Tag Archives: Holland’s Heroes

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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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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And the DOPA goes to…

dove of peaceStarting today Holland’s Heroes is rolling out a new feature.  It is called the Dove of Peace Award (DOPA).  The DOPA will be presented to friends of Israel and the Jewish people who display exceptionally strong and vocal support when it is needed most.  The people I speak of are people who have a clear understanding of  the damage and carnage being caused by, and as a result of the actions of Hamas and terrorists organizations like it, as well as a clarity about Israel’s true motivation, PEACE.  Normally there will be one at a time with an unspecified degree of frequency, but since there were 4 people I wanted to start with today, I am starting with a countdown of my assessment of the 4 most deserving of this weeks DOPA’s.

NUMBER 4:

BOB SCHIEFFER

Bob Schieffer 715In an atypical fashion for a journalist of his tenure, Bob Schieffer gave his very strong opinion of the situation in Israel and Gaza, and in doing so quoted the late great Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir.  Schieffer said the following:

In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that has embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause, a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters. Last week, I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel’s early leaders, which might have been said yesterday. “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, she said, “but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.”

FOR THESE COMMENTS BOB SCHIEFFER GETS A HOLLAND’S HEROES THANK YOU AND A DOPA!!

NUMBER 3:

SENATOR TED CRUZ

ted-cruz-has-just-wrapped-up-his-epic-21-hour-defund-obamacare-talk-a-thonLet me start with an overdue apology.  I once called Senator Cruz a sideshow act. Now I call him Senator Cruz and do so respectfully.  He has shown himself to be a consistently staunch supporter of Israel, has given one of the most impassioned speeches on the Senate floor  supporting Israel in the past few weeks, and has shown his sincerity even further by going across party lines and working with Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of NY in pushing for a resolution condemning Hamas.  Senator Cruz said the following:

“Hamas is undoubtedly guilty of violating international humanitarian law through its deliberate, repeated, and consistent use of civilians as human shields. “The United States of America, along with the entire international community must expose and denounce Hamas’ barbaric tactics and unequivocally support Israel’s right to self-defense.”

FOR HIS CONTINUING EFFORTS TED CRUZ GETS A HOLLAND’S HEROES THANK YOU AND A DOPA!!

 

NUMBER 2:

HOWARD STERN

866px-Howard_SternWhen I heard Howard Stern’s recent assessment of the situation in Israel and Gaza, I almost stopped writing in Holland’s Heroes.  There was nothing to add. He nailed it.  It is one of the best 5 minutes you will ever spend. CLICK HERE TO HEAR HIS SPEECH. Howard leaves no doubt as to what he thinks in this humorous, intelligent, and candid accounting of what is really happening in the Middle East.  Just be careful.  If you don’t like bad language you better find the edited version.  But let’s face it, some people deserve a Go F&*(& Yourself.

He said the following:

“Israel’s at no fault,” he said. “Jews get enough s**t all over the world … Jews are the indigenous people of that area. The Arabs don’t even want those Palestinians .. nobody wants them.  If you’re anti-Israel you’re anti-America. [It’s] the only democracy over there, the only friend we have .. who’s willing to fight and stand up for what’s right.”

FOR HIS STRONG SUPPORT OF ISRAEL HOWARD STERN GETS A HOLLAND’S HEROES THANK YOU AND A DOPA

NUMBER 1:

JON VOIGHT

Jon-Voight1I have to admit, I loved Howard Stern’s 5 minute speech so much, I could listen to it 10 times a day.  So then why does Jon Voight get number 1? Because in his support and defense of Israel one forgets Jon Voight isn’t Jewish.  When he gets going he sounds as passionate as someone who was born and raised Jewish and conscience of Israel and the Jewish world.  And he not only shows his support, he makes it an obvious priority in a way that shows it is not only important, it is personal.  His passion is so strong he even goes after the administration.

Jon Voight said the following:

Instead of telling Hamas to stop sending rockets into Israel aimed at its civilian population, [Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry] say Israel has to stop killing civilians. What a travesty of justice! Every patriotic America- Jew and non-Jew alike- must show their outrage and that we will not tolerate propaganda and lies about Israel being the aggressors and suppressors of the Palestinians.”

