Esther Lederman is a 93-year-old Chapel Hill resident, