|I was born in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, on February
14, 1930. We had a wonderful family, my father, my mother, my oldest brother,
Hans and my middle brother, Jacques. My father, Andre Hartog Groenewoudt,
who was a friendly and outgoing person and who knew just about everybody
in what was then a small town, told the clerk at the registry "Freddy"
when asked what the name of the newborn baby would be. And so it remained
my official name until I changed it to "Fred" in the American Army, when
I became a naturalized US citizen some twenty three years later. My middle
name is Samson and my surname was Groenewoudt until I changed it, at the
same time as my first name, into Greenwood.
My Father was a "Vee-handelaar," a kind of wholesaler in meat. He would go out to the ranchers, buy a cow, take it to an abattoir (slaughterhouse), and then take orders from the butchers. I do not know whether he actually brought the ordered meat to the butchers, but I clearly remember going with him to the butchers to collect money for his sales, while I was sitting on the back seat of his bike. That was for me one of the highlights of my young life. The butchers really liked me and would give me samples of their home-made sausages. They would give me thick slices of liverwurst because that was my favorite.
My mother was a wonderful woman, patient, caring and loving.
Friends talked to her about their problems and always left feeling better.
I do not know whether she gave good advice or was a good listener. Maybe
both. She had some philosophical sayings. For example, if somebody would
say: "How can such a person (not so good looking or poor) ever find a spouse?"
she would say "There is a lid for every pot." Her favorite was a short
Dutch saying: "A man verist het meest het onheil dat hij vreest and daarvoor
heeft hij meer te vrezen dan G'd te vrezen geeft." In a free English translation
it means: "Man fears the most a disaster he fears will come and therefore
does he fear more than G'd gives him to fear."
|Mother, or Grandma Julie, as the children got to know
her, was an excellent pianist. When she was young she used to play background
music for the silent movies in the theaters. She also used to compose some
light, lyric music to which she regularly added new tunes. She seemed to
have remembered these melodies throughout her life because she always played
them but never wrote the music down.
She was an avid "whist" player. I think it is something like bridge. She had a regular day for her game. Three ladies would come and for the rest of the afternoon she was busy playing and gossiping. The ladies liked me and they always had a friendly word for me. I knew them only as "tante (aunt) such" or "tante so" and, until I found out much later, I thought they were all relatives. Only later did I find out that some of these were related and some were not. Most were murdered in concentration camps during WW II.
As I mentioned before, she was an excellent pianist. She gave piano lessons and we often had soirees in the evenings, which were held in the "Salon." We had two living areas downstairs in our house. One was used for everyday activities; the other, closed off by double sliding doors, was for special occasions. A soiree was such an occasion. The doors were opened for the guests who were seated in the beautiful room with purple velvet drapes and purple and dark green wall paper and Louis XIV chairs with purple velvet seats. All kinds of musicians came to form trios, quartets or quintets, with piano, one or more violins, sometimes a cello and often one or more singers. They played music until late in the evening. I remember listening to it from my bed until I fell asleep. When I grew a little older I was allowed to stay up. Nobody said a word during the performances. The only refreshments served during a break was tea and peanuts mixed with raisins, always the same.
|I had two older brothers. My oldest brother, Hans, (
Hartog Andre Groenewoudt) was a studious person. He was five years older
than I, a typical "older brother," a responsibility he took seriously.
He did not play with me very often but he did spend time reading to me
and explaining things. He also often helped me with my homework.
The middle one was Jacques, good looking, happy-go-lucky, tall and blond. He was two years my elder. He spent time playing with me and he was a big tease. But he did it without being mean.
|My grandmother, Kitty Swaab, born in Amsterdam, lived
in our house until 1939 when she moved to a nursing home in Amsterdam.
I remember her only as a kind, white haired small woman who often took
me for a walk. Then we would sit on a bench in the park where she told
me stories or read a book to me.
