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

  • I was a healthy well adjusted young man living in Amsterdam and visiting Blankenberge Belgium in the summers. 
  • I was part of a large family that had a 300 year history in Holland and Belgium 
  • Many of us worked in the family business historically diamond cutting and polishing but had more recently diversified into entertainment
  • My sister and I were very close and enjoyed many of the same things in life including music, dancing, skating, sailing and Ice Hockey
  • My family was stuck in Amsterdam as the passage my father had secured meant we couldn’t wait for my sister’s husband, she would not leave without her husband Abe and my mother would not leave without her.
  • My father pleaded to take me and leave, but my mother would not leave one child behind. So we all stayed.
  • Later I was arrested for being a part of the underground trying to escape.
  • My father Elias Groenteman was later arrested in Antwerp Belgium
  • My mother hid in the attic with her mother straight after my arrest in 1942
  • The family of Mrs. Fonteyn of Harlem hid and protected her for the next 3 years 
  • The last time I saw my sister Betty and her husband Abe Logger was on the 6th of July 1942, both were transported as Jewish prisoners and sent to Sobibor while I was waiting execution in Amsterdam.
  • Both my sister and husband were murdered on arrival in Sobibor, she was only 26 years of age
  • I never saw the seven direct family members again
  • During the War I was very lucky to have been young, fit, strong and able to the work physically 
  • Some of the jobs I did to survive included:
    • Hard labor in the quarry, the mines and unloading provisions from trains 
    • Removing bodies from the wire fence in the mornings 
    • Filling the mass graves and shoveling lime onto the bodies 
  • These would have killed me eventually however I was lucky to have had Ko Waterman with me and when the Commander wanted skilled labor in the Eintrachthütte at Swientochlowitz, under Ko’s advice I was to risked death and lied to the German Officer and explained that I was an apprentice to Ko at the Fokker factory under Kos supervision in Nazi occupied Amsterdam.
  • At that point I was willing to try anything to get out of what I was doing as I would not have survived much longer.
  • My ability to learn quickly and the support of Ko meant I was under roof and working in better conditions on 12 hours shifts, this saved my life.
  • After being liberated by the Americans on the 5th of May I travelled by plane, car, bike and bicycle back to Amsterdam to search for family and belongings
  • I found my house occupied and my belongings gone, but fortunately I found my mother still alive
  • Soon after finding my friends and family murdered and home occupied, we decided to leave Holland and migrated as far from Germany as possible. 
  • Australia has been my home for more than 70 years now where I have been welcomed and included into every aspect of its culture 
  • I have raised my own family of three sons, six grandchildren and one great grandchild here in Australia had success in business and have been honored to be inducted into the Australian Ice Hockey Hall of Fame 

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

*Interviews only in quiet places.