Today it is a rare honor to meet a person who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust. It is crucial that we hear the stories of these remarkable people and preserve them for the next generation who won't have a living tie to this tragic chapter of our history. On Saturday, April 25th, hundreds of people had this rare honor and privilege as they gathered at Hope of Israel Congregation in Charlotte, NC, for the birthday celebration of a very special member of this Messianic Synagogue, 100-year-old Holocaust survivor, Frieda E. Roos–Van Hessen.
Before the Nazi occupation of Holland, Frieda was one of her country's foremost concert and opera singers. At the height of her career, she was named one of the eight best female singers in the world. Her singing career came to an abrupt halt as the war began, and as a Jewish woman, she was forced to go into hiding. As millions of her people were murdered, Frieda miraculously survived as she was smuggled from one hiding place to another, and by the time the war was over, had escaped death countless times, at one point even being allowed to leave after being taken to Gestapo headquarters.
At Frieda's party was a guest whom Frieda had only met a couple days before, but whose life had made an immeasurable impact on her own. When Frieda first had to go into hiding, a man named Isaac Busnach saved her life by providing her with an address to which she could escape. Because he was also Jewish, Mr. Busnach had to go quickly into hiding himself after helping Frieda. Over the years, Frieda has frequently thought of this heroic man, and spoken of him often, hoping he also survived. She was overwhelmed with joy to find out that he had indeed, and that his daughter still lives in Holland.
Gerrie Polak–Busnach traveled hundreds of miles to meet Frieda, and to be here for her celebration. There weren't many dry eyes in the room as Frieda welcomed her new friend to the stage, embraced her, and presented her a plaque in commemoration of her father and his heroic act. The front of the plaque had a quote from the Talmud, "Whoever preserves a single soul, Scripture ascribes merit to them as though they saved a complete world. (Sanhedrin 45)" The back of the plaque read, "Presented to Gerrie Polak–Busnach on this day of April 25, 2015, in honor and remembrance of her father, Isaac Busnach, for risking his life to save another in Holland during the dark days of the 2nd World War 1933- 1945."
The birthday celebration of this joyful lady was an occasion for great rejoicing. Though Frieda has endured horrors that few of us can imagine, she has a yet greater story of deliverance. After the war, through the witness of a German believer in Yeshua, Frieda was faced with the compelling evidence from Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures (Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53) that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah, and soon after came to trust in Him as her Messiah and Lord. At her party, Frieda praised God that through Yeshua, He has rescued her "from the domain of darkness into the Kingdom of His beloved Son." (Colossians 1:13)
In her book, The Shadow of the Swastika, Frieda writes, "In retrospect, I can tell you that in the midst of my storms, my wildernesses, and my joys–—which were many—–God has preserved me all these years. He was, is, and always will be there. And although I did not know Him then, now I know His Name: Yeshua, HaMashiach!
Find Frieda's full story in The Shadow of the Swastika, now also available as an audio book, read by the author herself.