Tag Archives: Dutch Jews

A Letter to my Mother, A Survivor, on Holocaust Remembrance Day

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Dear Mom,

Normally I keep our most meaningful and personal interactions private.  After all, you are my mother and our conversations are not meant for the ears or eyes of others.  However, today as we remember those who perished in the Holocaust, in light of our most recent conversation I write this letter, a letter I will first read to you and then with your permission share with others.

There are some emotions so personal that there is nothing constructive nor appropriate in sharing them with others.  But when these emotions are generated by something so universally understood and accepted, sharing them is not only appropriate, it’s positive and even beneficial to make them known.  I write this only a few minutes after having spoken with you and having heard the deep sadness and emotion in your voice. As someone who lived in Holland through those horrific years of Nazi occupation, and being someone who lost loved ones, it is not only normal for you to feel as you do, it reflects a balance and sanity I dare say is partially responsible for the fact that you are still alive and well at 94.  I write this however to relay something positive that is most certainly lost on you as you partially relive and acknowledge the tragedy of 1940-1945.

You are not only important to those who love you.  You are important to the Jewish people and to all of civilization.  You, my mother who I love dearly are the symbol of strength, courage, decency, but most importantly on this day, survival.  You look at the book of names of the Dutch Jewish victims, more than 100,000 of what was once more than 140,000, many of them children, and ask why?  Why did they have to be killed? Why did you survive?  No one can ever answer the question of why they were killed, but I will venture to give an answer as to why you survived.

The life you have lived is a life that has been representative of hope and continuation. None of this has anything to do with with merit.  There are many who died who did not deserve it, as there were Nazis that survived who did not deserve life.  However, you have lived and thankfully continue to live a life in which you not only have given honor and respect to those who were lost, you also have made your days count. You together with Dad, of blessed memory brought a wonderful family into this world that continues to not only grow, but to contribute positively.  Your life and your actions are more of a sacred testimony and remembrance to the victims than any prayer you will say tomorrow in synagogue.

No one can ever change what happened, but your life as it has been and continues to be is everything it should be from someone who was fortunate enough to survive the Holocaust. I am honored to be your son and love you very much.

David

 

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Written by David Groen

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Open Letter to Henk Zanoli: the Dutchman who returned his Holocaust medal

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Dear Mr. Zanoli,

Maybe it’s the fact that I am the son of Dutch Jews who survived the Holocaust and that I have an inherent faith in the people of Holland, but when I first heard this story I knew something had to be wrong.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I know the Dutch are from perfect and that with the ultra liberal influence in the country it is certainly possible that someone could come to a misguided conclusion as to what is a human rights issue and what is not a human rights issue.  I also know there is a growing and increasingly powerful Muslim population in Holland which could very well lead to someone getting misinformation when it comes to events regarding Israel and Gaza.  I took all of this into account and subsequently remained silent when I heard of how you returned your Holocaust medal because you felt you could no longer hold the honor due to the death of 6 of your relatives from an Israeli bombing in Gaza.  After all, who am I to criticize a man of your courage and decency?

Mr. Zanoli, your actions speak for themselves.  You saved a Jewish child from the Nazis putting yourself in grave danger. That in itself should tell everyone that your intentions are good.  My concern here is not with your intentions but with the intentions of those close to you.

Sir, my mother is 92 years old and I often believe sharper than many people half her age, so unlike many others I do not have some preconceived notion that your age impacted your decision.  The only impact I believe your age has is in on your value system.  By that I mean that you have an old-fashioned and decent value system.   All this leads me to believe that in giving back your medal you did so because you felt the deaths of your family members in Gaza was an act by the Israeli government in direct contradiction with those values. What I am not sure of however, is whether or not you know the whole story.

