Portrait of Shmuel (Miles) Lerman on the deck of the SS Marine Perch upon its arrival in New York harbor. February 11, 1947.
USHMM, courtesy of Miles & Chris Laks Lerman
Miles Lerman (1920-2008), who led a partisan unit against German occupying forces in southern Poland during World War II, was Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council from 1993 to 2000.
Lerman, Holocaust survivor, partisan fighter in the forests of Poland, international leader in the cause of Holocaust remembrance, was a "founding father" of the Museum. He served on the Museum's Council for 23 years, having received appointments from Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, and served as Chairman through most of the Museum's first decade, from its opening in 1993 until 2000. He remained on the Council until 2003.
"During the Holocaust, Miles Lerman fought the Nazis and their collaborators," said Museum Chairman Fred S. Zeidman. "Afterward, he fought with equal determination to ensure that the world would never forget the Holocaust's victims or its lessons by leading the effort to establish the Museum. Miles taught his successors the meaning of memory. Those of us who follow in the path he forged owe him a debt of gratitude and bear a tremendous responsibility to carry on his legacy."
"Miles often referred to those of us who worked closely with him as his 'comrades in arms,'" says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. "His boundless energy and determination were a driving force that created the Museum and made it the international institution it is today."
Mr. Lerman and his wife Chris, also a survivor, were actively involved in every aspect of the Museum and exceptionally generous supporters. He led the nationwide fundraising campaign to build the institution and negotiated historic international agreements that helped create the Museum's Permanent Exhibition and build its world-renowned archives. Through his initiative, the Museum established the Miles Lerman Center for the Study of Jewish Resistance to dispel the myth that Jews did not resist the Nazis and their collaborators.
Under his leadership, the Museum began to serve as a voice of conscience by establishing the Committee on Conscience to speak out about contemporary genocide. Mr. Lerman's relentless efforts and the determination to make the world remember those who perished also led to the creation of the memorial at Belzec, where some half a million Jews were murdered, including members of his own family. As a global force for confronting hatred, antisemitism, and genocide, the Museum stands as one of Mr. Lerman's most enduring legacies.
View related photographs in the Photo Archives »
Miles Lerman Center for the Study of Jewish Resistance »
Miles Lerman Center for the Study of Jewish Resistance—Research Feature »
Confront Genocide »
Jewish Partisan Educational Foundation (external link) »