Tag Archives: Dutch

Remembering Johan Cruyff

Johan Cruyff

This is not my only website. Over the years I’ve dabbled with other sites which I’ve used to discuss various issues.  Holland’s Heroes is primarily used for discussions regarding the book I wrote about my parents experiences during Nazi occupation and articles I’ve written regarding Israel, the Jewish people, social injustices and all matters political. So when I sat down to write this, since it was going to be a short tribute to a soccer player, I originally intended to post it on my other site, The Daily Column.  But then I realized that I was about to write about a Dutch hero.  Not a hero made famous for saving lives, changing political discourse or impacting social development, but a hero known for how he lived and played football, aka soccer.  All that being true, the man I speak of is truly one of Holland’s heroes, and his name is Johan Cruyff.

I am the son of parents who were born and raised in the Netherlands.  I take a lot of pride in my Dutch background.  My first memory of anything soccer, albeit a very faint one, was the Netherlands losing the World Cup final to Germany in 1974.  This game, a fuzzy memory at best, was won by Germany on what the Dutch considered to be a questionable penalty kick.  Looking back, although the Dutch squad would have loved to have won the World Cup, something they are yet to do- many including myself refer to them as the best team to never win the World Cup- the most significant memory for me, particularly in retrospect, was the brilliance and global dominance of their on the field leader John Cruyff.

Johan Cruyff died to day at the age of 68.  Although the greatest heroes the world has to offer are those who are willing to sacrifice their lives or put themselves in danger to protect others, it can’t be denied that there are many different types and levels of heroe.  The true sports hero, someone who inspires a nation, brings joy to his fans, and encourages thousands upon thousands of people to strive for greatness, is a different type of hero, but a hero nonetheless.  For the Dutch people and all the fans of not only Dutch soccer but soccer worldwide, Johan Kruyf was that type of hero.  Here’s saying thank you to him and hoping he rests in peace.

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Open Letter to Hypocrites Everywhere

hypoDear Hypocrite,

You know who you are.  You’re the person who screams and shouts against injustice when it’s fashionable.  You take a stand against those you know won’t hurt you.  You somehow manage to miss the obvious, stay quiet through the worst atrocities, and pick on the people you don’t like, not the people who actually do something wrong.

I admit I will never be completely objective.  I am a Jew and a Zionist.  I am also an American born of Dutch parents.  This means that I will always hope to find the positive when assessing the behaviors of anyone Jewish, Israeli, American and Dutch.  I also have a particular fondness for Canadians and I feel a strong connection to the British.  I actually like a lot of people.  What I don’t like are manipulators, thieves, imperialists, and most of all murderers.   I admit there are many grey areas in the first 3 categories and therefore some of it could be left open for interpretation, but a murderer is a murderer and I therefore won’t ever defend one.  What is important here is that this is the category in which you specialize.  You don’t look at the facts and determine who really is a murderer, you use your personal biases to change the terminology and manipulate the narrative.

Case in point, “the militant” or “freedom fighter”.  You somehow establish a moral equivalency between the Israeli soldier and the Palestinian terrorist. You try to make the case that the fight is equally justified on both sides, when in reality Israel’s fight is not against an established army of a credible nation, it it is a war against terror.  You may or may not work for the United Nations.  If you do, and I’ll be fair and not make any assumptions, you may be in favor of investigating Israel for war crimes or you may not.   If you are, do you realize that your hypocrisy is contributing to the destruction of the planet?  Your agenda is one that attacks the one democracy in the Middle East and ignores the wrongdoings of those committing acts of murder.  You speak of human rights yet you give a pass to those most guilty of human rights violations.  It makes no sense to the unbiased person, but makes all the sense in the world to those with a certain very dangerous and cynical agenda.

Then there’s the hypocritical Liberal.  I personally hold some viewpoints that would only be described as liberal and subsequently  am not blanketing all Liberals in this letter by any means.  The one’s I am referring to are those who claim to fight for tolerance and understanding and then turn around and attack and defend the wrong people.  Case in point, the academic that puts all their focus on boycotting Israel because they claim Israel has apartheid views and is persecuting the Palestinians, but says nothing about those nations openly and aggressively persecuting certain groups within their citizenry.

