FRIEDA VAN HESSEN, an autobiography
Leven in de schaduw van de Swastika /Life in the shadow of the Swastika.
237 pp (2008)

Frieda van Hessen (Amsterdam 1915) was a very talented soprano in pre-war Holland. Her promising career which included appearances with the Wagner Society and the Dutch opera society was cut short because of the Nazi occupation of Europe.

Van Hessen studied at the Amsterdam conservatory with the renowned teacher and Ausschwitz victim Rose Schoenberg. She sang under such conductors as Pierre Monteux and Erich Kleiber.  During the war she sang in several operettas and shows at ‘De Joodsche Schouwburg’ until she went into hiding. Her story (published in English in 2006) during these tragic events has at last become available to her native country with a Dutch edition. Her remarkable and riveting story of survival is of universal appeal and reads like a thriller and becomes even more alive to those acquainted with the cultural and geo-political history of the Netherlands and Dutch Jewry.

The book has about 30 illustrations and there is a postscriptum which brings the reader up-to-date. There are a few typos which could have been avoided such as Geza Frid (and not Fried) a famous pianist and composer with whom van Hessen gave a Lieder recital in the Concertgebouw’s smaller hall and Sem Dresden (and not Driesden) whose son Anton –a gifted pianist and later chorus conductor-was at one time engaged to van Hessen, an engagement which was abruptly ended by the Dresden family. The reasons why are painfully re-told in the book.
It is of course Emmerich Kalman (see advertisement above) and not Emerich but these are but minor flaws in a book worthwile reading.
At present the author lives in North Carolina.
Rudi van den Bulck

-See also

-For our Dutch-speaking readers the book can be obtained from (16.50 Eur)