Tag Archives: Germans

Terrorist Denial:Not as Cynical as Holocaust Denial but maybe as dangerous

islam_holocaustAfter my last article addressing the tragedy in Ottawa titled,  Canadian shooting: What we know–and RATHER NOT know–a day later, someone in social media responded to me with the following statement: “David, again you hit the nail on its shank. You rather not know. It’s obvious you have a hate on for Muslims. If you actually look at the facts and circumstances of these two villains, they both had failing lives, they were unproductive, dissatisfied with life and recent converts to something that gave them a chance to “check out”. Years ago it would have been the KKK, or the doomsday survivalists or the tea party. They didn’t want to give meaning to their lives, otherwise they would have become Buddhists, Sufis, humanists or any other altruistic belief system. They converted to something they knew would end their life. ISIS attracts psychopaths and losers. They confuse ISIS with Islam. We don’t use the KKK as the calling card for Christianity.”

Naturally out of respect for this individual I won’t use his name, and those who would be able to identify him possibly already saw it next to his name so I personally am not revealing it. I normally have no issue with criticism, however, I found the comment so disturbing that I felt compelled to address it further.

In addressing me he says. “It’s obvious you have a hate on for Muslims.” Yes of course.  I’M the problem.  On a day when a 3 month old Jewish baby gets run down by a Muslim and a young Canadian soldier doing nothing other than standing guard gets shot in the back by a Muslim, I am the one who is wrong for stating the fact that it was Muslims who did this.  I am the problem because most of the military conflicts going on in the world involve Muslims. I have said it before and I will say it again.  I know the majority of Muslims are not violent, but most of the violence taking place today involves Muslims in one way or another.  I know there are Muslims who want no part of this, but I also know that not enough of them are stopping this from taking place.  I know that just as Hitler wanted to do during the reign of Nazi Germany, there are people today that want every last Jew on the planet killed.  Most of these people are Muslim.

“ISIS attracts psychopaths and losers. They confuse ISIS with Islam.” So does Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab, to name a few. We’re not talking hundreds of people here.  We’re talking hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe he is right.  Maybe they are all psychopaths and losers, but unfortunately they are also all Muslim.  I don’t enjoy saying that, but it’s the truth.  I know Muslims that I like and if I meet someone who is Muslim I don’t immediately assume the worst about them, but that doesn’t mean I am going to run from the truth.

As a son of Holocaust survivors I believe it is my responsibility to acknowledge danger where I feel it exists even if it means offending some people.  To do otherwise would be like going back in time to 1938, knowing what is coming and worrying more about the good Germans than the large number either standing by while evil takes over or even worse, being part of the evil.  I can’t and won’t remain silent.  I owe it to the memory of the grandparents I never knew, the grandparents murdered by the “psychopaths and losers” of the last century.  Today a large percentage of Muslims are not terrorists, but an overwhelming percentage of terrorists are Muslim.  To deny this is not only stupid, it’s irresponsible and dangerous.

 

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

henk.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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Remembering a Friend

YCThe most important thing to me about the book “Jew Face” has always been the fact that it is about real people and real events.  There are real friendships in the book and friendships that developed amongst the generations that followed those people spoken of in the book.  Sadly, people pass on, and we only hope that the people they leave behind continue their life and legacy.

Today we mourn the loss of Ester Abram.  Ester was the wife of Sam Abram, a childhood friend of my father.  Following this post I will put up the excerpt from the book that speaks of the events that took place between my father, Sam, and Sam’s sister during the Nazi occupation of Holland.  But first we remember Ester Abram, who together with her husband Sam would end up being a lifelong and cherished friend of both my father and mother.  On behalf of my mother and our entire family we express our deepest sympathies on her loss and pray that she rests in peace.

 

 

 

 

Excerpt from Jew Face

Saving Nettie

 As the Germans were to come in on various occasions and raid neighborhoods, the Jewish community in Amsterdam became smaller and more dispersed. Those either not willing to accept the evidence or whose innate courage prevented them from leaving their home would ultimately find themselves shipped off to what we now know would ultimately be their cruel treatment in concentration camps, and in most cases, death.

Throughout 1941, Seys-Innquart, Aus der Funten, and his other henchmen were in the process of determining a location to use as a deportation center for the Jews of Holland. The two most logical places were the Esnoga, the Great Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, and the Hollandse Schouwburg, the great concert hall of Amsterdam. After reviewing it carefully, the Nazis felt that the Schouwburg was the more logical choice. Because of the large amount of Jewish patronage over the years, the proximity to the Jewish ghetto, and the purpose in which it was now going to be used, the Nazis changed its name to the Joodse Schouwburg and prepared it for use as a deportation center.

The plan had in many ways already been put into action. The concentration camps of Westerbork and Vugt were set up in the north and south, respectively, and beginning in January of 1942, after mass roundups, Jews were no longer allowed to live anywhere in the Netherlands but Amsterdam or the two camps. When arriving in Amsterdam, these people would either live in the homes of others or would reside in public institutions such as schools or hospitals.

The Schouwburg had been set up and was used for Straf Gevaals (“S Cases”) and for whatever group of random Jews the Nazis chose to keep there until deportation.

