Edith Sleutelberg

"Think, be helpful, and do not be afraid to work.  This family bought me a spinning wheel and they had sheep so I did the spinning, knitting, weaving and a lot of reading.     Study, learn as much as you can; that is the only thing they can not take away."

Name at birth
Ester Edith Hes
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Zaltbommel, Netherlands
Name of father, occupation
Arnold H. Hes, Merchant
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Rosel Kahn, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
My parents, two brothers Alex and Jack and me
How many in entire extended family?
About 40 people. My mother has nine brothers and sisters and my dad had four brothers and sisters, their spouses and children
Who survived the Holocaust?
We all five lived
As Jews were not allowed to go to school, my mother wanted me to learn to be a seamstress.  In the afternoon, I would go to a lady, Miss Thysen, and helped her with her sewing.  Miss Thysen allowed me to not wear the required yellow star which had black writing on it, JOOD, pronounced Yohd, (Jew in the Dutch language).  
While there, I met a nurse by the name of Mrs. Bolwyn.  Mrs. Bolwyn was part of the Dutch underground and arranged for me to live with a farmer, for my parents to live with a different family, and for my brothers to be with a different family as well.
I was on the farm of the De Kock family in Haaften, Holland across the Wall River, part of the Rhine River, across from Zaltbommel.  They bought a spinning wheel. I learned to spin and knit sweaters and socks.  We couldn’t buy anything anymore, the stores were empty.  
One day, the Germans came and wanted to take over the house.  The De Kock family talked them into just living on the first floor and their family lived on the second floor.  I was hidden upstairs.  One time we saw a German coming up the stairs, we were scared to death.  The soldier asked who I was.  They said I was their daughter who was visiting, who was staying for the day.  The German wanted to take to me home. They said insisted, no, she’s staying the night. 
The De Kock family treated me as though I was part of their family.  There was a husband, wife and six children all living there.  I had to stay hidden upstairs.  I had a hiding place behind the bedroom.  It was a dark place.  I had a blanket on the floor; I was indoors practically all of that time.
There was a curfew, all Christians had to be in by eight o’clock.  After that, one of the family would sometimes go with me through the fruit orchard so I could get some fresh air.  They were real Christian people, they were wonderful to me.  They never tried to talk me into being a Christian, they were respectful of Judaism.  They felt it was their duty to help the Jewish people.  They knew if they were caught, they would be killed too.  
It never gets out of your head; I lived in fear all that time, for two years, seven months. I never saw my parents or my brothers; I worried not so much for myself but rather if I would ever see them again.  
The nurse, Mrs. Bolwyn, would go once a month to my parents and bring a letter to me from them.  I would write a letter for her to give to my parents.  
This past August (2010), my daughter Esther, my son Arnie, and I traveled to Holland to attend the wedding of the De Kock’s granddaughter, Kryna De Kock.  It was an unbelievable experience.  The De Kock family was so happy that we came; we were treated like queens and kings.  We have visited each other over the years and feel we are family.   
I celebrated my birthday while we were in Holland; we went to Zaltbommel, my hometown.  Only two of the seventy Jewish families came back after the war.  Since there were so little Jews left, the synagogue had been turned into an apartment building.  However, the Mikvah, (a bath used for ritual immersion in Judaism) has been taken care of all of these years.  My home town celebrated its 1100 years of existence. 
Every Sunday they have a tour of the city in which they include the Mikvah.  The names of all of the Jewish townspeople who were murdered in the Holocaust are inscribed on a wall there.  The names of my grandmother, my aunts and uncles, my cousins, were all on the wall. 
Where were you in hiding?
I was hidden on a farm in the Netherlands by the De Kock family from October 3, 1942-May 4, 1945.
Where did you go after being liberated?
To my hometown Zaltbommel, the Netherlands
When did you come to the United States?
1954. My husband to be came to Holland to visit relatives.
Where did you settle?
Hudson, MI. My husband, his brother, and parents left Holland in December, 1939 and went to Quincy, Michigan. My husband had a distant relative, near Coldwater; he bought a store that was going out of business. He turned it into a clothing store
Occupation after the war
Finished School then Worked in Parent's Store
When and where were you married?
June 9, 1954
Simon Sleutelberg, He had a clothing shoe store in yard goods
Ester Rosalie Sleutelberg, Dentist Arnold Meyer Sleutelberg, Rabbi at Congregation Shir Tikvah in Troy, MI
Two: Ariel and Hannah Kowalsky
What do you think helped you to survive?
My parents, the farmers who hid us, and the hope to see my family again.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Think, be helpful, and do not be afraid to work.  This family bought me a spinning wheel and they had sheep so I did the spinning, knitting, weaving and a lot of reading.  
Study, learn as much as you can; that is the only thing they can not take away.
Charles Silow
Interview date:
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