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tv   2016 J. Anthony Lukas Prize  CSPAN  May 22, 2016 1:30pm-3:01pm EDT

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[inaudible conversations] >> good evening. i'm the curator of the nieman foundation for journalism here at harvard, and it is such a pleasure to welcome you all to harvard and to litman house for tonight's presentation of the j. anthony lukas prize project awards which honor the best in nonfiction american book writing. the winners' work exemplifies literary grace and commitment to serious research and social concern that carried, that characterize the award's namesake.
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in celebrating tonight's gifted winners, we remember pulitzer prize-winning author and journalist j. antiny lieu cuts -- anthony anthony lukas wi first met when i was a nieman fellow. and the late mark linton, a history enthusiast and senior executive at the firm hunter douglas in the netherlands. linton's wife marian and children established the mark linton history prize and have generously sponsored the lukas prize since its creation. we are honored to have mark's daughter lily with us. welcome, lily. [applause] other board members here are chairman jonathan alter who you'll hear more from later tonight, danielle allen, shea earhart, phil plus brand, tony
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lucas' wife and abby wright. it's all great to the see you -- it's so great to see you again. time consuming, guaranteed to secure you the approval of a few who win and nothing from those who don't. [laughter] we had a record number of entries this year, and on behalf of the prides board, i want to acknowledge -- the prize board, i want to acknowledge special gratitude to all of our jurors, including those with us tonight, mark and william. thank you so much. [applause] and thank you, also, to nieman's samantha hen rhode island, christine -- henry, christine kay for smoothly engineering the entire evening. when author ask journalist tony lukas started a writing career that would distinguish him as one of the country's master storytellers, it was here at harvard while still an
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undergraduate reporter at the harvard crimson. he returned to campus as a nieman fellow in the class of 19 of 9. he won two pulitzer prizes, the first in 1968 for a new york times story headlining how the two worlds of linda fitzpatrick which was an investigative piece about a connecticut teenager whose wealthy family had no knowledge of her drug-ridden life in the east village until he and her boyfriend were found beatennen -- she and her boyfriend were found beaten to death. his second came 18 years later for common ground, turbulent decade in the lives of three american families. his landmark work about school desegregation and busing in boston. it is hard to overstate the power of that book which holds a place of distinction in our library here. for many journalists i know, common ground has long served as a standard bearer for deeply
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reported long form narrative, and it is a rare year that i do not hear a fellow name it as one of the books that had the most profound impact on them in their development as a writer. one of lukas' great gifts, i think, was his ability to pair the common with the combustible. there is always a fine tension running beneath the most mundane moments, and i think that writing must well characterize what it would have been like to be in boston during that period. and if you'll indulge me, i just wanted to read something that i think exemplifies that. in the book it's chapter, the beginning of chapter 24 called "the editor." the lobster shift was a lonely one for the guard manning the marble lobby of the boston globe. in the dismal hours between midnight and dawn, few employees came in or out. the phone on the reception desk stopped ringing. the only sound was the thump and
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swish of the giant presses. john mcauliffe would fortify himself with muddy coffee while he waited for the freshly-printed paper to come up from the loading dock. when the first edition arrive 3 on the morning of october 7, 1974, he turned to the sports section. pleased to see that the patriots had butchered the baltimore colts 42-3 -- [laughter] but the ink on the page was still wet, and a black smudge came off on his fingers. he was reaching for a towel when he heard the first shot. dropping to his knees behinding the desk, he could see the bullet hole, round and dark as a copper penny, drilled through the plate glass windows. then he heard another volley crash into the press room. at the newspaper's north entrance, guard richard cushing watched a beige sedan parked by the median strip of morrissey boulevard.
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a man clamored out, rested a rifle on the hood and pumped several more shots into the building. then the door slammed, and the car fishtailed up the boulevard. when the misarrived at -- police arrived at 12:47 a.m., they found three holes in the press room window and a fourth slug lodged in the lobby. a few inches away from where john mcauliffe had been reading his newspaper. yeah. tony published five important books, each an examination of a critical rift in america's social and political landscape. each seen through the lens of individuals caught up in the tides of change. he was a journalist of extraordinary depth and intensity with an almost prier the natural focus on -- preternatural common ago. his fist choice, he determined,
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was not working dramatically -- first choice. he was absolutely brilliant. he took journalism to a high intellectual level, yet he also had the dog cannedness of an old-fashioned police reporter. the year following his death his widow joined with friends and colleagues to honor his memory by creating the ling ukas prize project. we thank linda and our partners at the columbia journalism school for these awards which we embrace as a way to showcase exceptional narrative work and remember an esteemed nieman fellow. i'd now like to invite jonathan alter to join me in giving the awards. jonathan is author of several best-selling political books, and he will, after the awards, moderate the discussion with the winning writers tonight. jonathan? [applause]
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the j. anthony lucas book prize is presented to a book-length work of narrative nonfiction on a topic of american social or political concern that exemplifies literary grace, commitment to serious research and social responsibility that characterize the distinguished work of tony. this year's winner is author and theater director susan southard for her book, "nagasaki: life after nuclear war." the book was also a finalist in 2012. super, could you join us? [applause] susan, could you join us? [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> the judges' citation reads: susan's nagasaki life after nuclear war will upset you. with lean and powerful prose, she describes the inscribe bl,
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taking the reader almost minute by minute through the bombing of nagasaki and the aftermath. with thorough, careful research she exposes a half century of lies and half-truths about the reasons for the bombing and the results. even denying that radiation poisoning was real. 70 years later, following the lives of survivors, she reaches the final chapter and at last tells the complete story without diatribes or polemics. she leaves the realizer with a resolve that disturb -- reader with such a resolve that such a thing must never happen again. congratulations. >> thank you. [applause] >> this year's finalists for the j. anthony lukas prize is dale rough cough. [applause]
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the judges write that dale powerfully exposes how good intentions go terribly awry after mark zuckerberg and his wife pledge $100 million to newark's distressed schools. her engrossing account in the convergence of celebrity politicians, a billionaire philanthropist and an economically deprived community and students and teachers struggling with urban poverty is both a sering portrait of the enormous challenges of saving our schools and a masterly work of investigative reporting. congratulations. [applause] the mark linton history prize is awarded annually to a work of history on any subject that best combines intellectual distinction with felicity of expression. this year's winner is professor nicholas washman for --
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[inaudible] a history of the nazi concentration camps. he is a professor of modern history in london. will he please join us? [applause] the judges' citation reads a definitive account of a diabolical institution that evolved and expanded as the nazis' immediate objectives changed. drawing on archives in virtually every country occupied by the third reich as well as germany itself, washman challenges the popular image of the concentration camp and the holocaust as one and same. in 1933 the purpose was intimidation, not killing, and it was 1943 before the concentration camp became an integral part of the final solution. most of the jews murdered by the nazis never became inmates because they were either shot elsewhere or sent straight to