Meanwhile, the death camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor were close to operating at full capacity. The Germans were taking the process of eliminating the Jewish population of Europe to a new level. Once they reached that stage, in July of 1942, the system in which they handled the Jews of Holland was cut and dry. Homes and institutions were raided, and if not emptied out in full, they were left devastated and in shambles. Most of the people picked up in these raids were brought to Westerbork, where they would stay for a short while, days at most, before being transported to the death camps. Those not sent to Westerbork went through Vugt. The majority of the remaining was first processed in the Schouwburg and then went through the same pattern of Auschwitz or Sobibor via Westerbork.

Even before the mass deportations of July of 1942, the Grune Polizei (“Green Police”), the Nazi police force patrolling Amsterdam, would make regular raids and roundups in Jewish neighborhoods. Many of the Jews who had an understanding of what was taking place went into hiding before they were forced to leave their homes. For many, this was the reason they survived, although, as was the case with everyone who hid, some were more fortunate than others.

The situation in Amsterdam was worsening from week to week. Thousands of people had already been taken from their homes, and it was becoming more and more clear that this was going to get a lot worse before it got better.  Most of the people being seized from their homes at this point were individuals. Families and couples appeared to be spared for a large part, but it was a tenuous situation at best, and the future had a very ominous feel to it.

 One day early in 1942, Nardus was approached by one of his good friends, Sam Abram. Sam lived close to Nardus, and they had attended Yeshiva together, frequented the same gatherings, and knew and liked each other very much. Sam had a younger sister, Nettie, and he was concerned that this young, attractive, single woman would be in danger of being sent to one of the camps. And his fears were justified. Many of the women in the neighborhood had disappeared, and with the incidents of brutality leaking out, no one wanted to spend too much time imagining what this meant. They just knew that is wasn’t good. So Sam asked Nardus if he had a way to help Nettie stay out of the camps and remain in Amsterdam.

There was really only one way Nardus could help her: He had to marry her. In so doing, he would at least be able to delay her capture. So Nardus and Nettie Abram were married in an effort to save her life, and for now it appeared to be working. As a married woman, she was able to remain in Amsterdam long enough to allow her to find a family where she could hide. And once the Nazis started taking everyone away, married or not, Nettie would need that hiding place.

Nardus and Nettie remained married through the entire war. Any resolution to the situation would not be able to take place before the war would end. Nardus knew this but did not care. Marital status meant nothing right now. What mattered was saving as many lives as possible. Right now, he had the chance to save the sister of a good friend, and he would do so. What he did wasn’t much, and it gave no assurances for the future, but it gave her a chance. Nettie would be safe, at least for now.

 


August 13, 1943

69 years ago today was Friday August 13, 1943.  In Holland this was a time when as a Jew, if you were fortunate enough to still be alive, your life was in constant peril.  If you did not look Jewish you still needed to have a false identity and what was perceived as a benefit or purpose to the Nazi occupiers. The Jewish institutions were being systematically depleted and destroyed with the ultimate goal of total extermination.  The NIZ, the hospital where my mother lived and worked as a nurse, had reached that point where the final raid was upon them.  As a young pretty woman who was clearly Jewish and one who had seen her whole world turned upside down, Sipora Rodrigues-Lopes was on the verge of giving up.  She would find the strength and with the support of Nardus Groen would find her way out of the NIZ.

In many ways their story takes on its greatest significance on this day, August 13, 1943, a day when their connection became strong and their travels began.  The following is the books Prologue and shows the events of this fateful day.

PROLOGUE
The date was Friday, August 13, 1943, and it felt like the worst moment of Sipora’s young life. She knew that the Germans were in the building and getting closer to finding her. She had already been through so much and she knew that the situation was going to get a lot worse before it got better. Her will to live was being taken over by despair. She was not the type of woman who would ever do anything to speed up her own death, but she also did not feel like running or fighting. So she decided that she would just wait on the third floor and when the Nazi soldiers located her,
she would willingly leave with the rest of the patients and hospital staff . At least then she felt as though she could do some good by making the sick and elderly patients a little more comfortable.
Nardus, however, had no intention of allowing this to happen. As had been the case since the beginning of the Nazi invasion of Amsterdam, he instinctively knew that whatever Jews were not murdered instantly would instead suffer greatly through torture, experimentation, rape, or brutal slave labor. Since he found Sipora before the soldiers did, he knew he had to get her out. And to a man like Nardus, it did not matter what Sipora thought of this idea. It was going to happen his way. And that was that.

When Sipora saw Nardus, she had already sunk so deep into
hopelessness she wasn’t even able to feel any sense of relief. And she was determined to let him know. “I am just going to wait here and let them take me too,” she told Nardus.

“They will need a nurse for the trip. If nothing else, I can make
them feel more comfortable.”

Some moments define an individual, and other moments can define a relationship between two individuals. In many ways, what was about to take place would define much of Nardus and Sipora’s relationship. True to his nature, Nardus was not suggesting or asking what would happen next. What he was doing was telling Sipora what would happen next.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said in his straight-to-the-point manner, “since you are going to your death anyway, and that is your plan, I will throw you out the window right now myself. At least then you will die quickly. Either way you will die.”

