Born: 1920, Tomaszov-Lubelski, Poland
Describes the impact of his wartime experiences [Interview: 2001]
A person broadens his horizons so becomes more tolerant or less tolerant. Becomes nicer, or becomes uglier, but a person doesn't change. I believe that people are what they are, and they remain what they are. Did I go into the underground knowing that I will survive for 23 months? No, didn't expect it. But as I told you, I wanted to make sure that whoever wants my head, will pay for it, and pay for it dearly. Now, this sounds like bombastic talk, you know, and I don't want to be bombastic with you. The struggle for survival was purely natural, almost animalistic. Almost animalistic. Human nature is to survive. Let a plane fly by and start dropping bombs, you know, you will be the first one to run, and I will be the first one to run. This is human nature. But to come back to the question that you are asking me, whether this changed me, oh yes, it made a tremendous impact on me. I grew up in a home, in a gentle home, and a respectful home, and a soft home. You know what I mean by a soft home? And the experiences, and they were experiences that were pretty ugly, pretty ugly. All kinds of things. And yet, there were moments of glory, and moments of feeling proud. Now, I told you a minute ago that I don't want to sound bombastic, and I am not a deeply religious man, but I truly believe that it was almost destiny, if there is such a thing, that put me in this path, and I am very, very grateful that I have the opportunity to do the work that I am doing, because it gives meaning, it gives purpose.
Miles Lerman was a Holocaust survivor, partisan fighter in the forests of Poland, international leader in the cause of Holocaust remembrance, and a "founding father" of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum