Tag Archives: Holocaust survivors

A Helpful Perspective

help-support-guidance-advice-signpostThere are ways to get through anything in life.  I don’t say that entirely from my personal experiences, because although like everyone else even though I’ve gone through good times and bad, there are so many hardships I have never had to deal with, and if I am blessed and fortunate enough, I never will.  But I have listened to and observed people over the years, some close to me, like my parents who were Holocaust survivors, some mere acquaintances, who have offered lessons in how to get through the toughest of times.  I am nowhere near having all of the answers, but to the best of my ability I will try to share some thoughts on how to handle hopelessness and fear.  For those dealing with loss or illness it is a different playing field, but for everyone else I write this with the hope that my understanding and outlook will help you in some small way, and if I help just one person, then it was time well spent.

It starts with the acquisition of knowledge.  Whether it is on a small personal scale or on a larger one, knowing as many accurate facts as possible will, with the correct approach and perspective, only help you deal with any issue.  That means chose your sources wisely and narrowly.  This is a medical issue, not a political one.  The politics and whatever consequences develop as a result are a matter to be dealt with later.  So find the medical sources you believe are trustworthy and try your best to understand what they are saying.  I suggest spreading it out a little so as to satisfy yourself that there are no hidden agendas, but once you find those 3 or 4 sources, keep your flow of information narrow and follow their guidance. It will be possible to find 10 different medical sources each day if you look hard enough, but if you do that, regardless of what happens to you physically, the mental impact will likely not be a healthy one.  Partially because it means you are spending too much time focusing on things you can’t control.

This brings me to my next point.  The issue of control is always an important thing to understand, but even more so in a crisis like the one we are facing today.  It is my belief that it is critical to understand how little of what happens is in our control, for once we do that we can focus on the things that we actually can control.  We can control our own personal actions.  If you are someone who just wants this all to be over and sits there shouting at the TV or crying on Facebook, but at the same time are not practicing social distancing, then you are not properly focused on what you can control.  And if you are someone who is angry about how things are being handled by our leaders but litter the parking lots of supermarkets and banks with your masks and gloves, you are definitely not getting it.  And yes, there are many reports of this happening.  Control your own personal actions and you will be doing your part in helping get things back to normal sooner rather than later.  But most of all, and this is where I think mental health issues can be averted, to the best of your ability, control your thoughts and emotions.

I am not a mental health professional.  But I am someone who is getting through this with certain mental disciplines and techniques I find to be very helpful.  For starters I divide my day into segments.  As someone who lives alone there is no one else I live with that depends on me.  As with so many things in life, there things about that which are advantageous, and thinks about that which are not.  It would be very easy to fall into doing just one thing all day, be it binge watching the news, catching up on all the movies and TV shows I’ve yet to see, interact online, eat, etc.   I suggest, for those who have not already done so, to structure your day.  As I told someone the other day, if you do mostly one thing during your time stuck at home, that will be who you become.  However, by diversifying your efforts, you can actually look back at any individual day and feel that it was actually a good one, even if it is not the ideal one.   Do different things, find ways to grow, even develop new hobbies, but more than anything else, think of someone other than yourself.

So there are many out there, particularly parents and healthcare workers that certainly do not need to be told to find someone else to help.  That is built into their home life or career. But for those not in that category I share with you that which has been my most useful tool in handling this time. Find at least one person, or more if you are so inclined, and help them.  Talk with them, comfort them, show them love and support.  Besides having that rewarding feeling that you made a difference in someone’s life by making their day and for all you know, many of their days better, focusing on someone else does something critically important.  It stops you from fixating on yourself and your own problems.  In a time when many of the things we need to do to fix our problems we are unable to do because of these unforeseen circumstances, if we spend too much of the day focused on that, we are not helping anyone, least of all ourselves.  But by finding someone who needs your help, be it practically or emotionally, we have done something to help. A LOT.

Whenever things are bad, personally or collectively, it is human nature to look for someone to blame. I would offer that in a time like this, pointing fingers is a misuse of your energy.  Use your energy to keep busy, work on having a positive outlook and contribute in any way you can to help.  And if you yourself feel you need help, reach out to someone for support.  If you can’t find anyone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me and I will be happy to listen.  If you can’t find me online you can email me at hollandsheroes80@gmail.com.

Good luck and stay strong.

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Open Letter to the Committee pursuing Disciplinary Action against the German Judge helping Holocaust survivors

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To whom it may concern,

I am writing this letter in regard to Judge Jan-Robert von Renesse.  I understand that a hearing is being conducted this week regarding whether or not his actions as a judge were appropriate in regard to his efforts to make sure Holocaust survivors continued to receive financial restitution from the German government as a result of what they lost during the Nazi Party’s control of Germany.  I am here to make it very clear to anyone who will listen with a pure and open mind that if this hearing is to take place, not only should his actions be deemed appropriate, they should be praised rather than punished.

71 years after the end of the darkest days in Germany’s history, despite the fact that this is one situation in one location, it is still a significant test as to where the country has evolved.  Germany since the fall of Adolph Hitler has been a very different place, assuming responsibility, becoming an important and positive force in the world, and working towards human rights in a way diametrically opposed to the evil philosophy of the Third Reich.  What has very much been a symbol of the new Germany is it’s willingness to accept accountability and feel guilt for it’s persecution and murder of millions of innocents; specifically the 6 million Jewish Holocaust victims.  Judge Jan-Robert von Renesse is a symbol of that Germany.  A man who is fighting to help those who suffered, while being fully aware that nothing can ever give back to any Jew from European descent all that was lost during that time.  Judge von Renesse shows in his actions that he realizes that whatever financial benefit he is working towards providing will never be enough to make up for what happened, but it will help individuals who suffered as a result of the horrors and it is at least the most serious effort possible to, as the old cliche goes, put your money where your mouth is.  If the question is whether or not his actions are deemed appropriate because of his status as a judge, the answer is a simple one.  A judge’s job is to enforce justice.  Enforcing total justice will never be possible, but Jan-Robert von Renesse is coming as close as humanly possible in as difficult of circumstances as any judge will ever see to doing so.

I am the son of Holocaust survivors from Germany’s neighbor to the west, the Netherlands.  75% of Dutch Jewry was wiped out by Hitler and his Nazi Party.  For many Jews it has never been easy to look at Germany in a positive light.  Nevertheless with decades of behavior showing a newer, more human mentality, Germany is seen by many as an entirely different country than it was during the evil regime in power between 1933- 1945.  This is an important moment.  It is a moment not to step backwards towards the darkness but to continue moving forward to the light.  The light that Judge Jan-Robert von Renesse  represents.  We are all watching.  Do what is right.  Do what is just.  Honor Jan-Robert von Renesse and support his efforts rather than punish them.

Sincerely,
David Groen

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Being the Child of Holocaust Survivors and the importance it holds in turbulent times

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Between 1933-1945, Adolph Hitler’s Nazi Party ruled Germany.  Over the course of his time in power the Jewish people were persecuted, tortured and threatened, not only in Germany, but in every European country conquered by the Germans during the 2nd World War.  6 million Jews were killed in what is now known as “the Holocaust”.  But although a tragically small percentage of Jews from these countries either outlasted the war or were fortunate enough to make it out alive, their number was still significant enough to keep the Jewish world alive, primarily in Israel and America.  These people that made it out are generally known as “survivors”.  Survivors who were not already married would marry after the war, and as is the way of the world, the majority would have children.  This article not only addresses those children, the “Second Generation”, but it also addresses the differences between them and Jews who are not the children of Holocaust survivors.

It is often said that people should write what they know.  Being the son of Holocaust survivors from Holland, I know as well as anyone what it means to be the child of survivors.  What I also know, through friends and relatives, is where the differences lie between those who are second generation and those who are not.  It’s extremely important to begin with one very important premise.  There is not a better or worse type of person in this discussion.  Whatever values a second generation has as a result of their upbringing or whatever their actions and reactions are to what they see and hear in religious and political discussions, the magnitude of their background does not by any means make them better people or Jews.  First of all, values that speak to equal rights, tolerance, activism against injustice, are all values any individual is capable of. You don’t need to have had parents that suffered through horrific times to become that person.  Often what sets second generations apart from others is an overabundance of caution, and sometimes fear that comes from growing up in a household run by people who experienced persecution as opposed to seeing it from afar or merely understanding it in theory.

It’s important to note that some of these responses by second generations are not what would be deemed as healthy responses.  One does not have to be a psychologist to recognize neuroses.  It might be said that being a second generation increases suspicion of people, distances in relationships, and a pessimism about one’s future safety.  Now that being said, those behaviors can be accredited to anyone from any environment, but when you grow up hearing real stories about pain, suffering, constant fear and death, your predisposition to caution impacts your philosophies.  It can be seen even more clearly during this election cycle and the matter of the Donald Trump candidacy.  A fear of the rise of Muslim extremism is not limited to the second generation, but anything that can draw a connection in one’s mind to the rise of Hitler and the Nazis pushes a button that causes great passion.  That doesn’t mean all second generations feel the same.  Some will support Donald Trump because they believe he will deal with the terrorists in a way that will utterly destroy them, while those who don’t support him often see him as a bigger problem, comparing him to Adolph Hitler. Now of course the natural reaction to these statements is that millions of people share the same sentiments on both sides of the issue, but there is a difference. And this is where it gets more interesting.  The difference is more in self-perception than in actual philosophy.  We, meaning the second generations, often feel we have an inside track on understanding the evil the world is capable of.  That in turn impacts how we feel, how we speak, and how we act.

What about the millions of Jewish people who are not the children of Holocaust survivors.  Do they not share the same values and understandings?  It would be unfair and incorrect to say they don’t, but their values are not rooted in the same emotions. Emotions fade with generations.  To illustrate this I will use the example of my brother and his son.  I have a brother who left the United States and voluntarily joined the Israeli army.  He is no different than me or my other siblings when it comes to his zero tolerance towards anti-Semitism. I would say his philosophies on international affairs and his honoring the memories of those lost in the Holocaust are similar to mine.  One of his sons also joined the Israeli army.  He clearly felt a strong enough attachment to who he is and where he comes from to make a choice similar to the one his father made and go off to fight for Israel.  Where the difference is evident is in what appears to be what might actually be a healthy ability to detach from the emotions associated with these very meaningful values.  This detachment can be misinterpreted by not only second generations but by Holocaust survivors as well. Truth is, when actions speak volumes, behavior and interpretation of emotions are far less significant in general but very apparent to second generations because we tend to analyze everyone and occasionally judge as well.  Fortunately we make up for it by possibly being the most important people when it comes to keeping alive the memory of what the Jewish people endured.

Everyone acts and speaks how they do for a reason.  As a second generation myself, I am convinced that part of my motivation in getting words in front of others is to insure that nothing is missed and that anything I see that can make the innocents of the world safer I must convey to as many people as possible.  That, for lack of a better term, hero complex, is also a result of my upbringing.  I once read somewhere, and forgive any inaccuracies since it was long ago, that children of Holocaust survivors have a tendency to fantasize about being in an environment like a synagogue which comes under attack, and getting hold of a gun and fighting off the attackers.  Again, I am sure this same fantasy occasionally exists in the minds of people who are not second generations, but the study did show a tendency towards this from the children of survivors.  I’ll go as far as to say that anti-Semitic attacks I see are attacks I try to fight off with what is my gun, the written word.

The biggest responsibility a second generation has is to make sure fellow human beings, particularly fellow Jews who are not children of survivors, recognize the actual reality of what has and could always still happen.  Not just intellectually, but emotionally.  There are some brilliant minds, many more advanced than me, that understand the dangers and realities of being Jewish in this world, but their ability to detach emotionally, which is often a strength, can also be an advantage to those out to destroy other’s freedoms and liberties.  The balance lies between conveying these emotions while not letting them be an overwhelming force.  It is a battle second generations face on a regular basis, and although it is a burden, the one thing all of us recognize, is that it is a far easier burden than the one that faced and in many cases still faces our parents.

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Stupid Mario

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In the category of “too many soccer balls to the head”, Mario Balotelli has managed to insult the very people who helped make him the man he has become.  Balotelli made the following comment next to Nintendo character Super Mario; “jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew.”  What you may not know is that Balotelli’s foster mother is a Jewish woman and daughter of Holocaust survivors.  Balotelli, who was born in Italy, is the biological son of parents from the African nation of Ghana.  So he coined, pun intended, 2 stereotypes in 1 sentence, making comments about black people and Jews he clearly thought was funny, but in reality was offensive and stupid.  I found this BBC article on how too many headers can damage the brain and figured this might explain a lot; CLICK HERE TO READ BBC ARTICLE.

I read his apology and find it acceptable, but what people like Mr. Balotelli need to realize in the future, is that we live in an age when anti-Semitism is so popular it gives the appearance of a high-profile soccer player getting caught up in the thrill of it all. Either way nothing about this is very impressive.  It would be nice to see him use his Jewishness in a positive way in the future, and truly become Super Mario.

 

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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 the Jewish survivors condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza

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Dear Friends,

If there is one thing you learn being a child of Holocaust survivors, it is that no matter how much you try to put yourself in their shoes, you just can’t.  It is with that knowledge and awareness that I write this letter to you, those survivors that are condemning Israel over its actions towards the Palestinian people.  Despite the shock your comments and sentiments have caused to so many of us, (CLICK HERE TO READ STATEMENT) out of the respect I have for what you went through I have chosen to write this letter as more of a plea for you to come to your senses than a criticism of your actions.  I will make it a given that your intentions are pure, even if I and many more like me believe they are misguided.

No one who survived the horrors of Nazi Germany needs a lesson from me or from anyone else of my generation as to the actions committed during what is one of the blackest mark in the history of humankind.  Having spoken often to my parents, my father of blessed memory and my mother who is, thank God still alive and well, I have as good of an understanding as I can in my position, as to what took place.  I know that Hitler hated the Jews from the start.  Targeted them, scapegoated them, dehumanized them, and ultimately murdered them in massive and devastating numbers.  He made the elimination of the Jewish race more than just an emotional cause, he made it a government sanctioned law.  Even before the mass murdering started, he left no doubt that he wanted Jews to be no part of society, not only in Germany but everywhere his Nazi party occupied.  As is so clearly stated in the definition of Genocide, once he managed to rally the support of a desperate German nation behind him, Hitler specifically targeted the Jews in a deliberate and systematic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people.  I will spend the next paragraph outlining the similarities between what Nazi Germany did to the Jews and what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.

It will be a very short paragraph.  THERE ARE NO SIMILARITIES!

As I previously stated, this is more than a letter to all of you.  This is a plea.  I am practically begging you to come to your collective senses. Israel has not been perfect in its treatment of Palestinians, but it’s not only done more for them than many other nations do for a minority population, it’s done more for them than any Muslim nation in the world has done.

Please read the Hamas charter.  It calls for the elimination of Jews from Israel and the murder of Jews worldwide.  With that in mind I ask you this question. Had there been a Jewish army in 1943 or 1944 would it have been wrong for that army to bomb Berlin, even if in targeting official government locations it would have killed German women and children?

I appreciate and agree that dead women and children dying in war is always a tragedy.  I just urge you to realize that the deaths are not always the fault of the ones dropping the bombs.

In the name of God and all that is good and decent I ask all of you to stop this madness.  The last line of your statement may be the most important one in that it references the phrase “Never Again”.  I agree that “Never Again” means NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE, but it also means that sometimes actions, often harsh and painful actions, need to be taken to back up that phrase.

Sincerely,

David Groen

 

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Open Letter to Russell Brand

Russell-Brand-006Dear Russell,

Before writing you this letter I did a little research on you. Although no one, including myself ever thought you had it all together, I never realized how messed up you truly are.  ADHD, bi-polar, substance abuse, and bulimia?  Your accomplishments are astounding.  I guess that is what qualifies you as an expert in Middle Eastern affairs.

I’ve listened to your delusional rants and since you won’t stop talking I finally felt compelled to address you.  I guess when your biggest problem in life is should I fall off the wagon this week or next week and what movie should I suck in next, it is hard to relate to what is it like to live under the constant threat of terror attacks and missiles.  I normally make an argument in favor of my position when writing one of these letters, but for the most part I will make an exception in your case.  The reason being is that I am on to you.  This isn’t about your concern for the people of Gaza.  Those who care about the people of Gaza focus on their plight rather than regurgitate the usual nonsensical anti-Israel propaganda they picked up in Hamas for Dummies.  As you can see, despite the fact that I am Jewish and a Zionist, I am not actually heartless.  I don’t attack those who legitimately care about the safety of innocent people.  But that’s not you. What this is about Russ, may I call you Russ? No? Good.  What this is about Russ is your need for attention and purpose in life.  You sit and ramble from some dumb couch all cozy and comfortable, speaking about matters that are life and death for the people you speak about, but all you are really doing is looking for a way for an addict to feel important and some satirical way for you to promote yourself and some stupid home based show you think matters to people.  You appeal to idiots, because quite frankly you are one.

You are also a coward.  I say that because if you were so concerned about human rights violations and had any integrity at all you’d be going after ISIS, not Israel.  But you know, as do so many other cowards like yourself, that the worst you have to face when going after Israel and the Jews are economic consequences and letters like this.  If you went after Hamas or ISIS you might actually get hurt, and then you wouldn’t be able to sit on your couch chuckling like a manic moron waiting for the pills to take effect.

Russ, I’m the son of Holocaust survivors.  That means my parents were not among the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis, but that they did live through that horrific time.  I know people such as yourself tend to shake their heads when we bring that up, saying things like, “there goes a Jew whining about the Holocaust again”, but I genuinely don’t care if you like it or not.  What I do care about is the approach you take that if successful would contribute to the possibility of another Holocaust.  Of course you don’t see that because frankly, you don’t want to.  If your attempt at intelligent and original thought went beyond some big words most of your followers don’t even understand, you might see the Trewth, and then the Trews might have some credibility.  Now all you are doing is establishing another anti-Israel and anti-Semitic platform with no basis in fact and honesty.

I don’t usually say this to an addict, but I think you need to go full throttle back into the drugs and alcohol man. Chances are you’d do a lot less harm than you are now.  You’d like it more too.  After all, if you don’t know what you’re talking about anyway, you might as well do it under the influence.

Sincerely,

David Groen

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