PHILADELPHIA - Miles Lerman, who fought against the Nazis in Poland and helped found the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., died Jan. 22 in his home in Philadelphia. He was 88.
Mr. Lerman was from a prosperous family whose flour mills were seized by the Nazis. He escaped from a slave labor camp and fought the Nazis with other partisans for nearly two years in the forests of Poland.
"Our job was to raise havoc, to raise hell with them and survive," he once told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Mr. Lerman and his wife, Rosalie, immigrated to New York City in 1947. He worked as a grocery warehouse clerk in Brooklyn, N.Y., then had a chicken farm in Vineland, N.J. He later started a home heating oil business that grew into a major distributorship, and invested in real estate.
Mr. Lerman was involved in the Holocaust Museum from the planning stages, through its opening on the Mall in 1993 until he retired in 2000. Appointed to its governing board by President Carter, he was reappointed by the next three presidents.
As chairman of the Campaign to Remember, he helped raise $190 million to build, equip, and endow the museum. At the same time, he was chairman of the museum's International Relations Committee, which negotiated with Eastern European countries for the artifacts that became the museum's permanent exhibition. Among them were a railroad boxcar of the type used to transport Jews from Warsaw to the Treblinka extermination camp; barracks from the Birkenau camp; suitcases, combs, shaving kits and toothbrushes from Auschwitz; 5,000 shoes from Majdanek; and canisters that had held Zyklon B, the gas used to kill Jews.
"He was indispensable," Michael Berenbaum, the project director for the creation of museum, told The
The museum's current director, Sara J. Bloomfield, said Mr. Lerman's "breadth of vision" extended beyond building the collections. As museum chairman, Bloomfield said, Mr. Lerman started the Committee on Conscience, which deals with contemporary genocide.
"It calls attention, for example, to issues like Darfur," she said, "and why it is still so hard for governments to prevent genocide."
After retiring, Mr. Lerman was the board's chairman emeritus.
He also led efforts to build a memorial at the Belzec death camp in Poland, where his mother died.
In addition to his wife, Mr. Lerman leaves a daughter, Jeanette of Philadelphia; a son, David, also of Philadelphia; a brother, Jona, of Palm Beach, Fla.; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
Material from The New York Times was used in this obituary.