Sipora was crying now. “What’s the point?” she said. “There’s no hope. My family is gone; your family is gone. They’re even taking sick and old patients from here and transporting them out of the city.”

Knowing that he needed to remain calm and in control, Nardus made it very clear to Sipora what was to happen next.

“Get up and let’s get out of here. We will find a way to survive this. All you have to do is trust me and listen to what I tell you to do.”
Although what she was experiencing felt like hell, Sipora was at least able to move now. What made the difference was that someone else, someone she was growing to trust more and more by the day, was taking control and leading her in what at least felt like a better direction.

Neither Nardus nor Sipora had any idea what was to come next, but it did not matter. The only thing that mattered now was that Nardus would never allow either one of them to just sit and wait to be killed. At this moment, which signified all the drama, horror, and significance of the times they were living through, these two people were thrust together in a way that set the tone for all that was yet to come.


Jew Face: An excerpt connecting then and now

What has always been the most remarkable thing about the book Jew Face, in my opinion at least, has nothing to do with how the book was written.  The most remarkable thing has always been that the story is true.   As a writer, I could ask for no greater gift than to have at my disposal a story that is so rich with almost every human emotion imaginable, and of a subject matter not only important in history, but in this particular instance,  inspiring and hopeful.  Whenever possible in this blog I will try to draw the story to a real connection, be it through the date or through people involved in the book and the people close to them.  The following excerpt involves the story of Sam Abram and his sister Nettie.  Sam was a very close friend of my father, and his daughter Chelly recently had her birthday and on Monday will commemorate, according to the Jewish calendar, the anniversary of her father’s passing 14 years ago.   With her permission I am making this mention and posting this excerpt from the book Jew Face.

Saving Nettie

 As the Germans were to come in on various occasions and raid neighborhoods, the Jewish community in Amsterdam became smaller and more dispersed. Those either not willing to accept the evidence or whose innate courage prevented them from leaving their home would ultimately find themselves shipped off to what we now know would ultimately be their cruel treatment in concentration camps, and in most cases, death.

 Throughout 1941, Seys-Innquart, Aus der Funten, and his other henchmen were in the process of determining a location to use as a deportation center for the Jews of Holland. The two most logical places were the Esnoga, the Great Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, and the Hollandse Schouwburg, the great concert hall of Amsterdam. After reviewing it carefully, the Nazis felt that the Schouwburg was the more logical choice. Because of the large amount of Jewish patronage over the years, the proximity to the Jewish ghetto, and the purpose in which it was now going to be used, the Nazis changed its name to the Joodse Schouwburg and prepared it for use as a deportation center.

 The plan had in many ways already been put into action. The concentration camps of Westerbork and Vugt were set up in the north and south, respectively, and beginning in January of 1942, after mass roundups, Jews were no longer allowed to live anywhere in the Netherlands but Amsterdam or the two camps. When arriving in Amsterdam, these people would either live in the homes of others or would reside in public institutions such as schools or hospitals.

 The Schouwburg had been set up and was used for Straf Gevaals (“S Cases”) and for whatever group of random Jews the Nazis chose to keep there until deportation.

 Meanwhile, the death camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor were close to operating at full capacity. The Germans were taking the process of eliminating the Jewish population of Europe to a new level. Once they reached that stage, in July of 1942, the system in which they handled the Jews of Holland was cut and dry. Homes and institutions were raided, and if not emptied out in full, they were left devastated and in shambles. Most of the people picked up in these raids were brought to Westerbork, where they would stay for a short while, days at most, before being transported to the death camps. Those not sent to Westerbork went through Vugt. The majority of the remaining was first processed in the Schouwburg and then went through the same pattern of Auschwitz or Sobibor via Westerbork.

 Even before the mass deportations of July of 1942, the Grune Polizei (“Green Police”), the Nazi police force patrolling Amsterdam, would make regular raids and roundups in Jewish neighborhoods. Many of the Jews who had an understanding of what was taking place went into hiding before they were forced to leave their homes. For many, this was the reason they survived, although, as was the case with everyone who hid, some were more fortunate than others.

 The situation in Amsterdam was worsening from week to week. Thousands of people had already been taken from their homes, and it was becoming more and more clear that this was going to get a lot worse before it got better.

 Most of the people being seized from their homes at this point were individuals. Families and couples appeared to be spared for a large part, but it was a tenuous situation at best, and the future had a very ominous feel to it.

 One day early in 1942, Nardus was approached by one of his good friends, Sam Abram. Sam lived close to Nardus, and they had attended Yeshiva together, frequented the same gatherings, and knew and liked each other very much. Sam had a younger sister, Nettie, and he was concerned that this young, attractive, single woman would be in danger of being sent to one of the camps. And his fears were justified. Many of the women in the neighborhood had disappeared, and with the incidents of brutality leaking out, no one wanted to spend too much time imagining what this meant. They just knew that is wasn’t good. So Sam asked Nardus if he had a way to help Nettie stay out of the camps and remain in Amsterdam.

 There was really only one way Nardus could help her: He had toMore