FOR HIS STRONG SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL AND THE JEWISH PEOPLE JON VOIGHT GET’S A HOLLAND’S HEROES THANK YOU AND A DOPA.

 

dove of peaceIf you have anyone you want to nominate for future DOPAs please feel free to leave a comment on this page.

 

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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)

Star

YV


Happy Birthday to a Woman of Valor and My Mother

9781468573909_COVER.inddPICCSince my first post in Holland’s Heroes, my writings have included articles about the Holocaust, information about Dutch Jewry leading up to and during the time of Nazi occupation, essays of current events, videos, and tributes to special people, either living or passed on.  Till now my most important, meaningful, and emotional tribute was remembering my father on the anniversary of his passing in June.  What I write today holds a special meaning unlike any I have written till now, for it is about someone incredibly special, inspirational to so many, and thankfully still strong enough and healthy enough to be able to hopefully appreciate and enjoy what I am writing in her honor.  The tribute is to my mother, Sipora Groen, on her 91st birthday, today January 1, 2013.

To begin, making it to 91 with a strong and healthy body coupled with a mind sharper than many half the age, is in itself a remarkable accomplishment.  I learned many years ago that although it takes God’s blessing to live a long life, it is still to be seen as an accomplishment in and of itself.  The responsibilities of life, the heartbreak, the illness, and life’s various struggles, all take a toll on an individual as they reach this more advanced age.

Now let’s look at this particular individual, my mother, Sipora Groen.  Born on January 1, 1922, she lost her mother when she was a young child of 13.  She took care of her younger brother and held responsibilities around the house most women are not given till they are at least 5 years older.  When the war broke out she was engaged to be married and studying to be a nurse.  Little did she know her life would be turned upside down and go a different direction than she had ever dreamed.  The Nazi destruction of the Dutch Jewish community would claim the life of her father, her brother, her fiancé, and numerous friends and family.  It would also thrust her together with my father, Nardus Groen, who fell in love with her and took it on himself to do whatever possible to see her safely through these horrible times.  His bravery and resourcefulness would be part of what would save her life, but equally if not more important, her inherent strength and incredible courage over the 5 years of occupation, allowed her to live on and build a life together with the man who had fallen deeply in love with her, and she had learned to love and appreciate in the hardest of times.

I have often said that my father saved my mother’s life during the war, and that my mother saved my father’s life every day after the war.  Strength is impossible to measure, but it is possible to recognize different types of strength.  What makes my mother’s strength so remarkable is that it is natural.  So many of us access our most inner soul at the hardest of times and utilize whatever strength we are fortunate enough to find.  We need to be strong and we try to be strong, sometimes with greater success than others.  My mother is strong every day of her life.  It is what allowed her to not only survive the war, but to do so with her sanity.  It is what allowed her to be the matriarch and cornerstone of a new family now almost 30 strong, and it is what makes it possible for her to read this post, or as is my hope, have it read to her on her birthday.

If it is even the slightest bit of a mystery to someone reading this how much I love and respect my mother, you have not read the book  “Jew Face”.  My feelings for both my parents are extremely obvious in my writing, and for this I make no apology.  Instead I say today, on my mother’s 91st birthday, thank you Mom for being an inspiration, a pleasure to have around, a friend, a grandmother, a great-grandmother, but most of all for me, a wonderful mother.  I write this knowing that what I say is a sentiment I gladly share with everyone else who calls her Mom, and hope to be able to say this till she reaches the age of 120.

And for those on Facebook and any other social media reading this, I ask you to give my mother a special birthday gift by posting this article on your timeline so that the people you call friends are aware of this remarkable woman and have the opportunity, if they so wish, to learn about her remarkable life as I portrayed it in “Jew Face”.

Happy Birthday Mom.  I love you.


A Day of Funny Mishaps, Good Company and Chocolate Wine

chocovine_originalThe purpose of Holland’s Heroes is primarily to promote the book  “Jew Face”.  As many of you already know, I often use this forum to discuss matters of the day and personal views or philosophies.  In this particular post however, I will be doing none of the above.  Instead this is me keeping a promise and sharing the events of what was a fun day filled with a series of minor incidents and mishaps, none of which would spoil the festivities.

