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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interview with: Mr. John H. Miller" August 10thG, 1976
Interviewer: Marianne Feldman
Transcriber: Mollie Blumenthal
S :. Tape I Side 1
Feldman: Mr. Miller, where and when were you born?
Miller: I was bornin Saaru,^t'Jr ,' *GV
Miler: 'I was born'in Saar, Germany and that was in February of 1907 and two years later my
Father moved from there with my younger brother to Dhsseldorf and we been in DGsseldorf almost for the
rest of our lives, .
Feldman: What did your Father do for a living?
Miller: ; Men's clothing store.
,Miller: No, you wouldn't call it a haberdashery. We did have haberdashery but we were
specialist in men's pants. We we.fsomething long before you had4 here. We just specialized in pants.
If a guy came to our store and he had a coat that pants could fit up we had either a piece of material that
we could make a pair of pants up or we had a pair of pants that were so close the guy could wear, so
we were the original pants, like Hirsch, the guy who died on Broadway, remember, well we had a store
Now, how many years did you live in A.u rcN.,, how old were you when you moved?
Two years old.
So you grew up in WDsseldorf, How large was your family?
My Father, my Mother, my sister and my two brothers.
Could you give me their names? What was your Father's first name?
My Father's first name was Stmon.
And your Mother's maiden name?
Give me your brothers and sisters' names.
My late brother's name was Walter and he died 2 or 3 years ago of Cancer.
JFeldman: Did he come to Portland?
Miller: I got the whole family together.
Feldman: Good. I would like particularly the names of those family members who were in Portland.
Miller: Fine, Where were we?
R~ldman: Now, who is the oldest? You are?
Miller: Yes, and I am the tallest too.
i Feldman: And then your next sibling was my brother who was born in November, 1908, his name
w:as Walter andlt died 2 or 3 years ago here of Cancer. He went to Disseldorf when we moved and lived
Shis life there and then when he left Germany he went to Bolivia.
I don't want to go into too much detail. Just their names and their birthdates.
Then I had a sister born in May, 1910.
What was her name?
.'And who did she marry?
She married Walter Salomon.
Here in Portland?
No, not here in Portland in Bolivia. After the war I got everybody her sister who
ed London and everybody got over here, I got the family here.
Now, you say you have one more sister, the youngest.
The youngest sister is alive.
What's her name and whom did she marry?
GretA Salomon, she married Walter Salomon.
I thought you said that was your second sister,
I had a brother .
You have a brother and a sister. Alright, I understand that. Now, did you have any more?
just the three of you.
No, no, I decided that three is enough to divide the Inheritance, but my i Father didn't
Know about it at that time.
.i'Feldman: Tell me about your growing up in DItseldorf, what kind of education did you receive.
Miller: We did have a thorough education as was given to good middle class. We went to the
Gymnasium which is not what you call a gymnasium here. A gymnasium here is where you exercise. The
gymnasium over there is a high school. You see over there we start four years of grammar school and then
';we go to high school and then we go on up until we graduate there and then we go to university, but when
:we go to university we already have two years of junior college, under our belt, already, from the high,
SFeldman: Now tell me how far you went in this ladder?
Miller: I went up to where, if I wanted, I could have gotten into the university, but my Father
wanted me to become a lawyer. You know, the famous saying,"my son the dentist, my son the doctor"
I didn't want no part of it. We had a good going man's business. I loved selling, so I followed in my
Feldman: So you went into the store with your Father?
Miller: No, I was sent over there like an apprentice to another store, and I went three years to a
large department store In DisselBorf and absorbed my three years of apprenticeship.
Feldman: t Now, how old were you then when you left school?
Miller: I was fifteen years when I left high school and 18 years when I was through with my
apprenticeship and from the apprenticeship I went on to salesmanship, and like over there, a complete
Feldman: 'In this other department store? '
Miller: No, I changed stores in order to get a broader base.
Feldman: What about a Jewish education? Did you receive anyCheder or anything like this?
SMiller: Oh, I had my Bar Mitzvah, I could even read it in Hebrew .
S'eldman: Were you privately tutored or had you gone to a school to get that background, for your
77777 -77I T
: 'F: '.~-'~
h ...E. ( -4- lI (cJL J
Miller: No, I went to Sunday School and during the time where I had to learn for Sunday School
for Bar Mitzvah, I went to Sunday School, for the time that I didn't, I played hookey.
Feldman: Now, what kind of a Temple did you attend in Disseldorf. An Orthodox tradition, or
SConservative or Reform?
; Miller: Conservative.
Feldman: And this Sunday school where you trained for your Bar Mitzvah, was in connection with the
Miller: Yes, Conservative. ,
Feldman: Do you remember the name of the Temple? It's alright, don't worry about it.
Miller: I remember the name of the Rabbi was Dr. Hahn, and Dr. Kline, that was the names of
Sthe two Rabbis but the synagogue was on the Kazcm-Shassr, but I'll be darned if I can remember the
SFeldman: That's alright, let's not waste the tape on that.
Miller: It's only about fiftyisome years now.
Feldman: Alright, now tell me, after your three years of apprenticeship, tell me about your life
in your own words as it went on, about what year was it that you finished your third year apprenticeship?
SMiller: 1922 1925 I finished and from there I went to another large men's clothing store as a
6, la dbach
Salesman and that was in Essen and from Essen I went to Moencen which was the place for a lot of
'manufacturing for men's clothing in order to get - ;
Feldman: .roeeR n ,JAn" i
SMiller: Moencenla bach, like glad bag, so I was there for about a half a year as what you
would call a substitute which doesn't mean anything here. You don't have that expression, substitute
here. A substitute is a deal between a salesman and between the next step up or however good you were.
I then came home and stayed home at the store for abqut a year and then I went to Berlin. I was in
Berlin in a very large department store, Worthheimer and Teet. And then I came back and we opened
a branch in r the Ruhr Valley which is about 25 miles from DIsseldorf and then I was well -
S'-'- I -- -- '-.' --- --
Miller: Manager. You could say that. I was a little bit young for a Mnager, but I was Manager,
being the son of the owner, and then we gave this up because it didn't pan out, where did I go then?
:Feidman: Were you still a single young man at this time?
Miller: Oh yes. I believed in getting a hell of a lot of experience before I settled down in
anything, whether it was business or what else,
Miller: I went to Essen in 1932 where we opened again a branch and next year Hitler started and
things got a little bit tight and I met my wife thanks to the - do you know the plural of "yenta"?lIk Jl i
You know, her Mother met my Mother in a recreational resort. "I got a son, I got a daughter, they
should be married,"both families we are of the same cultural background, we went to the same kind of
;,synagogues, thought along the same lines and so we ought to get them together, and so on the way back
Sshe was ordered to be at the station to be looked over.
'Feldman: Who ordered her there, your Mother?
':Mller: Her Mother. and my Mother ordered me to be at the train station, so there we were il in
me in my Sunday best, and being a five foot shorty, and she coming up five foot six, with three inch
heels, having a brother six foot tall.
Now, where was this station?
It was in Cologne.
: That's where your Mother had been on vacation.
No, no,athey were in southern Germany, Baden Baden.
: Well, how did you get together in Cologne?
Well, we met there, took a look at each other, and the parents decided. We met in one
littler, like Rooster Rock, and the families were together for a picnic and so we met on a picnic.
: Well, I don't understand. Her parents were from Cologne.
They were from Cologne and they told her daughter to pick her up at the station and
maybe take a look at a young man, like in our religion, it happens so often, so I saw a good looking girl
come in there and I always went for a little bit taller girls than I, myself, and she had to wear 3 inch
heels. She was what I had in mind, besides at that time I was 28 Jnd I was ready to settle down. So I
*ds invited to visit them in Cologne. She was vix invited to visit us there and I don't know whether that
should be on here -
Feldman: Go ahead.
MILlen' So, we were going through the main street of Cologne, the main business street, and
he looked in the windows and so In the front of one of the very fancy furniture store you inx know in
.^ :,F Scerra &csr a e W rA -o oe .
Germany, you didn't have built in closets like you have here you have Aeranke. ya we looked at
different things and all of a sudden I got my courage together and said - for your information, at that,
itme we weren't like here, Anne and John, we were still Mr. and Miss, and I said Miss Bloch, I think
we, have the same taste in furniture and everything and I think we would make a good couple. The only i
ihing is if I marry that's for good. That was her same sentiment, so she was a little bit taken back for
the very unromahtic way I asked her.
