World War II had just ended and a Jewish man was sitting in a café in Hamburg, Germany. The man told a waiter he would like a cup of coffee and theVölkischer Beobachter, the Nazi newspaper. The waiter explained to the man that he could have the coffee but thecafé didn’t sell that newspaper anymore. The next day the man returned and ordered a coffee and the newspaper with the same response from the waiter. The third day, the waiter lost his cool and said, “I told you, we don’t have the newspaper anymore!” The Jewish man said: “I know, I just love to hear you say it.”

Dr. Maurice Vanderpol found humor was the key to surviving horrendous experiences such as he did, hiding as a Jewish teenager in Holland during the Nazi occupation. In a recent interview at his Edgartown home, he recalled funny tales like this one that helped him and others get through the war. He shares his experiences, both devastating and humorous, with school groups across Massachusetts including on the Vineyard. Dr. Vanderpol has been an Edgartown summer resident since the 1970s, and has been telling his story to younger generations for more than 20 years.

“There is a shift in the way the kids react,” Dr. Vanderpol said. “It used to be how horrible it was and they wanted to know all the horrors of the war and hiding, and it’s shifted now; you went through a very difficult time in your life and you rebuild. And that is the emphasis.”

He speaks to students from fifth grade to college level. After he shares his stories, Dr. Vanderpol said he often receives responses from the students in the form of letters, poetry and drawings.

One student drew him a picture of a penguin family. Across the top of the picture the student had written: “Penguin parents nurture their babies and you nurtured us.”

He recalled a Boston Harbor School student’s expression of gratitude after hearing him speak through a composition that he shared with his peers. The student had decided not to become a doctor because he thought it would be too difficult, but after Dr. Vanderpol spoke, he changed his mind. “After Dr. Vanderpol came to class and he talked about the difficult time he had, he still decided to become a doctor. So I decided I wanted to become a doctor,” the student wrote.

The story that has inspired so many took place in 1940 when the Nazis first invaded Holland. “At first nothing happened, I graduated from high school and wanted to go to medical school,” Dr. Vanderpol said. “So I started medical school, and then slowly but surely, it was first, how many Jewish grandparents do you have? And from then on the measures against the Jews became more and more severe.”

He still has the Star of David that all Jews had to wear with the word “Jood” spelled out over it. Jood is Dutch for Jew.

“You couldn’t go out at night, couldn’t get on the street car, and then they started picking up Jewish families at night and putting them in an emptied-out theatre, called the Jewish Theatre, so the chairs were removed and people lived on the floor,” he recalled. “And then a little while later they were loaded on trucks and sent to the [concentration] camps.”

The writing was on the wall — as the Nazis’ intentions became clearer, Dr. Maurice Vanderpol and his family decided to go into hiding. But he had a stroke of luck, if you could call it that. “We had help,” Dr. Vanderpol said. “I had been out of high school for several years and a high school friend said, ‘Here is my identity card.’ Then a forger took his picture out of it and my picture in it with a stamp.”

One night when Dr. Vanderpol was out late, a Nazi officer stopped him and asked for his identity card. He anxiously gave it to the officer who instantly knew it was a fake. Fate granted Dr. Vanderpol another chance when the officer told him to go.

He hid in different places in the Hague and eventually ended up in the Amsterdam home of his aunt’s housekeeper, Tina. “I want to tell you one story, heavy duty, heavy duty,” Dr. Vanderpol said, reclining in his living room on a hot summer day. He paused a moment to reflect before speaking. “This woman knew our family, so she opened her apartment on the third floor of a lower middle-class neighborhood to four of us. Her sister and husband and daughter lived downstairs — they were petrified that there were four Jews living in the little apartment and tried to prevail on Tina to get rid of us. And she said, ‘No they stay, God will protect us.’”

On the fourth floor they built a hiding place that thankfully they never had to use. “How we did that I have no memory of it, but it seems crazy that we got away with it,” he said. “It was a neighborhood where everyone was watching everybody else, and how did we get big bricks up to build a false double wall in the middle room?”

He also managed to earn his credits in medical school, even after the Nazis had kicked all of the Jews out of universities. A small group of professors created a course they called Gymnastics and Massage to disguise an unofficial Jewish medical school. “We went to the homes of Jewish professors and went on with our studies. We were supposed to get credit and that was crazy under the circumstances,” Dr. Vanderpol said. “When the war was over and we went back to medical school, there were my credits.”

Dr. Vanderpol learned the war was over through a secret radio he had stored away in the hiding room. “In September of 1944 we thought we were going to be liberated, but we weren’t liberated until May 1945, he said. “The last six months of hiding was horrendous; there was no food, there was no water, no gas, no electricity. The streets were flooded because they didn’t pump the water out. And then the day of liberation came and I couldn’t believe it. Everyone was in the streets.”

At a celebration party in Amsterdam he met Netty, the woman who would become his wife, who had survived concentration camps in Germany. After immigrating to the United States in 1946, Dr. Vanderpol was accepted at Boston University medical school to complete his degree. He was in Boston when Netty visited New York with her parents, and he traveled to New York to see her. They were engaged during a blizzard.

Dr. Vanderpol went on to become a psychiatrist, serving the U.S. Army during the Korean War and then at McClean Hospital in Belmont. “You’re going through a very hard time, and once you go through it how do you rebuild? How do you get beyond an experience as devastating as that?” he said he asked himself. The answer came in the form of continuing to share his story and message of hope.

“When you go through the experience of the Nazis occupying your country and the consequences of those five years, and you roll in it, you always end up thinking, what could I have done differently?” He said it is a question he still asks himself. “Everyone my age lives with what you feel proud about and what you don’t. Well, that’s life, and you can push it aside but at the same time you don’t want it to destroy you.”

In the end he said he counts his blessings to continue to be able to tell his story. “To be able in your life to help make a difference, that’s the best way you can think, they didn’t get me,” he said. “I’m happy to be in a position to do what I’m doing.”