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Moving with family
In 1943, when Verolme was 12 years old, the Werkendam family was transported first to the Westerbork camp for a short stay, then to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. At Bergen-Belsen, Verolme and her brothers, Max and Jack, were sent to Barrack 211, also known as the Children's House.
Sister Luba, a Polish prisoner, saved the children and took full responsibility for the group. Due to Verolme's age, she was tasked with supervising the small children there. She became known as 'Little Mother'.
Food and water was very limited and the conditions of the barracks were poor. Hetty relied on other children who were older for support and good spirits amongst the growing number of children. Sister Luba had other ladies to help her protect the children; however, many died. Their bodies were piled up on a mound right outside the Children's house.
Experiences/death of family and friends
On Friday 2 October 1942 at 8:15 am, Verolme's grandmother, grandfather and cousin were taken away and killed. Verolme's school boyfriend and her school friend Sonia Santiel both died in Auschwitz on 22 October in 1943. Later, two of her uncles, Philip Van Kamerik and Max Werkendam (b. 1917), died in Bergen-Belsen.
Verolme lost over 110 Werkendam family members during the Holocaust, spread through many work and death camps. As recently as 2015, names are still emerging of relatives who perished.
After the war, Verolme and her brothers were reunited with their parents. With assistance from the Red Cross organisation, the family moved back to the Netherlands. As an adult, Verolme built a successful career in the fashion industry.
In 1954, Verolme emigrated to Australia. Once there, she worked as a waitress, bus conductress, door-to-door sales person, real estate agent and a shopping centre developer.
Verolme became the first female president of the Netherlands Society in Adelaide and was on charity committees such as the Lady Mayoress's Committee and later worked with the Ethnic Affairs Council. She is a founding Trustee of Children of Belsen and The Holocaust Trust, formed to help holocaust survivors, their descendants and promote the continued awareness of the Holocaust.
Awards and achievements
Awards in Australia
- 1972 - Awarded "Most Successful Migrant"
- 1977 - By Ministerial appointment, into the Inaugural Australian Ethnic Affairs Council
- 2000 - Christina Stead Award - The Fellowship of Australian Writers
Migrated to Australia in 1954
- A founding member of the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council in Canberra - along with the Hon Al Grasby.
- President of the Netherlands Society in South Australia.
- Was a Member of the Lady Mayoress Committee in South Australia.
- Noted in the Who's Who of Australian Women.
- Devoted to a wide variety of charity and community organisations
- Verolme, Hetty (2013) . The Children's House of Belsen. WERMA Pty. Ltd. atf. "The Children of Belsen Trust".
- Verolme, Hetty (2010). Hetty: A True Story. ReadHowYouWant.com. ISBN 1458718808.
- Martin, Lucy. "Holocaust survivor Hetty Verolme makes it her mission to ensure atrocity is not forgotten". ABC (Australia). Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Osteroth, Reinhard (September 7, 2007). "Mach den Mund auf, Hetty". Zeit.de. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
- Verolme, Hetty E. (2010-10-22). Hetty: A True Story. ReadHowYouWant.com. p. 264. ISBN 978-1-4587-1880-8.
- "Origins: Immigrant Communities in Victoria". Museumvictoria.com.au. Retrieved 15 August 2018.
- "Children Of Belsen And The Holocaust Trust". Holocausttrust.com.au. Retrieved 15 August 2018.