Feldman: What Is your first name?
Miller:. Anna Lisa so I said if you have no objections I would like to get engaged to you, and
she had no objection, mainly nothing'better showed up.
eldman: Now, this was what year?
filler: 1934 In Fall.
:eldman: How long were you engaged before you got married?
Alller: You wouldn't believe it. We were engaged three months and married six weeks later.
ler Father said wait, Hitler Is heree,you know what's coming, and I thought, look, I made up my mind
a marry now, It can't get any better, it's now or never. So we were engaged on New Years night in ;
?34 and they asked when do you want to marry, next year? and I said nothing, next year, in six weeks
n my birthday.
sidman: Now tell me a little bit about the coming of Hitler and the events that led to your
Miller: Well, what is there to tell about It?
indman: Your personal experiences in business, and so on. What brought you to the decision to ,
ave Germany and how did you have the courage to leave so early, this Is what I am trying to get at.
Aller: I didn't leave early enough. I should have left two years earlier. Anyway the thing is
his, I had a men's clothing store and the Nazis naturally as I told you, we were specialists in pants
nd the Nazis naturally didn't want their guys buying Jewish stores and the business went down and then
was always one for telling jokes, even in precarious situations and under Hitler it was precarious, as I
,und out, and I had a customer once who bought, you see, among other things, I carried leather jackets
cause motor bicycles were a big item over there, and I had a friend who really made fancy deals and
ie Germans go for those things, so I did have quite a few Nazis as customers, and one guy one day bought
e and while he was waiting to be written down $1.00 a week, I told him a joke. When everything was
gned, he left. The first month no payment came in, so I wrote him a letter and 4I letter came back and v .
Ssaid, If you bother me once more with a letter I shall report you to the Party for having Insulted the
sehrer aind you know in Germany, like in Europe, and in very many states is a Latin law, called-k 4
o;~e-w C rfc-R-60 164reL- e
festl4e, that means insult to the Fuehrer of a nation.
sidman: How do you spell that?
miller: Lese Mageste. Mageste is magestic, you couldn't call over there the President or anything
lon-of-a-bltch, like over here so I was undaunted. Now a guy could get me just like this, so I
med it over to my lawyer. So about three or four days later I came into my store in the morning and
o SS guards come in and said you John Miller~ and I said yes, you come with us. askbedpx I said,
ay I ask where and they said you may not.
3dman:. What year was this?
iler: 1936. I asked do you mind if I called my wife? They said no.
Idman: Wouldn't allow it?
miller: Nothing. So I went with the fellows. Soe they took me to the head office and they read
me that there was a complaint that I had ridiculed the Fuehrer. I said, nothing the like. Kaput, and
;ot one on the right side.
Idman: They hit you.
iller: Yes, and with feeling, but all my life, when I came in a situation like this I stayed very
iml I didn't get excited. They said you have insulted the Fuehrer, we have been told. What did the
i' , , -* .. .. . ..
man say, we want to hear it from you.
Miller: I can't conceive of anything I said. The guy has to tell you. Kaput. I got one on the
other vw side, so after they hit me a few times and when they found out I wouldn't tell anything, because
I wasn't crazy enough to tell anything, because I didn't know what the guy, how much he remembered,
so I knew darned well which joke W told, so I didn't give them the satisfaction to dig my own grave.
Well, I wavdxen was taken upstairs, all my pockets were emptied, my belt was taken off and I had to
keep my pants you know, no belt, no nothing to hold them up, you don't run very fast. I was pushed into
va cell, the size bout from here to there in a corner, about 10 x 10 and there I was six weeks all by myself,
Solitary, they called it. Now, in Germany the cells are not built like here with bars that you look
through. They are solid iron doors with a small little peep hop< hole. The guy from the outside could
look inside, but the guy from the inside couldn't look outside, and it had 10 foot high ceilings with a
very small little window -peR, so you could probably look up and see whether the sky was grey or blue,
that was all you saw, so there was a little table in the corner, with an old fashioned wash basic and
;pitcher and a wooden chair and one of those beds that was close to the wall and had to be left out in the
:evening and in the morning had to be made like in the military, I was shown and the guy walked out and
there I was, and by nature being gregarious this was the worst punishment for me to put me to where I
couldn't talk to anybody, so I looked at myself in the predicament I was In and then got made like all
heck out and felt like I wanted to kill one million Nazis and then in the next minute I fell In the depth of
d:espar, realizing that there was a door in between and I couldn't do anything. In the morning the door
opened, a guard stepped forth, I had a tin cup, I got some black water. How they got it black I don't
Know. They called it coffee, but even if they had a coffee on a string bean hanging it couldn't have been
blkck, I got three slices of dry what they call w isbroity this army bread and at twelve o'clock, the
same thing happened again, the door opened, I held out my deal and I got some soup and I can tell you
If I found some fat, it was because the guy had his io( finger in the pot otherwise it just didn't differ from .
the water they just reasec rinsed them through. No taste nothing, and then in the evening, the same thing,
another cup andthree slices of bread that was it. Six weeks. Didn't talk to nobody, no nothing. It
almost got'me s6 I tried you try everything. You try to pray.) With two billion people running around ,
,* I I I I I I I I
he has time to listen to meo Then I felt like hitting my head against the wall, but I would only hurt
myself, so I quit that in a hurry, so then I tried praying again, no answer, just deafening silence, which
is just terrible. Nothing happens. My wife could bring me some fresh laundry and that was all, and after
six weeks -
Feldman: Did you see her at all? They just brought you the laundry.
Miller: Did I see you ? No, mjayxjmst brought it irn So anyway, after six weeks of that, one
morning the door opened and I stood there with my cup and the guy said come out, and I came out and
followed the guy down to the room where I empbtx emptied all my pockets, and the guy dumped everything
and said is this yours and I said yes, O.K. he gave me a receipt put it in, he opened the door and I was
outside, free, just like this, so I shot to the nearest telephone booth and called my home. My wife had
gone with the baby parby wasn't born yet she was expecting to her parents in Cologne and told her
I was out and so my brother, immediately with his car came, took me to Essen and we were together atn.
Feldman: Where was the jail that they took you to? What town?
Miller: n Essen.
'Feldman: Now, I don't understand what your brother did, He picked you up from the jail ?
Miller: He picked me up, yeah. 'The only thing he picked my wife up in Cologne.
Feldman: Ah, and brought her to Essenm that's what I didn't understand. Did you find out why you got
out or anything? You never had a tial or anything?
Miller: Oh yes, I had a trial, but the thing is that in meantime, since I didn't get any answer on my
prayers and nobody talked to me or nothing I had time to sit down and think the whole mess over and
prepare for any potentiality and that's where I changed a little bit of my religious philosophy. I didn't
believe so much anymore that there was somebody watching over me. I found out that there was one guy
who had a right hand hanging on his right arm and that he had to use to get out of a predicament and I
decided that this guy had to use his right hand.
Feldman: Yourself you had to use your own right hand.
Miller: I prepared for the whole deal and -
MAeldman: But I must ask you something. When you were in prison for six weeks, was that before or after
,- --. . . . .. .
;,you went on trial ?
. Miller: That was before.
Feldman: Fine then go on with your story. Tape I Sida 2.
Miller: Before then I was informed that there would be a trial. My lawyer informed me which
':was a Jewish lawyer, because as a Jew I couldn't take a gentile or anything else anymore, so one day he
Told me your trial is up and we have to go to PAorAimLnow, Dc AimnJ L is 15 to 20 miles from Essen
,, you see, Ruhr Valley has 8,000,000 people, all close together like here, Salem, Portland, but 8,000,000,
so he said tve will have a very tough one because that is one of the newSonders Court and it is a special
Court and this Sonders Court was special because it was stacked with SS. They didn't take any more people
or anything only SS, in other words the guy had already four strikes against him.
Feldman: Whoever went for tiial there.
Miller: They already had four strikes against him, not three, so the first thing I did when I came in,
I crossed the path of the main witness, the Mother of the guy and I went to her and I said, MiX Mrs. Smith
my wife is pregnant and if something should happen to my wife's child, that will be on your conscience.
