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Fri, Dec. 13

NAU professor to talk at MCC about taking German father to Nazi camp
German roots leads to untold stories

Ceremony at the former Judenlager of Blechhammer during the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the nazi camps. The memorial is at the front. (Photo by Jacques Lahitte [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

Ceremony at the former Judenlager of Blechhammer during the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the nazi camps. The memorial is at the front. (Photo by Jacques Lahitte [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons)

Learning family history can open doors to finding who you are and where you come from.

For one man, he went all the way back to Germany. To a Nazi camp.

Bjorn Krondorfer, a professor at Northern Arizona University, is giving a presentation on the cultural, psychological and personal look at the Holocaust and war memories in Germany after 1945.

His presentation isn’t just a recap of what happened during World War II, but about his father being drafted into the German army at 17 years old and ending up near a Jewish slave labor camp in Poland.

When Krondorfer was in his 30s, he came across a story that was not told before in his family. He knew his father was taken out of high school to be trained in the German army, but didn’t know he served in an anti-craft platoon in Poland next to a Jewish labor camp.

“It was this camp called Blechhammer that I needed to see,” he wrote in an email to the Daily Miner. “I asked my father to join me on a journey in the late 1990s.”

As father and son took on this journey, it connected them on a different level.

“It bonded us,” Krondorfer said. “But it came with layers of complications.”

Their journey took place about 50 years after WWII and it was an intimate time together. Conversations Krondorfer had with his father before the journey included family memories and as different memories come up some of them are difficult to merge.

“This is what happened to me,” he said.

After the journey his father changed. Today he is 92 years old and suffers from dementia, and can’t remember anything.

“It’s sad to see that he can’t even remember what he had for dinner if you ask two minutes later,” Krondorfer said.

During his presentation Krondorfer will talk about the encounters he had with a Jewish survivor that helped him understand his family’s past. At the end of his presentation the message the audience should takeaway is to reach out to others across religions, national and ethnic differences.

“Not only do we learn about the other, and thus combat hatred and prejudice, but we also learn about ourselves,” he said.

The presentation is sponsored by NCK Student Activities Council and Arizona Humanities AZ Speaks.

Erin Roper, MCC librarian, said it’s important for people to attend the presentation to realize that, during the Holocaust, mass genocide and death camps occurred and that genocide still happens in parts of the world.

“This presentation will provide context for why these events happen, which can help prevent them in the future,” she said.

The presentation is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26 at Mohave Community College - Neal Campus, room 240, 1971 Jagerson Ave. The presentation is over an hour long. It’s free and open to the public.

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