BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Judy Miller, author of "One, by One, by One." Why at this time in your life did you want to spend so much time writing about and thinking about the Holocaust?
JUDITH MILLERONE, AUTHOR, "BY ONE, BY ONE: FACING THE HOLOCAUST": It kind of began of as an accident. I was assigned to Paris for the New York Times in 1986, and I was asked to cover the Klaus Barbie trial. It wasn't then a trial, it was just movement towards a trial, and I found, much to my bewilderment, that for some reason, I couldn't get anybody to talk about Klaus Barbie or what he had done or what the French had done, and the more I probed, the more I realized that it wasn't just France, it was people in Europe, many, many Europeans, who did not want to face that part of the past, and so I decided to find out why and what were the best ways in which the Holocaust and that dreadful period could be confronted, 45 years after the fact.
LAMB: Who was Klaus Barbie?
MILLER: Klaus Barbie was a German and I found it interesting that he was a German war criminal and that that was one reason, I think, that the trial took place at all. Had he been a French war criminal, the French would have had even more trouble with that. He was a man who was effectively in charge of Lyon, in charge of the deportations of Jews from Lyon, in charge of rounding up political prisoners. He was particularly ruthless. He was very efficient. He had been living in La Paz, and when President Mitterand came into office, Mitterand decided that he was going to bring him back for trial and he did.
LAMB: And what happened to him?
MILLER: He was convicted, but under socialism the death penalty has been abolished and he will spend now the rest of his natural life behind bars in France.
LAMB: What was the impact of the trial on the French?
MILLER: Not as much as I had anticipated or hoped. It was perhaps the fact that the trial was taking place in Lyon and France is a very centralized country, and if it doesn't happen in Paris, it is not really happening. And perhaps the trial didn't have that much impact because that period is simply so painful for people to think about, French people in particular.
LAMB: How about your own life, did you have much discussion of this when you -- about the Holocaust when you were growing up?
MILLER: Almost none. My father's family came from the Soviet Union, actually it was Russia then. He came long before the Holocaust. No one in my immediate family was touched by it. My mother is not Jewish, so it didn't come up in conversation. It didn't really come up in our household and it certainly wasn't taught in school, so I had almost no contact with that or with people who had suffered through it, which made my own discoveries and my own interviews all the more difficult and all the more of a revelation for me.
LAMB: Did you have a little voice in the back of your head saying, all through these years, "What is this all about," for some reason or other?
MILLER: I don't really think so. I remembered seeing the Eichmann trial on television when I was in school, when I was a child, and I asked what was this all about, and I began to learn about the Holocaust then, but I didn't think about it very much, and you know, even when I was stationed in Cairo, responsible for all of the Arab world and coverage of that part of the world, the Holocaust did not come up. I visited Israel often, I reported from Israel, but the Israelis didn't talk about it much either. It wasn't until I got to Europe that I began to experience real anti-Semitism and to see the way in which it was shaping memory and political attitudes and why this event was so difficult for them to face. It was simply not a Middle-Eastern event, it was something that I came to through my reporting in Europe.
LAMB: What happened in your own life, I notice you mentioned your mother was an Irish Catholic and your father was Jewish?
LAMB: Where did you go with your own thinking?
MILLER: I remember a conversation once that might have been responsible in part for this book. We were all gathered around the dining table, and my grandmother, who was an immigrant, who didn't speak much English, at least she didn't speak very much to me, she spoke Russian and Yiddish, we were watching the evening news and all of a sudden the news was interrupted for a flash news broadcast, as they used to do in those days, and we learned that an airplane had crashed and that all aboard had been killed, it was feared, and my grandmother who had been pulverizing beets for the soup that evening, stopped what she was doing, looked up, and in very broken English said to me, "How many Jews were on board?" and my mother was stunned and I was stunned, and my father didn't know what to say.
She had what I now regard as a very European attitude towards the world and a very European Jewish attitude towards life, and that is that only the suffering of her people mattered because she had suffered so in Europe, because she had and her family had withstood pogroms and discrimination. It was only the Jews that she cared about. Now, obviously I, as an American, with the luxury of having been born in America, in a tolerant and open society, could not begin to imagine what she was talking about, but I remember I was horrified by that reaction, by her reaction. What did it matter what religion they were, what did it matter, they were all dead. And I think that because I came from a family of more than one religion, I began to be very interested in questions of how different kinds of people came to grips with each other and with experiences that affected one of them, but not the other. I was always very aware of that as a child.
LAMB: How do you define the word pogrom?
MILLER: A pogrom is an act of viciousness and intolerance. For me, I think the pogroms of Russia were the most interesting example of that. Looting, robbing, killing, efforts to terrorize a population, in this case the Jews of Russia. These pogroms were widespread in the 19th century and even in the early 20th, and it forced a lot of Jewish families to leave, including my own.