It’s always easy to distinguish between the sincere defender of the innocent and those who are tainted by personal bias.  The most objective statement a genuine person would have said about the war in Gaza if all they cared about was human life and not the political aspects and causes would have been, “I wish they would stop fighting so innocent people no longer get killed.”  I’ve never criticized one person who said they wanted peace for both Jews and Palestinians.  There truly is nothing wrong or hypocritical in wanting that. What is wrong is to claim you want this and put the blame on Israel.  You make excuses for the bad behavior of terrorists causing the conflict and concern yourself more with their rights than you do for the rights of not only the Israelis fighting it, but the Palestinian people being used as pawns by their very people.  Your behavior is not unlike the activist that focuses more on the treatment of a criminal in jail than on the rights of the victims they hurt.  You may define it as Liberal, but to me it is at best the epitome of misplaced Liberalism, and at worse devious hypocrisy.

If you are someone who claims to be a fighter for women’s issues and gay rights why are you not fighting against those governments or terrorist organizations that abuse both women and gays?  Why are you more focused on Israel building houses in areas most of you can’t even find on the map? And if you care so much about dead babies, why do I never hear your loud voice when it comes to Jewish or Christian babies?

You may also be that wealthy celebrity that speaks out against capitalism and inequality in western society while living off of the success you achieved from the very structure you so vehemently criticize.  Personally I’d rather you just shut up and give a huge donation to people who need help.  Otherwise all you’re doing is attempting to make yourself look like someone who cares.

Hypocrisy isn’t a Conservative or Liberal thing, it’s not a Republican or Liberal thing, and it certainly isn’t only an American thing.  It’s a self-serving cowards thing, and it’s becoming rampant.

I could go on and on because we live in a world overflowing with hypocrisy, but you get my point and most importantly, you know who you are.  You may pretend to care about right and wrong but in the end you just want to make an impression or push an agenda, and you are causing irreparable damage.

Sincerely,

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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The Letter I wish Robin Williams could have read

robin williams 660 1 reutersDear Robin,

It’s been a little over  3 weeks since our collective hearts were broken by your passing, and I feel there are things I would have loved to have told you if  I only had the chance.  I sat down to write this with so much appreciation for what you gave us that I was not even sure how to address the letter. Mr. Williams shows respect but I have the feeling no one was allowed to call you that.  I wanted to address it to the funny man up in heaven, but since I believe you want to be remembered as so much more than that, I ultimately decided on merely going with Robin.

It’s important that I begin by addressing your death.  Although most of those I speak with loved what you gave the world and feel sadness at your loss, there are some who are not as kind or tolerant, calling you a coward or showing anger at what they see as the lack of morality in suicide.  It is because of this that I wish to relay to you a story.  In the late 70s in the Dutch city of Arnhem there was a man, with a lovely wife and young teenage daughter who was so scarred from the events that took place during the Nazi occupation of Holland that he had lived much of his adult life with often debilitating mental illness. Although he was a man who was gentle and loving to his wife and daughter, his inner torment was so severe that he would occasionally explode in a verbal rage in public forums, most notably the local synagogue.  The Rabbi leading the congregation would see this on a regular basis, get to know the man and his family well, and rather than address something that could not be fixed, worked around it, making the man and his daughter as welcome as possible. Sadly the man’s inner rage caught up with him and one day the Rabbi received the horrifying call that was tragically somewhat inevitable. The man had taken a gun and shot himself dead.  In the Jewish religion, suicides takes away the rights to a proper burial and the proper etiquette of mourning.  However, fully aware of the mental condition of the man, and at least somewhat aware of the cause, the Rabbi made a decree that the man was not actually a victim of suicide but a victim of mental illness caused by the horrors of war.  The Rabbi, in my opinion admirably, made the distinction between someone who was escaping problems in his life or running from shame, from one finding freedom of an inescapable torment. As a result of this decree the man received the respect and honor anyone else would have received upon their death. Personally I always felt great admiration for the Rabbi’s decision on this matter.  It taught me so much about how to apply compassion when compassion is due, and it made me see suicide as something that is not ever a black and white issue.   I was always grateful for what the Rabbi taught me from his actions, especially since the Rabbi was my late father.

