January 10, 1925 ~ May 29, 2015
Jacob "Jaap" Groen, a long time resident of McCaysville, GA, passed away on May 29, 2015 at the age of 90. He was a remarkable man and, using one of his favorite words, lived an "incredible" life. Jaap was born in Antwerp, Belgium to Abraham and Lena Groen in 1925. Working for the Dutch underground as a cook and manufacturing fake IDs for Jewish citizens, he succeeded in hiding during the first years of Nazi Germany's occupation of Holland with the help of his future wife, Rie Van Voorthuyzen. At the age of 16, he was given up by a fellow grade school buddy who had become a Dutch Nazi. He was sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in 1941 and lived the next 3 years in unimaginably cruel and inhumane conditions. While there, he survived experimentation by the Angel of Death, Josef Mengele. In 1944, he was part of the infamous Death March to the Mauthausen, Austria camp. There he worked 12 hour days doing hard labor in the rock quarries. During the last days of WW2, he was sent to the Ebensee, Austria death camp to die. After surviving for weeks on tree bark and barely able to stand, he heard the sound of artillery closing in and with determination and grit barely held on to life. In May of 1945, the camp was liberated by the Americans. A US Army doctor took him to an Army Hospital at the Linz airport, but was considered to be too weak to fly. Early the next morning he sneaked out of bed and crawled into a plane that was ready for take-off to Paris which was closer to his home in The Netherlands. The crew found him and was ready to send him back to the hospital, but he pleaded and convinced them to let him fly. He weighed 64lbs when he arrived and was taken to Hospital Bichat in Paris where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After 3 weeks of treatment he was finally flown back to Holland where he was bedridden for more than a year. In 1957, he immigrated to Atlanta with his family. Starting out as a window dresser at the Rich's department store in Atlanta, he subsequently embarked on an advertising career. He became an advertising executive at Citizen's Jewelry and later a VP of Advertising and Marketing for Ellman's until 1985. At the end of his career he partnered with a colleague and created the iconic Homer D Poe campaign for Home Depot. During "retirement" in his 80's he continued to work on promotional ideas for individual clients and contributed much of his time to the Blue Ridge Arts Association. He was unstoppable and rarely slowed down. For the last several years, he spoke at North Georgia schools about the Holocaust with the enduring theme of vigilance against the cancer of hatred or be doomed to repeat the horrific history of the world's ongoing cycle of genocides and Holocausts. After living his formative years of life in misery and near death, he became an inspiring and positive influence to family and his many friends. He had an optimistic and joyful outlook on life and influenced the lives of many. He loved to tell a story and relayed them with great detail and enthusiasm. Jaap loved living and being with his family brought him the most joy. He adored his wife and true partner, Patricia, to whom he was married for 43 years. He had two sons, Phillip Groen and Jeff Johnson, one daughter, Carrie Shoults, 6 grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. No services are planned at this time. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.