In 1944, Jewish Italian chemist Primo Levi, who opposed the fascist government of Italy, was transported to Auschwitz. There he survived for 11 months before Auschwitz was liberated by the Red Army and he returned to Italy. Following the war, he wrote his account of Auschwitz, entitled If This Is a Man (published as Survival in Auschwitz in the United States). Levi would go on to write extensively, not only about surviving the Holocaust, but novels and science textbooks.
More than four decades after he was liberated from Auschwitz, Levi was asked to explain the Holocaust. In his response he said, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.”
This issue of The American Philatelist commemorates the Holocaust through stamp images and postal history. This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day begins on the evening of April 20 through April 21, marking the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising on the Hebrew calendar (27 Nisan). There are still powerful voices among us who personally experienced the Holocaust and continue to tell their stories. As time moves on, the stamp collecting community has worked to contribute to the preservation of this history and advance Holocaust education through stamps.
In 2017, we made a significant contribution to the Holocaust Stamps Project at the Foxborough Regional Charter School in Massachusetts by giving them 750,000 stamps as part of the project. Mystic Stamp Company followed with a donation of one million stamps, and many APS members from all over the country sent stamps, adding the more than two million stamps needed for Foxborough to reach their goal of 11 million stamps.
Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) issued a series in June 1967 showing Jewish relics (Scott 1475-1480). Scott 1479, the 1.40-koruna, yellow and black stamp is a memorial for concentration camp victims. The names of the concentration camps are listed on the stamp.
The true value of the program was its use of the collection of stamps as a “peer-to-peer” teaching program about the Holocaust - the students were able to research and teach each other through stamp imagery and collages. Last fall, the APS agreed to take the collection and use it as part of an exhibit at the American Philatelic Center here in Bellefonte — the making of this exhibit is the subject of “Remembrance, Connection, Witness: The Making of a Holocaust Exhibit” on page 322 of this issue. Our dedication of the completed exhibit will be on Monday, June 22, 2020, as part of our annual Summer Seminar program. [Editor's note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Summer Seminar is scheduled as a series of online courses, and the Holocaust exhibit's opening is temporarily postponed.]
This is not the first philatelic exhibit dedicated to the atrocities of the Holocaust. In 1978, Ken Lawrence, a frequent contributor to The American Philatelist, began collecting material to combat Holocaust denial, a movement premised on the idea that the Holocaust never happened. Ken collected through the years and, in 1992, began exhibiting “The NAZI Scourge: Postal Evidence of the Holocaust and the Devastation of Europe.” The 10-frame exhibit has been shown at stamp shows in the U.S. and abroad. The Philatelic Foundation produced a DVD of the exhibit and, along with Mr. Lawrence, has given us permission to host the DVD in our online education portal, C3a.
In 2007, the Spungen Family Foundation acquired Mr. Lawrence’s original exhibit to preserve and use the philatelic material as a permanent reminder of the atrocities of the Holocaust. The Spungen Holocaust Postal Collection can be found online at http://spungenfoundation.org/collection/. We express our gratitude to the Spungen Family Foundation for their commitment to preserving this remarkable collection. Exhibits such as these are a powerful reminder that our collecting, while considered a hobby, preserves rich personal history and artifacts for future generations.
How Can Our Members Help?
If you have appropriate material that you would like to share, please contact our Education Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the exhibit. This can include postal history, family history, photographs, or other material that will help us educate collectors and non-collectors alike on the history of the Holocaust.
Holocaust Stamps Project program leader, Jamie Droste, gave a brief tour of the students’ stamp collages before entrusting the project to the APS’ care.
You can also donate stamps to two ongoing Holocaust youth education projects in Stoughton, MA, and Silver Spring, MD. Each program has the same goal of collecting 11 million stamps to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and the Nazi regime. In 2019, we launched both programs with a donation of 1.5 million stamps, in remembrance of the children who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Additionally, we will help future youth education programs that are interested in similar projects, by getting the program off the ground with an initial donation, and promoting it with our members.
Thank you to all the members who have contributed their time, talents, and resources to support this critical mission. We will continue to build on this program and hope you will be able to visit us and see the exhibit first-hand in the months and years ahead.
c/o Richard Sloane
803 South Belgrade Rd.
Silver Spring, MD 20902
Holocaust Stamp Project
c/o Jaime Regan
Stoughton High School, 232 Pearl Street
Stoughton, MA 02072
Editor's Note: This "Our Story" was originally published in the April 2020 issue of The American Philatelist and the events mentioned may not be up to date. We are bringing the archives of The American Philatelist to the Newsroom - to read back issues of The American Philatelist, click here and scroll down to the Back Issues section.