My lawyer took me by the arm, pulled me and said, are you crazy, he said you are influencing the client,
the witness, and I said, who cares, it is my life, not yours, I said I only had one to lose and I only got that
one chance. Anyway, we come in and she is called first. Has a very bad reputation, falsifying checks,
prostitution which is a very reliable witness but those were the guys who followed Hitler, number one,
so she hemmed and hawed and didn't know the joke, so my lawyer tore into her by showing that she had
passed bad checks, couldbbe relied on, so they called on the guy. Now all the guy had to do was to tell
the joke. My luck, the guy can't tell jokes. He couldn't neither remember the joke nor could he tell it.
He was hemming and hawing, nothing, so the guy hit the gavel, the Judge, and said I want to call the
witness to tell the joke. He called the right guy. I had long since prepared for that. I figure that would
happen, so I told a very nice joke. Everybody laughed. The Judge banged the gavel and said calm in the
courtroom and then he said I can see no insult to the Fuehrer in the joke of the Jew, but as a Jew I would
call to his mind not to tell any jokes in the Third Reich. Case over, dismissed, no remuneration. I didn't
even ask for that. Just to get out of there. I was the only guy on 20 cases coming out alive that day.
Feldman: What did you do then?
Miller: Then I started to get out of Germany in a hurry, because then I knew I had no more time,
because the thing could only get worse and that thing could shoot back at me, so I started looking around,
SA friend, who had a distant friend here and then my wife -
Feldmani What do you mean about this friend here?
Miller: I had a friend who had left before me.
Feldman: And came to Portland?
Miller: .No, he had to come to Indiana and then to Portland, but we stayed in connection.
Feldman: You kept in touch with each other..
Miller: Yes, naturally, because I knew sooner or later we needed each other and I helped him to pay .
part of his ticket.
SFeldman: ,'Do you remember his name?
Miller: Baum funny, he was here two months ago and celebrated his 32nd anniversary, we already
have our 41st. He married an American woman and he is doing extremely well, so anyway, then my wife
had a distant relative in Cologne, but on account of the two babies - the affidaviat had to be so high.
S Feldman: What two babies?
Miller: We had two children. In the meantime, the girl that the woman couldn't tell the toke about,
we got a healthy baby. You know her, Garby Barde, Jerry Barde.
Feldman: Garby Barde is your daughter? How do you spell Garby, Gaby and when was she born?
Miller: In 1936.
Feldman: And Ralph was born?
': Miller: In 1938.
SFeldman: So this was 1938 that you were preparing to leave and you had the two children?
Miller: We had the two children and then came the Chrys oA\ M.;gl' and when we came back
the next morning our apartment was slashed to pieces, the chairs were thrown down on the street -
Feldman: Where were you, that you weren't in the apartment on that night?
~- -~---~ ~ ~ ~_--~-.2 .. .. --- . ... . . .. ...
S .: -12
: Miller: Let's see. I had a notion I was forewarned something would happen and I left for Disseldorf
:'- to my parents.
7 Feldman: And she was with you?
Miller: No, she stayed in Essen, because we didn't think a woman and a little baby, something would
happen to it, we still believed in something in the Germans, which later turned out that they were all
bastards, but anyway, I had prepared that I could go as fast as possible.
Feldman: To the states?
Miller: To the states, that was the only place for me. I had no relatives where I could get an
Affidavit or something where I could get in.
Feldman:: Except for the states?
Miller: Except for the states.
S :Feldman So that's why you chose the United States?
Miller: So that's why I chose the United States and then came that crystal night and when we saw that
we knew that our time was over and I had already had my papers fairly ready and so we decided that I
Couldn't wait any longer for my wife and the babies to go with me, I must go first, because I wouldn't
Slast another three months, I would be in concentration camp, so I left and I came to America, and I came
to New York and I had $5.00 in my pocket and a few little bottles of medicine which I brought to a Doctor.
and got a few more $5.00 and that was all.
Feldman: Now, what year was this that you came to the States?
SMiller:, :iIn 1939.
Feldman: You arrived in New York?
Miller: In New York and so I went immediately to the Jewish organizations who took care of the
Feldman: Just a minbte you went to the newcomers' organization.
Miller: 'Yes, that took care of the newcomers. They asked me whether I had a preference, and I
said no, just so that I can get work and get my wife and babies out, because I have to do that otherwise
'-''-".'^. - ' ,
* ^.- . -- . . 3 . . :. : "
t ,'' ' '
; It's no good.
S: Feldman: You had two children by this time, the wife and babies?
Miller: That's right, I couldn't take them out with me. I was five weeks in New York.
S Feldman: Did they find work for you?
Miller: No, the only work I could have gotten was at-K Uelron Union Square, picking up dresses.
Do you know how they work there? The women come in there like in a big store and try on dresses,
That was the famous Klines on Union Square and that wasn't for me; there was no chance whatsoever thGt
there could be anything, so I went back to the HIAS, that's it.
.,:.Feldman: What's HIAS?
,Miller: HIAS was the Jewish organization.
Feldman: How do you spell it?
;aiUi~ m:Miller: HIAS. They had just gotten a cancellation where they wanted to send me to Georgia
in Gainesville, Georgia, they cancelled and where they had a guy going to Florida, the guy took sick,
!,:,nm I ready' I said look, in Germany, I always wanted to spend my vacation in Miami and I said I'm
Feldman: Now, just a minute. What did you do during the five weeks that you were there without a
job. What did you live on, where did you live?
Miller: I had approximately altogether from the Doctor about $40.00 or $50.00 and I got a little bit
;money from the HIAS and that carried me through.
SFeldman: Where did you live when you were in New York?
Miller: Somewhere up on 54th Street.
Feldman: : You had a rooming house, room and board?
Miller: No, I Just had a room, because I could live on half of what she would probably charge me.
Feldman: You didn't keep Kosher or anything, you could eat anything right? You didn't have that
SMiller: No as I told you, there is the religious one. She probably would have trouble, not me. I
,-~~-~ c7 -7 .* ' ' 's.
*, ."-^. ::
ate where I got it cheapest, which looked funny, because I was very, very well dressed, you know from
the German's men's clothing store I was impeccably dressed, and when the people looked at me they thought
I was a con man.
Feldman: So you really were under HIAS in New York? You didn't know anybody personally who helped
;you or met you?
Miller: Yes, I met her distant relative, an older man and his daughter. They couldn't do very much.
thanked them for helping me, but it's all they could do. ,
Feldman: Your wife's distant relative.
Miller: Yes, I didn't want to impose on them and I had written to my friend and my friend had already
written and sent a second affidavit in order to get her out.
Feldman: When I interrupted you, you were heading for Florida.
Miller: -So when the guy said to Florida et-said fow soon can you be ready' I said, here is the
key to the little box I brought with me that is there, give me my ticket and tell me which bus to take,
and I'm on the bus tonight. That fast. So on the way to Florida I came down there, I mean, you can't
I imaginee when I came away, early in the morning, and saw the Statute of Liberty -
SFeldman: You arrivedby ship?
'Miller: Yes, by ship and a very elegant ship, it was the new Amsterdam of the Holland-Amerlcan-
Dutch Line, a luxury liner.
; Feldman: Let me go back a minute. When you left Germany, from what port did you leave?
' Feldman: You went from Germany to Rotterdam.
.Miller: From Disseldorf to Rotterdam. That's where that shigxieft ship left.
.Feldman: Were you travelling first class, did you have the money?
Miller: No, I had the money to pay for my deal but I didn't travel first class, I travelled tourist.
', couldn't afford to. I had to leave whatever I had with my wife in Germany. Who knows how long she
would need it, sol came over here and I was sent down to Florida. We came to Jacksonville and the
ifleld representative of the H IAS, a very nice fellow, Ginsberg, took care of us --
*" '' -15- .
Feldman: Of you.
Miller: Of three fellows. We were three fellows. He said, well one of you fellows has a relative
in Jacksonville. He is going to Jacksonville to his relatives. Then we have two.places, one in Miami
adnd the other in Gainesville. Miami, that is a city not for married people, and I think you are married
and you want your wife, you better go to Gainesville, and thatidecided. I went to Gainesville, and the
people in Gainesville took me in very nicely .
Feldman: What did you do there, what kind of work did yocX they find for you? .
Miller: You won't believe it. I am the first American refugee sent down to Florida who was set up
independent in a business, not knowing about the business, not being able to speak English.
Feldman: What kind of business was it?
Miller: Grocery, what else can you get in this country, grocery.
Feldman: They set you up in a grocery? HIAS did.
Miller: No, no, the families did.
Feldman: The families In Gainesville?
Miller: There were 25 families Jewish families each put $10.00 together, they had $250.00
Rented an empty Negro store, where some fixtures were in and then went to the local grocer, and said
Slook here, help him up and set him up in a business, he has got to learn. I couldn't speak it, I didn't
Snow what was in the cans. Every evening I opened a can and looked what was inside and ate it, against
: my better judgment. The only can I did not eat was when I came to chitterlings, you know the hog's
: :intestines. It smelled like it and without trying it, I knew what it was.
Feldman: Now, what year was this when you arrived in Gainesville?
Miller: In 1939. Then I hired myself a colored fellow, that was the tail end of the depression, when
Sthe negroes there were working for $5.00 or $6.00. There was a white man who couldn't speak English
who wouldn't work for $5.00, so they put me into a store, so the first few times the Jewish ladies came
Sand bought something in my store so I had something and then I ran into a guy from a large wholesale house
Sin Jacksonville who taught me, look here, I'll give you lots of credit, put a little more stock in. I had
.no idea about that. It was enough that I ate each can to learn what was inside and then in the evening
if the pork chop wasn't quite right to sell anymore, I ate the porkchops, whatever there was. I tell you,
I can tell it today because the struggles can't get to me anymore. I tell you, the colored fellow that I
hired I paid him $7.00 a week. He was 22 years old. At least he could speak, but he was no business man,
:but at least he could make a little french fries and made the food a little bit, so finally I ate there and
Then the Jewish they gave me a room in a Jewish fraternity.
Miller: Yes, they had a Jewish fraternity down there.
Feldman: Like the B'nai B'rith, you mean?
Miller: Yes, it was Mu, something.
'Feldman: How do you spell it, Mu, something of Florida.
: Miller: The Florida University had a Jewish and they gave me a room, and in turn I helped them
;with their German studies and learned a little bit English from them, so we got along very well. Some-
Idays I was invited when they had a dinner there. So then I tried to get my wife out. I couldn't get the
American Go Counsul in Stutgaard to get the necessary paper over that I needed, then I found out that
the guy was wined and dined by the Nazis over there who tried to make friends with all of the Americans
officials and he was on the side of the Nazis. He was in no hurry to letla Jewfo.Comes to my store the
salesman from the company that I bought from in Jacksonville, and in my broken English - I made myself
u understood what I was up against. He said I can help you. It so happens that one of my best friends
Sis Senator Claude Pepper who was the right hand man of President Franklin Roosevelt.
Feldman: The Senator from Florida?
S;Miller: The Senator from Florida. Three days later I got a letter from Mr. Claude Pepper, whether
'' rhe could offer me the good services of his office to get my wife and children and what is necessary.
AlI I had to do was write down what I needed. One week later from Stutgaard came a letter from Mr. Fox,
Stwo small little pieces of paper had to be filled out. I had the additional affidavit. I had everything but
i rij r urn. i \ r\
the two little papers which he didn't mention. They were notary publicized and sent over and she was
Called to Stutgaard to come to the Counsul in order to get the visas. The visa was good for four months.
She was the only one that day who got the visa. I got a sailing for her from Genoa, I taly and Italy went
to war and she had to stay in Germany, missed the ship. Three weeks later I had a sailing from Athens,
SGreece and Greece went to war against Italy and she had to stay and miss the boat and her visa expired.
It was good for only four months. Now I knew what was necessary, what was needed, the whole deal was
sent in triplicate inx to Stutgaard, another time. She was called in and she got another one. I had a
: sailing for January from Portugal. Portugal didn't4ive any refugee go.jsSr-OuL.
Feldman: You had a smiling from Portugal?
Miller: Lisbon, Portugal
Feldman: And she couldn't get through ?
; Miller: No, they didn't leave any refugee through, despite the fact that she had visa, they didn't
leave anybody through. I tried another time in March, I got another - -
S Feldman: March of which year, 1939 or 1940?
Miller: 1941. We were running out of time. I was running here with my head against the wall and
couldn't do anything, I had the money. I had gone to the people to ask them to borrow me the money
i: I'll pay it back. If it takes me years, I'll pay it back. They gave me the money. They were nice.
'Feldman: What people was this?
'.;:Feldman: In the town where you were?
"Miller: In the town. In the meantime, the tickets had gone up from $400 to $1,000. Do you know
what $1,000 was in 1939 ? 1941.
S::Feldman: Now tell me how she got out.
,,Miller: So finally, when the next one came through.
SFeldman: The next what?
heJ rVe^ LLkse, reVrrckTons crntJ ieir
Miller: The Lisbon in March everyone who had an American visa could go through. Friends of mine
picked her up in New York.
Feldman:,f Hold on what ship did she come on?
Miller: On the Wilson line, the Exeter, one of the last ships to go. You know how it is in American,
\; ; -- :. --1- .. ... -: .7 ..--..
; especially in the South. The trains go through the middle of the town. That morning the headlines
In the paper read, "Gainesville happiest citizen".
Feldman: Wkolfoofx6obardajca19dbo<*ce That was you.
'Miller: Half of Gainesville was there.
Feldman: To greet her? You started to tell me friends picked her up in New York. Which friends?
People that you knew?
Miller: Yes, Dr. Shine and his wife who had left before, who was our Doctor over there. ,
Feldman: Did she stay anytime in New York?
Miller: Five days.
Feldman: And then they put you on the train to Gainesville.
Miller: My wife, naturally had some very well made tailored suits, and she could take outxx two of
them and each of the kids a small little(sack, that was all they could take out, and they had bought one
S of those little small flower bonnets, so my wife comes down there and there comes a picture of Vogue
out of the train, and Gaby recognized me, "Daddy, Daddy". The little one, he didn't pay me no
attention, I want Uncle.
Feldman: How long had it been since you had seen him?
Miller: Two years. He was too young. To him I was just another Uncle. So finally my wife had
told them when we come to American to see Daddy then he will buy you presents, so she told me. So I
bought them presents. I want Uncle Daddy for a few weeks and then finally he dropped it into Daddy.
Feldman: So you all settled in Gainesville?
Miller: We settled in Gainesville, but we had to leave there because my wife couldn't stand
Feldman: So what did pu do then? You said her face broke out because of the climate?
Miller: No, her feet. She was warned beforehand. Calcium trouble, so I had a friend up here -
Feldman: Up where?
Miller: Here in Portland. The same friend, Paul Baum. He said the weather is like in the Rhineland.
Come up here. We'll get you a job, so I came up here.
^" i "**' _*-- ^'-. ~'*^ -*^---- --**- .
... . , ,/ .. . I' * t * 'y. .m lCm '
S Feldman: Did you sell your grocery store?
Miller: Yes, I sold my grocery store.
SFeldman: So you had a little capital to work with?
Miller: Yes, I wanted to pay back the money and they didn't want to take it. They said take it
you will need it when you come. I wanted to give the $250.00 back, so I came here and then it worked
,up and then the funny part and that should probably be included here, but a later part, after our club was
founded, we were in 1947 approximately 450 people here in Portland.
Feldman: ,.What do you mean, 450 German refugees?
Feldman: German Jewish refugees and Austrian Refugees-German speaking refugees.
Miller: And naturally we needed jobs and there is where we encountered, not directly anti-semitism
Sbut the mrx jealousy that we got jobs and others didn't.
Feldman: .,This was 1947? Is that the year that you came to Portland?
at Chandlers +o&hr. t orcjc
Miller: Oh yes, when I came back from Longview I started cnfidin and worked myself up-
Feldman: Now wait a minute I want to keep the story straight. You tell me about the lob thing
and then we'll go back.to what you did when you first came to Portland after Gainesville.
Miller: Well, the first job I could get here was a bellboy in Langerman's hotel the Carlton. Nice
guy. I came in and he said, you need a job and I said badly. He said there's a uniform, try to get into
': it. I barely got into it. The Bell Captain explained to me. I was a belly It was terrible.
t k Feldman: Did any organization here help you to get that job or did you get it on your own through
; friends? ,
S Miller: I got it on my own. You see I was g in Florida, if you leave Florida, the HIAS of
SFlorida, you are leaving the HIAS for good. You are out on your own, but we had to leave there and
then we left and from thentwe made it ourselves.
i ;,,Feldman: How long were you a bell hop?