I know there are those who will argue that there is no comparison with what someone went through between 1940-45 in Holland and what you went through in your life.  Of course that is true and I am sure you would be the first person to say that.  The point I am making is not to compare the cause of the demons, but the actual demons themselves.  We can easily make a judgment as to whose life was worse, but we can’t make a judgment to who felt worse.  Your torment brought your life to a similar conclusion and although everyone is entitled to their opinion, that is the source of my personal compassion.

As far as who you were for so many of us I wish to tell you the following.  You made us happier.  As a fan of yours I go all the way back to the Mork & Mindy days.  I will never forget a classic scene, one I unfortunately can’t find anywhere online, in which “Mork”, played by you of course,  was holding a jar of ants, and someone, I believe Mindy said, “those ants are revolting”, in which Mork replied, “actually they’re quite happy with their present form of government. Look! They’re even dancing.”  It was not till later that I learned this wasn’t even a scripted scene. Apparently this scene, like many others on the show was ad-libbed by you.

When it came to your movies my 2 favorites were “The Fisher King”, a remarkable movie, one  I believe to be highly underrated, in which you play a vagrant whose life was tragically altered by a tragic loss.  And the second movie ironically is the beautiful movie, “What dreams may come”.  I say ironically, because this movie not only deals with the matter of suicide, but forgiveness for suicide as well.  I can’t imagine what impact it has on someone’s psyche to get into character for movies like these, but in both of these movies your performances were brilliantly moving and I suspect impacted you emotionally in one way or another.

I spoke with someone just yesterday who agreed that part of what made you so special was that so many of us felt a connection to you.  Everyone has those favorite entertainers they feel a connection with. What set you apart is the fact that millions felt that with you.  For what you were to us and the service you provided to us, you were admired and loved.  Unfortunately that love is a very superficial love and not nearly enough to chase away the demons that destroyed you.

I did not know your personal life, but by all accounts you had people close to you that loved you dearly as well. This makes what happened even more baffling and complicated.  I don’t dare to say I know why the pain you felt was so great, but I will share the theory I proposed to the person I was speaking about you to yesterday.  There are occasions when I am really on.  When that happens I am funny, sharp and personable.  I can draw on some of those qualities on command to some extent, some of the time, but to draw on all of those qualities at once I need the stars to align and to feel just right. Subsequently I can’t predict if and when it will happen.  It is my  guess that you were able to access all those qualities at a moment’s notice, and that therefore you never achieved the high regular people like I get when we do hit that peak.  You always hit that peak, which in an odd way may have given you less to look forward to.  Again, I don’t know this, but in knowing a little bit about who you were, I can’t help but wonder if that was a factor.

Then again maybe it is something as simple as wanting to be seen as more than the funny man or entertainer, maybe you wanted something deeper you could never find.  If that is the case the pain and suffering that ultimately took you from us is even more tragic.  Because in your professional brilliance, be it in comedy or drama, you brought so much to so many people that we all feel you deserved better.  And the personal attachments you had, so many of which seem to have been loving and close connections also didn’t succeed in bringing you the peace to go on any further.

In the past few months I’ve put out letters to a number of celebrities over the events taking place in the world today.  Events that are concerning at best, terrifying at worst.  The day you died I said, “at a time when we needed humor the most we lost the funniest man on the planet.”  Maybe that was a burden too hard for you to bear.  If that is the case I for one am sorry for the pressure that put on you.

I end this letter with an interesting and mystical thought.  As of yet I don’t know who if any of the celebrities I’ve written to have read my letters. However, somehow I feel that you will see this letter.  If you do I leave you with this.  Thank you, rest in peace, and please, when you get the chance, tell my Dad a joke.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Why Holland’s Heroes?