As I do not use this forum to discuss my personal life in any detail, and since I believe in honoring and respecting the privacy of others, I will be somewhat vague in regard to the people involved when telling my story of December 25, 2012.

The plan was for me to be at the home of a special friend (the use of the world special here is all any of you nosey ones will get) in Queens by 4:30 so that we could travel from there shortly after 5 to her mother’s friend who had invited all of us to enjoy the Christmas festivities.  The woman we were visiting, a very friendly woman I had met just a few days earlier, was kind enough to invite me to her home and enjoy excellent company, food, and drinks.  I must say, as someone who is a lightweight, it feels like I’ve already had more alcohol between Thanksgiving and today, as I write this the date is December 27, than I had the previous almost 11  months of the year.  And that is before I even celebrate New Years and my birthday which will fall this year the day after New Years.  If you are scratching your head you passed the “is the reader paying attention?” test since New Years is on January 1 every year and my birthday falls the day after New Years every year on January 2.   Anyway, I arrived near my friend’s home, got off the bus, ran across the street, tripped over the island, stumbled, regained my balance and made it to the other side just ahead of the oncoming traffic.  Incredibly lucky to be alive (the drama is just for effect, it wasn’t THAT close), I made it to my friend’s house and waited with the 2 lovely ladies for the car service that was to take us to the party.

When the car arrived we put 3 large bags in the trunk of the car.  Being the man in the group, I decided it would be appropriate and mildly macho to carry 2 of the 3 bags, so when we arrived at our destination I went to take out the same 2 bags.  As I pulled away from the trunk I saw something in the trunk that might have fallen from one of the bags.  I moved forward to double check the trunk exactly at the same time that my friend, someone who I thought actually cared about me, pulled the hood of the trunk closed on top of my head.  The assassination attempt was not successful however and I still live to tell the story, even though I had to wait 2 days till my memory returned and the headaches subsided (more nonsense since 5 minutes after it happened I felt perfectly fine).

The house was filled with Christmas decorations.  And when I say filled, I mean it did not matter which way you turned your head.  Lights, ornaments, statues were everywhere.  The only problem is that since most houses are not equipped to use as much lighting as the Empire State Building, within 10 minutes of being there different fuses took turns turning off.  Of course the upstairs fuse went off just as we were walking up the stairs to drop off the coats, but despite my wobbly condition I made it up and down safely.   I did manage to knock down some decorations on the staircase, with the help of my friend’s mother, but it was dark so I honestly have no idea what it was we knocked down anyway, which means it is almost like it never happened.  Shhhh. Honorable mention goes out to my flashlight app on my smart phone.

The food was delicious, the wine was good and getting better by the glass, and little by little more people made it to the party.  I had Chocolate Wine, which, I am proud and happy to say came from Holland since it was quite good.  If it sucked I never would have written about it and certainly not shown a picture of it.

The food was heated on sternums, so when it was time to clean up there was one large aluminum pan that I helped the hostess carry to the kitchen.  Only half of the water in the pan made it to the sink, the other half ending up on my arms and on the legs of the hostess.  At least this wasn’t life threatening, even though I was fearful of drowning at one point (more nonsense).

I discussed fantasy football with the hostess’s son, much to the dismay of my friend, and then proceeded to watch his young daughter open approximately 250 presents (another exaggeration), but she was a cute little girl so everyone enjoyed watching her having such a nice time.  Plus I got a scarf from the hostess so I was happy too.

The cab came to pick us up, I was not attacked this time, and we all made it home safely albeit it a little ill from the constant stop and go of the car.  The only explanation I can come up with is that the driver was practicing for when he does drive in traffic, because there was none on this night and he still managed to drive like he was on the Van Wyck Expressway North at 5PM on a weekday.  On a personal note, I had a great time and thank all those responsible for making it a fun time for everyone.


What do you think?

What do you think is the biggest danger facing the Jewish people today?  This will not be edited unless it involves any form of racist hatred.  The object of this post is not to spin anyone in any political or social direction.  I want to know what you think and want those who read this blog to know what concerns are out there.  Also, I urge you, regardless of where this post originates for you to post your comments on Holland’s Heroes.  Again, whether I agree with you or not, and regardless of how political your comments are, unless there is blatant bigotry in your comments the responses will be posted.