I am truly sorry for the deaths of any and all innocent civilians, particularly the members of your family that were killed in the aforementioned bombing.  I truly am.  I am also saddened by any grief this may have caused you.  That said I am concerned as to whether or not you are aware of the unfortunate connection certain members of this family have to Hamas, an organization with ideologies similar to those of the Nazis.  Although the BBC made every effort to avoid telling this part of the story, your great-niece, the woman who married into this Palestinian family, has a brother-in-law who is a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades.  This is a terrorist organization committed to the death of Jews to the same extent that the Nazis were when you behaved in the courageous and righteous fashion that you did so many years ago.  My understanding is that her brother-in-law was in the house at the time of the bombing.  It has also been reported that visiting the home on the day of the bombing was Mohammed Maqadmeh, also a member of Al Qassam. To put it in a different perspective, Al Qassam is to Hamas what the SS was to the Nazis. Brutal murderers with almost no conscience.  Again let me say that you have my most sincere condolences for your loss, but I believe the presence of 2 terrorists on the premises at the time of the bombing is an important factor that can not be ignored.

Putting this in perspective, the allies killed at least 25,000 Germans in the bombing of Dresden.  Many were civilians who had nothing to do with the war. However, the enemy they were fighting was evil, and despite the close connection they may have to you, this part of your family consisted of, or interacted with people who were just as evil.  I am not saying the family deserved to die.  I would never say that.  But just like there were innocent people that died in Dresden to help preserve our freedom then, unfortunately there are innocent people that will die to preserve our freedom now.  It is just  an additional tragedy that they were related to you.

Mr. Zanoli,  there is no question that the innocent women and children that were killed this past summer in Gaza are tragic victims of a most unfortunate situation. However, with these new details coming to light they sadly may have been victims of the cynical actions of the members of Hamas who consistently used their citizens as human shields.  I am hopeful that you understand that these are people who would not hesitate to do this to your family regardless of how close they may seem to you and despite the decency you’ve exhibited in your life.

Once again, it is my respect for you and human life that makes me feel sadness for your loss.  I just hope the picture is entirely clear to you.  You at the very least deserve that much from people who may claim to care about you.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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A Dutch Concentration Camp

Camp Westerbork was not the only concentration camp set up in Holland, but it was by far the most active.  A high percentage of Dutch Jews who would be murdered in Auschwitz and Sobibor would first be transported to Westerbork.  Although most who went there perished, there were some who did survive the war even after spending significant time in Westerbork.  One of those who survived was my Uncle Meijer who recently passed away.  The following is a short video that tells a little bit about this infamous Dutch  Concentration Camp.


Publisher’s review of “Jew Face”

The following is a review of the book Jew Face written by the publisher of the book around the time of Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Although the day has passed, since it is appropriate to remember the Holocaust on any day, I am posting this now.  This review gives another account of the book.  I look forward to hearing more reviews and opinions on the book.

 

The Physical Appearance of a Jew was Often Obvious and Very Distinctive: David Groen

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will lead the country in commemorating Days of Remembrance this week. This year’s theme is Choosing to Act: Stories of Rescue. AuthorHouse has chosen to act by recording and preserving survivor legacies for future generations so nothing like the Holocaust ever happens again. AuthorHouse features a survivor’s story every day this week.

David Groen is the fourth of our featured AuthorHouse authors during National Holocaust Remembrance Week. He has lovingly recorded his parents’, Nardus and Sipora Groen’s, story as a legacy for future generations in his book, Jew Face.

David Groen is Nardus and Sipora’s youngest child. He has finally realized his passion of sharing and immortalizing his parents’ love story; a love story that survived seemingly insurmountable odds. He combines this passion with his extensive knowledge of Jewish history, his parents’ stories and facts and information gathered from interviews with numerous subjects included in the book. Add his own, unique storytelling style and Groen has created an “important documentation of critical historical events.”

Groen’s parents’ story takes place in Nazi occupied Holland, where “only a small percentage of Dutch Jews survived the systematic annihilation.” His father rebelled against his country’s invaders as a part of the resistance while his mother was forced to “exhibit an almost unimaginable courage” in escaping detection by the Nazis due to her “innocent beauty and Jewish-looking face.”

“Together, and with the help of many special people, including a couple whose righteousness reached the highest level one can imagine, they have lived to tell their story.” And AuthorHouse thanks David Groen for recording that story as his parents’ testimony and lesson to future generations to never let anything like the Holocaust ever happen again.


Sobibor: Part 1

Of the 104,000 Dutch Jews killed by the Nazis, more than 34,000 were killed in Sobibor.  This post is part 1 of a series on the death camp in the forest of eastern Poland.