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gas chambers. the majority of prisoners who perished in a concentration camp from communists' incurable and gays to conquered poles and soviet p.o.w.s were not jews. the author's greatest achievement is to make the inconceivable palpable, drawing on thousands of nazi records and first-person accounts. he lets the victims and sometimes the victimizers describe this their own words scene after scene of insufferable suffering. rarely has anyone combined history from above with history from below to such powerful effect. congratulations. [applause] this year's finalist for the mark lipton list -- linton history prize is a professor at yale university. he couldn't be with us tonight, but i share the judges' citation
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which reads: in this bold, provocative new approach to the holocaust, timothy snyder takes the focus off death camps like auschwitz to explore the germans' lesser-known, earlier mass murder of millions of jews in occupied poland and the soviet union. by doing so, he brilliantly illustrates how germans' wholesale destruction of political, legal and social institutions in these areas facilitated the killing of virtually their entire jewish populations. by contrast, in german-occupied countries that retain their statehood, many, if not most, jews survived. snyder's powerful argument that destroying or lessening the role of government institutions opens the door to chaos and violence have profound, unsettling ramifications for our time. congratulations to him. [applause] and finally, the j. anthony lukas work in progress award is given to help with the
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completion of a significant work of nonfiction on a topic of american political or social concern. steve luxembourg, who is an editor on leave from "the washington post," has won the $30,000 prize for his work "separate: a story of race, ambition and the battle that brought legal segregation to america." steve? [applause] the judges wrote: "separate "is the little known story behind plessy v. ferguson, the infamous supreme court case that made separate but equal the law of the land and gave judicial cover to a half century of racial discrimination. generations of scholars have studied the ruling that upheld in 1890 louisiana law that mandated separate railroad cars for whites and coloreds. steve's sewer woven narrative -- interwoven narrative takes the story in a new direction, providing illuminating answers
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to fundamental questions; how did it happen, what was it about the time that explains plessy, who were the players in this landmark case, why did homer plessy, a fair-skinned creole from new orleans, enter a whites-only railroad car to he could be arrested as plan? how could a court with seven northern justices come to such an unjust decision? how could separate ever be thought equal? steve finds answers by looking long and hard at the lives and beliefs of those swept up in this landmark case beginning with justice henry billings who wrote the majority opinion, justice john marshall harlan, one of two southerners on the court, and white civil rights advocate who designed the legal strategy for plessy. their story and the participants played by -- parts played by a large supporting class are replete with ironies and unintended consequences. this is big history, deeply
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researched and well told. congratulations. [applause] and the finalist for the work in progress award is journalist -- [inaudible] an editor at lance armstrong for the fiscal times -- large for the fiscal times or for her work, "the new wild west." the judges wrote: blair's firsthand account of the impact of the fracking boom on a small midwestern town is good, old-fashioned journalism at its best, hard-hitting and unblinking. embedded in oil country for months at a time, she reports on the transformation of the town, its native american neighbors and the landscape. on the farmers who watched fields they'd worked for generations plowed up, on the thousands of workers, mostly men, holed up in dismal camps. she documents the lawlessness, the prostitution and the violence toward women that followed in their wake.
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it's a 21st century reenactment of a story that was all too familiar to 19th century america, and she is doing the nation a service by telling it like it is. they end by saying: she needs to finish the job. no pressure. [laughter] congratulations. [applause] >> thanks so much, anne marie. that was, you know, we really -- nobody can accuse the lukas linton prizes of giving our awards to catbooks or -- [laughter] cat books or, you know, something of that kind. [laughter] we have very cheery subject matter -- [laughter] jim crow segregation, mag sake and concentration -- nagasaki and concentration camps. it's hard to imagine any more
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important or more in need of the kind of illuminationing and just astonishing capacity to synthesize and to shed light on very complex subjects as we have represented today. so what i'm going to do is talk for a little bit to each author and then ask them some questions about things they have in common, and then we're going to open it up to you. but i hope we're going to be able to take people into the process of writing these books. there's a lot of places where, you know, authors can go and talk about what's in their books, but how they did it is part of what i hope we can talk about a little bit today. and we're going to start with steve luxembourg.
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the work in progress be award is really central -- progress award is really central to what this foundation is dedicated to. nurturing the life of nonfiction in our culture without narrative nonfiction, you know, it's very hard for, i think, any of us to understand how we're going to not just understand history, but also understand current problems. so that's what we're about. and anybody out there who wants to support this mission, that's my pitch. [laughter] now, steve, you went -- to give an example of why this took longer than you anticipated, and my understanding is you anticipated your book to be completed two years ago, right? [inaudible conversations] >> talking to my editor? >> this is important. [laughter] this is important because the
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reason that it took to long, as i understand it -- >> because i'm slow? >> no. [laughter] what i understand is that you actually chose a topic where you willfully, you know, disobeyed the commands of an editor about what the nature of your topic should be. explain. >> well, it wasn't my editor. i would never diss my own editor. but a previous editor had said to me never choose an arc of history that lasts 70 years, because all you're doing is making yourself responsible for understanding so many different eras this american history that you'll never be able to finish it. i thought, i can do it. [laughter] but it makes it very difficult, because i'm hardly an expert in one era of american history. to be an expert in all of those eras is an impossible challenge, and so you have to separate out what you, what avenues you want to go down and what roads you don't want to go down.
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unfortunately, i seem to choose too many roads. >> well, not unfortunately because, you know, the book -- which is mostly complete now -- integrates those eras from the 1850s and 20th century quite brilliantly. but, you know, the question at the center of it all is why was this particular supreme court case so significant. >> well, i felt it was -- it wasn't an untold story, and i basically look at subtitles like that and reject them because publishers like them and authors cringe at them. somebody has told the story in some way. i like to think of david mccullough's essay to his second book about the brooklyn bridge, and he tells the story in the essay about how he chose the topic. and he rushed off to the new york public library after having the idea after a lunch with an architect and engineer, and he looked up in the card catalog in the pre-internet days, and he
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only found 100 other books about the brooklyn bridge. [laughter] but none were the book he wanted to write. nobody seems to have told the story from the narrative nonfiction point of view which is the one thing i think i have some talent at. and i wrote to a couple of professors to ask them about this before i launched on it five years ago. and i was gratified to learn that he, too, agreed after talking to another group of historians that while the story's been told from a legal point of view, from a constitutional history point of view, it hasn't been told from the very human point of view that i wanted to tell it from. and i, some of my characters have had biographies written about them, but at least two have have not. and so i feel like i'm bringing that kind of illumination to their lives. and i'm interested as the citation said in the ironies and the contradictions. the justice who wrote the decision came from a kind of abolitionist neck of the woods when he grew up, and he ends up writing the decision that is now reviled.
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>> well, he was -- justice brown was from massachusetts. >> he was from massachusetts, he was raised in connecticut. he had quite a liberal upbringing, if you will. a word that wasn't really used back then. justice harlan, on the other hand, was the only southerner on the court who owned slaves in his lifetime. he inherited some during the civil war from his father who had just died, and yet he ends up writing the decision -- i'm sorry, the dissent, that is now praised. how does that occur. and those are the kinds of questions i was interested in answering. >> well, how does it occur? >> how does what to occur? [laughter] >> how does it occur -- >> got a couple hours here? >> northern abolition. well, when you go on book tour when your book's done, you're going to find you have to telescope it -- [laughter] >> yeah, but i want to direct the conversation in another direction. i think that historians sometimes make the mistake, at least i feel this way. we know the outcome of this case. and so a lot of people go back
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and they look for what i call the seeds that were planted early in someone's life that explain to us how he or she behaved during their lifetime. i think a better way to look at it is the evolution of their lifetime. how did they react to the impulses, the effects, the environment that they lived in. harlan, you cannot excuse harlan's pro-slavery views in his 1859 congressional campaign. you can't explain them. that's what he believes. but there are some histories that try to treat harlan's view as one that was almost created because he had to have that view in order to get elected. he didn't win his election -- his campaign, by the way. i don't think that's true. i think he was pro-slavery in 1859. so i'm interested in understanding how he involved from that point of view. he involved by living his life and reacting to the things that pushed on him, the things that
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confronted him. the fact that there was no other way to be in kentucky than to to be a democrat or a republican. he had been a third party man for so many years that he was tired of losing. and so he became a republican. and once he became a republican, he went in with both feet. >> so a relatively pragmatic political decision did something to his whole conception of what it meant to be an american -- >> i don't know that it was -- >> to say that separate was unequal was a pretty profound -- >> it was. although the discussion about race in the 19th century, in my research, shows me that there was much more of a lively conversation than people i would have thought -- than people would have thought. it was right out there, if you will, in the newspapers. and that they were more honest about their racialing views in the 1860s and '70s than we are today. we want to shy away from the
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discussion of race for the most part. they did not shy away from the discussion of race. it was part of their life every day. because they had important decisions to make. there were four civil rights acts passed between 1866 and 1875. four civil rights acts. the language of those acts were as modern of the language of the civil rights act of 1964. they dealt with public accommodations, they dealt with suffrage, they dealt with being able to go to theaters, they dealt with railroads. the railroad car act that becomes the heart of plessy v. ferguson was passed in 1890, not in 1865, and it was the first, it was the first of throe such states that did this in the 1888, 1890 period. it took until 1906 for south carolina to pass the same kind of act. so they didn't all rush to do separate societies.
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>> a commenter in that period said that the majority in the case was too bound by precedent to see the future. so had there been a bunch of cases that these, you know, abolitionist northerners on the -- >> remember, we're talking writing process here. >> well, i'm interested, you know, in both. so were they -- >> the supreme court begins to narrow the definition of the 14th amendment starting in the slaughterhouse cases in the early 1870s. if they had ruled the other way in plessy, it would have reversed 20 years of what they had been doing. now, it wasn't the same court. there were different justices, but it would have reversed 20 years of precedents, if you will. i don't know that they were too bound by precedent. that sounds like somebody who would like them to come to a different conclusion. they thought what their conclusion was about the 14th amendment was correct.
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we like to think that they were just wrong or bad, but they thought they were correct. >> so just to back up for a second before we move on, who was homer plessy, and why was he at the center of the case? >> homer plessy was the second of two young men selected to enter the white car on two different louisiana railroads in preparation for the test case that was going to go to the supreme court if the strategists could engineer it. he was not arrested or man handled as a result of an accident. the railroad was in on it. they wanted to test the case because they, they didn't have to have separate railroad cars. they could have fewer railroad cars. it would be less expensive for them. if they were going to have to have separate railroad cars, they wanted to know how many they were supposed to have.
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so they had agreed to the arrest, and plessy knew that he would be arrested. the reason he was the second of two test cases was that they kind of screwed the first one up. [laughter] the first one they won. the state supreme court in louisiana said that you couldn't cross state lines with a pratt railroad car -- separate railroad car, therefore, you couldn't tell mississippi or alabama how they should design their railroad cars if it was an interstate railroad. and then the lawyers for plessy looked at the ruling and said, well, gosh, that means that a railroad that stays within the state can have separate railroad cars. >> so plessy had to the actually say even though i look white, i'm black in order -- >> he didn't say. >> he had to somehow create that situation so -- >> the conductor knew that he was supposed to arrest him. plessy was chosen in part
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because he looked white, and the lawyers wanted to argue that you can't enforce a law in which you cannot tell the color of the people that you are being asked to separate. this man looks white. he's in the black car. what is he doing there? >> so going about the process and move on to our next author, who was albion torgay, and why might he be kind of a glimpse of the future and our world today? >> well, he was born in western -- i'm sorry, in eastern ohio in what was called the wen reserve. the western reserve. he was the most famous white advocate for civil rights in america by the 1890s. he was a best selling author of novels that were reconstruction novels set in north carolina where he had moved as a young man determined to make the civil
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war become real, to finish the job. he was a carpetbagger in the views of people in the south. he left there, basically run out of town because of his axtivities -- >> so he was what students here would call a civil justice warrior? >> he'd like that term, i think, if he were alive today. [laughter] >> okay. >> and he, he ends up in the case somewhat by accident. there's a committee in new orleans, and i would say that there's only -- the only city in the cup that this case -- in the country that this case could logically come from would have been new orleans because this wasn't a wealthy, educated class of black individuals in charleston, richmond. not yet. but this new orleans this mixed race group which had been free before the civil war, after the civil war instead of being regarded as kind of a third class became, quote, black. and they didn't much like it,
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because to be black was worse than being white. so they, by the time this law came along, they were loaded for bear. they wanted to go off. and they were very subtle about it. they formed a group. they called themselves the committee, the committee to challenge the constitutionality of the separate car law. that was on their letterhead. [laughter] >> so it was another 60 years before brown v. board of educationa tremendous amount of -- education and a tremendous amount of jim crow segregation legislation that went through as a result of this case. and we know how seminal a moment it was in american history. >> thank god i'm not doing that 60 years as well. [laughter] >> but now we're going to move on to another seminal moment in not just american history and not just the history of japan, but the history of world. susan southard's book "nagasaki:
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life after nuclear war," is about -- i went to japan on a japan society fellowship about 20 years ago, but i'm still going to pronounce this wrong. [speaking in native tongue] >> it's. [speaking japanese] >> the survivors of the nuclear bomb. and like steve, you focus on a few characters to tell your story, your narrative moves forward through tam gucci nagano, a woman, doho, a woman -- [inaudible] how did you find them? >> well, i knew mr. tom gucci first before i began the book. back in 1986 i lived in washington, d.c., and i went to hear him speak.
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he was on a speaking tour. and i don't remember how it unfolded, but i think i must have given him my business card because the next day i got a call asking if i could step in and be his interpreter for the final two days he was in d.c. and it was quite a life-transforming two days for me because he, he spoke no english, so reading his english, the translations of his japanese presentations was easy. he would say something, and then i would read the english. but in all of the time in between, hours and hours and hours of time we had together, i got to talk with him and ask him about his life. he was 57 then. and it was phenomenal. >> did he lead you to some of the other characters you usedsome.
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>> actually, no. i went to nagasaki the following year to see him, and i met some survivors then. but it wasn't -- i wasn't working on the book yet. and i stayed in touch with him a little bit over the years. when i decided to write the book in 2003, i knew he would be a character, and i contacted him again. but i contacted the nagasaki atomic bomb museum, the nagasaki national peace memorial hall and an organization called the nagasaki foundation for the promotion of peace to try to find survivors i could interview. and so i did. in 2003 i met two more survivors,s mrs. dole and mr. wada. and then -- and i collected hundreds of testimonies. and as i got to know the story
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more of what was happening beneath the atomic bomb and in the years as it followed, i knew that there were other kinds of stories i needed in order to at least give some representation of, you know, five people doesn't represent the experiences of hundreds of thousands of people. but i was trying to get a family story, and i was trying to get a younger, mr. yoshida, the final one, was the youngest. he was 13. and mrs. nagano had an amazing story of her family, what happened to her and her family in the aftermath of the bombing. >> now, i know you run a theater and you have other things to do, but 13 years, that's a pretty long time. you're almost on the robert caro plan. [laughter] >> thank you. >> how many trips -- because it was a big project. >> twelve years. bad enough with 12, let's not -- [laughter]
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>> how many trips did you take to japan. >> >> talk to my editor. [laughter] >> and that is a very, very difficult thing to do, to research something in a different language. i know you used a number of interpreters even though you also speak japanese. but how many times did you go there? >> for the book i went five times to nagasaki directly. i had all my interviews set up in advance, all my research. i interviewed many physicians and psychologists and historians and or archivists and spend a lot of time in the libraries there. i don't read and write japanese well, so most of my sources were in english except for the actual original sources, the interviews, which i did in japanese. >> you know, one of the things that i found really interesting about this book is how the u.s. basically tried to censor, prevent the truth from coming out.
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john heresy was able to do a book about hiroshima. it started as a new yorker piece. but, you know, a reporter for the chicago tribune, for instance, got into nagasaki, and his -- what happened to his report? >> well, so when macarthur entered japan in september of 1945, he issued a japanese press code which basically, it never said that you couldn't talk about the bomb, that media couldn't talk about the bomb, but there were so many rules that, ultimately, there was nothing that could be said publicly in the media about the atomic bombings. and so for the next four years, no one else even in japan really knew what was going on in both hiroshima and nagasaki. so when george weller -- >> the tribune reporter.
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>> that's the tribune reporter. he snuck his way down. he, on -- so all, the american and european press were tightly controlled and were only allowed to go to certain places when they would come to japan after the war. but he, he did -- and they were -- so he did, he went on a certain little, tiny junket to some really uninteresting place. but then he escaped and made his way down. and making his way -- nagasaki is far. it's at the western coast of the southernmost main island, and the trains were all destroyed. it took him a long time to get down to nagasaki. and then he pretended to be an american official and lied his way to getting a lot of support be by the officials in nagasaki, the japanese officials. but he had to submit his
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dispatches to the occupation censorship office which everything had to go through, and they never passed through. and eventually, there's this amazing book. eventually a carbon copy of his, of all of his writings were found in his home, i think it's in italy, and they were published a long -- [inaudible] >> it turned out that the jalapeno p news surrender when hirohito went on radio and surrendered, that it had nothing to do with nagasaki. you could argue that it had a lot to do with hiroshima and with the russians getting ready to intervene. is it now pretty clear that nagasaki was absolutely unnecessary when it came to ending world war ii? [laughter] >> oh, that's a big question.
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it's not as -- >> that's what we're here for. [laughter] >> i cannot say to that level of certainty that you're saying, jonathan. it's somewhat close to that. but because a lot of japanese military and governmental documents were destroyed between the surrender and the occupation, we don't have every record. but basically, there's no evidence for the record that we do have that the nagasaki bomb had anything to do with surrender which happened 11 hours later. in fact, the russian invasion of manchuria, japanese-held manchuria, 11 hours before the nagasaki bomb was one of the key things that was being heatedly discussed all day. and they found out about the nagasaki bombing 30 minutes after it occurred. but it didn't come up in
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conferring, in the debates about what to do. so i think it's close, but it's not, you know, the tour is not completely shut on it only because it's a difficult assessment to fully make. >> one of your characters says he doesn't hate americans anymore, he just hates war. >> uh-huh. >> and is that, you think, the consensus among the -- >> it's hard for me to speak for all because i didn't want, you know, there's so many both who have died in the years since the bombing and even who are alive now. so i don't know. it is true amongst those i know be, that's for sure. >> so your characters, all whom are still alive, they -- would that be common for all of them? in other words, was there any
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hostility that you could detect when they were discussing this or -- >> well, before i chose them as my final ones when i was setting up interviews with a number of people, i did have one interview cancel. the woman decided she'd never met an american, and she didn't want to. the interview was set up through -- she was a childhood friend of somebody else i had interviewed, and the childhood friend said you should, told her you should have this interview. and then she canceled it. so is it's not, i can't say across the board. and i just want to say without spoiler alert, close -- that not everyone is still alive in my book. yeah. just for the record. >> so the museum, there's a new few seem at nag sack -- museum at nagasaki that's been built since i was there.
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at the time i was visiting, the museum at hiroshima was less willing to contention callize. i don't think they mentioned pearl or harbor. they had some context about japanese militarism. what is your sense of how they are coming to terms with this part of their history and also how americans -- and you make a point of this -- that americans have not really come to terms with this part, with the toll that the bomb took on human beings in our education system. >> well, one thing that was interesting, some of you may know about the smithsonian national air and space museum debacken in 1995 when -- debacle in 1995 when they were going to do an exhibit of the making and delivery of the bomb and also provide some photographs and artifacts for, of the survivors
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and of survival in hiroshima and nagasaki. ultimately, the military rose up in protest, and the exhibit was shut down except for the fuselage of the e knoll la bay. so in nagasaki, similarly, the -- in 1996 the nagasaki atomic bomb museum was going to include more of its military atrocities in china, and it got slammed down by the more right-wing, militaristic faction in the country. so it's unresolved in both countries to some degree. again, it's hard for me to peek for an entire city, you know, because they're now in -- the youngest would be 71 this
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summer, and the oldest of the ones i know is 89, i think, or 90 now. and there's a whole, you know, number of generations that have followed. and they have -- it's very much anti-nuclear city, i would say. and all the children are educated. they have a peace education program in every school. it's very interesting. i went to be a part of it a few times. but that they've resolved their own, the great harm they caused, their nation caused, their military caused in the same way i don't think we have resolved it. >> so in terms of the health effects, believe you say at one point that if you were within one mile of ground zero, your chances of getting cancer were something like 50% or something of that -- >> you know, i'm afraid i don't remember.
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[laughter] oh, my goodness. like steve was saying, there were so many aspects that i had to become very versed in for writing -- >> this was a lot of fear -- there was a lot of fear that there would be some congenital problems that resulted from the radiation. >> yes. >> that has not happened as much as there was fear of, but there was a tremendous amount of radiation, cancer as a result of radiation, leukemias and other kinds of cancers, and that as late as the 1960s the american press was still making the argument that that was not the casesome. >> well, and you're right when you said they have concentric circles on the map extending outward x everything in the research in japan and the united states after the war is by distance and by shielding. it's quite a complicated factor
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of who got sick and who didn't. and a lot of it even then is arbitrary, it seemed. so, yes. well, i think, i think -- i don't remember saying something about in the 1960s in the book -- >> i remembered it because i worked at "newsweek," and it was time and u.s. news -- >> oh, yes. >> -- printed the study that said that there was no radiation, long-term radiation effect. >> yes. it's absolutely remarkable how blatant the denial was in this country. in the media. and how easy it is because of that and because of the kind of official narrative that our country, our government created about, that the bomb -- singular -- ended the war and saved a million american lives
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closed down the fact that, you know, for the people who survived the, both bombings, the war never ended. because they felt like they had been burned from the inside out. >> [inaudible] a magazine called short-fingered vulgarian becomes president of united states, japan may find itself under pressure to go nuclear. how do you think they would feel about having their own nuclear capability? and also since we're talking about today, how do you think president obama will be received when he goes to hiroshima? >> well, first i think president obama will be very welcomed. that's my sense. i wish he would go to nagasaki as well. and i think he's going to be
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very cautious in his remarks so -- as to initiate as little controversy as possible. that's my sense of everything so far that's led up to today's announcement. as far as japan getting a nuclear weapon, japan is not a unilateral country but, generally speaking, the people really like their peace constitution that macarthur's team wrote. and to me, it would be hard to imagine a nuclear weapon actually being built there, or if it did, it would be quite a while, i think. it's really beyond my imagination that japan would actually, that the people would ultimately allow it. >> so do the nationalists want it? their right-wingers? do they -- i know they want to get out of the peace constitution and militarize a little bit. do they want -- >> you know, i'm afraid i don't know. i didn't study it well enough to be able to answer that correctly.
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but i'm guessing yes. you know, they don't want to be dependent on the united states for that protection, i think. >> great. well, nick, you went in a different direction from superand steve in that in-- susan and steve in that doing the more conventional, tony lukas' approach. so to call it conventional is minimizing a fine narrative technique. but the idea of selecting a half dozen characters. susan did, steve did, tony lukas did. you decided you were going to do something different. you could have done that. >> i thought about that, actually. >> why did you decide not to? [laughter] >> well, i mean, if i could stand going back to reading my original proposal, what i would
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find is exactly that idea to try and tell the story of the nazi concentration camps through the history, through the stories of maybe a dozen or so individuals. and the more i worked on this, the more i realized that that wasn't going to be the way to go for me in this case because even 12 people couldn't tell you a representative story of the camps. there isn't a -- i mean, we all associate certain images, certain ideas, certain pictures with the concentration camps. one important thing to say is that there isn't a typical prisoner. your experience at the camps varied enormously depending on your national background, your job, your age, when you were taken to the camps, your gender, which camp you were taken to, who with you ended up in that camp, where you end up in the prisoner hierarchy. so just going through this now, you can see that we're dealing
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with a huge number of different groups of prisoners and victims, and i wanted to tell their story as comprehensively as i could. there's also, of course, the point that a lot of the inmates do not survive, those who were called the drowned. how do i give them a voice? >> uh-huh. >> you know, i couldn't interview them. so i had to find other ways to try and make their story just as much a part of the narrative as the story of those where we do have postwar testimony. >> i notice that you went back to levy a number of times. did that help your narrative? you know, it's such a mammoth work of synthesis. it's so daunting, what you accomplished and accomplished so brilliantly really. but to keep the reader going, did you feel like you had to introduce certain humane voices?
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>> i mean, i tried. i thought a lot about what my tone should be for this book, what the right kind of language would be to approach this, and the decision i took fairly early on was that i wanted to take myself out of the narrative if i could and try as much as possible to let the survivors, the prisoners, those who didn't survive but also the perpetrators and those who looked to the camps from outside speak, weave their stories into the narrative. i mean, i was really surprised on the work i did how many prisoners in the camps themselves tried to write their experiences, tried to the leave glimpses of their life inside of their loved ones, family, friends and so on. these are secret diaries which were written.
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these are secret letters, notes, even photographs which were taken. and they give an incredibly immediate insight into what the camps were like at the time, what prisoners thought, felt, hoped for at the time, the rumors which go around the camps and so on. so it's a bit like ahoir of different voices. and some of them, like primo levy, crop up again and again. others you only hear once. >> there's so much in this book that i did not know, and i thought i knew a fair amount about concentration camps. 1100 satellite camps across how many countries? and what -- could you just very briefly tell us about the differences between the camps? which were work camps, which were death camps? >> how longing do i have? [laughter] >> again --
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>> i mean, the reason the book is kind of, i don't know how long it is, it's very heavy to carry. [laughter] maybe go for the paperback. [laughter] >> well, i'll try to make it easier for you, because that is such a broad question. so auschwitz, for instance. you say it was the only one of the camps that was central to the final solution and that 1.7 million jews died in the camps. most of those who died in the holocaust died outside the camps, you argue. and auschwitz, you have a little bit of a different category from dachau and the other camps that you coffer. >> auschwitz is a good starting point maybe for the discussion. in recent decades auschwitz has become almost synonymous with the holocaust and also with the concentration camp system. and this is what most people associate with the camps and the holocaust now. there are three things i think which are important to say here. one, there is more to the
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holocaust than auschwitz, which is a point i've tried to make in the book. auschwitz is the single most deadly place in the nazi so-called final solution. there is no other site in german-controlled europe where more jews are murderedded than auschwitz. and yet many more jews are killed else than in auschwitz, in ditches, in forests, in special death camps and which operate differently, separately. so that's the first thing to say. the second is that there's also more to auschwitz than the holocaust. auschwitz is not set up as a camp to murder the jews of europe. auschwitz set up in 1940 to destroy the polish opposition. and even when auschwitz9 becomes also a death camp of the holocaust -- and it is the only one of those concentration camps which becomes a major death camp of the holocaust -- even then it has other functions. these concentration camps always have multiple functions.
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slave labor, medical experiments and so on. so there is more to auschwitz than the holocaust. and there is more to the concentration camp system than auschwitz. by the time auschwitz is set up in 1940, the first death camp, dachau is in existence for more than seven years. and camps like auschwitz are influenced, shaped by those earlier camps. it is in dachau where the first commandant of auschwitz would have learned how to abuse prisoners, he learns the ethos of the ss which he then implements in auschwitz. so the story is much bigger. auschwitz is part of this wider network of camps. and i'm starting the book with three different scenes from that that -- from dachau which try, i hope, to bring home to readers just how dynamic and different the system was. i said before there wasn't a typical prisoner. there's also no typical camp.
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so dachau in 1933 is a tiny, improvised site, you know, a rundown munitions factory which they improvise, quickly set up some camp to hold some local communists. we've got 100, 120 of those men. they're treated fairly humanely. they sleep in the same building as the guards. none of them think that they're going to be there for very long. neither do the guards. 1939, completely different scene. several thousand prisoners, striped uniforms. suddenly, we have this order of terror which we associate maybe with the camps x. then 1945 we have 30,000 prisoners from all over europe. no longer just german prisoners, but kind of german prisoners are now a tiny minority. and we have dead and half-dead prisoners all over the camp when the allies arrive, the americans arrive. even a pace like dachau has changed completely.
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>> and a lot of prisoners died after liberation, right? at one point i think you say 10% in a couple of the camps died after they were remember rated, they were so weak? >> my guesstimate is about 30,000 survivors don't survive the first weeks or months of liberation. the book, the main chapter of the bookends with the liberation of dachau, and there is a scene which i describe of two prisoners, a jewish prisoner, a german prisoner, who embrace, and they cry, and there is great elation. the americans are here, finally they're free. and it would have been tempting after a book which is about the most unimaginable horrors to end with this kind of on an upbeat note, if you will. a kind of, you know, shameless happy end, if you will. but that would have been wrong. it would have been false. and what i then do in the epilogue is tell the story of these two men, and it's not a
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happy end. one of them -- they both end up in america for a while, but they live hand to mouth. one of them kind of works as a professional santa claus, as a kind of doorman in a cinema before he goes back to europe and dies a destitute, unknown man. and his former colleague from dachau doesn't fare much better. and these stories post-liberation, i think a part of -- i think are part of the camps too. so i don't want to, you know, it would have been tempting to end on a, on this, with this moment of liberation which you can read about and see and, you know, there are the pictures. there's a picture in the book of celebrating prisoners in dachau cheering and so on. but in this kind of jubilation doesn't last. it doesn't last very long. >> there are many poor holocaust survivors in the united states. i'm involved with an organization called the blue card, if anybody's interested, that helps those who -- and many
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didn't have any family here. they came like that man who played santa claus for a while, and they've had hard lives in the united states and need some help. but i was also really struck by how little justice there was and that some workers in the camps, prison guards were overpunnished, often inmates who were put in charge of other inmates. some of them were actually executed whereas others got away scot-free and not just by going to latin america. they somehow avoided justice, say some of the executives that set up these, you know, these labor camps that were -- might as well have been death camps given the death toll in them. >> yeah. i mean, and it's not just the kind of, you know, businessmen and so on. it's also the rank and file
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guards. most of them get away. i mean, polish colleagues have tried to follow the paths of former auschwitz guards, and i think 6,000 or 6,500 or so survived the second world war, and maybe 15% of them end up in court. so you can do the math. the great majority don't. in the early postwar period, in the early months and years there are a large number of trials. they are very haphazard, but there are trials. and most of the big wigs of the camp system are tried. but most of the rank and file get away. and by the time you get to the late 40s, early '50ss, you've got the cold war, it's no longer politic to really talk about the past. everybody wants to move on in the east and west. and both in east germany and west germany kind of these trials really fall by the wayside.
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>> so i want to talk with all three of you a little bit about technique. everybody has their own little quirky system. it might be certain kind of software, it might be a ritual that you use for writing. what -- susan, what's your secret sauce and how do you get things done? [laughter] >> i have no technique. [laughter] i -- well, for me it was all structure. i mean, i would have to, you know, first of all i had a researcher on, i i hired a researcher for 31 of the 12 -- 11over the 12 yearses that i worked on the book because i'm not a trained historian. >> could have fooled me. [laughter] >> thank you. but she contributed a great deal in finding documents that i would have never known how to find. so that was my system.
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okay, ill tell you. i'll tell you. i would read, you know, hundreds of books, and i would mark them, and i either my researcher or other people that i hired part time would scan, and i would put them in categories so every chapter had, you know, maybe 30 or 40 small categories of the survivor -- the primary survivor stories, the main characters and then all of the other, all of the other hundreds of survivors who may have, they're not named, but their stories are woven into the narrative. the u.s. perspective, the japanese perspective, the medical perspective, the social and kohl, the -- psychological, the rebuilding of the city, all of these different things. and i would just, so i would read the major sources and all
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the minor sources, i would kind of divide it up, and then i'd have to read again and decide what's the story and how to do it. and then i'd have to decide, well, what's the structure? what goes first and how are they all interrelated. the level of, you know, trying to find how to write that narrative for me was the greatest challenge. my editor is sitting here, and she had a great deal to do with some, in particular some certain chapters helping me restructure in a way that would hold the story well, hold all those components well. because there's the personal narrative and then there's the exposition that is needed to flesh out, like you were saying, 12. five people can't tell the story of post-nuclear survival. >> nick, what? >> you need to speak to my ghost writers. [laughter] i was tempted at the beginning. it would have made my life
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easier if i'd structured thematically. that would have been possible, a chapter on labor, a chapter on time, a chapter on prisoner relations and so on. that would have made it easier to write in a way. but it wouldn't have worked because as i tried to say before, these concentration camps -- even though they existed for a short period of time -- were incredibly dynamic. i mean, the that the sayses first invent -- the nazis first invent the camp system and then reinvent it again and again and again. so, you know, you can only tell that story kind of, you know, in a chronologically-driven narrative. and that made it then much more difficult to feed these different themes in without repeating myself all the time. what really helped me was also structure. and i decided then a but years in -- a few years in on a very
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strict structure which i had to conform to in a way. this was a film movement -- there was a film movement in the scandinavian countries 10, 15 years ago called dogma. i'm not sure if any of you remember this. they had very strict rules of what was allowed in the film and what wasn't. and in a sense, i tried to approach it in a similar way. i had, you know, one chapter had three subchapters, each subchapter had another subchapter. so i knew that forced me into a certain rhythm, and it forced me into not overwriting because the book could have been -- >> speaking of film, the son of saul capture a concentration camp? >> yeah, i -- actually, i've interviewed the director a couple of weeks ago in london. i think it's an extraordinary film. he told me that for whatever reason kind of the only country it didn't do particularly well in was germany.
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>> by the way, kl is concentration camp in german. any -- >> i'd like to remind you -- >> not done yet but -- >> yeah. i won an award for not writing a book. [laughter] so i'm not sure i'm an authority on how to finish one. [laughter] but i would say that, you know, a lot of writers want tips from people like us. i've read the same stories that you have about i get up in the morning, i do my yoga -- [laughter] i write 500 words before breakfast, then i take a walk and, you know, and i set a goal for myself of writing 1500 words a day. or whatever that total is. i think that's nonsense for most writers. [laughter] but what it really, what really bothered me when i wrote my first book was that it sounded like a recipe for daily failure.
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and nobody wants to fail every day. so for me i'm, you know, you used the word "math." i'm quite mathematical about this. i have 22 chapters in my book, i have to finish by this date. that means i have to fail once every month. [laughter] i set a deadline, i'm going to write one chapter a month, and then i can only fail once a month. [laughter] >> right. >> i'll use that -- >> make me feel much better. >> that's good. >> i'm still trying to get my head around the fact of winning an award for work in progress. in the newsroom i came from, work in progress is what you told an editor that said i read your lead and it's not very good, and i'd say work in progress, work in progress. [laughter] >> yeah, but, you know, the thing is so many people have great ideas for books. i know, susan, you were a finalist for the work in progress in 2012, i believe it was -- >> i think so. i'm not sure. >> and beth macy who wrote
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factory man which is going to be a tom hanks movie on hbo, she said she couldn't have finished her book without the work in progress award. you were able to finish it, but you got -- without us, but you got a lot of help from other people. so how did you do that? i notice in your acknowledgments you had maybe -- >> many. >> -- more than a half dozen people who you said supported you many some fashion. did you go out and get grants? >> i had support on so many levels. i had, yeah, i got a few grants. small. i hired teams of -- once i got the contract with viking and i was supposed to finish it in a year. oh, no. and so i hired a team of translators to help me with all the interviews. it would have taken me another five or six years to do.
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and i had my researcher, and i borrowed money. i had -- my parents are here, they helped me a great deal. i had to to borrow a lot of money from family members and against my retirement which now -- [laughter] >> that's what the work is in progress award is about, is to keep people from having to borrow money from their parents. [laughter] so let's take some questions. we've got about ten minutes or a little more to take some questions. yes, mark kerr land sky. >> yeah. if i could sneak in a couple of questions, short ones. i was curious about the hidden diaries. where did you find those? a family members give them to you? >> some of them kind of, you know, most of them are published, some of them are unpublished kind of in memorial sites. i went to a lot of concentration camp memorial sites --
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>> they're no longer hidden, they were just hidden at the time. >> you've got to imagine, i mean, this includes notes and letters written by jewish prisoners forced by nazis to work in a gas chamber in auschwitz who hid these notes in little bottles which they then buried in the ground -- >> hidden cameras as well, right? >> there was a camera that was smuggled in, and they managed to take some photos, and those photos still exist. but there were also some prisoners who managed to write very, very long diaries undetected. there was a norwegian prisoner whose diaries are literally just being republished. a lot of this material is long out of print. he keeps a very long diary in a camp near berlin because he's relatively privileged as a norwegian prisoner, and he can record the goings on and the suffering of other prisoners. one thing that sticks in my mind is a scene he describes of,
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again, unimaginable suffering in february 1945. and he writes after that this secret diary, my language is exhausted. he doesn't have any more words to describe this horror. and i don't know what you thought about -- something which echoed around in my head -- >> and edward r. murrow when he got to buchenwald and he said i have no words. i think that had a huge impact on the american public when -- his stature was such that when he went there and, you know, he couldn't say anything. >> it's interesting, but the prisoners felt that too. i mean, there's another diary of a female prisoner, hungarian prisoner in auschwitz, and she kind of later writes a diary kind of in another camp where it's possible for her to write secret. and she writes about how many 1944 there are these women in auschwitz, hungarian jews who talk about how their suffering
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could ever be commemorated or explained to somebody who wasn't there. and they think could it be with a film? could it be music? could it be art? how could we ever explain what happened to us? and in the end, they come to the conclusion that they can't. there isn't a kind of way to really capture this. >> you had -- in yeah. i just wondered if i can just sneak in another question to susan. so did you go to u.s. government people or just archives? and if you went to -- >> i did not go to, i did not go to u.s. government officials, no. just archives. >> how come? >> because i was trying to juxtapose what was happening in the u.s. and how the u.s. was proceeding, but i needed to stay focused on the survivors' stories over the 70 years. >> anybody else have a -- a comment is okay too. yes. >> i think it was about a week ago i read an article in "the
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new york times" about how many, many, many of the survivors are living in poverty now. how is that possible? >> the question was about how many survivors are living in poverty now. well, nick, you might be able to answer it about england. i'm on the board of something called the blue card, which is an organization in the united states which is devoted to helping poor holocaust survivors. and the reason is that, you know, in a certain number of cases they came here after second world war. they didn't have family here. they were from europe. they were accepted as refugees, so they didn't have the family support structures. they didn't do -- some of them did not make much money over the course of their lives, and now they're elderly, and they don't, you know, they need some help. we have dentists who are
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involved who provide free dental care for holocaust survivors through the blue card, and you wouldn't think it would be a problem. you would think that the mainstream jewish organizations would have taken care of these folks, but they've kind of slipped through the cracks. and it's been a problem for a while. the blue card has been around for a while. it's, you know, if you're interested, just get in touch with the blue card. you can help them out. >> [inaudible] i think it was "the new york times." it could have been the "wall street journal". >> it was a constant struggle kind of after the war for survivors to get even some kind of compensation or pension from the authorities. and i mentioned before the dachau survivor who comes over to america, works as a professional santa claus here,
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goes back and lives in abject poverty. one of the files i found, i managed to track down his restitution file. so that's his claims to the german authorities. and again and again and again even his meager pension wasn't paid to him. i mean, he literally was more or less starving. and he then writes this letter i found in his file in 979 where he writes to the german authorities from italy something along the lines of it will probably be better for everybody if i killed myself. you know, then you would have one complainant less to deal with. and this is not an ice sated -- isolated story. >> yeah. there's something called the u.s. claims conference which for about the past 20 years has been paul volcker, stuart eisin stat and others have been involved in trying to get more money, but it doesn't end up being very much money for any individual holocaust survivor. lily. >> i know people who were in
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their 40s, and their parents were in nagasaki and hiroshima, and they get tested every year. how do you reconcile the government sort of revealing it so early, and now they do very extensive testing -- >> what government ignoring? >> japan. >> yes. >> which i was so surprised because i'd only heard the ignoring story. >> well, japan resisted providing health care benefits to the exposed. it was the united states that denied radiation altogether. the -- yeah. >> [inaudible] >> yeah, yeah. and the research continues. there's massive lifelong studies for both the aging survivors, their children and then their grandchildren because, as you said, the children have not -- there have been no scientific data that there's been an outcome, but they're not sure if it's going to skip a generation. so there's still questions.
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>> the other thing, you know, that i guess everybody knows is that the nuclear weapons we have now are a hundred times the power -- >> yes. >> -- of nagasaki. or more. >> hi there. my name's robin. i am very curious to know how you dealt personally with the horrific events that were described to you in your interviews around staying true to the goal of your mission and the goal of telling this bigger picture and the goal of being true to your project. how did you handle that when listening and receiving all this information? you know, from people who had been so traumatized and continue to be? what'd you do potentially to -- how did you deal? >> great question. >> my main way was that i grew
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to really love of survivors that i got to know. i knew, i knew them, i knew their stories far better than their children did, for example. some of their children speak and read english, and they've learned so much about their parents. so because i cared about them so much and how different each one was, like you were saying, and how, you know, trying to capture their unique experience and because i cared about them so much as older adults, that's what helped me stay grounded. it doesn't mean that i always felt grounded, you know? there were many times where i couldn't bear it anymore. but that's, that was my touch point all the time. having their photos as i knew them at the time of the writing, as older adults having them righting in front of me to look
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at and to remember their energy and their essence, you know, their way of expressing themselves, the way they -- some of them began to care for me as a human being. you know, there was a relationship there. that was what helped me the most. >> nick -- >> oh, and i'm just going to say one thing. we had to be very, i mean, in our selection of photographs we couldn't, we decided not to publish some of the worst photographs. so there was -- it wasn't like we were always going quite as bad as it was even. >> nick, to end on a more cheerful note -- [laughter] >> how? >> well, you devoted your whole career, this isn't the only book you've written on this -- >> wow. >> -- this area. how do you stay cheerful awe mid this subject matter -- amid this subject matter? >> well, i do these yoga lessons -- [laughter] no, it's -- >> glad you do. i don't do them. >> i don't either.
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it's not always easy. i mean, i think, you know, some of the -- among the most difficult challenges really are to try and keep your empathy for the people you're writing about, but also you have to have some distance from this material to be able to write it. finish if i broke -- if i broke into tears every time i looked at these testimonies, i wouldn't be able to write. so it's a tricky line you walk here. and, you know, another really tricky challenge for me in this book was to make a decision about which stories i would tell and which ones i couldn't tell. each prisoner experienced the camp in their own way, and each of those stories deserves to be told. but i couldn't tell them all. and that, in some ways, was the hardest thing in this book, to leave some of these incredible stories out. you know, sometimes, sometimes not writing about it is harder
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than writing about it. >> so before we go i just want to -- >> that wasn't really a -- [laughter] >> no, that was good. just want to read the title of all these books for c-span readers who might have tuned in in the middle. steve luxembourg's is going to be called "separate," and it's not finished, not ready for pre-order yet, but look for it. [laughter] you're going to want to read that. and nick watkins' book is called "kl," which is -- my german isn't good, but that just means -- >> concentration camp. >> and susan southard's booking is called "nagasaki: life after nuclear war." thanks to everybody for coming today. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> and i often get asked, usually by law students -- not law students, undergraduates. that's fun for me. and i than won lawyers, you know? there we are, some have to. [laughter] there we are. they want to be lawyers, and they say what should i study as an undergraduate? they were doing what you were just saying, how do we get up on this ladder here? and i say, well, you know, you don't have to study something leading to law. i can't tell you what to study, but i'll tell you one thing, you have one life to lead. one. and you'll know that life, and you'll know your friends, you'll know your family, but that's very, very few. and if you go into the
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humanities for those four short years, if you learn some other languages, if you read a few books, you'll learn about some lives that respect your own. that aren't your own, but they're out there. every kind of person: so i recommend that. and it comes back in spades to help me. i mean, just a few weeks ago we've heard about othello, it's been playing. is there really such a person? s he is a real, serious rat. and could there be a person like that? then i happened to see a movie, a classic french movie on television. no, i saw it on an airplane, i think. it was children of the gods. fabulous movie. great movie. there's a character in it, a real criminal, and he's an egomaniac. i mean, he is a rotten person, but he has very high opinion of himself. very high.
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and he cares about nobody else. no emotional reaction to the anybody else. it's him, greatest in the world. and the only person that he will fight is the person who insults him and suggests he's not the greatest person in the world. and at the end of the that film, he goes into a turkish bath where les an aristocrat who did look down on him. dead. and when he goes and sits down calmly on the shelf, pulls the chord and waits for the police to come. what does he prove? that he's the greatest person in the world. to whom? himself. now ask yourself why at the end of othello when they say why did you do this to this marvelous man, why have you ruined him and killed him? why? no answer. he's proved it to himself. someone insults him, he got to prove he's greatest person in the world.
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that's one way of looking at it, you see? shakespeare told me there are such people, and it helps explain the play, at least to me. and if, in fact, you see groundhog day, which is one of the great movies of the world -- [laughter] what does it make me think of? it makes me think of rosalynn, it makes me think of orlando when she says, hey, you're going to do this until you get it right. [laughter] right? isn't that right? and there are problems of intelligent women. they have some special problems to day. and you want to know what they are? go look at beatrice. go look at beatrice and benedict, and there they are. so all over the place, all over the world you, i want to tell the high school student, the college student, the law student, with your one life you better know about a few others. and if you have that desire, and i surely hope you do, you can do worse than start with william shakespeare. [cheers and applause] >> you can watch this and other
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programs online at [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon everyone here today we are pleased and proud to be working with the dallas public library and our host,
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