“The Jews and Their Lies,” by Martin Luther, “The Who’s Who in the World Zionist Conspiracy” by James Combs and “The Six Million Swindle: Blackmailing the German People for Hard Marks with Fabricated Corpses” by Austin J. App.
Not the kind of titles one runs across in a family book store, and for good reason, said John Norby, a Langley resident and online book seller. They’re chilling anti-Semitic literature and until recently were kept with up to 10,000 other volumes of similar genre in the massive personal library of a former Luftwaffe pilot and Everett man.
Norby stumbled across them at an estate sale, and with the help of friends Kyra Reafs and Kenneth Parker recently donated about 35 of the books to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. A living memorial, the museum works to “inspire citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity,” according to the museum’s website.
The financial value of the donation is unknown — federal law prohibits the museum from giving such estimates — but their historical worth may be considerable. The museum is a resource for Holocaust researchers, and a few of the titles are rare, very rare.
“I didn’t recognize some of them, and I’ve been at the Holocaust museum for 20 years,” said Holly Vorhies, a catalog librarian.
One of the books, “The Truth About Jewish Ritual Murder” by von Frederik To Gaste, is believed to be at only two other libraries in the U.S. It’s a blood libel that alleges Jews murdered Christians and used their blood for ritual purposes.
Norby, who has a small online book business, bought the books in 2013. While he jumps at the chance to pick up rare books, he doesn’t usually dabble in anti-Semitic literature, and got more than he bargained for at the estate sale. Upon arriving, he was warned by the organizer of what he and the other book dealers present would find inside.
“He said, ‘Some of these books are offensive; this man was a Nazi,’ ” Norby recalled.
A retired Boeing employee, the man had converted his garage into a home library; it was filled with books about the Luftwaffe and anti-Semitism, Norby said. It was overwhelming, even for the seasoned book dealers.
“One of them said, ‘Let’s get out of here and take a shower,’ ” Norby said.
Having personally known Holocaust survivors during his youth — “people with numbers on their arms” — Norby said he wasn’t willing to simply walk away, due to their historical importance. So, he went home with a few boxes but had serious reservations about selling them. He sat on them for more than a year, but fate had other plans for both Norby and the books, namely Parker and Reafs.
Parker, 21, was Norby’s Whidbey Island Bank representative, and the two struck up an unexpected friendship after Norby lent him one of the anti-Semitic books. It was all in Norwegian, and Norby was stunned two weeks later to learn the young man had not only translated the book but read it.
“This kid is brilliant,” Norby said.
It was through their conversations that Norby eventually agreed to donate the books to the museum, a place that holds special meaning for Parker. He lived nearby as a child, and as an African- American who has experienced racism first hand, he identified with Jews.
Also involved was Reafs, 18. A South Whidbey High School senior, she’s Norby’s neighbor and agreed to catalogue and research the books. Like Parker, she had a personal interest in the topic and was eager to help.
It was a learning experience for both of them.
For Parker, history became more clear. The “G” rated version of the Holocaust he learned in school is gone forever, and in its place is a deeper understanding of a period of hatred and intolerance, he said. Though the material was disturbing, he was glad to be involved.
“That was my way of giving back to the museum,” Parker said.
And for Reafs, scholarly interest was replaced with horror and a new outlook of a dark chapter of history. She has German relatives who fought in World War II, and the atrocities committed became “real.” She recalled feeling empty after the work was complete.
“It was almost indescribable; the emotions were surprising,” Reafs said.
“It changes your outlook,” she added. “It was worth it though.”
Vorhies agreed that researching and cataloging anti-Semitic literature can be unpleasant work, but being a source for researchers is an important role for the museum. The works donated will be put to good use, especially considering the rarity of some of the titles, such as the one penned by von Frederik To Gaste.
“These could be very important for researchers,” Vorhies said.
Other rare books include “The English-Jewish Alliance Toward Capitalist World Domination” by von Wolf Meyer-Christian, which highlighted an alleged conspiracy among British Jews for world domination; “Jew and Worker: a Tragedy of the German People” by F.O.H. Schulz, propaganda published by two Nazi organizations, the Institute for the Study of the Jewish Question and the Anti-Komintern, an anti-Soviet propaganda agency; and several more such as anti-Freemason publications.
As for Norby, he called the 1900s a century of genocide, rattling off half a dozen countries in which people have been slaughtered under political, social or religious ideologies and regimes, and sometimes just pure hatred. The purpose of preserving the books is to make sure future generations never forget, and based on the impression left on Parker and Reafs, they’re already doing their job.
“We did a good thing, the three of us,” Norby said.