Holocaust Survivor, Speaker Sipora Groen Dies at 95

Sipora Groen

Sipora Groen lost her fiance, father and brother in Auschwitz and nearly all of her extended family to the Holocaust, but she dedicated her life to retelling her story of survival.

Groen died April 19 at the age of 95 in her Delray Beach, Fla., home following a short illness.

Groen (née Rodrigues-Lopes), born in Amsterdam, worked in a Jewish hospital in Holland until it became unsafe. She fled with her future husband, the late Rabbi Nardus Groen, who, as a blond-haired, blue-eyed man, was able to pass as a non-Jew.

He was captured six times by the Germans — once as a Jew — but escaped each time.

He stole a police uniform and made Sipora Groen his “prisoner,” finding her a place to stay with a non-Jewish family in a farming community with underground resistance connections.

For the last 18 months of the war, she hid in a cellar every night without heat or electricity, shut in behind cement bags to ensure the Germans couldn’t find her.

In 1955, they moved to the U.S., gaining their citizenship, though returned to Holland in 1976 where Nardus Groen became a chief rabbi and Sipora Groen worked as an administrator of a Jewish nursing home. They later retired to Delray Beach.

Marcel Groen, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Committee, said his mother spoke at many schools between her Florida home and the Greater Philadelphia and New Jersey areas, including Bala Cynwyd Middle School and the Montgomery County Youth Center.

“She came in front of all the kids there … and started talking without interrupting and without stopping,” he remembered of one talk at the largely minority youth center. “They asked some great questions. And then she gets up and she says, ‘I want to give each one of you a hug.’ She went from table to table and gave every one of those kids a hug, and you knew some of those kids had never had a hug.”

The children asked, “Are you angry at God?” Marcel Groen recalled.

“God’s been good to me. It’s people that weren’t good sometimes,” was his mother’s response.

“A lot of those kids came out of bad areas, but she basically said, ‘Look, I understand how you feel. I had it bad — in fact, probably worse than many of you — and if I can do this, you can do it,’” he continued.

Through her speeches, “her spirit became more and more upbeat, notwithstanding what she had gone through.”

Marcel Groen said his mother was “eternally youthful and got younger as she got older.”

She loved to read Harlequin romances and watch Judge Judy. She danced at her great-granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah in March.

“She was just the coolest lady I ever met,” he said. “She entered into a seven-year contract to buy a car at the age of 90. She would go to the polls in Florida for early voting … in her 90s … ‘to help the old people.’”

Sipora Groen is survived by five children, 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Contact: [email protected]; 215-832-0737


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