tv Panel Discussion on World War II and the Holocaust CSPAN May 11, 2015 5:30am-6:51am EDT
everything that i knew about the film was contained in this title sequence and you see my grandmother here and join the a very exciting crossing in the ocean, my grandmother lived to be 96 years old and i knew her, but she never ever talked about her childhood were her travel. so i never heard anything about this story. sibley seanez together, tells me that this is something of historical importance. so i'm going to show you the film as you can gather three minutes shot in poland. speaking over it again in the interest of time. when i discovered the film all of the information that i had, i knew that it was poland.
but because i've never been able to speak with my grandparents i didn't know well and the information i was due for my father and my aunt turned out to be incorrect. here you can see the arrival of americans with a movie camera in 1938 and it was big news, especially with the younger generation. my grandfather and his traveling companion. and one of the things that were so meaningful about the film is how densely packed with information that is. as i began to search it wasn't always the faces that turned out to be the most important thing. faces are the choice we difficult to identify with so little documentation. but often it was the architecture were other details that were visible and captured
been an important film because it shows things that only phones can show for example the physical culture and the movement on the streets come in the way that people congregate. there is a lot of information shored of learning the identity. but when i saw the film the thing that was so profound to me was that film always captures a particular place on a particular day, and if we don't know what we are looking at, then it becomes extremely general and i have donated the original film to the holocaust museum in washington dc where it will be classed under prewar jewish life, which is not inaccurate but is general as to being relatively meaningless compared to the specificity to the detail that is available in this film.
and this is 1938. that is the entire film and all three minutes of it. in the brief time that i have, running through briefly what happened and as i mentioned the information that i received for my family turned out to be wrong and so i turn to our archival sources. as a result of this photograph your in israel on the left is a still from the film. you can see that it matched vertically with what is in the film which told me conclusively that this camera is happened to be where my grandfather is born. it is about 35 miles south of warsaw and is a small town, had about 4500 occupants of whom 3000 were jewish. and it was an important railway junction there and therefore on
the road to warsaw. it was occupied almost immediately and by september 4 it was in german hands. and this was annexed to the german rides and became part of germany. within three months on the third of december, 1939 the entire population was deported to two towns in central poland which became occupied poland. in 1942 they were sent to two blanca. of the 3000 jewish people in this town where my grandfather visited, fewer than 100 survived the war. and that was in 1945 and i began searching for people in 2009. and i searched unsuccessfully for 2.5 years until out of the blue one day in 2011 i received an e-mail from a woman in detroit who saw the film online
and this is her grandfather a 13-year-old boy he is here with his great grandson. this gentleman had been waiting his entire life to talk about this town. it was his information that sort of broke open the case and prior to that it had been impossible to connect with the names of people that i was able to gather and document what the faces of people and the film. but mr. chandler was able to identify people and with the names and information that he gave me, i was able to reach out. so here is a brief selection of his memory of the town.
>> we have these two people. >> the man in the white here we met. >> the man with the white bearded, i think that he was what they called [inaudible] everybody knew him by one name. his name was [inaudible name]. it was biblical. nobody knew where he lived back, but he was dressed just like that. [inaudible] [laughter] [inaudible] >> he led this very simple life and everybody talked about this
jewish version of sainthood. and he would come up and he would tell stories and so on. he was that type of a character. the shorter men. he was the one [inaudible] >> okay, so with information on this scale it became possible to recover. and with information, ultimately i interviewed seven survivors from this time and found family members from any of the others. the extraordinary thing is that
i was thinking of creating this memorial and what happened is we created a community of memory, not only the survivors but the family members of those that are no longer alive as well as family members of the people who have escaped in some other way or come to the u.s. or elsewhere. i collected documents and this strangely began to fit together. so in 2014 which was the anniversary of the deportation i invited this immunity to return to the town and more than 50 people accompanied me. this is outstanding where my grandfather's film to ways and i will disclose what the final story. one of the survivors here in the same school or he is a student a photograph shows his daughter
and husband here. when mr. chandler and i first met portions of the interview were placed online in this information was put on youtube and picked up by polish television. and it was broadcast on the evening news at the end of 2012. when he escaped from the warsaw ghetto, he ended up working on a harm and a polish woman was instrumental in obtaining a birth certificate and it certainly made this possible at that time. the daughter of that woman saw this broadcast on polish television. she is 89 years old and she also recognize mr. chandler as the boy her family have helped. and that woman's granddaughter, so the great granddaughter of the woman who owned the farm who helped him get there she said
yes, we remember him and when he left in order to go to hiding he left behind a stack of photographs of his family and we still have them. so we were able to return those photographs 73 years later to mr. chandler. that is just one example of the kinds of things that happen here this extraordinary journey. [applause] >> now we are going to hear from sarah wildman her book is transported. >> it is a great panel to be a part of here. glenn kurtz is a hard act to follow. we have a similar context both grandchildren of this generation and my story is a little bit
different but it also relies upon documentation and a search for eyewitness is. my story was that my grandfather had fled vienna and the fall of 1938. i had always been told that they had escaped with everyone, his mother, sister, nephew, brother-in-law and that that escape had been so wondrous and perfect so as to allow any other questions about it. i came to realize this is a child's view of the world. because the world of a child is the nuclear family. it made sense to me that they have escaped with everyone and i didn't have to think about that our worlds are not comprised of our parents or siblings but also our cousins and aunts and uncles and the people we sit next to the people that sell a spread. the world that we run around in.
