As part of its fourth annual Genocide Awareness Week schedule, Scottsdale Community College hosted a presentation featuring the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and the son of a Nazi Youth member.
The April 14 presentation of “Living with Our Fathers’ Stories: A Conversation Between the Son of a Nazi Youth and the Daughter of a Holocaust Survivor” featured Bjorn Krondorfer, the director of Northern Arizona University’s Martin-Springer Institute, which is committed to raising awareness about and learning from the Holocaust, and Janice Friebaum, chairperson for Generations After, Phoenix’s group for descendants of Holocaust survivors.
The two went over their fathers’ backgrounds, chronicling their journey through World War II.
Krondorfer’s presentation was full of photos from all points of his father’s life, while Friebaum had a select few photos of her father as an adult years after the war, but none from his childhood.
“Children of perpetrators have photos and have a story to tell,” said Krondorfer.
Krondorfer explained that until 1996, his father omitted any reference to Jews in all of his stories, as if they did not exist.
Krondorfer’s father never talked about his involvement outright. Rather, the son had to pry and get his father to admit to his involvement at labor camps, specifically Blechhammer where he spent most of his time in the war.
“When you hear stories from perpetrators, they may not tell you lies, but it won’t be the full truth either,” said Krondorfer.
Krondorfer described learning that his father was a soldier at Blechhammer as a turning point for him. He knew he had to explore his father’s past in greater depth.
Similarly, Friebaum’s father rarely spoke about the Holocaust to his children. In fact, it wasn’t until her father did an interview for the film “Schindler’s List,” that Friebaum found out her father had suffered from horrendous nightmares every night since the war.
During the presentation, Friebaum showed her father’s travels between various labor camps on a map, showing his journey that began in a ghetto in Krakow, Poland. On the same map, Krondorfer pointed out where his father’s journey took him.
The two journeyed through some of the same places, but their experiences could not have been more different.
Krondorfer asked his father if he and other soldiers ever talked about what was taking place or the cause they were serving. He said his father replied, “No, we would never talk, it just was.”
When asked if she ever had a hard time befriending Krondorfer so closely, Friebaum thanked her father for raising her to be accepting.
“When he did start telling me about his experiences, he told of many experiences when German people, including Nazis in uniform, treated him very well. … What I learned from my father, as well as my own experience in the world, is that people are people, and I’ve never felt afraid of becoming friends with a German,” said Friebaum.
SCC’s “Genocide Awareness Week: Not on Our Watch” is an annual event, featuring new presenters and education opportunities every year. Next year’s program is set for April 17-22, 2017.
Ava Montoya, a sophomore, is a journalism major at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.