Miller: I remember I was four weeks bell hop and then in November I found an Astrologer deal in
S .the elevator and it said, "today whatever you touch you will succeed". So I took that deal, went
. . . ..* -.. . . . . . .
straight down to Eastern Outfitting and asked for Mr. Lipman that I was a specialist in men's furnishings
Sand I would like to have an job. He said do you have American experience and I said no, and he said
:: typical, I can't pay you as much as the others. I can pay you only $4.00 a day. I said that is $1.00 more
than I'm making right now, I'll take the job, and then after Christmas I went to Longview, because a
Jewish grocer there heard of me and he wanted a Jewish employee. Well, I survived that too.
Feldman: How long were you with Eastern?
SMiller: About six weeks. .
Feldmani And then you went to Longview.
Tape 2 Side 1
Miller: Then we decided we wanted to have our club. We didn't want to become a welfare club
like the Jewish Welfare, we didn't want to go into competition with them. We wanted to be something
like the B'nai B'rith. We didn't want to go in because the B'nai B'rith had treated us very shabbily,
with the exception of a few guys, most of them were just sitting there, nobody took care of us or anything
so'we had several meetings and finally decided to call our club not the Jewish Friendship Club but the
Portland Friendship Club, because there might be other people who would need that too. We didn't want
to '" '
Feldman: -.Umit it to Jews?
Miller: We didn't want to limit it just to Jews. In 1956 I was President. I was vice-Presldent for
about 15 years',. I've been President for five years. I still am President right now because I'm almost the
youngest man there.
Feldman: Tell me, during those early years what did the club doand how often did they meet?
Miller: Mrs, Feldman, let me tell you something. We did something that as way ahead of its time.
Soe 25 years ahead of its time. I'll show you.
Feldman: I've got to get it on the machine, Mr. Miller. Alright, I'll stop it. You said you had a
theatre group and you had your own orchestra? (He has a number of pictures here that he is showing me).
Miller: Our first club we had 450 members. We had our own orchestra, 12 men. We didn't need
ffy-- v^ *- . -- ~ ^~~ ~~ ".*
,: anybody. We had the best of everything. We had our singers and we put up a three hour review, the
like which has not been seen here anymore, because we spoke and sang It in eight languages, Arab,
Hebrew, Israel, German, French, Spanish and Americana. It was never done here. We gave it in the
B'nal B'rith too.
Feldman: So it was kind of a carnival or a stage show?
Miller: It was a stage show. That evening we had 300 people.
Feldman: When did this take place?
SMiller: In 1947 or 1948.
SFeldman: Right in the beginning when the club was formed?
Feldman: Did you raise money for any reason at that time? Did you charge admission, or was it all
Miller: No, each member had to pay kxhis yearly dues and then if we had something we charged,
more or less whatever we offered.
'Feldman: I was going to say for the show, was it free?
Miller: No, no, it was not free.
Feldman: People paid to see it?
;-Miller: You wouldn't believe it, over three hours, a complete deal. Sometimes we had coffee and
Sake, sometimes we had welnies and potato salad, whatever we served, we charged a little bit more or
a little bit less, but everybody came and we never had a deficit, never had a deficit.
S, Feldman: How often did it meet, once a month?
Miller: At the beginning we met every two months, then we did something that has been tried
u successfully, afterwards. We played the Fle~dermaus on a long playing Viennese record, which means
S 'we had a symphony record. We had the people who could sing. We had some real people with voices
Swho could sing, we had some guys who could speak the language in between and the rest was played on the
long recordplayer. We had a pit In front with a guy standing up in tails, white tie and everything and the
music started. The people came up to look where was the orchestra.
Feldman: It was on the record player.
SMillert The record player this was fantastic we mouthed the words.
Feldman: Now, let me ask you now some of these different activities that you did, what did you use
, the money for that you got for it, just to keep the organization alive?
Miller: To keep the organization going. After all, it cost clerical expenses, we had to send in-
':vitations. I can show you some letter that you can read through where you get Invitations. Mrs. Feldman
'i f you know a tiny little bit German and read that German-English you would have a delightful howu'ac~
Feldman: So they were funny invitations that were sent out.
SFeldman: Is the club still in existence?
S Feldman: How often do they meet now and how many members do you have now?
S Miller: We have at the present 65 members still alive.
S Feldman: I thought that there was an article in Doug Baker that the Friendship Club had died.
Miller: Yes. We had to dissolve, to give up. We were below 70 and it was impossible to put
anything. What could you offer?
SFeldman: You mean with 70 people your membership had shrunk.
Miller: And the age, what can you do. You see, you can do nothing and the last thing that we had
S was a dinner to which we have invited Professor Apfel, from the Clark Community College, the Jewish
S:: historian. We had him. He spoke on the Jewish immigration from 1850 to 1900 and then came back to the
: last immigration, that's another guy you want to talk to.
Miller: Professor Apfel from Clark Community College. He is a Jewish historian. He has a complete
Sset up In the three different waves of immigration. You can fill all holes that you want, that he has.
Feldman: Mr. Miller, I would like you to repeat for me why you founded the Friendship Club.
Miller: Well at the time we had several factions. Some wanted to call it a Jewish name and others
i: objected to having competition, running against also existing Jewish clubs, like B'nai B'rith, like
Jewish Welfare,4the different mens and women' clubs, we wanted something that was not represented
'here and what was not represented here was a club that had members from a different country, speaking
:a different language, having a different cultural background. We wanted to bring them together, so
That they could form their own circle, and find out from their own people what went on, what they heard
from over there and we succeeded that way. We thought that the Portland Friendship Club was just the
Feldman:, Were there any restrictions, as to whom you took in?
Feldman: n They were only immigrants though, was that one of the restrictions?
Miller: Yes, they had to be immigrants and come from middle Europe.
Feldman: Ah, middle Europe, German speaking.
Miller: Yes, what could you do with Italians. At least we had to understand each other. We did
have quite a p few Polish ones. We made it so that our members that came could understand their own
language. We eventually took in some American members, but by then all of us could speak English
Sand it didn't bother the national people here. If we wanted to talk to them we talked their language.
F' Feldman: What type of an American member did you take in? Do you mean people that married
SAmericans or just any American that wanted to join?
Miller: No, theyhad to be Jewish people. If we had somebody who\married gentileL, this was
acceptable, but we made it a rule not to take in gentile people, because there were German gentile
S groups here and we didn't want any part of them.
Feldmani You mentioned earlier that you felt that there was some jealousy on the part of some people,
that the refugees got jobs. In 1947 weren't there many jobs available in war industries and this sort of
Miller: Well yes, there were quite a few jobs available, still there were always people that are just
jealous. They resented foreigners getting jobs ahead of Americans and in 1956 f think, we had then
S : Holmes
Governor Mai as a main speaker.
Feldman: At the Friendship Club?
;Miller: At the Friendship Club, and at that time I was President and I pointed out that in 1947
S we needed 450 jobs and within the following 10 years our Club, six members alone had developed
Sto the point where they gave jobs to 450 people, +ew~4JLehmanp.Dennis Uniform, Shipleys.
SFeldman: Can you mention some of the other companies that had become employers? You mentioned
; Shipleysi Dennis Uniform and Lehmanrs Northwest Packing. xThbcaxka.x ,
S Miller: Three that I can just think of we had some smaller ones, but I am just talking about the
big ones, yes then Max Lowen, who had AliceLove Jam.
S Feldman: My Father bought that.
SMiller: He was one of them who gave a lot of jobs so it was something that came around slowly.
I'll think of a few more, but nevertheless Governor Holmes was very impressed at the time.
Feldman: Now, let me ask you I should go back to an earlier time. How did you learn to speak
.Miller: Well, first I went to night school.
Feldman: Where, in New York?
S' Miller: No, in Florida. You see in New York I was only 5 or 6 weeks and then I came down to
;: Gainesville and I took a night course there and then I was taken in by the Jewish fraternity, MU, and
: I talked to the boys and helped them with their German studies and they in turn helped me. Then I have
.been an avid reader, and I went as often as I could to the movies there because Rabinowitz had the
, 'Jewish movie4so I went there and listened to it and watched the mouths and everything to get my ears
Used to it. This is the difficulties we had learning English. Not learning English, learning English is
easy, to hear it and to speak it because you move your mouth differently. You pcouecx pronounce your
letters differently and so this was the most difficult part. I caught on pretty fast. I could speak English,
well, still with a heavy accent, but after two years I could speak English.
