Louis de Groot was born on June 28, 1929 in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. His father, Meijer, owned and operated a store which sold small electrical appliances in Arnhem. Sophia, his mother, assisted with the store. The family, which included Louis’ older sister Rachel, lived in an apartment above the store. Meijer was an avid amateur film maker, recording the family’s adventures to the park, the pool, and the ice skating rink on an 8mm video camera. They were a traditional Jewish family and attended synagogue on the high holidays. Both children were members of Jewish youth organizations.
After the Nazis came to power in Germany in January 1933, many German Jews fled, some to the Netherlands. Meijer often assisted these individuals by escorting them from the border and providing them temporary shelter in the De Groot home. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Within hours, the Nazis had reached Louis’ hometown. Soon after, antisemitic legislation similar to what was passed in Germany, was implemented. Louis, who was very close to a number of his non-Jewish schoolmates, was no longer allowed to attend public schools. He was prohibited from playing in the local pools, parks, or streets and was banned from going to his non-Jewish friends’ homes, curtailing his social activities.
In 1942, the Nazis began arresting and deporting Jewish men from the Netherlands. Sophia and Meijer began preparing to go into hiding. On nights and weekends, so as not to arouse suspicion, Louis’ parents preserved vegetables, chicken, sausage, eggs, and other goods bought on the black market to feed the family while in hiding. The preserved goods were stored in their neighbor’s home for safe keeping. In November, after being warned of a forthcoming round-up of Jews, the De Groot family left their home in Arnhem to go into hiding. Unfortunately, the neighbors who had agreed to hide them became frightened and refused to help, so the family was forced to split up to hide elsewhere.
Louis and his sister Rachel hid separately in several places throughout the Netherlands over the next year. His first hiding place lasted only a few weeks as the neighbors denounced Louis. Rachel eventually joined her parents in hiding in Amsterdam. In December 1943, Louis was sent to the home of Dirk and Ann Onderweegs, active members of the Dutch Underground, in Lemmer. For safety reasons, Louis was given a new name; Leo Lemsra. False documents were created to support his new identity. Louis assisted the Onderweegs in their work with the underground by forging and delivering documents and stealing official stamps from Nazi headquarters in town.
Meijer, Sophia, and Rachel were denounced on April 8, 1944, arrested by a Dutch policeman who was an old schoolmate of Meijer's, and sent first to Westerbork and then to Auschwitz where they were murdered. Louis stayed with the Onderweegs until August 1946 when he entered the Jewish Boys Orphanage in Amsterdam. After volunteering with the Haganah, a Jewish paramilitary organization in the British mandate of Palestine, he fought for Israel in 1948. Louis briefly returned to Holland before immigrating to the United States in 1950. He was drafted into the Army and stationed in Germany as a member of the occupation forces. After his discharge, Louis settled in New York, married, and had two children. Eventually, he earned a Master’s degree in economics and worked in market planning at IBM. Louis is now a volunteer with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.