Tag Archives: Marcel Rodrigues-Lopes

Holland’s Heroes

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In the 7 years since I started the website Holland’s Heroes this will be the first time I have chosen to use the name of the website as a title for a post.  Why now?  It’s because in light of recent events it has become clear to me that I am in a family that has had the benefit of the actions of some remarkable and righteous Dutch people. People who clearly are Holland’s Heroes.

Although time and the world’s natural order of things has caused the number of Holocaust survivors to steadily diminish, in many cases, even if the survivors are no longer here, there are still the families remaining of these survivors.  Many of these families only exist today because of the righteous and heroic actions of people that endangered themselves and the lives of their families in order to save those they descended from.  It’s been my experience that anyone who  knows of a hero or family that did something to help save the life, offer support or preserve the memory of someone in their family  feels tremendously blessed and grateful that these heroes were there for their ancestors in the worst of times.  So imagine how blessed I feel to be able to tell you of 3 families that had such an impact on my family.

Ranking the actions of great people is something that would potentially diminish how special their actions were, so I’ve determined that the most fair order in which to mention these people is in the order in which I learned of them in my lifetime.

Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte

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Since the time I began telling the story of my parents’ survival of the Holocaust I’ve also been telling the story of the te Kieftes.  That’s also because since the time I was old enough to know anything about my family I knew about the people we lovingly refer to as Oom Bertus and Tante Geesje.  In Nazi-occupied Holland, going from contact to contact established through the resistance, my father would ultimately help my mother find the place she would spend the last 16 months of the war.  Here she would be treated like a member of the family while more importantly she would be protected from the Nazis.  Oom Bertus, a builder, would build her a special secret room under his workplace where she would sleep, hidden from Nazi soldiers in the event of a surprise raid.  Other than one man, the entire town of Lemerlerveld would be on board with the te Kieftes in making sure this young, very Jewish looking woman would remain safe.  The one man in question would have it made very clear by Bertus and other active members of the resistance what would happen to him should something happen to their Jewish guest.  Post war the relationship between our families has been like family, and I can say without  pause that even without the actions of Bertus and Geeske this family is as special a group of people as any I have ever known.

Jan Van den Berg

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The best friend of my grandfather Marcel Rodrigues, Jan Van den Berg had more opportunities to prove this friendship than most would ever expect.  The depth of his friendship went beyond his relationship with my grandfather, as he would be there for his friend’s daughter, my mother Sipora, any time it was needed.  As my mother was preparing to escape Amsterdam with my father, an escape as dangerous as any one could ever imagine, their one and only welcomed stop was in the Van den Berg home.  This was because this was the last true safe place they could rest and get some nourishment before their trip.  As time would bare out, Oom Jan as we knew him, would not only never say no to his best friend’s daughter, he would go above and beyond in ways one should never forget.  When the war ended and Sipora would return to Amsterdam, had it not been for the emotional and practical assistance of the Van den Berg’s, she might not have survived the post-war travails.  Returning to Amsterdam pregnant where she would later give birth to her oldest son Marcel, Sipora would take ill only months into her young child’s life.  Suspected of contracting Tuberculosis, later to be confirmed as Pleurisy, Sipora would be put into quarantine.  Unable to care for her child, Oom Jan and Tante Toos would care for Marcel while Sipora was in quarantine.  He would be cared for as one of their own.  My brother Marcel and sister-in-law Bernice would name their oldest daughter Jennifer, the “J” being in honor of Oom Jan.  On July 21st of this year I had the great pleasure and honor of meeting their great grandson Jelmer and his family on my trip to Holland.

Johnny de Haan

Group

Besides being something incredibly special for my family, recent events are also a lesson for anyone whose family survived the Holocaust.  Not everyone and not everything has been revealed or discovered.  We tend to think that all the stories have been told and that there is very little new and important information we can share with the world.  Besides being factually inaccurate, in today’s global climate it has become even more important to continue to share these important stories.  Naturally I tell this story with personal bias, but I can also tell you that in sharing it with people of all ages and all walks of life, I have found that the one word most often used when responding to the story, is “Wow”.

With the Nazis occupying and controlling Amsterdam, in the summer of 1943 my grandfather Marcel Rodrigues and my uncle Bram Rodrigues chose to make an attempt to escape to Switzerland.  Before they left Bram went to his close friend and band mate Johnny de Haan to ask him to look after his violin till he returned home.  As was the case with 6 million European Jews, my Oom Bram never returned.  However, Johnny de Haan safeguarded the violin till his death 7 years ago. When he passed away his son Wim, understanding the importance the violin always had to his father,  continued what his father had started.  Until a recent examination of his father’s diary and subsequently finding more information online because of the book Jew Face, Wim, who till now thought Bram left no living relatives, would find me.  Upon making this discovery he contact me and we would set up the July 21st event in which he gave the violin to me and my siblings.  The rest as they say, is history.

