Monthly Archives: April 2013

On Holocaust Remembrance Day: The Lessons of my Parents

00000007As a child I always remember my parents speaking of what took place in Holland during the Nazi occupation.  The term ‘Holocaust’ was rarely if ever used.  Instead they would generally speak of it in terms of “40-45”, representing the years 1940 until 1945 when Nazi Germany occupied the Netherlands.

I always knew I had lost family, specifically the parents and younger sister of my father and the father and younger brother of my mother.  It was not until I was a bit older that the scope was understood to me, very possibly due to my parents shielding me from the reality at my young age.

I always knew of the greatness of the Lubertus and Geeske te Kiefte.  The people known to me from as far back as I can remember as Oom (Uncle) Bertus and Tante (Aunt) Geesje were the people who shielded my parents, specifically my mother, and gave her a welcome home at the risk of certain torture and death.  They would always remain to me as family, as would their children and grandchildren.

I always knew it was Germany.  What history was then and what it became was something I did not begin to comprehend until my teen years.  My first understanding of the contrast that existed was my awareness that Willie Brandt, who was German Chancellor from 1969-1974 was a “good German” who had not been part of the Nazi party.  As an ignorant child it was all just numbers and random information to me.  Of course it was sad.  I never had the experience of knowing my grandparents and knew that the world my parents were born into had been destroyed.  But the true scope was something that was next to impossible for a child to grasp.  Then I grew up and realized it had very little to do with age.

Soon after I finished writing the book “Jew Face” I was thinking about all that had taken place and my perception of the events of 40-45.  As a New Yorker, I know what it means to live in a city with a strong Jewish influence, not unlike Amsterdam prior to 1940.  I closed my eyes and tried to imagine most of my family gone and 75% of the Jews of New York wiped out.  After 10 seconds I opened my eyes because it was too painful to continue.  I had the option of opening my eyes and making it no longer a reality.  This is what makes Holocaust survivors such as my mother and late father and so many others the tremendous heroes that they are.  The very ability to go on with life in the face of such awful memories without the option of opening their eyes and making it go away.  It never did go away, yet they continued to live with the pain, often turning it into new worlds filled with joy and happiness.   We owe a debt of gratitude to all these heroes that we can best repay by always remembering and fighting to make sure it never happens again.  May God bless them all forever.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret_ThatcherI have no long tribute to write on the woman known as “the Iron Lady”, but as a Jew who today is commemorating the murder of 6 million, interjecting a post of any kind not related to Holocaust Remembrance is my own personal tribute.  Her accomplishments were important not just to her country but to the entire world and she always conducted herself with a dignity and decency hard to find in today’s world and government.  Rest in Peace Margaret Thatcher.


A Blessing For the Lost

flame1The honor and memory of 6 million Jews is not a political issue.  It is not aligned to being a Man or Woman, Democrat or a Republican, Conservative or Liberal, Jew or non-Jew.  It transcends race, nationality or color.  As a Jew I make no apologies for this being my main focus.  It does not mean I hold no importance to genocides that have taken place in other parts of the world.  It does not mean I do not condemn slavery or oppression against people throughout history.  It is very simply an issue of remembering the murder and devastation committed against the Jewish people.  Let no one make a mistake by thinking atrocities committed against any people is of no consequence.  As long as our world still allows this to happen everyone is potentially at risk.  But that should not be what it takes for people to care.  As human beings we can never be complacent about the suffering of others.   But just as importantly, we must identify evil where it truly exists.  Murderous governments still exist and in some ways are stronger today than ever before.  Muslim leaders referring to Jews as pigs or dogs and speaking of the annihilation of the State of Israel is a very true reality today.  So the importance of remembering goes beyond honoring the dead, it speaks to the survival of our people and moral development of the entire human race.  Do we as people hold power?  In joining together in decency and dare I say love, we have a far better chance than if we battle each other and let the true enemy off the hook by battling each other over theory and conjecture.  If there is one advantage we have today it is that the enemy is not hiding from us, but is rather out in the open and very clear about their intention.  Let our remembrance of the 6 million who perished be a lesson that helps our world survive the very real threats that exist today, and let our actions be a blessing for their memory.

