Survivors' Stories

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

David “Dickie” Groenteman

  • From: Netherlands (Amsterdam)
  • Liberated from: Austria (Mauthausen)
  • Deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau from: Germany (Gross Rosen)
  • Current Location: Australia (Queensland)
  • Year of birth: 1923

Brief Bio

David was born in 1923 in Amsterdam to a large family with deep roots in Holland and Belgium. Many of them worked in the family business, historically diamond cutting and polishing. 

David had a strong bond with his sister, Betty. The two were extremely close and enjoyed many of the same things. David’s father, Elias,  had secured a passage out of Amsterdam, but this meant that they would have to leave without Betty’s husband, Abe. Betty would not abandon her husband. David’s father pleaded that his wife take David and go, but his mother would not leave a child behind. The family would stay in Amsterdam at this time. David was part of the underground and arrested in May 1943. He was sentenced to be executed. On July 6, 1942, Betty and Abe were deported to Sobibor, where they were murdered upon arrival. Betty was only 26 years of age. David’s father was later arrested in Antwerp, Belgium. A family hid his mother and grandmother in an attic, where they remained for three years. 

From March 1943, David moved around from many camps and ended up in the Gross-Rosen concentration camp. In June 1943, David was transferred from Gross-Rosen to Auschwitz. David was fortunate to have had a man by the name of Ko Waterman with him. When skilled labor was needed in the Eintrachthütte at Swientochlowitz, he lied to the SS officer under Ko’s advice. David presented himself as an apprentice to Ko at the Fokker factory under Ko’s supervision in Amsterdam. David’s ability to learn quickly and the support of Ko meant he was to work indoors in better conditions. He believes this has saved his life. David and Ko Waterman were both sent to Mauthausen in January 1945. He was liberated from Mauthausen by the American army on May 5, 1945.

After liberation, David traveled back to Amsterdam in search of any family or belongings. David found his house occupied and his belongings gone, but fortunately found his mother still alive. They decided to leave Holland and migrated as far from Germany as possible, settling in Australia, where he built a thriving business. David has lived in Australia for more than 70 years. David has three sons, six grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

 

What does Auschwitz mean to you? 

  • Wow, what does it mean to me??? Incomprehensible……
  • It means indelible devastation, humiliation, loss, waste, pain, suffering and death
  • It’s a symbol of everything wrong with humans

My message for future generations is… 

  • We have killed 100 million people in the last 100 years and gained nothing, we have lost some of the brightest, strongest and most promising young men and women and gained nothing! Absolutely nothing, you must learn from the past and stop the waste.

Who will be accompanying you on this journey?

  • My youngest of three sons David will be in attendance with me and taking a subsequent journey retracing my steps prior to incarceration.
  • David has a keen interest in documenting and preserving this part of our history and will be filming this trip respectfully and our following journey to Amsterdam.
  • He wants to see and feel the streets I grew up on, our house we were forcibly removed from and the jail where I was sentenced to death.
  • David wants to research, see and learn this from me so he can take this firsthand account and share this with his three children.
  • David is passionate about educating his children to help them understand and preserve our history