The Importance Of Studying The Holocaust: An Interview With NAU's Bjorn Krondorfer

Sep 26, 2012

The Martin-Springer Institute at Northern Arizona University was founded twelve years ago by Flagstaff resident and Holocaust survivor, Doris Martin. Her goal was to promote tolerance through education in hopes of preventing future atrocities. This year, the institute has a new executive director, Bjorn Krondorfer. He spoke with Arizona Public Radio's Constance DeVereaux about the importance of studying the Holocaust.

BK: It's important on many levels. For one, you really need to study it, in and of itself as a watershed event in human history. It's the first time that genocide was really perpetrated on this kind of scale on such a geographic scope and with such industrial and bureaucratic means behind it, sponsored by the state. But it also keeps affecting us today. We keep reading contemporary issues and problems and genocides through the lens of hte Holocaust, so we need to have a good understanding of the history in order to learn something about the present day conflicts that we see all over the world.

DVX: I understand that recently you were going through some cupboards in your office and you found some interesting objects.

BK: We have a storage room and the first week when I arrived here I looked through it and we found a box. In the box were all kinds of material objects related to Nazism and the Holocaust that came as a big surprise to me. I can show you some of the objects, for example we found money from the Littzmannstadt Ghetto and in that ghetto the Jewish Council had to print their own money pretending as if it's an autonomous little city, when of course it was ruled by the Nazis and everyone was eventually deported or killed. So we have printed money from the large ghetto which is unusual to find here in Flagstaff.

DVX: Can you describe these to me?

BK: They're very simple print. It's not expensive paper, but they're numbered and they have a Jewish star and it's dated May 5th, 1940.

DVX: And on the back side, I see also, there's a menorah.

BK: Yes, that's a menorah so they wanted to make sure the design is clearly Jewish.

DVX: How was this currency? How did it gain it's value or how did it have value? Was it just a substitute? Did people buy it with German money?

BK: It really was valuable only within the ghetto. And even there it's questionable if it had much of a value. It's more a kind of a pretense, a policy of delusion. The most unusual find is that we found a stamp, a seal. It clearly has a swastika at the bottom. We took an ink pad and actually tried to see what it says. And to my shock, I would have to say, it turns out it is the stamp of the commandant of Gross Rosen. Gross Rosen is a concentration camp now located in Poland.

DVX: And so what would this stamp be used for?

BK: If I read it, what it says - it says "Konzentrationslager Gross Rosen", which means Concentration Camp of Gross Rosen. And then it says, "Der Kommandant" and has a German Eagle and a swastika. This would have been used by the Commandant to, you know, put his stamp, his seal on lists of prisoners to be executed, on lists of prisoners to be shipped to satellite camps, on lists of prisoners to be put in the quarry. So it's a material object that has a lot of blood and evil on it, figuratively speaking but also literally.