But is’t not JUST history.  It’s present day as well.  Wim gave value to the violin, a desire to return it to the family of his father’s friend, and a warmth and friendship that has drawn a connection to the friendship taken away from 2 young men 76 years ago.  Wim’s mother, an unsung hero in this story, and someone I had the honor to meet, would dust off the violin on a regular basis.  All of this is why I say this is more than the actions of one good man.  It is a family that helped keep the memory alive and is directly responsible for creating the legacy for one of the 6 million murdered souls of the Holocaust.  That soul belongs to my uncle, Bram Rodrigues.

We live in a day and age where negativity sells, so if the positive nature of this post doesn’t appeal to you that is you personal choice.  But I urge you all to realize that in telling these stories we not only help keep the story alive, but maybe we bring more stories such as these to the surface.  We must not only never forget, but we must always continue to remind the rest of the world.

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5 Passages to Bram: Passage 2:Marcel & Deborah Rodrigues-Lopes

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As a child growing up I knew different things about the families of both my mother and father.  Over the next 4 weeks as I write these brief posts in the series “5 Passages to Bram”, my intention is to keep it more personal than specific.  When it comes to my mother’s parents, Marcel and Deborah Rodrigues-Lopes, most of what I have to offer is personal.

My mother would always speak warmly and affectionately about the mother she lost when she was a child of only 13. She spoke of her mother Deborah as being a soft and gentle woman, loving and kind. That softness was passed on to both her children, but in many ways even more so to her son Bram, and the gentle kindness was passed on more to her daughter, my mother Sipora.  Although there is an undisputed sadness in her life being cut so short due to an illness very treatable in today’s world, some might say she was fortunate not to have to witness what would take place in Holland only 5 years after her death.  Her husband Marcel was very much in love with her, and my mother would often say that after her passing he was a different man.  A fact that would be easy to understand given the fact that she was taken from them at the young age of 35.    Her passing left a 13 year old Sipora with greater responsibilities than most see at that age, including a significant impact on the everyday life of her little brother Bram, a young boy of only 10.

Marcel Rodrigues was one of those men with a lot going for him.  He was youthful, athletic, handsome and accomplished in business.  I never once heard my mother challenge whether or not he loved his children, but it was clear that he was never the same after his wife Deborah passed away.  Even with that he was a man that by his very nature wanted to make the most of life, a quality I believe he passed on to his daughter Sipora.  An avid soccer player and traveller, he loved his children dearly, looking for ways to protect them when things were at their worst.  Willing to face the bitter reality, he wanted to do whatever necessary to get them to safety after the Nazi onslaught.  Sipora chose to stay in Amsterdam at the hospital where she worked and had the help and support of her relatively new friend and later to be husband and my father Nardus, while Bram would go with his father in an attempt to escape Holland through Belgium, only to picked up at the border and taken to their death in Auschwitz.

My mother honored her parents throughout her life.  May their memory be blessed.

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A correction has been made to the previous post in which I referred to my paternal grandmother as Marjan.  Frankly, I know I did not make up the spelling of Marjan, subsequently knowing I did get it from somewhere and or someone connected to her history, but in looking up the Yad Vashem archives she is referred to as Marianne.  I have made the correction in the post and thank my cousin Bettie for bringing it to my attention.

 


Marcel Groen’s words on the Effects of Immigration on Real Lives

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The following was written by my brother, Marcel Groen.  Marcel is the Chairman of the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania.  He is a son, a husband, a brother, a father, a grandfather, and friend and colleague of many.  In this short but poignant piece however, he represents himself, the son of Holocaust survivors, more than anything else, as an American.  It is my honor and pleasure to share my brother’s words.

 

In the winter of 1942 Marcel Rodrigues went to the embassy in the Hague, the Netherlands, to apply for a visa for himself and his son, Bram.  He applied for the visa because he felt that America was the only country in the world that could provide him with hope, safety and freedom.

He was right. His visa was denied, He chose not to try to come here as an illegal immigrant. Oh do I wish he had. Marcel and his son  were murdered in Auschwitz on August 13, 1943, ten months later.

If only he had tried to get here as an illegal immigrant-he might not have succeeded, but if he had been successful he would’ve lived. There was no one else or place to go.

Marcel was my grandfather and Bram my uncle.

Americans should never forget why people come here, sometimes legally, sometimes not, but millions have come. They came because America represented opportunity, safety and goodness,  in a world that was neither good nor safe. We represent that wonderful experiment called democracy, where we make room for all and provide safety and opportunity for all who come here. Without those immigrants we would be nothing.

We are not perfect as a society. We have a long way to go, but we can and must continue to work towards those lofty goals we believe in.

