I feel very proud to have met you and am only sorry that I didn't get you to sign my card.

Believe me I have told everybody I know about you and you have all our admiration for all you have done for all your life.

Thank you once again for your courage all your life.

Yours Sincerely,

Muriel Love