The Life That Was Not Lived

This is the Foreword, written by my father of blessed memory, Rabbi Nardus Groen for my book “Jew Face”

Holland's Heroes

The following  piece written by my father of blessed memory is the Foreword for the book “Jew Face: A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland.” It is extremely appropriate for Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day).

by Rabbi Nardus Groen, of blessed memory

The life that was not lived:

This is the story of two people whose experiences cannot be seen as
separated from one another. At the same time, it includes a multitude of people
whose story will never be told. We therefore consider it a privilege as well as a
duty to share with you some of the 4,380 days of our being on this earth.
Existence is more or less a state of exposure. Life, on the other hand,
is a matter of faith. If there was such a thing, my choice would be for
something in between. Some attributes may be applied to…

View original post 210 more words

Our Responsibility

yad-vashem-hall-of-remembrance-israel-holocaust-memorial-in-jerusalemIn the 68 years since the end of the period in which the horrors of the Holocaust occurred, much has been written and said to honor and remember those who perished and survived a time so terrible words cannot really do it justice.  Rightly so, the day set aside to commemorate what took place is called Holocaust Remembrance Day.  There is nothing we can do to change what happened and nothing we can say to make it better.  All we can do, and hopefully cause others to do, is remember.  That is our solemn obligation and moral responsibility.

There should be no guilt in living a happy and healthy life.  Those who are blessed with the good fortune of a happy life have every right to enjoy what they have and live that life to the fullest.  However, every single one of us needs to remember what happened from 1933 till 1945 when Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Germany was in power.  The crimes against humanity defy every decent person’s sense of reason and to forget must never be an option.  The systematic murder of 6 million Jews must be something we carry with us in constant remembrance, for lest we forget we allow their honor and memory to die as well.  Our responsibility is to see that their honor and memory live on forever, not just in our lifetime but in the years to come.

Enjoy your lives, have your fun, but never shy away from this responsibility.  All that we have today was made possible by their sacrifice.  Never ever forget.

North Korea Missile Crisis

World Press on North Korean Nuclear Crisis

From Death to Life

Starting Sunday April 7th through Tuesday April 16th, Holland’s Heroes will post a series of photos and articles related to the Holocaust and the creation of the State of Israel.  There will also be specific stories and pictures directly related to the book “Jew Face: A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland”.

Picture on the left: Flag of the State of Israel

Picture on the right: Hall of Remembrance in Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem)



A Citizen’s Plea

Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portraitAlthough I write this post as a proud American, it is my belief that the strength and position of the United States of America is of great importance to the entire civilized world.  Debate is a good thing and it is a cornerstone of American society.  Part of the greatness of the country is the freedom of all its citizens to express themselves no matter how diametrically opposed one citizen or group may be from the other.  However, the freedoms given by the founding fathers, as important as they are, do very little good if they are used a destructive force against a united society.

Let me make it clear to anyone reading this that I am not being so presumptuous to think that anyone can put a limit on the freedom of speech.  Any limitations put on it destroy the very premise it was built on.  So in essence, all I am doing in this post is exercising my freedom of expression with a personal plea.  Let’s get it together people.

It is time to come together as a nation and stop the bitter attacks against one another.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  We are destroying ourselves.  Not with differences of opinion or ideology, not with conservative or liberal stances, and not with a loyalty to the Republican or Democratic Party.   We are destroying ourselves with conspiracy theories, personal attacks and vendettas, and hatred towards those who think differently than we do.  Intelligent debate has been replaced by name calling and accusation.  Idealism has been replaced with a corruption that has ambitious people taking advantage of weaknesses created by a modern society blinded by the desire to always find the easy way out.

I am a Social Liberal, but it is very important that I make something very clear.  This is a totally non-partisan post.  Those who are guilty are on all ends of the political spectrum and to say otherwise would just compound the problem and destroy any credibility this post might have.  Even if one side is harsher than the other, something both sides take turns being, we are still at a stage of verbal conflict where it behooves either side, even the attacked side to take a softer stance if it creates a more unified nation.  We need that right now.  For despite the importance of the debates taking place in the country today, the true enemies are not domestic.  There are forces such as Islamic regimes and a North Korean crazy who want to see us wiped off the map.  I may be Pro Choice, but I’ll support my Pro Life fellow American against those whose intention is to murder us.  And if someone opposes gay marriage, although I disagree with their viewpoint, I don’t see them as evil for standing by what they believe in.  And I may have an anti-gun philosophy for the average American, but I also know that an extremely high percentage of those who are passionate about keeping their guns do not want them for the purpose of killing their fellow Americans.

My point is that even the most Conservative of civilized Americans are not my enemy, just as I am not theirs.  But if we go after each other with venom and hatred we risk doing the very thing the great Abraham Lincoln warned us about, and that is destroying ourselves.  As an American this is my personal plea to all those reading.  Let’s not go down that road.  Let’s debate the issues but never stop working together for the best possible solutions to our shared problems.