LAMB: Before I came into the studio and before you came here, I ran into a fellow in the hallway who saw this book, not associated with this network, and he said, "What do you think of the book?" and I told him that we were going to chat about it, and he said, "I've got the book." He was Jewish and very concerned about the whole issue and obviously had heard you on another program. And the reason I give this as background, have you found that this book has created controversy, have people reacted strongly to what you have written, and what is that reaction?
MILLER: Yes, I think that people understandably have been disturbed by my book, in many respects. They have been disturbed because in almost every instance, I point to the ways in which people are trying to evade the truth about what they did or did not do during that period. I think it's very hard for us, as human beings, to face shameful events and pain, and what I tried to do was show how each country that I lived and worked in, was suppressing or distorting or politically manipulating the memory of the Holocaust, and when the subject of political manipulation comes up, often times people in the United States get very excited about this because many Jews are concerned that the memory of the Holocaust, in this country, is being politically manipulated for one goal or another. As a result, my book is causing some controversy, but I think a healthy controversy.
LAMB: I want to eventually talk a lot about the United States, but in the beginning, could we go through the countries that you write about, and before we do that, let me ask you, how long did you spend writing the book?
MILLER: I began my research in 1986 and I wrote the preface in January of 1990. It has been a very long journey, indeed.
LAMB: Did you change you mind as you went through the process about very many things?
MILLER: Many, many things.
LAMB: Name one.
MILLER: I thought in the beginning that Europeans had erased the memory of this event. I thought they had succeeded in doing that, and the more I talked to people, the more communities I visited, the more I realized that nothing had been erased. All of those memories were there and they were smoldering just below the surface. That, for example, surprised me. The second thing that surprised me was that some countries that have excellent reputations abroad, for what they supposedly did during the war, actually had very bad historical records, but that through skillful public manipulation of the press -- that were symbols -- they had managed to make the rest of the world think that their record was better than what it actually was. That surprised me a lot.
LAMB: Anne Frank's house.
MILLER: You named it. Anne Frank, that's what we think of, I think, when most of us Americans hear the words Anne Frank, we think of little Anne and thousands of little girls like her, being hidden in attics and basements throughout Holland. Now it is true that many, many Dutch people were enormously brave, because it was such a small country, and to resist was a death warrant if you were caught. So the courage of many, many Dutch people cannot be overestimated. On the other hand, the record of the country as a whole is certainly very, very different from that.
LAMB: Give us an example.
MILLER: Well, before the war, the Netherlands had the largest home-grown Nazi party of any country in western Europe, outside of Germany and perhaps Austria. It had 100,000 members of their domestic Nazi party and that is truly a lot of people in a country of 8,000,000. Also, of the 140,000 Jews who were living in Holland, only 35,000 survived the war. That meant that 75 percent of Dutch Jews were killed, and that too is the highest kill ratio of any country in Europe except Poland. And so, in no other country is the gap between historical reality and image quite as glaring as it is in the case of the Netherlands.
LAMB: Do you think that Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam was put there for that reason?
MILLER: Perhaps not consciously, but subconsciously it surely played a role.
LAMB: By the way, let me say, it wasn't put there for that reason, that they commemorate for that reason.
MILLER: Commemorate. And that they, the government itself, supports the foundation which spreads the memory and the writings of Anne Frank, and these are wonderful, wonderful diaries. They are wonderful sentiments, but the fact of the matter is, Ann and her family were betrayed, they were turned in by fellow Dutch people. She is not one of the 35,000 who survived, and one-third of those in hiding were betrayed by Dutch collaborators with the Nazis. I think we have to remember these figures, and remember then when we begin to feel very self-satisfied about our historical record.
LAMB: Kurt Waldheim.
MILLER: Another fine Austrian. What can one say about Waldheim? I was appalled when I was there to see the overwhelming support for Kurt Waldheim. I say appalled because I wasn't particularly surprised. He had lied about his Nazi past, but he represented so many people his age, what they were. If he was guilty, they were guilty. The question I wanted to ask about Austria was, "Can one really examine the past, in a highly politically charged context?"
You know, Edgar Bronfman and other Jewish leaders, kept saying to me, "But even if the Austrians elect Waldheim, everyone around Europe will learn about the Austrian experience, it will be educational, the Austrians will have to face facts." But, in fact, the opposite happened. The Austrians became more defensive. They became more xenophobic as a result of that highly politically charged confrontation. And I concluded from it that it was not very effective to ask people or expect them to look at the past and look at their own shameful past, in such a highly charged environment. National elections were not the place to begin to explore past sins.