9781468573909_COVER.inddSome of you already know the background, but for those of you that have only started reading my work recently I wanted to give you a brief explanation of why my blog is called “Holland’s Heroes”.  In short, I am here today because of Dutch heroes.  My parents, Rabbi Nardus Groen of blessed memory and my mother Sipora Groen, were both Holocaust survivors from Holland.  As I cover in the book “Jew Face: A story of Love and Heroism in Nazi-Occupied Holland”, their actions during the Nazi-occupation of Holland were nothing short of heroic.  Originally set up to promote the book, Holland’s Heroes has developed into something far more important, an avenue from which to promote the truth, defend Israel and the Jewish people, and a platform from which to join forces with all those of all faiths that want a safe and decent future.

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My mother showed incredible courage in some of the most dire situations including sleeping in an underground room for 16 months knowing at any time she could be discovered and killed.  My father was instrumental in saving the lives of many, including my mother.  He escaped the grasp of the Nazis four times including one remarkable escape from the Hollandse Schouwberg, Amsterdam’s equivalent at the time to Carnegie Hall in New York City.   The people who provided my mother a home for 16 months, Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte, did so knowing that if they were to be caught, their entire family would be killed.  Despite the grave dangers, they not only gave my mother shelter, they gave her a warm and friendly home.  It hardly gets more heroic than that. And there were so many others, Jew and non-Jew alike that showed such bravery in such difficult times it is almost impossible to comprehend.

So very simply put, I am here today and able to write for you because of heroes from the small nation of Holland.  I’m aware of the problems facing the Jewish community of Holland today and knowing the rich history of Judaism in the country and my own personal connection it is even more heartbreaking for me than what is happening in other parts of Europe.  None of that negates the fact that Holland’s Heroes are the reason I am here today, and for that I will always be grateful and proudly call my blog Holland’s Heroes.

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The Good the Bad and the Ugh

isisiBefore I address some serious concerns I want to recognize a few positives coming out of the events of the past 12 hours.  First and foremost it is good to see our administration finally taking action on the foreign stage.  The threat from ISIS, ISIL, or IS, whatever they call themselves today is so real and has been met with so little resistance that it was very important for the U.S. to take this action of what they are calling targeted airstrikes.   The second positive is that despite the pressure the administration has put on Israel during the most recent Gaza campaign, this action sends a message of the clear distinction in the administration’s philosophy towards Israel’s military action and the actions taking place by ISIS in Iraq.

That’s the good news.  Now the concerns. The second point I made about how this makes a clear distinction, immediately makes me think of a saying in Dutch.  The saying is, “U wordt bedankt”, literally means, “you get thanks” and is akin to saying “thanks a lot” sarcastically.  The fact that I even thought that it indicated a distinction shows that the administration has clearly not been as openly pro-Israel as it should be.  To many that is a serious problem that needs to be fixed and may only be fixed when a new American administration takes over.

The second concern is more complex and potentially far more serious.  Will these airstrikes really make a difference?  Yes they look good and yes they may save many lives now, but unless ISIS, ISIL, IS, whatever they are called is stopped, I believe they won’t stop till they call themselves IS-Rael or IS-US.  A malignant tumor can get shrunk by targeted radiation, but can only be cured by chemotherapy, surgery, or both.  Targeted airstrikes are akin to radiation and may slow down the disease temporarily, but they do not eliminate it. Nothing about this administration’s actions till now indicates it has the stomach or desire to see a tough battle to its conclusion, and to damage these people without crippling them may do nothing more than help them grow and give them extra motivation to strike on U.S. soil sooner than they probably had planned.

There is no question that a good action is better than no action, but at the end of the day it is important that the good action doesn’t have the same impact as no action, which will be the case if it is not followed up properly.  Let’s hope and pray that it is.

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A 92 Year Old Survivor’s Perspective

dutch flagIT IS MY GREAT HONOR TO POST THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH WRITTEN BY MY MOTHER SIPORA GROEN

My heart goes out to the Dutch people.  It is a country who did so much for people in World War II.  As a survivor of the Holocaust and born in Amsterdam and saved by Dutch people they are the last who deserve such heartbreak.

Sipora Groen