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Miles Lerman (1920–2008)

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum deeply mourns the passing of Miles Lerman, Holocaust survivor, partisan fighter in the forests of Poland, international leader in the cause of Holocaust remembrance, and a founding father of the Museum.

Mr. Lerman served on the Museum’s Council for 23 years, having received appointments from Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton, and he was chairman through most of the Museum’s first decade, from its opening in 1993 until 2000. He remained on the Council until 2003.

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“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 were 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 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.

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Under Mr. Lerman’s leadership, the Museum began to serve as a voice of conscience by establishing the Committee on Conscience to speak out about contemporary genocide. His relentless efforts and determination to make the world remember those who perished also led to the creation of the memorial at Belzec, in Poland, 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 his most enduring legacies.

“We must learn from the past as we address the present and the future ... We, the eyewitnesses of the horrors of the past, must remind and warn those around us ... that hatred consumes not only its intended victims but its passive bystanders as well. In this way, the lessons of the Holocaust will be applied once again as we seek to create a better and a saner tomorrow.”
— Miles Lerman