My Grandfather, Hartog Andre Groenewoudt (my oldest brother was named after him), was a widower and lived in a small house on the Singel, a street in the center of town. He had a live-in housekeeper. Being a devout Jew, he always had a "Kipah" (head covering) on . He had a seat on one of the front benches in our synagogue which meant that he must have been important in the Jewish community. I was always proud to sit next to him as a child and I often received the honor of wrapping the wrapper around the Torah scroll on Saturday morning or holding the wine cup for our Cantor, Mr. Frank, during the Friday night sanctification of the Sabbath. I felt rather important myself! We visited my Grandfather and his housekeeper frequently, especially during the holidays and almost every Shabbath afternoon. The children would be playing in the front room under the stern eye of the housekeeper, while in the back room the other adults talked over a cup of tea. I remember these visits fondly.
|Other family members were several Uncles and Aunts on
my mother's side, the Klerks, Moses and Jeanette Klerk and their son Naat.
They had a little grocery store on the "Kleine Gracht Straat." Needless
to say, I got candy from them whenever we visited. And then there were
the Andriessens, a large family, more distantly related to my mother.
At that time Eindhoven was a small town, even by Dutch standards. The streets were narrow and it was not uncommon to find cobblestone streets. At night a man on a bicycle lit the gas lamps with a long stick. It was not until after WW II that the last of the gas lights were replaced by electric lights.
Even though small, my hometown had some important industries, the most prominent of which were the "Philips Gloeilampen Fabrieken, NV," better known worldwide as "Norelco." There were also a few cigar factories (I only remember the one named "Karel I"), shoe factories (Bata), cloth manufacturers and a small airport.
The earliest memories I have go back to pre-school days. I remember getting up very early in the morning, especially during the summer and sitting on the step outside the front door before anybody woke up. Little by little the town would come to life. The earliest were the delivery men; the milkman, the first to come, delivered the milk and other dairy products on a horse and wagon loaded with milk cans he had picked up from the dairy farms. My mother must have given him an order earlier because he poured milk from a large milk can, measured with a pewter liter measuring cup and poured a certain amount in a pan that was waiting for him. After some friendly words to me he returned to his wagon and klipperde-klopped down the quiet, sunlit street. Next was the bread man. He had a tricycle which looked like a small delivery truck. He rolled one side open and took some bread and rolls out and put these in a basket next to the milk. The egg man came on a bicycle with a large basket on a back rack. Finally the grocery man arrived. He had a large flat wagon pulled by an enormous Belgium work horse. It was one of these beautiful and powerful horses with a long-haired mane and hoofs as large as dinner plates. He brought potatoes and vegetables and also sold some pots and pans, dishes, etc.
I was about three years old when I had my first "girlfriend."
I knew a girl in the neighborhood with whom I used to walk near the house.
We often played together. One late afternoon we saw a little kitten. We
tried to play with it but it ran away. We followed it around and under
bushes and totally forgot the time. It was already dark for a long time
and we still were trying to catch that kitten. We finally did and I carried
it triumphantly home. In the meantime my worried parents had called the
police who were looking for us. Needless to say, I received due punishment
and was sent to my room without dinner. The next morning I asked my father
where that pretty kitten was. He said that it had run away, but I still
think that he took it to the animal pound.
|Overall, I have only the most pleasant memories of those
early days. We had a nice house on the Tongelrese Straat, an old neighborhood.
I suppose that we belonged to what today one calls the "middle class" merchants.
Our house was larger than the houses across the street. Those were the
"workers" houses. A young lady from one of those houses was our "nanny"
and her mother did our laundry. Often I would go there to "help." They
had a large laundry tub with a beam that had to be pushed back and forth
to agitate the water. I liked to help with that and I am sure that the
lady did not mind it at all. Afterwards the sheets were pushed through
a hand wringer which I helped to turn and then with some bleach they were
left to dry outside on the small lawn at the back of the house.
Across from our house was a road which led to the lumberyard of the Baron van Hardenbroek. I often went there to watch all the activities. One summer night the place burnt down. It was quite a sight and it looked to me as if the whole town had turned out to watch the firemen trying to control the fire. It burnt for hours and there was not much left of the buildings when it finally was under control. I remember the smell of the burnt wood which lasted for weeks. The son of the Baron van Hardenbroek family was a friend of ours and years later, after the war, I was a guest at their estate near Apeldoorn, a forested area in the central eastern part of Holland.