LAMB: Did you try to interview him?
MILLER: I did and he consistently refused. He had many opportunities to give me an interview. He would never do so. And, I can understand that. It's part of not wanting to come to grips with his own record and his own experience.
LAMB: What kind of people would talk to you in Austria?
MILLER: Some young Jews would talk to me. Other politicians would talk to me and I had a very long, and in some respects, disturbing talk with Bruno Kreiske, who had been the Chancellor and who had resisted during the war. But Mr. Kreiske was in many ways a typical Austrian, despite his valiant role during the war, because it was he who had first made an alliance with the right-wing People's Party, the most extreme right-wing elements in Austria, because he wanted to get elected. And it was these kinds of political compromises which have so marked Austrian political history, and which have determined who and what they are today.
Now, before I hang too heavy a historical burden on Austria, I should say that they didn't come to the conclusion about who they were and what they are alone. After the war, the Allies gave Austria a very convenient out. The Allies said, "You were the first victims of Nazism, you were the first to feel the boot of the oppressor." Of course, that isn't exactly the case. The Austrians welcomed Anschluss. They welcomed the absorption by the Third Reich. They felt totally German. But we erased that part of the past or let them do it, for our own political reasons, and I think that we, the Allies, bear part of the burden for Kurt Waldheim today.
LAMB: What was the Anschluss?
MILLER: The Anschluss was the march, Hitler's march, into Austria. He was welcomed not with bullets, he was welcomed with flowers, and this was when Austria became part of the Third Reich. It was a very sad day for Austria's illustrious Jewish community, more than half of which was forced to flee. I think it was a very sad day indeed for Austria.
MILLER: You ask tough questions, Germany. I was also surprised by what I found in Germany because I feel that the Germans, at least the West Germans, and now we have to be very careful about making a distinction. The West Germans have come to grips, or tried to come to grips with what they did, what they and their forebears did, more than any other European country. Now, before we start pinning medals on them, it is very important to point out that they had to do that. They had no choice. We made them do it. The Allies made them do it. The Russians made them do it. And I think they understood very quickly that no civilized country would welcome them back into civilized company if they didn't make amends, or at least attempt to make amends, for this horrendous and unique crime.
That being said, young Germans, I feel, have struggled mightily with this problem. They don't always succeed in coming to grips with their past, but I think they have made enormous efforts to do so. Something that I found truly unusual was that Germany is a specialist in commemorations and organized reunions. There are now so many commemorations and reunions of German Jews and invitations to Jews to come back to Germany for the dedication of schools and cultural facilities, that the Germans themselves, the ultimate bean counters, can no longer keep track of them. There are literally hundreds of them each year. I went to one of them and I was deeply moved by what I saw and what I felt and what I felt the survivors feel during this visit.
LAMB: And that, name that city.
MILLER: The city was Fulda, and it was right on what was then the East German, West German border. It was a town in which there were many, many American soldiers stationed, and it was a town which had lost virtually it's entire Jewish population, which had driven them out. I accompanied 300 Jews from all over the world, back to this town for the dedication of a Jewish school, what had been the Jewish school. Now of course, there are no Jews, so it was going to be a Jewish cultural center, and many of the people who went back, especially those from the United States, had never before returned to Germany, so it was a profoundly moving experience for them and for their children.
And something that astonished me, that I found difficult to understand at first, was that the parents seemed to have less trouble with this return than their children. The children, that is people my age now, had all of these stereotypes about Germany, but they didn't have the actual knowledge of Germans as a people, so their parents, when they would walk down the street, the parents, the mother, the father, would say, "Oh, that was Frau Schmidt, she was my kindergarten teacher. This was so and so. This man helped me, this man did not." They had a whole set of experiences to relate to. The children didn't have that. They just had this image in their heads, and understandably so, of the terrible Germans, the Nazis. And they saw anti-Semitism everywhere, even when it didn't exist.
LAMB: Did you write that people that get married that live around Dachau, make sure they aren't married in that city?
MILLER: Many of them, many of them.
LAMB: Why is that?
MILLER: They are obviously so ashamed of the name Dachau because of the famous concentration camp in which thousands and thousands of political prisoners and Jews perished. It's a question of feeling shame, and so very quietly, they often go, the women who are about to have children, often go to neighboring villages so that the identity cards of their children will not bear the name Dachau on them. I think it's understandable and I think it's an indication of the shame that many Germans feel about their historical responsibility.
LAMB: Your first chapter was on Germany.
MILLER: Yes, it was.
LAMB: Was that for a reason?
