Tag Archives: The Netherlands

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


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.

David Groen








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.







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.

The Importance of the Unimportant

Netherlands-beats-Costa-Rica-World-Cup-jpgAs a Jewish American I felt somewhat guilty focusing my attentions to the triviality of the World Cup.  My guilt made me pause before posting anything about my excitement and enjoyment surrounding the efforts of The Netherlands in this year’s tournament.  Yes I paused, as I did not wish to be insensitive to the harsh realities facing all of us, but in the end I rationalized or justified my decision, not all will agree on which one it is, and chose to enjoy Holland’s World Cup victory.  It made me question the morality of putting importance on those things that clearly do not hold the same importance as our most pressing personal and communal issues.

There are some events or activities no one questions as important nor do they question the joy these events bring to individuals and families.  Weddings, childbirth, recovery from illness, even special moments with friends and family, are all occurences no one ever disputes as important.  Sure there are people who have emotional issues that may prevent them from getting joy from these moments, but as a general rule people agree that all of these things are important and therefore should bring one joy, even when surrounded by unpleasant realities.

I am one of those people who believes life is made up of moments.  Many are good, many are bad.  Unfortunately the bad moments seek us out, finding us without mercy or timing.  The good moments sometimes do the same, just not with the same persistence.  I am not being negative in this statement, merely realistic.  I am also using it as a springboard to make the point I wish to make.  The moments in life that bring us pleasure, the movies we love, the meals we savor, and yes the sporting events that thrill us, are the moments we need to seek out.  These moments fuel us, strengthen us, and yes indeed, even if only momentarily,can make us happy.  Brasil is a nation struggling with discontent and yet it comes together in excitement to celebrate the FIFA 2014 World Cup.  Do I believe the World Cup matters when mothers are mourning the murders of their teenage sons?  Of course I don’t.  But I also know that the day will come when they may turn to something as unimportant as a soccer match to bring them some needed joy.  Not today, but when the time is right.  Maybe that is why we sometimes call our athletes heroes.  Not because they live by higher standards, but because they sometimes give people a very necessary respite from the more difficult moments in life.

Just take a moment to think about how much better the world could be if everyone worried a little bit more about those things so many deem as unimportant.


Holland’s Football Heroes, the Agony of Victory, and the Whining about Diving

Arjen+Robben+IEven though this is a post to address the heroics of the Dutch National Soccer team earlier against Mexico, I want to start with a rant.  I am sick and tired of my fellow Americans bitching and moaning about players diving in the World Cup.  Seen an NBA game lately? Half the fouls take place when the offensive player moves into the opponent.  And flopping is a term coined for actions committed in the NBA.    How many players can even get off the ground without putting their hands out?  And don’t even get me started on how many superstars get away with travelling.  So enough already. You like that sport.  Teams win and lose and everyone has the option to use the rules to their advantage.  I’ve seen my teams lose often enough that I feel it was fair to see it go my teams way for once.  Especially when talking about The Netherlands in World Cup play.

The great thing about being a sports fan is that it allows you to put all your emotions and hopes out there without the fear of devastating consequences.  Everyone can pretty much say that when they follow a sports team they will see their team win or lose.  What you don’t know is when you will have that moment.  That moment when all seems lost, and quietly you know it is all over for your team, even if you tell yourself there is still hope.  That moment is complete when against all odds your team comes back from the dead with a performance of historic proportions.  I experienced it as a New York Met fan in 1986, as  a Philadelphia Flyer fan when a few years back when they came back from 3-0 down in a series against the Boston Bruins, and then from 3-0 down in game 7 , and I experienced it in this World Cup with Holland’s miraculous comeback against Mexico.  At the 85th minute of the game it felt like all was lost.  I already knew that I would have no more Dutch team to follow in this 2014 FIFA World Cup.  And then, Wesley Sneijder scores in the 88th minute tying a game that seemed lost,  and  4  minutes later Arjen Robben makes something from nothing and draws a penalty shot, comfortably put away by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Yes I know this is just a game, and I know that these Dutch heroes don’t come anywhere near to matching the Dutch heroes I speak of in the book Jew Face: A story of Love and Heroism in Nazi occupied Holland, but on this day these Dutchmen gave me, many close to me, and millions of other people moments of pure joy only that moment of joy in sports can bring.

Now win it for my mother!   Pass this around…Let’s start a campaign….CLICK HERE..Come on Holland win it for my mother.

Yes indeed…We’re everywhere

beckermanpicAfter looking up various sources it appears the U.S.A. National Soccer team playing in the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brasil does indeed have a Jewish player on their team.  Whether or not it is both parents, just his mother (which would satisfy all Jews requirements) or just his father (something that would not satisfy the most traditional within the religion’s ranks) I do not know.  But I do know he is referred to as Jewish.  Good enough for me.

For the record, even if we didn’t have one I’d still be cheering for them to beat Germany today.   Just a little tidbit I know a bunch of you out there will appreciate.  Maybe he makes it into Adam Sandler’s next Hanukkah song.  That might depend on whether or not he helps us win.  Go U.S.A! (unless you play The Netherlands).

Does the World Cup Unite us?


Quick answer; it could.  If only the politicians and power mongers would let it.  In a world filled with violence and hatred, I am one of those who truly believes that the majority of the people watching care more about their country scoring a goal than any territorial conflict or prejudice against people.  Despite my belief that FIFA may very well be corrupt, a belief somewhat influenced by The Netherlands’ inability to break through and win it all, I truly believe this tournament, FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brasil, can do a lot more good than harm.  In fact, I don’t even think it is close.  I am not naive.  As a Jew and as an American, I know there are people who hate us.  But wouldn’t it be great if all the battles and anger could be left on a soccer pitch?  I know my prejudices towards countries like Holland, America and England are based on personal experiences that make me root in favor of their success, just as my prejudices against Iran, Algeria and France are also based on my experiences or perceptions.  However, wouldn’t it be great if it stopped there for everyone.  I wouldn’t gloat over the death of Iranians, but I certainly gloated over their defeat in a World Cup match.  When I say I hate Cristiano Ronaldo and I hate Portugal, it is because he strikes me as arrogant and I see Portugal as a villain in international soccer tournaments, not because I hate the country or people.  On the contrary, I have Portuguese blood.  My mother’s maiden name is Rodrigues-Lopes, a Portuguese name.  And my hatred for Ronaldo wants me to see him fail in football, excuse me, soccer, not fail in life.  And yes, as a Jewish man and Zionist I would much prefer Palestinians dancing in the streets because Israel didn’t qualify or because the U.S. got eliminated, not because of a successful terrorist attack that killed Jews.

The good news, I believe the majority of the planet would agree with this sentiment.  They just need to fight to create governments that feel the same way.  It may be a pipe dream, but to quote my favorite line from the movie Flashdance, “when you lose your dreams, you die.”