a few years after he died i was in my grandparents house and my grandmother was living and i found an album that i had never seen before. in the back of that album was a folded note. in each quadrant was a selfie of a girl. she had a different expression and the caption for each. >> no call for me, no letter, maybe tomorrow. and it was dated may of 1939. i showed it to my grandmother and i had who is this. and she said oh it was your grandfather's true love. and she offered nothing further. and i didn't want to ask more. she wasn't well. i called my grandmother's sister who had escaped with my grandfather and she said her name, she had come along from czechoslovakia to study in vienna and selma with my grandfather immediately. and two years past and then he realized that he was in love
with her as well and he ran to tell her and they had a romance imprint of escape together, but something changed and he instead escaped with the people that i knew. his mother and sister, brother-in-law and his nephew and my great aunt wrote to me at the time she wrote me a letter by hand and she said to find out what happened, she was brilliant amazing. at the time i thought what were can i do with that. >> i had this note and in the album there were hundreds of images of this girl. each one was written signed on the back. they were wonderful pictures at a time which was much more carefree than anything i have associated with that. and i thought they don't know what we know we have so much knowledge that they don't have
and you want to warn them but you cannot. and it is this moment that is amazing to me but i had no back story. in the meantime i was reporting stories across europe about smaller pieces of this history. and so often many of us that know the story we think about kristol kristallnacht and i wanted to know what happened with all of those days in between. there is a restriction. what happened to regular people, people you don't read about leaders of the community. they didn't own something we were fighting over in court. select a time there was about three forgotten slave labor camps and those were tasked with redistributing all of the goods
imported from france, 76000 jews. and what had happened to them when they were deported the french moving companies would collect everything. and jewish slaves would be forced to push the goods into two groups. everything really usable, and then they would send them to the right to bomb victims. personal journals, school papers, they were told to burn them so that no one would remember those who have been sent away. this story haunted me and it haunted those that i interviewed. and there were still some survivors interviewed that had lived their lives almost unable to speak about having his final
moments of the people who had been sent. at the time they contacted me and said that there's an archive in western germany that had never been opened. and we would love to see if you can get it open. i didn't have that power. i wasn't able to move government, but two years later around 2008 we finally had agreements between 11 countries controlled by the international red cross. just before this i came across another discovery which made me even more keen to go. because this girl, this woman she had stayed with me even though i had nothing to go on. and around this time of visiting my parents and by then i had broken up my grandparents home, there you will notice my
grandfather. and in that was another box and i'm not even sure why i opened it, it was late at night and i couldn't sleep and it was hundreds of letters from this and tired exploded world. it was from all of those people that i had never thought about but i had never realized to look for and dozens were letters from half brothers and sisters and cousins and best friends and everyone that was trapped. so i thought maybe i can use these archives and maybe i can do it my great aunt had told me to do, maybe i can tell the story, what i tried to do was a layered approach that is personal. and they say it's the family
that he didn't choose for one reason or another. i go in search of what happened to her using her words as much as possible and she censored she goes back to czechoslovakia and then moves on to berlin. her letters show that she was not allowed to buy clothes or shoes by 1941. i layer it with what is happening in the state department and what is happening in this country and then i come to a point and i have to go into it later, i come to a stop because i learned so much. and then that she is working for the jewish german council of germany, she is working as much as possible, but she is not allowed to be called the doctor
[inaudible] she is shoved into a small ghetto apartment, 10 to 15 people per room. she is moving from place to place. she's constantly on the run. at the same time she's trying to find a way out. then her letter stops. the u.s. enters the war and then for a long time i thought i that i would never be able to find anything further. i had so much i couldn't find enough of. so throughout this process i came into contact with other searchers and also bystanders and perpetrators. a handful of those people have become historians now. it was one of them who said to me that you didn't go back to what you found at the archives, and i had originally gone i was hoping they had a life for her
in a file but that's not how any archives work and it had not offered me what i have looked for it. it was also something that i had not known to look for which is that no one else had come looking for her before me in the 1950s. this man all around him were these ss barracks, there was a former driving school which houses hundreds and thousands of requests, pieces of paper, every one of them is asking a question, have you seen my husband, mother, sister, brother. have you seen anyone from my town. i can't find anyone from my town. and so the request had not come from my grandfather coming it had come from sister of the man
that she married. for a long time i thought that i would never find her, but i finally put a classified advertisement in the survivor newsletter which is how people search after the war. i forgot about my advertisement. i happen to be there in the united kingdom in a few months and i got an e-mail my last night in town saying -- the searcher was my mother. i don't know if you are ever in london, but i think i have some answers for you. >> she leaves us hanging there. >> thank you sarah wildman. turning over to martin goldsmith. >> thank you to the annapolis
book festival for the imitation. i am of an older generation and i am part of this generation. my parents managed to escape to this country in 1941 as a result of their being members of an extraordinary organization and not the germany. a collection of jewish artists, musicians, actors. they gave performances strictly for jewish audiences and to perform at them you had to be jewish, and you also had to be jewish. i described all of that in my first book which i realize shortly after it was published that it was the first attempt that i was going to make to get in touch with this generation.
we share this need to connect with our families, many that were murdered during the holocaust. my grandfather and my uncle were two of the more than 900 passengers onboard which left them down for havana. the ship arrived safely only to discover power plays in the cuban government made it impossible for more than a handful of the 900 plus passengers on board to disembark. and for a couple of weeks it was front page news in american newspapers and it was not allowed the ship was forced
back to your and the deal was brokered where passengers can disembark in england or france or belgium or holland. but uncle disembarked in france amends for the next three years being sent from one french camp to another before being sent to their deaths in oslo to 1942. while they were in their last to know what addresses in the concentration camp in the france area, he managed to write letters to my mother and father who by then who had made it to the united states and were living in a smaller part of new york city. in the last letter that my grandfather wrote to my father, he wrote among other things i will describe to you the awful conditions we will be living in
france, this will be the last time, if you don't move heaven and earth to get us out of here, that's up to you but will be on your conscience. and his death at the age of 95 still riddled with lott and his younger brother and sister. >> it goes to our emotional inheritance, but there was this amends the silence that reigned in our house and i remember my brother once asking my father why can't we go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house at a skimming. our grandparents, our aunts and uncles, my father's aunt was that in just a few words they
died in the water. and he didn't want to get into all the details. so we had never known what had happened to our family as we were growing up. but we obviously inherited something that circulated. i realize i wanted to be able to reach back through the generation to touch the banished generation. so in 2000 and eight i completed this 20 month course of study that resulted in my becoming a bar mitzvah boy at age 55. but that was only the beginning. my father died 2009 at the age of 95 and my brother also died very suddenly of a heart attack. i was the last goldsmith standing and it became clear to me that i needed to find out
>> before they went to the south. and before that they'd been in the small town of monotaliban in the south of france. i learned it was the sister city of a town in oklahoma. i called up the city hall and asked to speak to the person who ran the sister city campaign. he directed me to a frenchman who lived in montalban. i e-mailed him, he wrote back. i learned that my grandfather and uncle had been held in the factory of a manufacturer of cookies and cakes for a month in 1940. and before that they had been in a small town in the northeastern part of france, an agricultural reeducation center, as it was called. so i finally had this itinerary. my grandfather and uncle had got off the boat the st. louis, in
the north part of france, and from there to montalban to agba to auschwitz. and that itinerary became as familiar to me as my telephone number. and late one night in the early months of 2011, it came to me what i had to do. i had to retrace their steps to follow in their footsteps to breathe the air that they had breathed before they breathed their last and to bear witness. so in the spring of 2011, i -- along with my wife -- followed in their footsteps. a journey of six weeks and 5700 miles by beginning in the small town where alex was born in 1879. i learned details about my great grandfather, moses and my great, great grandfather levi goldsmith. they had been the breeders and sellers of horses and did very
well for themselves. alex goldsmith my grandfather declined to join the family business. he started a women's clothing story in the city of oldenburg. he was arrested in 1938. he spent three weeks in a german concentration camp. he was then ordered to the country or face further arrest which led him to board the infamous ship, the st. louis. so my wife and i began our journey, went from there to oldenburg where my grandfather had his store and we met the people who now live in my grandfather's house, a beautiful house -- number 34 garden straussen. my grandfather bought the house many 19 -- [inaudible] nazis had won the state government several months before hitler became chancellor of germany. it was not deemed right for a
jew to own such a wonderful house, so my father -- my grandfather was forced to is sell the house for 26,000 americas about $10,500 u.s. dollars. so we visited the house and the people who own it now. they offered to put up a plaque in remembrance. that night i went to thinking, yes, we could do that, or i could give you 26,000 marks, and you could give me back my blanking house. [laughter] that obviously, was not a practical solution. so we went to hamburg from where the sailed. we drove across the low countries to metaphorically meet up with alex and helmut in bow loan ya. we saw the increasingly dire conditions under which they were living in these all these camps in france. and finishing up in auschwitz where we left photographs of my
grandfather. he was 63 at the time when he arrived in auschwitz. he was immediately gassed as he was declared too old for useful work. my uncle was taken to barracks number seven at auschwitz where he worked in a brick factory for two months before being transferred to a barracks, number 20, which was the barracks where all of these experiments were done on young jewish men. he died officially on october the 9 1942, of typhus, but it was very possible that he was injected with fee knoll directly into his heart as many young jewish men were executed in that way. helmut was 21 years old at the time. we then returned to this country. i began setting down the events in what became "alex's way," and then returned for the epilogue of the journey to oldenburg where a plaque was fixed to the side of my grandfather's house.
it reads in german "here the jewish businessman alex goldsmith and his son helmut, lived." "they lived here between 1919-1932." "alex and hell muth were murdered in auschwitz his daughter and wife were murdered in -- [inaudible] that was on the plaque put there by the architect and i affixed two lines in english from a poem i discovered from the writings of emily dickenson. remembrance has a rear and front, 'tis something like a house. and i realized at the opened of that journey -- at the end of that journey to a large degree the guilt and shame i'd been carrying through my life had largely vanished. so the journey in that respect was very, very fruitful for me. and i will stop there. >> thank you. [applause]
let me begin before we introduce eric lichtblau to tie this conversation up from another end. i just wanted to turn to the three of you. the first two presenters our generation's after the holocaust, second generation are sitting at this table and i'm curious, people were deeply affected by the holocaust if their parents were there relatives. they knew it, they grew up with it in the '40s and '50s. you grew up later. so i'm curious what this third generation, what you think you bring to the table with this third generation, with the third generation, i how it explores it differently, you know? there's a different connection. grandparents. this was 70 years ago. what does it mean for you now? how does the thirdration open our eyes -- generation open our eyes in kind of a different way? >> well, i think there's two --
well, it's mull my faceted -- multifaceted. one is, for me, i did grow up understanding that my presence on earth was accidental. >> uh-huh. >> but i didn't carry the same guilt in some ways i think that many second generation members of this community do. and so i was able to push into the bruise in a different way. i understood that my identity was shaped by this history and i constantly wondered about this idea of being an accidental american. as so many of us are. i mean, you can look at any refugee community or at any community. we're all in some ways an accidental american and in this case because of the apocalypse of the european 20th century, this had informed my life. but i was also connected to the geographies of it, and i was also keenly aware during the writing of this book i went through two pregnancies, so i was keeply aware of also -- keenly aware of also growing
literally, another generation who will not know these people, and i did. i had this immediate personal connection, but i'm also very conscious of the transition from memory to history and what will i do and how will i pass this on. and i went on a similar geographic journey that was layered in some way. but i came across -- there's so many different pieces to this, but there's a part where i go into some of the other people of that box of letters and these half siblings and these cousins and these other people who didn't come, and i track down the son of a niece of my grandfather who writes to him this brutal letter similar to your grandfather's letter which says "have you forgotten us?" "do you know what we've gone through, we have nothing to eat." it's actually '41, they're still in vienna. and i was able with less guilt and more of a sense of wanting to commemorate the experience i suppose, and at the same time preserve the horror so that we
have -- in some ways it's been this funny balance between trying to understand how to pass this on without trauma, without guilt, but with honoring what they went through. and i track down her son, this niece's son and this letter says she has lost everyone. she's lost her parents, her husband, her oldest, and then the son says to me, but i don't understand. she and your grandfather were so close in the '50s. and i don't think you understand because he was born in 1950, and i was born in the '70s and he says you were born so long after this war it's so easy for you to ask these questions. i was -- in my house and i think similar, it was literally unspook bl. we did not -- unspeakable. we did not speak of this. we did not speak of it, we were not to speak of it, and it is easy for you. and so for me it was this kind of question of it's not easy, per se, because i have struggled with this too in reading about
so much trauma, and i was talking about this with glenn last night that there's nothing that has shown me the privilege of my own life than working on this book and the amazingness of having been born, as someone said in a review of my book, the great good fortune of having been born too late. but at the same time this consciousness about the passage of memory to history and how will we keep the immediacy and authenticity of these stories going forward and learn from them still and honor those who came before us? sorry, that's very long. >> no, that's good. >> well, no, i agree with everything that you've said. i have a couple of differences. i'm not the child of survivors. my grandparents came in the 1890s, so i'm a child of immigrants, like most americans. and so there was another remove for me when i undertook this. and one of the strange things about the story is because so many of my family members came over in the late 19th century, i
didn't -- in the end -- learn very much about my family that remained in poland. although there was family there i wasn't able access that information. that information has now simply gone. and so that sorted of leads into -- sort of leads into the other thing i wanted to say. sarah and i were born into a world in which the holocaust had happened. and i think previous generations, certainly the generation that experienced it, were born into a world where it was literally unimaginable, and they had to accept over course of their subsequent lives that it had happened. but for me starting hebrew school when i was 7 years old, i was being shown the pictures of the camps, which is a horrible horrible inheritance, certainly at that age. and so when i address this question, i think that what i felt was not this built but rather a sense of responsibility. and when i began speaking with survivors, people who were in my grandfather's film or who came
from this town what i realized is when i watched this film, i saw imagings. i saw the people who were in the film. but when they watched the film, they -- the film was in a sense almost ephemeral to them. what they saw was the town in their memory. and that's incommunicable. as much as i gathered stories from them they couldn't describe to me fully it's impossible the describe fully what they had lived with the world that they had lived in. and what i realize is that we as people who live in the generation which will be this bridge between experience, lived experience lived memory and history, we will live in a world where there aren't holocaust survivors anymore. what we will experience, of course, in some sense is the passing of the responsibility to tell that story. but we also experienced what to me became one of the most point i can't things chg what i call this loss of the sense of loss, this fragment that remains is
three minutes of one day in an 800-year history of the jews in poland. but because it exists, we can look at it, we can point to it. we think that's what prewar jewish life was like. but the people who remember it see something much broader. and when they see the film, they feel the loss of everything that around this fragment. but we, in a sense, feel sort of glad that we have this fragment. and the fragment becomes for us everything whereas for them it's this almost, you know, almost immaterial and unimportant ephemeral just blink of an eye. so i think that the thing that we bring is this consciousness -- which may be sort of the last generation to have this consciousness -- that the vast personal loss that
surrounds every story and every artifact is something that we can still feel and interact with people who feel it. but i think subsequent generations won't feel that. it's like when you go to the museum and you see a greek vase and, you know, you don't feel, ugh, the heart ache of the entire culture that made that possible and the people who used it every day. you say wow, how great, we have a vase. and i think the same thing will happen with this film. we'll think, how great, we have a film. and it is great that we have the film, but we won't feel the enormity of what surrounds it that is just unrecoverable that we'll never know about. >> well, i'm going to turn to eric here and come back to all of us. i think -- and as we do this, i'm thinking about both of you you used this word, martin, and you two used the word in your presentation a fragment. and that's what we have. but what you all do is take
these fragments and create a whole story from it that gives us something to look to beyond this moment. so you do preserve it, you know? >> can i respond to that? >> i'm going to get to eric here and let martin jump in. very quickly. >> well quickly. yes, what we discovered are fragments. and the extraordinary thing is before we began our search of these fragments they all existed. they were isolated fragments. and i think all of us experienced that we can't change the fact that they're fragments, but we can change the fact that they're isolated. and each of our stories bringings together fragments -- brings together fragments in order to piece together something. it's not a whole, it's just larger pieces of the story. >> before we come back to martin which i'll do in just a minute, i just want to bring eric into the conversation, eric lichtblau, "the nasties next
door." -- nazis next door." i'd like you to pick up on the theme in the sense of describing your book. but the idea that we have these stories about what happened in this period, and yet there's another piece to the story that you and others have brought in, and you've given more depth to it with your book about the role our country played that we are frightened to talk about sometimes that could care less about these fragments. >> sure. yeah my book like that of our panelists is one of discovery but not so much family discovery, more sort of journalistic discovery as a reporter in washington. i first got on to the subject which is a bit off the beaten path for me when i got a tip about a secret internal history that the justice department had prepared into the relationship that the u.s. government had over the years with a number of nazis living in the united states. and the efforts beginning only in the 1970s and 1980s to identify and prosecute nazis in the united states.
and speaking of sort of fragmentary views, i thought i had an understanding of this story before i got this tip, before i started looking for this internal history of the nazis in america. i thought i had a vague idea that some nazis a limited number had gotten into the united states. there had been scientists, westerner van brown -- van brawn, kind of nazis in name only. my understanding was not only grant tear, but -- fragmentary but completely off. it was a way to try and understand how it was that this untold postwar history in america had been so covered up. how it was that not just a small number of nazis, but thousands of nazis had gotten into america after the war, even after we had defeated the germans. how the cia, the fbi, the pentagon as well had used known nazis and nazi collaborators as
cold war spies scientists and others. these were men who were involved in the worst of the -- [inaudible] yet they were living in alabama and texas and san diego. how was it that the united states had been so indifferent to this problem? how were they allowed to live basically with impunity, for years, for the better part of 30 years after the war until the country sort of woke up to the fact that there were nazis living in america. and how was it that all of this had happened in the aftermath of the worst genocide in world history, the worst but unfortunately not the last genocide. so my book was one of discovery and trying to answer these questions. and i spent many weeks and months at the national archives outside washington looking at war crime files from the cia from the pentagon from other agencies. i did a fellowship at the holocaust museum and spent many, many hours looking at the postwar records not only of survivors, but of nazis themselves who made it into
america. and i think the bottom line answer was that it was indifference. this was allowed to happen basically because of moral indifference. and this tie into the theme that this was sort of an untold story. the holocaust was verboten to be discuss inside jewish households in america. in the 1950s and '60s, there was not this coppsness that we have now in -- coppsness that we have now. and it was really only in the 1970s if you look at the history that the world, certainly america, began to walk up to just what had -- wake up to just what had happened in the years from 1933 through 1945. there was an abc, a powerful mini series on the holocaust. this was of sort of the golden age of mini serious. you remember "roots." holocaust was quite so popular but it opened up a lot of eyes to what had happened. this became the first
introduction to a lot of americans to what had happened at that point 30 years earlier. i remember being in hebrew school at age 10 or 11 and seeing in the 1970s the pictures of those camps. and it was at this same time that the media began writing about nazis in america. there had been scattered reports in the 1950s of known nazi collaborators living in the united states, but they were for the most part ignored. if they got any attention at all, it was sort of brushed aside as a nonissue. i write in my book about a left-leaning journalist in the 1960s writing an incredible expose of nazis living in chicago, in brooklyn and los angeles. he was not only ignored for the most part by other media and political firs but he was -- figures, but he was actually wiretapped by the fbi. j. edgar hoover tagged him a communist. so it wasn't until the late
1970s when congress began holding hearings that, excuse me that america at large began waking up to the fact that there were not only hundreds, but thousands of nazis who had gotten into america with incredible ease after the war. and the justice department was forced to create a whole new office, the office of special investigations to begin investigating nazi figures and deporting them. in my view, it was a horrible case of too little too late. they did yeoman's work in trying to identify 35 years later when the trail of evidence had gone cold nazis living in the united states. but you're left to wonder what would have happened if we had put that same sort of effort into identifying them in 1946 or better yet if we hadn't allowed the nazis into the country to begin with. >>ing so let me -- i'm going to turn to martin here. people have ideas, i want to ask you to line up now and start thinking about your questions and we'll come to you in a few
minutes. if you have thoughts, ideas questions in a pithy manner, go up to a mic, and we'll have you up here. i want to sort of tie these together. because this, to me, when i read these four books, one thing that hit me was that you can look at this question, this question that people have, survivors children, communities of guilt, of what's passed down because of what happened. people did and did not do. but when you lace that in with what governments did do and didn't do, whether it was not allowing people off the st. louis, letting -- acquiescing for political reasons you can agree or disagree with of why people were not let into this country before the holocaust began. and then later allowing nazis to come in, develop our space program and more in the book. if you read the book the nazi next door, you see that j. edgar
hoover and dulles were in the middle of hiding their secret and producting these nazis who -- protecting these nazis who did to the families we're talking about here. so think about how that fits together. what does that story say in all these fragments to who we're talking to here? the next generation? what does it say to us? martin? >> well i want to get back to the discussion of our generations and how all of -- >> okay. >> -- what happened 70 years ago, how it affects us. i managed to find a community and every month about eight or ten of us second generation people get together. and it's really wonderful. we have this vocabulary that we don't have to explain. we know what it means to be sons and daughters of holocaust survivors. and at one of our first meetings, one of our members mentioned her memory of being 7 years old and riding her bicycle through the neighborhood and falling off a bicycle and
skinning her knee really badly. she was bleeding excessively and she knew even at age 7 she recalls today she knew she had no right to go home and cry to her mother. she had intuited the knowledge that something so terrible had happened to her parents and grandparents that a skipped knee paled in comparison. so she knew at age 7 to sneak home, sneak into the bathroom, clean up her own knee and say nothing to her parents. there was that level of acknowledgment on the one hand and gullet on the other. and guilt on the other. and the fragments we were talking about earlier on my six week 5700-mile journey i had so little knowledge of my grandfather and my uncle. it was always a very joyful and sorrowful journey in that each little bit of -- each fragment that we managed to discover --
cards that had been filled out at these camps with the name of my grandfather and their uncle and their professions ages and so on, it was so exciting to discover these little fragments and at the same time sorrowful to realize that, where this journey was leading them. i discovered the barracks in the where they lived for six months. it's now crumbling. they were going to open it up as a memorial museum. i scratched a little graphito on the wall of the barracks because it was so powerful to be where they had been, and yet they had gone on. as to the, you know, the responsibility of the government i mean, it is true that the roosevelt administration could have allowed the st. louis to leave -- to drop anchor and have the passengers disembark in miami, and yet there were political reasons and legal reasons and social reasons
including the fact that the united states was a fairly anti-semitic country in 1938 and 1939. that was the era of restricted hotels and restricted country clubs. so in many ways, as a country and certainly as a government, there was a great deal of responsibility to go around. >> i'll take -- >> yeah. >> i'll take this too. there are two thoughts i had -- many thoughts. i slightly misspoke earlier about cousin -- the nice that wrote, i mailed two letters. the first letter was from her father, my grandfather's half brother writing asking for help, asking if they've been abandoned and after war she writes that she's lost everyone, including that father. and at the holocaust museum i was able to discover that, in fact he could have left with only one of his children, and he had decided he couldn't do that. and it was because of certain rules around -- they were going to go to palestine.
and likewise for valle, this woman in my book she -- the summer of 1942, all of a sudden finally all of her papers are in order. she has an affidavit her visa -- i mean, her porter number has come due, it seems they're about to get a visa, and all she needs at that point is passage on a ship. and she writes to my grandfather that the ship line is sold out until february of 1942, and he look into other ships. and what i did and what i think what's important about looking at this both from a kind of top-down government perspective and from a bottom-up kind of individual perspective is that that summer the internal correspondence of the state department had decided that the united states was full that they would not open any additional seats on ships and that, in fact anyone who might leave behind a primary family member like her mother would be deemed a potential fifth qol nist and therefore, should be turned away for that alone.
in 2007, i think around then letters from otto frank the father of anne, to nathan strauss, the heir of the macy's department store fortune showed that he too was caught in this same moment. you couldn't leave any family members behind the state department had decided there was no more space. so i think it's important to understand that correspondence then matched up with what eric worked on in later years. ways in which we decided who's allowed to come to this country and who's not. and honestly, i think if we take a bigger step back and think about current immigration policy how it affected them then, how it affects us now i think these things are worse in a broader historical perspective and that these small, individual stories allow us a tactile relationship to what it meant to a specific family to have the state department decide we will not give you a place on a ship and what that means and that that is, you know, a fatal
decision, that that affects an entire world of people. that state department decision has a direct impact on an entire world of people or in this case, you know, in your immediate family. whatever it is, i think that now if we can take that step and look at it from both of these perspectives, it gives us the sort of individual lens to history at a time -- and again as glenn was talking about, we are losing the immediacy, the i authenticity of sitting with, and i grew up i sat with people at my dinner table who had been on kippedder transport who had been sent out of austria alone without parents and never saw those people again. ..
turns out was a individual that saw them as locusts and he wrote about this in his journal. they were living in the most decrepit conditions and the united states was not open because members of congress were unwilling to take in jews because they looked at them is entitled people. so these collaborators were made able to make it into america because we opened up this in eastern europe immediately after the war. and that includes those in other countries before they got in
many among them were top collaborators and that is how the story of the man in massachusetts during the war he had rounded up a 5000 jews and led them let them to their deaths. those are the type of people because of the anti-semitism in the cold war policy after the war. >> we heard from the third-generation in the second generation. we may want to hear from others as well. and so i want to thank you for keeping this alive.
[applause] >> we are going to our next family. okay. please go ahead. >> from our perspective it seems as though we are the second and third generation to have a sense of catharsis and that is very healthy for all of us. however, around the world, there seems to be a perception that this memory track produces a self-indulgent exercise and in fact there is some denial and eight need to deny what has happened because the memories are not pleasant. so how do you react to this bipolarity and the need of those
to remember and the need of those to forget. >> please go ahead. >> one of the things that i have been asked frequently when i talk about this with what kind of perception we received when we arrived there. almost everybody out there apologized. 99% of the town was born postwar and i wonder about that i want to say that there are different ways of needing to remember and i think that that is another distance between the generation that survived the holocaust and their children. i think that the intensity of
that need for apology may diminish in some sense and i think that we have talked about this, that we have enough distance and not allow the anger to overwhelm our capacity and listen and try to understand their perspective. so i think that there is a differentiation that needs to be made from our side about how we understand what it means to remember and that we some way close office meaningful change and especially with meaningful opinion. the second thing i want to say is that justice eric spoke about this moral indifference to allow the perpetrators after the war to come to the united states, i think that now we experience a historical indifference among
the entire world which to some extent is motivated by the fact that these memories are unpleasant. but more so the fact that people don't know about it, it happened so long ago. and that is something that all of us by doing work that we have done have been a part of this. that's one reason we are meeting with high school students there. and even now there are children survivors that are trying to get more than just apologies but they are trying to get this and there were those that were trying to get insurance policies
and damages against train makers and etc. there are people that are saying that we can't be going after monetary damages after such a horrific event. and why should the defendants of them, they say, be partnering. so these are difficult issues. >> i wanted to mention this. >> during his time there were always between seven and 12 of the population and the last of the jews were rounded up in
1942. yet we'd we discovered that the name of the primary school, it is the philipson school, and she was a little jewish girl that was 12 years old when she was found with her family to the east. and we wonder why did it decide to david's only school after this martyred girl. and it is a teacher named rita and i asked her why she said that it has fallen to our generation of germans to try to do what we can to make up for the previous generation and what they did so terribly. and so many of them were sent to
auschwitz. in august of 1942. we met a woman that was born in my father's hometown. her father was a member of the not see party and she knew nothing about the history until she had read my first book and she wanted to help my journey and she took me to the memorial. she embrace me and began to cry and apologize, she had nothing to apologize for, but i learned by attending an organization called one by one, bringing together children of nazis and survivors, we grew up with silence and guilt and shame. so there is sometimes it can
make whole what can never be made whole it is comforting to realize that on both sides of this divide we have a great deal in common more than we may imagine. >> go ahead, sir. >> i'm guessing that some of you have encountered not the children of the nazis, the people that are doing these truly evil things and what those experiences were like. that they had these next-door, wherever they were, how do they actually respond other than trying to brush things off.
>> i interviewed several surviving nazis and they were you know 21 22 the more senior ones that had died in the past 20 or 25 years, they would've been of the older generation. the surviving nazis for the most part deny that they had any complicity in that they were forced to do what they had to do and that is the standard line. and i talked to many who are now in their 50s and 60s living around the united states. and they were also in in denial about what their fathers had done, that they had been the victims of wrongful allegations and in some places they were going to be a part of this.
concentration camps we have been thinking about who we are and where we are going as people. what this teaches us now we have the fourth-generation. we have a perspective of other human beings and where we are. >> that is heavy. well i do think that there is a balance between wanting to preserve a direct line toward understanding what the specific history was and what it means for us and i don't want to lose that in a greater context. so i want to put that out there to begin with. we are translating it in
preserving it. but i think that understanding the lessons of it in as multifaceted always possible, understanding it the defendants and victims as well as the bystanders and perpetrators it's a very important and give us tools about what has happened cents. and for me i ran into third generation descendents and there was one man who was a descendent of a transmitter at he told me he felt that he owed it to his family. and [inaudible]
honestly there is a great deal taking place right now. but i also think that we have to think about the ways in which we see people and conflicts also seen as a problem to be solved, if you look at europe and the united states as well almost a thousand people died in the mediterranean trying to reach europe that are no less devastating for those families and i think that it is important to think about and i think it's very difficult, we don't have a perfect answer off the top of our head, how we apply this to the smaller and aggressions taking place around the world that happened before. but at the same time i think that we need to recognize that
this will have an impact going onward and that these traumas are absorbed by subsequent generations that we need to recognize. >> staying right here sarah wildman, author of "paper love", next to her, "the nazis next door", the author is eric lichtblau emma and then we have "alex's wake" glenn kurtz. we want to thank you for being here at the book festival today and we want to thank you for joining us and for putting us on air for the nation to see. thank you all for coming out today. we encourage you to follow the activity for the sales and signing and we thank you all so