MILLER: Yes, because they did it. Because the Holocaust was a German inspiration. Others may have helped, others may have assisted, others may have not done enough to stop it, but they organized it and did it. And, they are the ones who must remember, above all now that reunification is a possibility, not only a possibility, that it seems likely. They must remember above all, their historical responsibility for that crime. I don't say the word guilt because I believe that guilt is individual, but historical responsibility is collective, and Germans, I think, are doing a lot to come to grips with it.
LAMB: One part of your dedication in your book is obvious, "To my parents." And where are your parents today?
MILLER: They are both in California. My mother is in Los Angeles and my father lives in Palm Springs.
LAMB: What's the second part of this?
MILLER: The second part is a girl named Masha whom I never met, but who was enormously important for me and is a kind of heroine for me. Masha lived in Minsk. She was one of the first people killed by the Nazis after they invaded the Soviet Union. She was a young Jewish partisan. She worked in a hospital and she smuggled medicine and information out to the partisans who were operating around the city of Minsk. Minsk was a very large city, an important city, with a large Jewish population, 80,000 Jews at the time. She was a fighter and a resister. She, along with two of her colleagues were caught and they were hung by the Germans, actually they were hung by a Lithuanian brigade that was collaborating with the Germans, which is another part of the story, that even today Lithuanians that are Soviets don't like to face, and there are some very famous photographs of her standing very proudly there as she is about to have the noose put around her neck and she is about to breathe her last breath, and there is no fear in her face.
Now, I became interested in her because officially she is known in the Soviet Union as the unknown heroine. The man, the young man who was about 17, who was hung right after her, is known and identified and he is a local hero, and the other man who was hanged is also identified as a partisan, and he too has a name and a place of honor in the Soviet roll books that honor those who fought the Nazis, but she is unnamed. And I began to understand as I visited Minsk and talked to local officials in Belorussia, that the reason she is officially unknown is that she, unlike her other two colleagues and unlike the other partisans, was a Jew. And so the Soviet Union, I discovered, much to my despair, was not willing at that point, and this was just a couple of years ago, to acknowledge either Soviet Jewish suffering nor Soviet Jewish heroism, and she was a true hero, and she was a true heroine, and that's why the book is dedicated to her.
LAMB: More on the Soviet Union. You write a lot about the Soviet Union.
LAMB: What else did you find there?
MILLER: I found that the Soviet Union was the only country that did not have a word in Russian for Holocaust, or what the Israelis call the Shoa, and I think that that's no accident. I think it's difficult for Americans to really understand the extent of Soviet suffering during the war. I was not prepared for it. They lost 20,000,000 people, conservatively. A conservative estimate is 20,000,000 people. Now, I can't imagine 20,000,000 people, but as a result of that tremendous suffering, there is not a town, not a village, not a square that doesn't have a memorial or a marker or some sign that here the war came home to us, to all of us. And yet, because of this tremendous suffering, they are unwilling to award a special place in the rostrum of suffering, to the Jews. So when I used to ask Soviet officials, "What about the Soviet Jews, 750,000 of them were killed?" They said, "What is 700,000, what is 6,000,000, if you've lost 20,000,000. We will not divide the dead according to suffering." But I think the real explanation is that the Soviet Union is in many ways still a very anti-Semitic country.
LAMB: Going back to what you just said, why should there be a special place for Jews?
MILLER: Because many, many people, thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, innocent people died in World War II or what the Soviet Union calls, the great patriotic war, but the Holocaust was aimed at Jews. The Holocaust was a unique massacre. It was a German plan to eliminate every man, woman, child of Jewish origin, even if that child was only partly Jewish. It was an effort to so totally exterminate the race that not even it's memory would be left.
One thing that impressed me was that Hitler was so thorough that after he had exterminated the Jewish race, he was making plans, he was going to plan the opening of a museum in Prague that would be a museum to the extinct Jewish race, so that even the memory of these people would be rewritten and distorted by the Nazis. Now that is a massacre and a genocide that the world had never really seen before. Not on that scale. Not by these people. No contrary to it's war effort. I mean, what we must remember is that the war against the Jews often took priority over winning the war against the Soviet Union and the Europeans and us.
LAMB: After thinking about this for four years, do you have a conclusion as to why Hitler picked the Jews?
MILLER: I found that the more I studied this issue, the less I understood it. There are many historical explanations, but I have never read one that totally persuaded me. Clearly it wouldn't have been possible if Europe hadn't been a very anti-Semitic place, but as far as the selection of the Jews, that was his madness and his incredible brutality. But, by the way, the Gypsies were also included in this category. After all of the Jews had been killed, he would have done the same to the Gypsies. He started to annihilate the Gypsies. The Gypsies were also the target of the Holocaust. Slavs were right after the Gypsies. They were fit only to serve, in Hitler's view, the master German race and only those who were working and were serving the Germans would be preserved. Only those who were necessary. Had Hitler succeeded, had he won, you would have seen massacres the likes of which the civilized world had never known and we hope will never see again.
LAMB: How do you define a Gypsy?
MILLER: How did he define a Gypsy. It was anyone they said was a Romanoff Gypsy. How does one define a Jew? They had very clear definitions and categories for all of these people, and one thing that was impressive about the Germans was the efficiency with which they went about rooting out people of Gypsy blood, of Jewish blood, and I think that's why we today in the West have to be particularly sensitive about any kind of characterization or definition of people according to race or ethnic origin . It's something I think Americans instinctively understand, but many Europeans still don't appreciate.
LAMB: How much anti-Semitism is there in all of the countries you wrote about except the United States? We're going to get to that in just a second.
MILLER: Obviously, it differs from country to country. I think there is anti-Semitism everywhere. I think what counts is the government's attitude towards anti-Semitism. You know, recently we saw the desecration of graves in France, but we also saw a protest in Paris that was attended by thousands and thousands of Frenchmen including President Francois Mitterand, and in attending that ceremony, and in saying, "I, as a Frenchman, I, as a Socialist, am appalled by this action. I am appalled by the desecration of Jewish graves, I am appalled by this intolerance."
I think that he has sent an important political signal to all Frenchmen everywhere, and one that's very desperately needed at this time, as French extremism is on the rise, right-wing extremism is on the rise in France, and President Mitterand felt an obligation to counter that. So, what I look for is not necessarily whether or not there is anti-Semitism, but whether or not it is officially blessed or sanctioned by the governments in power. That's what I think we have to be particularly concerned about.
LAMB: As you know, anybody that goes to Jerusalum on official business certainly, they take them to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial, they've taken President Bush there, Mrs. Thatcher and others, I want to ask you why they do that, and why you remember as your most memorial image of the Holocaust, the shoe in the glass of the little kid?
MILLER: I think the Israelis take foreign visitors to Yad Vashem because they want them to understand the terrible price that Jews have paid at one point for not having a homeland of their own, for being guests in a foreign and often hostile environment. I think Yad Vashem is a very moving and beautiful memorial and it affected me because it was so simple. Because my image of the Holocaust before I went to Yad Vashem was those dreadful pictures of the bulldozers piling into mounds of dirt that revealed skeletal figures, the thousands of pictures of skeletal figures, that was my image of the Holocaust. But when I saw that simple tiny little infant's shoe encased in glass, I suddenly understood that the Holocaust was not unique, it was unique, but each individual who died in it was unique and that each of them had remembered, be remembered as individuals, one by one and that individual rights had to be fought for, one by one, and that I think is really the origin, certainly of my title and of my interest in the subject.
LAMB: "One, by One, by One."
MILLER: "One, by One." If anyone said, "Do you object to the killing of a thousand people?", of course we would all say, "Yes." If we say, "Do you object to the killing of an individual?" then other questions begin to arise such as, "What did that individual do, what is his responsibility?" For me, human rights are individual rights and they must be defended wherever they are endangered, one, by one, because when we wait to the point that an entire population or group of people is endangered, it is often too late, as it was during World War II, as it was during the Holocaust.
LAMB: Yad Vashem is -- you liked the memorial?
LAMB: You think they did it right?
LAMB: Do you think that the Jews in Israel calculatingly have put this memorial together to evoke sympathy out of everybody that comes through there? And why is it so well done, in your opinion?
MILLER: You know, the form of memory that is effective is very much a question of individual taste. There is no wrong way to remember. I found Yad Vashem moving because of it's simplicity. I don't think it was a calculated effort by the Israelis to have people feel sorry for them, because you know, the Israelis have had tremendous difficulty in coming to grips with the Holocaust. It was the moment of the Jewish people's greatest vulnerability, and therefore it is difficult for them to look back and realize they were that vulnerable at one point.
Yad Vashem was built very early, and I think it was built as a tribute to those who died, in commemoration of those who died, and later on it became important that other people understand their suffering. But when they built it initially, I don't think it was built as a propaganda vehicle. Now, other people are building museums, but those museums and memorials tend not to be in Europe. They tend not to be being built by the people who carried these actions.
LAMB: And, I want to get to the United States in just a second. Let me, for just a moment, pretend that I'm a Palestinian, and that I'm listening to you, and I want to dredge up all of the things that are going through a Palestinian's head or others, like, "The media in the United States is controlled by the Jews. Judy Miller is half Jewish. We spend, Americans spend billions of dollars every year on this whole issue. It's no wonder that we see it day after day, after day, and we, the Palestinians, don't get our fair share because we are not in control." What do you say to them?