.---- -~--------r~-?----~l ---- -~------~7-~---r---Ti-
i ..-. ,
or so was ar
. i; came back and so I probably would have had to wait another 5 to 6 to 8 years, so I decided that I would
rather become independent and I opened a small grocery store on Hall and Broadway.
Feldman: What did you call this grocery store?
Miller: Miller's Midget Grocery.
Feldman: Midget Grocery.
: Miller: Do you know why? It was 16 x 20. It was little.
i Feldman: Did you live near the grocery?
Miller: Yes, around the corner.
F 'eldman: What year was It that you bought the grocery? 1948 your wife says. How long were you in
the grocery business?
i Miller: ,Well, I had to sell because Portland State came up, so I sold It in 1959 and then I opened
i another one out on 92nd, much larger.
When you read i< here at home do you read English books?
I take a German book and it is written in such a poer-language that I can't read It.
What about when you raised your children, what language did you speak? Did you speak
German or English?
Do your children know any German, do they understand it?
Hardly. Unfortunately, at the time War broke out and everybody who was a born German
n enemy alien and our children were not born here. They came from Chicago they said. They
to have no part of German or anything, and later on when we wanted to - -
Now I would like you to go back and tell me what you did after you became assistant
Leeds. How long were you there?
I was during the war and then when the war was over I decided that it would take a long
I could become a manager (a) because I still had the heavy accent and then a lot of managers
^-^fe ^^^^ ^-26-
Feldman: On the East side?
Milfer:' On the east side yes, on Foster. I made a mistake. I thought I could make it bigger, but
I found out if you get bigger you need more people, more expenses,6o we sold that one.
S Feldman: In What year?
,' :Miller: In 1960 and I became manager at the Sheridan Fruit Company and I put the whole grocery
"line and beer department in there.
Feldman: And how long were you at Sheridan? ?
Miller: Until 1966.
Feldman: From 1960 until 1966, then what did you do?
Miller: Then my son and my wife decided that I got older and couldn't lift heavy any more and they
; prevailed on me to prepare for something else and whenever I have a challenge thrown I take it. So
.they threw the challenge at me to become a real estate man. I became a realtor.
Feldman: Oh, you studied for your real estate license.
Miller: Yes, that late.
*Feldman: Yes, that's remarkable. Are you still doing it?
:a. re-o\kcr'5, Cer-V* ^c4cbtr
Miller: Oh yes, I again have tb - - isn't therehanging on the side somewhere - -
SFeldman: Yes, 1974.
Miller: I again had to learn a whole new language, but I passed.
1* Feldman: Are you still doing that you are still in that business now?
Miller: I am with John Selling.
';: Feldman: Did your wife ever help you in any of your businesses,
Miller: Yes, as long as we had a grocery store, she worked with me in the grocery store.
Feldman: Did the children help you out there too?
*Miller: Under protest.
'Feldman: Let me get on this we just have a little bit of the tape left. We have about 10 minutes.
.:iCan you give me the names of your children and who they married. Your daughter was the one that
Miller: My daughter, Gaby married Jerry Barde.
Feldman: How many children do they have?
Miller: Two boys.
Feldman: How old are they?
Miller: 12 and 15.
Feldman: And what are their names? ;
Miller: Denny and Rickey.
Feldman: And your son never married, but you told me that your son is in a very interesting business.
S Could you explain that for the tape?
. ..Miller: Well, Ralph is Corporate Vice-President of Columbia Holding Corporation and he
specializes in mergers and acquisitions.
Feldman: I see, that's what I wanted to get. I wanted that for your biographical material later.
Il did want to ask you do you think your children how old were your children when you came to the
r Mrs. Miller: Three ana four and a half when they came to America,
'F Feldman: Do they know how to speak German or have they forgotten?
Miller: They do understand a few words and they speak with an American accent i~is more
Feldman: Did your children have any special difficulties in school because they were children of a
Miller: No. She was an honor student and Ralph would have been one too if he hadn't been so
S eldman: How do you and your family feel about Germany and German goods?
Miller: No, we have not bought any German goods,
Feldman: Tell me the story of the Mercedes that you told me at the be inninq of our interview that I
S didn't get on tape.
Miller: Well, our son came during the oil crunch to us and he said, parents I know that you don't
i ant me to buy a German car but I would like to buy a Mercedes. So I said, if you like, it's your money
SIf you think you have to have one, go ahead and my wife said, look if w*4- can kiss Kissinger, Ralph
can drive a Mercedes and Ralph went to the Mercedes store and said, what would they give him for his
two year old Cadillac. They wanted $16,500 for the Mercedes and offered $2,500 for his car and then
She turned around and said my Father was right. I think that the salesman said to himself, what did fie
guy want to say when he said his Father was right .
,Feldman: Very good. We are lust about at the end of this tape now, I think I can stop it.
Tape 2 Side 2
Feldman: Since we lost the beginning of this tape on Side 1, I would like you to go back to the
point of what you did after you became a bell boy.
Miller: After I became a bell boy at Hotel Langerman I found, about 4 weeks before Christmas,
an astrology book in the elevator which said "that on -this day whatever I would touch I would succeed in",
so I took all my courage and went down to Mr. Lipman at the Eastern Outfitting Company and asked him
for a job as,a salesman in the men's ready-to-wear and Mr. Lipman asked me if I had any American
experience and I said no, and he said well, you can have a job, but I can't pay you as much as the
regulars and.so I started, during the holiday season as a salesman In the men's furnishing department.
Feldman: 'When was this about 1942?
;Miller: Yes, 1942. After I was through, a Jewish super-market operator in Longview had heard
'about me and asked me to come to Longview as to work in his store.
Feldman: How long were you at Eastern?
Miller: Four weeks and in Longview I first started at(Richerts)grocery but I didn't get too well
S along with the family and decided to look for another job. I went over to long Bell Lumber Mill and
.: -got a job as a helper behind the re-soil. That's when the first slab comes in you have to put your pick axe
in and pull it off,, for which I was too small and so a friend of mine told me that I could work at his
-r .-- -...' .. . ...
S plant at Weyerhauser and so I went as bleacher and sizer at Weyerhauser, a job that entailed feeding the
ovens and amiJgxy melting the resin and on the second shift moving the numerous wheels so that the
Sresin and the bleach mix could form the necessary chemical to bleach paper. One day when I started my
shift, a repair had been made on a chlorine line which was at that time absolutely necessary war material
Sand the crew, after finishing, left the line open and when I came on the job and started pumping, I
pumped 5,000 gallons bleach into the gutter which got me fired.
S Feldman: What did they say when they fired you?
S Miller: They thought it was kind of sabotage and being a foreigner I got fired. A friend of mine in
S Portland worked at Chandler's Shoe Shop -
Feldman: Excuse me just one moment. How long did you stay in Lbngview then?
Miller: A half a year.
Feldman: A half a year this was still 1942?
-Miller: Yes. W
SFeldman: While you were in Longview you said you were doing plane watching.
SMiller: Yes, the funny part was that we were called enemy aliens and we had to be Inside at
eight o'clock In the evening. Nevertheless I was trained as a plane spotter and to realize gas, fitted out
with a gas mask and at eight o'clock in the evening, several days of the week I took my watch on top
of one of the higher buildings in Longview, even though I was an enemy alien. Then a friend In Portland
told me that he might get me a job as a salesman with Chandlers and so I went to Portland and applied
for the job and got it and then I was promoted a k year and a half later.
Feldman: That would make it 1944- 1943.
.Miller: I was Jiecx assistant manager and window trimmer at Leeds, another branch of Chandlers,
.the Edison Bros. Shoe Company where I worked until the end of the war and then I decided that I would
Shave to wait probably quite awhile before I could become a manager and decided to become independent,
S borrowed a little money and opened a small grocery store.
' '- *: __ ,.,,_ -:- . . *_ . . . . .. . . .. . .... . . .
.} r' ,
Miller: On Harrison and SW Broadway known as Miller's Midget Market oc.
Feldman: What year did pu start that?
;. \, Miller: In 1947. In 1959 Portland State took over the building and I opened a different market
in SE 92nd and Foster which I had to give up when my wife got sick and I then went to Sheridan Fruit
Company who at that time changed from a wholesale outfit to a supermarket, put in the grocery depart-
ment and ran It until 1966.
Feldman: That fills us in in the part that was missing Now there are several other questions that Ir
would like to ask you. First of all, what year were your children born?
S Miller: Our daughter Gaby was born in November, 1936.
Feldman: And your boy?
Miller: In March of 1938, both in Germany.
S; Feldman: Now I would like to go back to your very early impressions of living in the United States,
how it was different from life in Europe, what struck you particularly about being different in the
United States at first?
S Miller: The different language .6 No, what struck me most and probably struck most for any newcomer
Swas the absolute freedom you have over here. You might say that the feeling when the bell rings in the
morning at six o'clock it's the newspaper boy or some kind of a delivery and not the police, it's worth
alone the price of admission to the United States and that is probably one of the things that foreigners
,most appreciate in the United States, this sense of freedom, and the sense of not being guilty before
Being judged which you do not have in Europe.
Feldman: I would like to ask you was youmame Miller in Germany or did you change your name
w'; ,hen you came to the United States?
Miller: it was Mueller.
S Feldman: So there wasn't much of a change?
Miller: No, but everybody called it Muller and I didn't like it and so we changed it to Miller...
S,,Feldman: -Alright. Have you become a citizen? Where and when did you become a citizen?
,~~'1.*; ~ I*'~~
Miller::,, In 1946 In Portland.
AFeldman:: Even though you were an enemy alien, they allowed you to become a citizen?
Miller: By then the war was over and we weren't enemy aliens anymore and the concept of enemy
alien changed too during the first two years of the war and as is usual in this country, when something
S happens, everything goes overboard. It is one of the funny things to watch. It happened to the
Japanese just as it happened to us. Everybody got all of a sudden so patriotic that things got a little
bit out of hand, which settled after a year or two.
Feldman: Were you effected in any other way other than having to be in at eight o'clock by these
enemy alien laws? They never bothered you, did you pay any attention to them?
Miller: I didn't pay any attention to them.
Feldman: And nobody did anything about it?
':i' Miller: My wife was block warden for an air raid as enemy aliens.
S Feldman: They handled it differently in Longview didn't they?
:Miller: They handled it differently over here too. My wife got a very nice letter and I still have It
from the then Mayor of the city/for her services as a block warden.
Feldman: Have you talked to your children about your experiences in Germany and how did they
respond to that?
Miller: We naturally told our ourchildren everything that happened over there and the differences
S over there and we tried to incorporate Into their education what was good over there plus what is good
over herewhich, combined, makes for a darned good citizen.
Feldman: .So you were satisfied with their response to what you told them about Germany?
Miller Oh yes, as I said at the beginning, they didn't want to know anything about Germany
,' ,because we were enemy aliens and in school they didn't want to be enemy aliens,- but otherwise -
:Feldman: Let me ask you, your children, were they old enough to be in high school when you were
'! an enemy alien and were they allowed to go to the school activities after dark?
Miller: Gaby was 7 in 1942, that's when she had her spinal meningitis.
SFeldman: So she was too young to be affected.
Meldman: So she was too young to be affected?
Miller: Yes, and Ralph was younger, they weren't effected at all. I know that Gaby belonged to
iKamai Kamai and my wife and I many times went as chaperones.
Feldman: What was Kami-Kamail?
Miler: One of the Jewish groups.
Feldman: In Longview?
Miller: N, here. I think it doesn't exist any more.
Feldman: It was a club?
S Miller: It was a Jewish club and they had two or threeof them here in Portland.
Feldman: Mr. Miller, do you still have any close contact with surviving relatives, where are they
and how do you keep in touch?
Milker: You mean in Europe?
*Feldman: Your family who survived Hitler.
Miller: I have no living relatives any more in Europe. I had a cousin who survived concentration
camp and died later on. The rest of my family I got over here.
Feldman :. Which members of your family did you get over here and where did they settle?
'Miller: Here in Portland. I got first after the war I got over my brother Walter from South
S America, Buenos Aires, and then I got over my sister and her husband from Buenos Aires and they settled
.Feldman: What is their names?
Miller: My sister's name and brother-in-law's name is Mr. and Mrs. Walter Salomon.
Feldman: Are you satisfied with the way your children have grown up. How would you compare your
children with other American children?
Miller: Well, I think they got a good education. They made the most of it and I am satisfied with
i'*.' both of them.
SFeldman: You are very happy with the way they turned out.
Miller: 'And I am very proud of my two grandsons.
'-~-~ii-rin~-~p"-"~"~m ------ I-
Feldman: How would you react if one of your children had married a non-Jew?
S Miller: Well, I would have tried to prevent an inter-marriage, having seen very often that it
; doesn't work, and even more so it doesn't work in this country than it did in Germany.
S Feldman: Why is that?
Miller: You tell me, I don't know why, but definitely inter-marriage here and the looseness of
Sthe family bund has contributed to it. Not so much that it is gentile-jewish, but simply the all over
': Feldman: You think it makes it more difficult if either one of them had married a gentile?
Miller: I am of the opinion, yes. We would have accepted the fact, but we were spared.
Feldman: Now, we have talked quite a bit about your acquaintances who are also refugees and the
Friendshbp Club but what contacts do you have with American born Jews and how well do you get
along with them?
Miller:, I have never had any trouble getting along with American born people.
Feldman: :Jews or gentiles?
Miller: Jews or gentiles owing to the fact that I like to tell jokes I can tell ethnic jokes as well
as others and I never had any trouble. I belong to Toastmasters International and havelrisen as high as
SInternational Host for our international meeting in Portland in 1971 and I still belong to Toastmasters.
..Feldman: Do you belong to any other organizations? .
S Miller: Not American organizations. I belong to the Portland Friendship Club of which I am the
President but I have not belonged to any other clubs, mainly, because when you ee seven days a week,
fourteen hours a day working, you have no time to belong to too many clubs.
Feldman: Right. Do you have any close friends who are American born Jews?
Miller: Not close friends. Friends yes.
S Feldman: Do you have any non-Jewish friends?
Miller Oh yes.
:Feldman: Close friends -
i, Miller: Close no I would say friends, but not close.
4 -- --
Feldman: Have you ever had any bad experiences in this country with non-Jews?
S Miller: Yes, once or twice in my store, My wife as well as I, but that we handled very easily.
.Feldman: Could you give me an example?
Miller: Yes, we had an Irishman, who was a customer, six foot two, and when he came In and had
one too many, he didn't always hide that he was what we call on the oati&x anti-semitic side, but
when I got mad at him one day and threw him out of the store when he used abusive language, he said,
well, If a little Jewish runt like you can stand up to a six foot Irishman and tell him off, that I can I
Appreciate, and he shook my hand and we had no trouble since then. That's about the only experience
that I had.
Feldman: What do you think of the blacks and the civil rights movement?
Miller: This is a funny question to answer. Funny because the first thing when I came to Galnsville,
Florida in 1939, I was told that black and white don't mix and I saw In the parks the separate drinking
fountains and rest rooms and everything and that is the only thing at that time touched me a little bit
Uncomfortably because having come from the Nazi regime who had slogans like, dogs, negroes and Jews
S. not wanted, that was the only thing over here that struck me as out of place and I didn't live long enough
Sin Florida to get any experience along that line and when we later on came to the Northwest w the
difference between black and whites were so little, as to be almost hardly noticeable.
Feldman: Are you in favor of the civil rights movement?
Miller: Well if you are an American it shouldn't matter the color of skin you have and you should
.'have the right to be an American because that is what I love in this country.
Feldman: Good. Do you belong to a synagogue? What kind and how often do you go?
Miller: I belong to the Ahavaie Sholom ever since we came to Portland, 1942. We belong since then
.and we are still members.
;iFeldman: How often do you go? Twice a year, Rosh Hashonah and Prom Kippur or a little more often?
Miller: In the last few years I have managed to be sick around the high holidays which got me
out of having to go. Let me preface Oferwords. I am not what is considered a religious Jew. I am a
o- t- f- hvn to go. Let me
conscientious Jew. I was born a Jew. I decided that I have to live as a Jew and I have to belong to
a congregation, because the congregation has to have a Rabbi and has a Sunday School and a Sunday
School is necessary to raise children and give them a sense of morals, regardless of how they change later
once they make up their own minds.
