This installment of 5 Passages to Bram is the brief story of my father, Rabbi Nardus Groen, of Blessed Memory. The week picked to tell his story is not a random choice, as 2 days ago was his Yahrtzeit, the Jewish calendar day that commemorates his passing away 12 years ago at the age of 87.
Born December 18, 1919 in Rotterdam Holland, Nardus was one of 5 children. Of his 4 siblings, 2 brothers and 2 sisters, only his sister Elizabeth did not make it out of the war.When he was 6 years old his parents moved the family to Amsterdam where he thrived in the Jewish community. Blessed with a photographic memory, Nardus would acquire immense Jewish knowledge at a very young age, learning much of the Siddur, the Jewish prayer book and the Chumash, the 5 books of Moses by heart before the age of 18. He loved being active in the Jewish community and gravitated to every opportunity to learn more and more at a young age.
But there was another side to my father. A side that was able to face reality no matter how harsh. It was this character trait that allowed him to see the truth about the events unfolding in Europe long before most other people did. This caused him to join the Dutch National Guard, something unheard of in his community, and caused him to join the resistance as soon as the Nazis occupied Holland.
Although this would serve him well as a contributing factor in not only surviving the 5 years of occupation and brutality, but to save my mother Sipora, he would often say when speaking of his and other’s survival the Hebrew phrase, Hakohl Talooy B’Mazal, Everything depends on Fortune.
He would remarkably escape the Hollandse Schouwberg, the Dutch concert hall set up as a midway point for Jews and “troublemakers” scheduled for transportation to Auschwitz, and would find a way to sneak out of the Labor Camp known as Kamp Erika soon after digging what was earmarked as his own grave. At the conclusion of the war in Europe he would join the Dutch Marines, as seen in the picture above.
Following the war he would receive Rabbinical ordination from what was left of the Dutch Rabbinate and would eventually be appointed Chief Rabbi in Surinam, Dutch Guiana. After moving with the family to Cincinnati, Ohio in the mid 50’s he would study with the then head of Agudah for North America, Rabbi Eliezer Silver from whom he would receive his second Rabbinical ordination. He and his wife Sipora would go on to have 5 children, 12 grandchildren, and a still growing number of great grandchildren.
I was fortunate in life to have my 2 greatest heroes be the people I referred to as Mom and Dad. My Dad would pass away on June 13, 2007 at the age of 87. May his memory be blessed.
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