When we crush those dreams; when we close our borders to those in need; when we forget where we came from and where we want to go;  then we will lose our place in the world, than our experiment will have failed. We cannot let that happen. As a people we are too good for that.

There are times when good people must stand up regardless of the consequences. JFK’s Profile in Courage comes to mind.

This is one of those times.  

Marcel Groen

 

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Of Course Holland lost..They’re my team

USP SOCCER: WORLD CUP-ARGENTINA VS NETHERLANDS S SOC BRABehind every perception of destiny, irony sits waiting and ready to pounce.  But I will get back to that.  The title of this post is by no means rooted in self-pity. Pity is never the feeling I have regarding the futility of the teams I support.  As a somewhat well-adjusted individual, I generally get past the pain of my sports teams’ demise within an hour of it happening.  I must say I am pretty good when it comes to that.  After all, and this is the root of the title, I have a lot of experience with it.

We can of course start with the most recent result of which irony played a major factor as well.  But again, I will get back to the irony later.  When the Netherlands lost to Argentina yesterday in the FIFA 2014 World Cup semi-final, I knew that another World Cup would be played without Holland lifting the trophy.  I watched Holland once again secure its position as the best team to never win the World Cup.  I took solace in the fact that they lost with class to a team with class, but nevertheless, once again, their World Cup ended in defeat.

I move on to the National Football League.  I credit the great New York Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor with getting me into football.  Sure I watched the game and followed the playoffs and Super Bowl, admiring the skills of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice in particular, but it was LT who got me excited about the game.  And living in New York I cheered on the football Giants when they won their Super Bowls with Taylor, Simms, etc.  But it was not till I began to admire the tough character and skill of Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Donovan Mcnabb, and enjoyed games with my family that I considered myself a true fan of a team.  The Eagles would go on to 4 straight NFC Championships and one Super Bowl, but would never win the big one.  And as football fans know, they still haven’t.

In 1976 I began what would be 4 years of school in London, England.  I picked a team.  Sure, I could have picked Arsenal just as easily, a team that won titles and cups, but no, I picked Tottenham Hotspur, probably the most consistently mediocre team in any sport in any country.  And since they are exceedingly mediocre, that’s all they are getting in this piece.

Being a marginal Basketball fan I put my allegiances behind the home team New York Knicks and watched as they always came up short against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  Except of course for the times the Bulls were without  MJ when the Knicks came up short against Hakeem Olajuwons’s Houston Rockets.  Whatever, they came up short.

Then there is the team I am most emotionally invested in on a yearly basis, the Philadelphia Flyer of the National Hockey League.  Having lived in Philadelphia during their 2 glorious Stanley Cup victories, I will always be a devoted fan.  Even if we end up never winning another cup.  Does it count at all when the Los Angeles Kings win?  Flyers fans and educated hockey fans understand that question.

Lastly I will speak of Major League Baseball’s New York Mets.  In 1985 when I moved to New York I picked a team as my local team.  I picked the very charismatic and entertaining Mets.  In 1986 I got my immediate reward, s the Mets not only won the World Series, they won it in the most dramatic and exciting of fashions.  The 1986 Mets have been the reason I have remained a fan of theirs till now, despite the fact that they are generally not very good.  And since I am a fan, when I say it that way, I am being nice.  The greatest overall significance of my support of the Mets now is that their 1986 team is the last team I am a fan of to win a championship in their sport.  Yes, that is almost 30 years.

And on it goes.  Yes I pushed the idea of Holland’s World Cup destiny, and the fate surrounding the teams they would need to beat, and of course started the online campaign of “Win it for my mother”, but in the end it was not to be.  My mother, whose maiden name was Rodrigues-Lopes, or in every day use, just Rodrigues, was the son of Marcel Rodrigues.  My grandfather’s nickname was Max.  So he was indeed known by many as Max Rodrigues.  So when Argentina needed just one more goal in penalty kicks to put them through to the finals and send Holland packing, I looked down, smiled wryly, shook my head and mumbled to myself, “of course”.  Stepping up to take the kick was Argentinian football veteran Maxi Rodriguez, who subsequently put the ball in the back of the net and guaranteed Holland would once again not the win the World Cup.  I guess I was right.  Sports destiny did play a factor.  It just did so with a tremendous sense of irony.  Good thing it only takes me an hour to get over it.


Complete List of Names in “Jew Face”

This page is a listing of every name mentioned in the book “Jew Face:A story of love and heroism in Nazi-occupied Holland.”

The book is the story of Nardus and Sipora Groen.  They are the first 2 names mentioned in the book.  The following is a listing of every other name mentioned in the book.

