Miles Lerman, who fought the Nazis in Poland and later helped found the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, has died. He was 88.
Lerman's wife, Rosalie, confirmed Wednesday that he died Tuesday at his home in Philadelphia.
Born in Poland, Lerman was a member of a prosperous family whose flour mills were seized by Nazis. Lerman escaped from a slave labor camp and fought the Nazis with other partisans for nearly two years in the forests of his homeland.
"Our job was to raise havoc, to raise hell with them and survive," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
After the war, Lerman moved to Lodz, where he met his future wife, Chris Laks, an Auschwitz-Birkenau survivor. They wed in 1945 and immigrated to New York City in 1947.
Lerman 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 he invested in real estate.
Lerman was involved in the Holocaust Museum from the planning stages. Appointed to its governing board by President Carter, he was reappointed by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Clinton. He was the board's chairman emeritus.
Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the museum, said in a statement that Lerman's "boundless energy and determination were a driving force that created the museum and made it the international institution it is today."
According to the museum, Lerman led the fundraising campaign to build the institution and helped develop agreements that created the Museum's Permanent Exhibition and archives.
He also led efforts to build a memorial at the Belzec death camp in Poland, where his mother died. He later discussed the project with Pope John Paul II.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, a daughter, five grandchildren, six great-grandchildren and a brother.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW, Washington, DC 20024-2126.