Warning: I’m getting into some Holocaust stuff here.
Okay, so, I’m a coin collector. One of the things in my possession is what I call “The pirate’s chest”–a fun way for me, and my nieces and nephews, to study geography. You print out a world map on kraft paper (to look like a treasure map, you see), and then I have this giant tequila bottle with an old-timey label that’s full of world coins. You pull out the coins, try to figure out where they’re from via context clues rather than just looking up pictures on the Internet (although that is an option if all else fails), and then mark your “treasures” on your map. It’s a lot of fun, and way more interesting (and memorable) than the tiresome lists they gave me for two weeks in high school.
So a few years ago I was on a coin collecting forum, and said I was trying to find coins from every country in the world that currently uses coinage, in an attempt to create the “perfect treasure map” for my nieces. Someone on the forum who’d been collecting for 40+ years, and knew how much I love coins for their historical rather than monetary value, excitedly asked if he could send me a pound of common coins to use for this purpose. Of course I said yes!
. . . and he, not knowing my family is Jewish (I was still a gentile at the time), and meaning only the best, included a Nazi one-pfennig in the package, saying that he wanted it to be in the hands of someone who would appreciate its historical value without fetishizing it for what it represents. Which is an admirable sentiment, to be sure. When he found out my family is almost entirely Jews, he was horrified–the awful sinking feeling in my gut when I opened that package and saw the iron eagle was not what he’d intended at all.
Here’s the thing. I still have it. I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t want to sell it and use the money to buy another coin, or trade it for one, because I feel like anything I received in exchange for it would be tainted–plus, I have no way of knowing in whose hands it would fall. I don’t want to just toss it in the bin, because as atrocious as it is, yes, it is part of history, a part we must be reminded of so as to never repeat, and there’s something that just feels . . . weird about throwing it in with my old mail and banana peels.
But I have to get rid of it somehow. I don’t want it. And my coin collection is really the only thing of value I own, and it’s bequeathed to my nieces. Regardless whether that coin is worth three bucks, or three thousand–if something awful were to happen to me tomorrow, is that how I’d want them to remember me? Opening a box of things I’d curated so carefully, so lovingly, and finding a Nazi coin inside? (Survey says, hell no.)
I thought of possibly donating it to a Holocaust museum, but I don’t know if it would be wanted or simply seen as in poor taste (or even as a threat). Faced with this situation, what would you do? (Is this even perhaps something I should take to my rabbi to ask for his advice?)