During the summers I had to spend most of the days inside, in a room with dark drapes drawn. I was born with a serious case of hay fever, a condition which tended to make me very ill especially in the early spring and the summer months. Somehow I kept myself occupied. I do not remember ever complaining about this restriction, severe for a young child. Maybe this was a good preparation for my later years which I had to spend indoors while hiding from the Nazis during WW II. All through my life things happened to me that prepared me for future events. It seemed that my whole life was filled with periods of minor hardships, at least these seemed minor to me, to help me later during future difficulties. And so, looking back, my entire life was a series of ups and downs, one running smoothly into the other.
As children we had two favorite activities which kept us busy in our free time. One was watching the horse smithy, just a few houses from ours. His shop was closed by two large green wooden Dutch doors which he opened when he had to shod shoes on a horse. First he rolled an enormous hitch outside onto the sidewalk . He hitched the horse onto this contraption. My favorite horse was the Belgian work horse, an animal that towered meters above me. The smithy really knew how to handle these large animals. He made his own horse shoes. We loved to watch him as he put the iron into the fire, holding it by long tongues. It turned a bright orange and red as he pumped the bellows to get a hot fire. Then he shaped it. It seemed to me that the horseshoe was still burning hot when he, standing with his back to the horse, put the horse's leg between his legs and placed this shoe against the horse's foot. You could hear the flesh sizzling and it smelled awful. Then he drove nails through the shoe into the horse's foot. It did not seem to bother the horse at all. After removing another one of the horse's shoes he would repeat this procedure until all four legs were taken care of and the horse was led away with his new shiny horseshoes.
The other activity I liked was our almost daily visits to a grocery store next to our house. Please, do not picture that as one of today's supermarkets. This store was located in the front room of a house no larger than ours. The lady storekeeper already knew why we had come and she always had a supply of empty pudding or small cereal boxes ready. We took these home and either played grocery store or built houses with these. She also gave us small pointed paper bags with a little "zwart and wit," a powder mix of licorice and salt in which we dipped a wet finger which we then licked off. Mmmmm! Delicious!
Another pleasant memory I have of this period is that
of a cafe, located directly across our house. In those days the cafes were
family affairs and did not resemble today's bars. We occasionally spent
time there in the afternoon (never at night) and were treated to a glass
of limonade or "sinasappel sap," orange juice. But, what especially stands
out in my memory, are the parties they regularly had, sometimes for a holiday
or for a wedding or other personal celebration. Then the lady owner sang
all kinds of funny songs and everybody would laugh and participate. We
were never part of those happenings which would last until deep into the
night but my bedroom faced the cafe and we would sit on the windowsill
of my bedroom and listen to all the excitement. It sounded all so happy
and I do not ever remember any fights or drunken behavior during those
|In 1939, I was nine years old, we moved to a better neighborhood and to a larger house with a lovely, large garden in the back and a small one in the front. I had no problem leaving the old neighborhood, because I did not have many friends there. Somehow I objected to leaving my old school, why, I do not remember, so my parents bought me a scooter, one that you had to push forward with one foot. It was hard work but I got used to it. One morning it was raining cats and dogs. As usual, I went through the beautiful "Dommelpark." I saw what seemed to be a puddle in front of me; however, when I rode through it I was up to my waist in the water. I continued to school and sat all day in my drenched clothes. Needless to say, I ended up with a serious case of pneumonia. In those days there was little or no help for that. I was completely unconscious for two weeks. My parents thought that they would lose me but I woke up and a week later on my 10th birthday (February 14, 1940) I was allowed, for the first time in three weeks, to get up and out of bed. I can still remember clearly how surprised I was that I could not stand unaided and that I could only walk the short distance from my bedroom to the living room with the support of my mother. For weeks later I had a special diet to regain my strength. Needless to say, I had to change to a nearby school after that. It really was a much nicer school but I never had a chance to make friends there because ...|
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