Reading a lot about the atrocities and depravities that humans subjected each other to in Nazi Germany was "emotionally taxing" for Dr Erin Twyford.
The University of Wollongong student from the Faculty of Business, today graduated with a Doctor of Philosophy for her research into the use of accounting in Nazi Germany.
Her fascinating thesis explores the ways in which the practice of accounting enabled the Nazis to strip the Jewish people of their financial means and, eventually, carry out genocide.
"It was extremely confronting. There would be times I had to step away from it and learn that there were certain things that I had to stop reading about, particularly things related to children," Dr Twyford said.
It was after coming across a paper called Accounting in the Service of the Holocaust, that prompted Dr Twyford to choose her thesis topic.
"It just really blew my mind that accounting had these sort of powers where it is used to actually change the outcomes of people's lives," she said.
"I focused primarily on businesses and what they had done...and there were some truly horrific examples.
"What was interesting was that a lot of those businesses are still in operation today. A lot of them haven't had to face the music so to speak."
It wasn't only the topic matter which tested Dr Twyford, whose son Archibald was born just 36 hours after she handed in her honours' thesis.
"Then I discovered that I was having twins about nine months into my PhD, so it has been really full on," she said.
"But I enjoyed the process. Now I hope that my research continues to shine a light on the way in which accounting is used to justify a state or governments to denigrade their citizens.
"Hopefully it also shines a light on how that occurs in contemporary society as well.
"So relating it to the plight of refugees, to political prisoners and to some of the remaining camps across the world and letting people know that this isn't just a historical fascist thing that happened but accounting was entwined with and is still very much a part of the apparatus that allows for people to be treated other than being people.
"They are treated like they are just a number or a part of a machine."
Two of three winter graduation ceremonies were held at UOW today, with the final one on Thursday.
The ceremonies allow hundreds of students from the Faculty of Business and the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences to celebrate their academic and research achievements.
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