1-Leendert Groen – father of Nardus

2-Maryan Groen -Zeelander-mother of Nardus

3-Meyer Groen -brother of Nardus

4-David Groen -brother of Nardus

5-Sofia Groen -sister of Nardus

6-Elizabeth Groen -sister of Nardus

7-Meyer Roos -librarian in Jewish ghetto(unconfirmed first name)

8-Becca Roos -librarian in Jewish ghetto(unconfirmed first name)

9-Marcel Rodrigues -Lopes-father of Sipora

10-Deborah Rodrigues-Lopes -mother of Sipora

11-Abraham(Bram) Rodrigues-Lopes -brother of Sipora

12-Emmy -housekeeper in Sipora’s house

13-Hans de Jong -fiance of Sipora

14-Hetty de Jong -sister of Hans

15-Neville Chamberlain -British Prime Minister

16-Jacques Baruch -Brother in law of Nardus (married to Sofia) and Active member of Dutch and later French resistance

17-Dirk Jan de Geer -Dutch Prime Minister

18-Queen Wilhelmina -Queen of the Netherlands

19-Pieter Gerbrandy -Dutch Prime Minister

20- Arthur Seyss-Inquart -Austrian born  Nazi  leader. Top official in the Netherlands

21-Adolph Hitler -Head of Nazi party

22-Benito Mussolini -fascist ruler of Italy

23- Francisco Franco -fascist leader of Spain

24- Anton Mussert Head of Dutch fascist party (NSB)

25- David Van Hasselt -cousin of Sipora

26-Aaron Mozes -brother in law of Nardus. (Married to Elizabeth)

27-Ferdinand aus der Funten -Nazi administrator in Amsterdam

28-Sam Abram -friend of Nardus

29- Nettie Abram -sister of Sam Abram

30-Block -Dutch Nazi informant (first name unconfirmed)

31-Cornelius Gugjes -Alias of Nardus

32-Jan Coopman -Underground contact (unconfirmed name)

33- Roe Groen -sister in law of Nardus (married to Meyer)

34- Martha Groen -sister in law of Nardus (married to David)

35- Thea -niece of Nardus (daughter of David & Martha)

36- Lilly -friend of Sipora

37- Jan Van de Berg -best friend of Marcel Rodrigues-Lopes

38- Reina Van Creveld -friend of Nardus and Directress of NIZ (Hospital)

39- Schapman -Black marketeer in Zwolle

40- Jan Henraat -Alias of Nardus

41- Joop Van de Berg -farmer near Zwolle (unconfirmed first name)

42- Jan Boekman -owner of boat where Sipora worked and found shelter (unconfirmed name)

43- Spegt -alias of high level operative in Dutch resistance (real name believed to be Stoker)

44-Minister Vogelaar – Religious leader from Lemerlerveld

45-Kruithof -Resistance operative who provided shelter to Sipora

46- Den Olde -Young couple that provided shelter to Sipora

47-Tinie -Alias of Sipora

48-Albert Jan Immink -high level Resistance operative

49-Jansje Immink -wife of Albert Jan

50-Lubertus te Kiefte -high level resistance operative. Provided shelter to Sipora

51-Geeske te Kiefte -wife of Lubertus. Provided shelter to Sipora

52-Gerrit te Kiefte -Son of Lubertus and Geeske

53-Jan te Kiefte -brother of Lubertus

54-Tina te Kiefte -wife of Jan te Kiefte

55-Gerrit Jan te Kiefte -son of Jan and Tina

56-Lies te Kiefte -daughter of Jan and Tina

57-Aaltje te Kiefte -daughter of Jan and Tina

58-Carly -Jewish boy in hiding at home of Jan and Tina

59-Kryn Hoogeboom -mobile supermarket owner in Lemerlerveld

60-Minister Keres -religious leader in Lemerlerveld

61-Schapman -NSB (Dutch fascist party) member in Lemerlerveld (unconfirmed first name)

62-Oosterwegel -high level resistance operative in Lemerlerveld (unconfirmed first name)

63- Aunt Anna- relative of Lubertus and Geeske and mobile nurse in Lemerlerveld

64-Aantje te Kiefte -daughter of Lubertus and Geeske

65-Johann Baptist Albin Rauter -top Nazi SS leader in the Netherlands

66-Joop -nephew of Lubertus and Geeske (unconfirmed last name)

67-Marcel Lubertus Groen -son of Nardus and Sipora

68-Rabbi Tal -Chief Rabbi of Holland after the war

69-Leo Groen -son of Nardus and Sipora

70-Bernice Groen -wife of Marcel Groen

71-Ruben Groen -son of Nardus and Sipora

72-Professor Jacob Marcus -high level Director at Hebrew Union College and religious leader in Cincinnati

73-Rabbi Eleizer Silver -Head of Agudah North America, Orthodox Rabbi and religious leader in Cincinnati

74-Rabbi Goldfeder -religious leader and Conservative Rabbi in Cincinnati

75-Deborah Miriam Groen -daughter of Nardus and Sipora

76- David Groen -son of Nardus and Sipora