In 1940, an estimated 80,000 of Amsterdam’s 800,000 inhabitants were Jewish. Unlike the city today which is a melting pot of minorities and nationalities, pre-war Amsterdam’s most significant minority was its Jewish population. As a result, if your complexion was dark you were likely to be perceived as Jewish.
In Holland, a nation of tolerance then and now, fascism never developed on a large scale. There was a fascist party known as the NSB but its number was never believed to go much higher than 30,000. So when the Nazis invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, most of the Dutch Jewish population was unprepared for what was about to happen. It can easily be argued that even had they been prepared it would have made little difference. The decimation of Holland’s Jewish population would begin gradually but would be almost complete by the end of the summer of 1943 with most being murdered in either Auschwitz or Sobibor.
In the book “Jew Face” I have written the true story of my parents Nardus & Sipora Groen, two Dutch Jews from very different backgrounds and lifestyles. Nardus, a man whose instinctive insight provided him with more preparation than most was an Ashkenazi Jew who came from Amsterdam’s most Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Sipora Rodrigues-Lopes was a woman from a more secular and wealthy background whose Sephardic background gave her a very Jewish appearance that put her in danger from the moment the Germans occupied Holland. Fueled by the desire Nardus had for Sipora and helped by his contacts in the resistance, Sipora would escape Amsterdam safely and find numerous locations to hide throughout Holland. Complicating this was her appearance, a reality that could not be hidden and would continuously test not only the decency of the average Dutchman but more importantly her intestinal fortitude. In one instance on a small boat, Sipora would see Nazi officers in a distance identify her as a “Juden Kodf”, which loosely translates as a face of a Jew, or “Jew Face”, the book’s title. Nardus whose appearance was more that of the typical Dutchman would continue being active in the resistance, escaping the grasp and arrest by the Nazis numerous times. He would save many lives and be involved in many situations during the 5 years of Nazi occupation that the average man never confronts in a lifetime.
Sipora would ultimately find safe haven in the Dutch countryside with a young couple named Lubertus & Geeske te Kiefte whose willingness to risk everything for Sipora’s safety would lead to a lifetime friendship between the two couples and a tree in Yad Vashem’s Righteous among the Nations. In the te Kiefte’s home Sipora would sleep for almost a year and a half in an underground room built specially by Lubertus and would for much of the time be exposed to the most cold and damp environments imaginable.
Although in this book I give honor and respect not just to the 104,000 Dutch Jews murdered but to the memory of all 6 million, it is a book that inspires and empowers by showing how with love, heroism, and much good fortune, two people survived, endured, and built a life from the ashes of the horror that was the Holocaust.
Jew Face is a story of love, courage, but most of all hope & survival.
You can learn more about the story by going to the website hollandsheroes.com.