Feldman: 'Are your children practicing Jews?
Miller: Gaby and Jerry very much so and my son has changed quite a bit and is a very conscientious
S;Jewish humanitarian. ,
Feldman: Why did you jox join Ahavie Shalom?
iMiller: Because that was the conservative synagogue close to the one that I belonged to in Germany.
' i: Feldman: I see. Do you keep kosher at home?
Feldman: You don't.
Miller: We do not use pork. My wife will not use pork, but we are not kosher.
Feldman: You said you sent your children to Ahavie Shalom Sunday School.
';: Feldman: Do you often go to movies or plays? Do you make a special effort to see Jewish movies or
Miller: Well, I saw Fidler on the Roof and when these kind of pieces came over I looked at them.
My wife and I do not go very often, or hardly ever to the movies, thanks to an invention called Television.
SFeldman: You enjoy television. Alright. Do you belong to a political party? Which one and why
,:*,4 Nand have you contributed to any political campaign?
,.Miller: Yes, my wife and I are registered Democrats and we joined the Democractic party for the
simple reason that it was under Roosevelt that we came to America and if it wasn't for Roosevelt we would
S not have been alive today, partly because the Democratic party in nature was closer to what we were in
Germany, where we also belonged to the Democratic party, only that the Democratic part in Germany
: was a little bit more liberal and a little bit less left. That is the only difference.
Feldman: Have you ever contributed to any political campaign? Do you want to mention it at all,
were there any special, do you admire anybody particularly that's been in office?
Miller: When we were asked I sent to Mayor Goldschmldt and I sent to Hubert Humphrey. We
contributed to a few people.
Feldman: Do you like the American system of government and do you think that it works?
Miller: It seems to work when you read the papers and the nice part is that you can speak your
mind and call a guy any kind of a name you want to call, without having any trouble, which I remember
vividly from the old country yet and I still think it could stand a few improvements here and there, ,
but then who is perfect?
Feldman: That's very good. How do you feel about Henry Kisslnger being Secretary of State?
Miller: Henry Kissinger in my opinion is a little bit of a controversial figure. Some of his secret
dealings I didn't agree with. Others I have and there is no doubt about it that with his German
background he has done a lot of things that had to be done and probably may not have been done
";correctly by somebody else.
Feldman: Do you feel pride that he is the Secretary of State or are you afraid?
Miller: No, I am not afraid, because to coin a phrase, can'tt become President because he
+ wasn't born here so there's no danger of that and I wouldn't want him to become President for the
I L ,simple reason if anything goes wrong, so they couldn't blame it on a Jewish German.
Feldman: That's what I am exactly talking about, about this fear of having a German Jew as
i:: Secretary of State if something goes wrong, that they would blame it on his background.
Miller: It is proven that whenever you read the papers they talk about Kissinger and they always
mention the German Jew. What this has to do with Secretary of State when the Secretary is mentioned
I do not understand.
Tape 3 Side 1
:Feldman: Mr. Miller, I would like to ask you now, what do you think at the present time what are the
: most important issues facing America?
madwsnM Miller: Well, the wayl see it, the most pressing issues for us is to stay out of any
+,,+-- -. ,+.. ,+ + +. + + +7 2
controversies in any other part of the world. If America by now has not learned that you cannot be
policeman to the world, they will never learn.
Feldman: What do you think of our relations with Israel?
ai U Miller: I think it is a very important connection for both sides, because despite conflicts in
our thinking which is only natural, I think that Israel is the only friend, the only real friend that
America has of all the other countries that took our money and I have been in Israel and I have seen
that it has been the only country where our money has been used the way it should have been used in
the rest of the world.
Feldman: When were you in Israel?
Miller: In 1969.
Feldman: How do you feel about Israel personally?
Miller: Israel is a fantastic country. When you travel through it and see what has been done and
how it has been changed from a virtually desert to an agricultural and industrial country then I can only
say it is second to America and Germany.
Feldman: Do you think there is any danger of America's involvement with Israel embroiling us in
Miller: No, There will be no other war. As things have been in the last six months, it has been
proven that the Arabs will never unite and if I should cite a miracle -- 'that miracle is that 2000
years ago our Jewish state ceased to be with a prophecy of a 2000 year diaspor and that I was given the
chance to be around 2000 years later when it became a state again.
Feldman: That's very interesting. Do you think there is any danger of anti-semitism in the United
Miller: Yes, very much so, from the experience that I had under Hitler and under the Communists
in Europe, there is a very thin veneer of civilization among people, given a depression, too much of an
Inflation, too many people out of work, the same thing could happen over here that has happened in
Europe,Jj would only take one man, talking loud enough to give to everybody else what the others have
and you would have a party like the Nazis.
Feldman: You recdy think that could happen.?
Miller: All you have to look at is what happened in the twenties in Chicago. The violence
has always been there. The violence is always there. People have not changed. Look at Ireland,
look at wherever you want, anything is possible, so I take nothing for granted.
Feldman: Do you get restitution payments from Germany and did you have any doubts about
Miller: Yes, I do get a small restitution and then I get social security because I paid that in
Germany and I have no doubts about accepting it, because I am entitled to it.
Feldman: What are your feelings about Germany and the present day Germans?
Miller: They are over there and we are over here. That's about as close as I want to be.
Feldman: Are youhappy that you came to America?
Miller: Yes, absolutely. I have seen quite a few other countries. I have talked with people who
have been living in other countries and I should say I wouldn't want to live in any other country but
Feldman: So you are happy that you came here and lived the life that you have made for yourself?
Miller: And so are my kids.
Feldman: One more question and then we are through. Do you feel more or less Jewish than you did
before what happened to you in GermanY? Be honest.
Miller: Let's put it this way. I have never been a real religious Jew. I have always been a
f* conscientious Jew.
Feldman: What do you mean by the difference there?
Miller: In other words, I did not believe in running every Saturday to the synagogue. I went to the
synagogue on the high holidays because my wife insisted, but as I said before, I believe as a Jew I had to
belong to a congregation that I had to contribute to the causes that our Judaism stands for. That doesn't
make me a good Jew and it doesn't make me a bad Jew.
Feldman: You just belong and you feel that you belong.
Miller: I belong and I feel that I belong.
Feldman: You mentioned earlier in the first tape that you lost some faith in God during the time
that you were in prison, that you prayed and there was no answer and that you then decided that maybe
there was no God or he didn't have time to listen to you.
Miller: To this, funny to say, I should answer that things that have happened to me in the last
few months have contributed to my changing my mind.
Feldman: Can you elaborate on that a little bit on what happened to you in the last few months?
Miller: I was gradually losing my eyesight and when I went to my Doctor he found out that I had
sesartic rheumatic arthritis which contributed to'cataracts and through the miracle of modern medicine
I received an implant which is only possible since about six months which made me see again like with
a normal eye.
Feldman: What kind of an implant, was it a cornea?
Miller: A lens.
Feldman: A lens right in your eye.
Miller: Na-uThey drop in a little piece of glass, not ground glass, but polished glass, and if the little
sac behind the pupil is not too tight, nor not too loose, it will hold the glass and it can be sewn in. I
was at the Doctor yesterday and he told me that it had set.
Feldman: So that was your own personal miracle.
Miller: So when you are looking for miracles, the funny part is that you are apt to overlook the
obvious one. Fifty years ago, a man with a little moustache wrote a book and in this book all the Jewish
names at that time were mentioned to be exterminated. Where is the little man? He is gone, and I am
still here that's miracle number one. I had trouble with my eyes. I waited long enough until medicine
could correct it, and they only can do it that way since six months. If this aren't two miracles that I
should recognize then there aren't any that I would recognize.
Feldman: So you now believe again, after all these years?
Miller: Ithink I will have to.
*Feldman: Is there anything else? We really are at the end of the formal interview, rve asked
iyou all the questions. Is there antyhing about your own personal philosophy of life or anything that
S you would like to add to this tape?
Miller: Yes, I have a personal philosophy. If you need a helping hand look at the end of your
right arm and you'll find one.
Feldman: That's your own personal philosophy?
Miller: Thats my own personal philosophy.
SFeldman: Is there anything else you want to say?
Miller: No, that's it.
S Feldman: Thank you very much Mr. Miller.
-". - -