Christopher Newport University receives $1M endowment to teach about the Holocaust

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The largest single-endowed professorship at Christopher Newport University will ensure two researchers’ study of the Holocaust continues even after they retire.

Dr. Theodore Reiff and Anthony Santoro have dedicated their careers to studying the genocide. Santoro described them as academic “soulmates” because of their interests in medicine and history.

“We’re going to be gone,” Santoro said. “There’s no question about that. And we’re determined that the lesson of history not be lost.”

Reiff, a retired physician, gave the university $1 million to establish a history professorship. Santoro, a distinguished professor in history and the president emeritus of the university, will not be the first professor under this endowment, but he is working to help set it up for after he retires. This way, there is a guaranteed position in a public university on this subject.

Reiff and Santoro were born before World War II, and they remember hearing about the Nazis and Adolf Hitler from family members and when they went to the movies. Reiff really began to learn about the medical crimes committed during the Holocaust when he was in medical school.

“It always interested me as to how physicians can allow themselves to be subverted by the government and the environment in which they live,” Reiff said about his research. “And I thought that it was important to study, so I became involved. And then I had a lot of patients who were survivors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was a death camp.”

The stories he and Santoro have to share about the survivors, the Nazis and those who fought them tell a detailed account of the Holocaust — one that many would not hear about if it not for their efforts.

In addition to endowing this professorship, Reiff is the benefactor of the Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution, a center within the university which promotes awareness of the horrors of genocide and human rights violations. He also is the founding president of the National Genocide Education project, according to a university press release.

According to the CNU website, Santoro is president of the National Genocide Education Project and chairman of the advisory board for the Reiff Center.

Following Santoro’s retirement, the university will conduct a national search for a senior scholar to continue studying the Holocaust and sharing the lessons from that time.

“We are deeply grateful for Dr. Reiff’s extraordinary generosity and President Santoro’s leadership” former CNU President Paul Trible said in a statement. “The Reiff Center and the Reiff-Santoro Professorship will ensure that the study of human rights and the horrors of National Socialist Germany and the Holocaust will always be important at Christopher Newport.”

Kelsey Kendall,