MILLER: I think that it is understandable that people who are suffering and who have suffered would attempt to compare their suffering with that of the Jews. I think that's understandable. I also think it is incumbent upon all of us to make them understand that, although their suffering matters and counts, it is not comparable to the Holocaust. It is very disturbing, the use of Holocaust language by people who are not the victims of a genocide, it is very disturbing, and it is a form, quick frankly, of a distortion of memory.
I have spent many, many years studying the Palestinian problem, working with Israeli friends and Palestinian friends, to try and find, to try and understand each of them. I think it is one of the most difficult problems in the world. I would not want to be in charge of solving it. It's difficult even to write about it, but I think that we have to be very careful that we don't equate what is happening on the West Bank to what happened to the Jews. That does not excuse what is happening on the West Bank, and I'm not defending the Israeli government policy, but I'm saying, before we start talking about Holocausts and modern Holocausts and modern genocides, we really have to look at what's happening and draw historical, correct historical parallels, or say, "I'm sorry, there just aren't enough here, there aren't enough parallels, this is not a comparable situation." We owe it to history to do that. There are not concentration camps in which Palestinian infants are being slaughtered on the West Bank. It is not happening. That doesn't mean that the violations of Palestinian rights is acceptable. It's not. But I think that we have to be very careful about this use of language.
LAMB: Would Israel exist without the Holocaust?
MILLER: I think it would have existed without the Holocaust, and that's what disturbs me sometimes when American Jews, in particular, attempt to build up support for Israel by saying, "You must support Israel because there was a Holocaust." Israel would have happened because the Jewish people and the Jewish settlement movement was already very well organized by the time the Holocaust began to occur. What was affected, in my view, by the Holocaust, was the timing of the creation of the Jewish state. It happened earlier and it happened with international blessing because there had been a Holocaust, but that the Jewish people would have claimed their right to their own territory, I think would have happened eventually no matter what.
And if we accept the notion that you have to support Israel because there was a Holocaust, you're asking for trouble, because you can easily turn that phrase around, and say, "If there hadn't been a Holocaust, would we be supporting Israel?" I think Israel is something that should be supported on it's own right, something that should be criticized as it merits and as it warrants, when it warrants, and that the issue of the Holocaust should be separate from how we treat the Israelis today. The Israelis are democrats. They are freedom-loving democrats in an area in which democracy is a very precious commodity. Hardly any Arab governments are democratic. We have been allies, Israel and the United States, for a long time, and I think that we owe it to each other to speak frankly to one another, to each other, and not to rely on things like, "You must support us because there was a Holocaust." The Israelis don't do that, by the way, it's mostly some Jewish groups that feel strongly that that's a powerful arrow in the arsenal to build support for Israel. I'm very wary of using the Holocaust for any political purpose, no matter how worthy.
LAMB: How long have you been with the New York Times?
MILLER: I've been with them since 1977.
LAMB: And you were here in Washington for how long?
MILLER: I was in Washington for about ten years.
LAMB: The various jobs you had here?
LAMB: I mean, what were the various jobs, you were Deputy Bureau Chief at one time?
MILLER: Oh, yes, but that was far, far down the line. I started as, actually I started with the Progressive Magazine in the Midwest, as the Washington Bureau Chief. I was the Washington Bureau at that point. It sounds very grand. It was a mom and pop and I was both, operation out of my home, and then I worked part-time for National Public Radio. I free-lanced a great deal. I joined the New York Times to cover the Securities and Exchange Commission, then I was a Capitol Hill correspondent, which I enjoyed enormously. I covered international affairs from Washington. Then I was sent overseas to Cairo as the Cairo Bureau Chief, and then finally to Paris. Then I returned to Washington after that, when I began writing this book, based on my research in Europe, and elsewhere, and I returned as the Deputy Bureau Chief of the Washington Bureau. Now I'm in New York.
LAMB: And your job in New York?
MILLER: I'm in charge of media coverage. I'm the Deputy Media Editor, and with the editor, I map out our coverage of television, radio, publishing and the business and product of communications.
LAMB: Your last chapter before the conclusion chapter is about the United States. And, at the risk of overstating it, let me, after reading it, you talk about the Holocaust and how it's dealt with here in this country. And, tell me whether this fair. What you write is not a pretty picture about the tremendous conflicts among Jews in this country, whether you live on the West Coast in Los Angeles, or you live in New York, you live in Washington, and all the internecine, probably a bad word, warfare that goes on among different persuasions, about the Holocaust. Is that an accurate picture of what you wrote?
MILLER: Well, I'm interested that you found that not a pretty picture. I found it a very American picture. I found political wrangling and political strife and conflict very American. And people fighting for what they wanted, and the kind of commemoration they wanted, very democratic. I was not troubled by it. I was troubled by a couple of other things. I was troubled by what some Jewish critics have called an obsession about the Holocaust among some young American Jews. I think that many young American Jews are overly concentrated on the Holocaust. They know little of the richness of Jewish culture, of the medieval poets, of the literature, of the liturgy, of the religion itself.
All they know is that 6,000,000 died, and that tends to make some of them very paranoid about fellow Americans and about their own situation in America. I found that disheartening and I found it worrying, but you know what I found here, was that this is a country that did not have to adopt Holocaust remembrance as a national goal. It was not an American experience. We didn't do it. We weren't its principle targets, but we, as a nation, had decided to pay tribute to those who died and to commemorate their memory because we, as a nation, not Jews, but we as Americans, felt that this experience was so searing and so important that all of us should think about it and come to grips about it. And no other country has been willing to do that, and that's why I'm relatively proud of my country. I think that, where others shun this memory, where they want it to go away, we are confronting it. Now it is true that, because we didn't do it, it's easier for us to do that. We can do it with less shame, but nevertheless, we're trying and, as I said, Holocaust commemorations, as a matter of individual taste and what works and what doesn't, is a question of personal taste.
LAMB: Let me explain to you why I said not a pretty picture. You had Elie Weisel, who is involved in the Holocaust Museum here in Washington, who resigned over politics?
LAMB: Ah, you have the Rabbi Marvin Hyer, if that's the way you pronounce it, in Los Angeles, who some accuse of running a Holocaust, the Simon Weisenthal Center out there, calling it Disneyland, and media conscious, and all that stuff. You have another situation in New York, and you paint a picture of everybody ...
MILLER: Climbing onto the Holocaust bandwagon.
LAMB: Using it for personal reasons, raising money, using it for politics, and all that. That's what I meant by not a pretty picture.
MILLER: Yes. And, in that sense I would agree with you. I think the two dangers of our form of commemoration, that is the building of these museums and institutions, is that, one, we will overdo it, that is we would become over-focused on this event, and the second danger is that these institutions and memorials and museums, will become vulgarized. And, what I found, in my interviews, is that many, many American Jews, and non-Jewish Americans, were very concerned about what they viewed as the vulgarization of these memorials. The use of high technology to make you feel as if you were there. The Simon Weisenthal Center plans to use a lot of technology to make the visitor feel as if he is standing in front of the gates of Auschwitz.
Now this is very dramatic, and our country is, has a tendency to be kitschy and it has a, it's a smaltzy country, to use a good Yiddish word, it likes emotion, it likes high drama, and I think that sometimes, in using this kind of technology, we risk diminishing the dignity of the tribute that we hope to pay to those who died. For my personal taste, I think in Holocaust commemoration, the simpler, the better, but the American people will ultimately decide whether or not the Holocaust Museum in Washington is a good idea, and whether or not it's effective. I do think that it will be historically accurate and that initially was a concern that many people had, but I think only those who visit these centers will ultimately be able to draw a conclusion about their effectiveness and how dignified they are.
LAMB: The Holocaust Museum in Washington cost how much money?
MILLER: They are planning to spend $165,000,000 which is being used for the museum, $100,000,000 will be the price of the museum and $65,000,000 for operations, and basically some money to make sure that it continues to operate in the future.
LAMB: And, how much, I mean, why is the money being raised privately, and how much federal money went into the land itself?
MILLER: Well, it is federal land because this is a national project. It was begun under Jimmy Carter. He formed a panel of citizens, prominent Jews and non-Jews, but mostly Jewish people, to examine how this country should explore the past, how we should pay tribute to those who died, and this Presidential commission decided that a museum was the best way to do that. So, federal land was set aside quite near the nation's mall, the national mall near the, all of the monuments, and a museum is now being built on that space, but the, especially the Jewish members of the panel, didn't want federal money. They felt that since this was a project that was of priority mainly, not exclusively, but mainly, to the Jewish community, that Jews ought to pay for it, so they've raised money, largely from Jewish groups across the country, for this effort.
LAMB: When will the museum be finished?
MILLER: I think it's scheduled to open in the early '90's, I believe '93 is the target date.
LAMB: Peter Peterson, Elie Weisel. Tell that story.
MILLER: I think this is a story that illustrates the political tensions that were aroused by this project, and which very few journalists wanted to explore, it was interesting. Peter Peterson had been a Nazi. He was a fervent Nazi as a child. He was a member of the Hitler Youth, and later on he became an advisor to Chancellor Kohl of West Germany. He came to grips with what he had done and what he had felt, and he has struggled all of his life, he told me, to overcome what he feels is his country's historical obligation to be aware of it and to make others aware of it. When he learned that a Holocaust Museum was going to be built near the national mall, he became very concerned, and he asked Elie Weisel, who was then in charge of the project, if he could meet with him to discuss his concerns. Elie Weisel agreed to meet with him. They had long discussions.
I think that Elie Weisel became persuaded of his sincerity, and he invited Mr. Peterson, and other members of a group that they had formed, to explore together the issue of commemoration. He invited them to Holocaust commission meetings, that is the group that was meeting here in Washington to plan the museum and it's contents. He wanted very much to see that a museum would take account of the German contribution to Israel after the war, that is, I'm speaking of Peter Peterson. He wanted the museum to reflect the new Germany, the democratic Germany, the non-Hitler Germany, and he was willing and very eager to work with Elie Weisel, to assure that that would happen.
When Elie Weisel resigned from the panel, other members of this commission found out that Mr. Peterson and his colleagues had been invited to attend their meetings, and they were enraged, they were furious. Germans attending these meetings, how could Elie Weisel have done this to us, and they felt betrayed, and as a result, the new leadership of the museum and the commission, the council, which replaced the commission, have refused to meet with Peter Peterson, and have refused to accept any gifts in the museum from Germany. That is now official policy. It was one of these very painful episodes in which everyone felt abused. Everyone felt insulted. It was not a happy moment, but it was very typical of the tensions that marked the building, that have marked the building of this memorial.
LAMB: In Los Angeles, there was a conflict between two memorials, or two different organizations, over Simon Weisenthal, and you indicate that Rabbi Hyer paid money, on a monthly basis, to Simon Weisenthal to get his support, to get his name?
MILLER: Well, he denies that. Rabbi Hyer, I believe, has the purist of motives in wanting to build what he calls his museum of tolerance. He is the chief person, the mover, shaker, the builder of the Simon Weisenthal Center, which is building this museum of tolerance. But, in the beginning, Rabbi Hyer was a foreigner to Los Angeles, he was, he came from the East Coast, and he had been a rabbi in Canada. Meanwhile, in LA, a small group of survivors had been working with the Jewish Federation, which is the organized Jewish leadership in Los Angeles, and they had built a very small museum, which was actually in the federation offices, to take account of the tremendous Jewish suffering, and to pay tribute to the survivors.
They wanted to build a larger museum, but Rabbi Hyer came to Los Angeles with a great deal of money, which they did not have, and he came with a check for $500,000 essentially. He bought a large parcel of land and began to build his center. The fact that he was doing what they wanted to do and couldn't get support for, did not endear Rabbi Hyer to these people. So there was this struggle from the beginning between these two centers. The survivors group had asked Simon Weisenthal, who is the great Austrian Nazi hunter, to come to a dinner so that they could use his name to help raise money for their center. They did one dinner, he attended one dinner, and then in the, several years later they asked him, would he come again. By this time Rabbi Hyer had showed up, and had purchased his land. Simon Weisenthal agreed to come and attend their dinner, but then at the last minute he backed out. Now, what the survivors told me is that Rabbi Hyer had gone to Vienna to offer Mr. Weisenthal support for his center if Simon Weisenthal would lend his name to Rabbi Hyer's center instead of the survivors group.
Rabbi Hyer denies this. He says that no money was exchanged, that Simon Weisenthal simply approved of his efforts and his project, and that he was very skeptical that the survivors who were working with the federation would ever really get a museum together, so he chose to work with Rabbi Hyer. The fact of the matter is, there was an exchange of money, and I have asked Simon Weisenthal himself about this. He says there was no quid pro quo, but that he wanted to work with the group that seemed to be getting it's act together, so he chose Rabbi Hyer.
LAMB: Unfortunately, we're soon going to be out of time, and in the conclusions of this, I sensed that you were angry that not enough people want to deal with this problem, and want to, I'm not sure what I kept sensing, but I did sense that you were angry at the end. Let me ask you about that. Did you end this thing angry?
MILLER: I suppose I was angry, but I suppose I was also more impressed than I had been at the beginning of my book, by how extremely difficult it is to remember an event like this with any honesty. We are really all guilty. We either didn't do enough, or didn't say enough, and to this day, we stand by and watch people like Salman Rushdie be threatened without really raising a hue and cry. We stand by and watch Cambodians being slaughtered, and I suppose I began to think that another genocide was possible, because people hadn't really confronted the past. Now, simply confronting the past will not insure that such a genocide will not happen again, but not confronting the past removes the surest barrier we have against a recurrence of such gigantic cruelty, so at the end of the book I was very depressed about our prospects for doing that.
LAMB: The name of the book is "One, by One, by One" and the author is Judy Miller. And you can see here the cover. And she's been our guest for the past 60 minutes. Thank you for joining us.
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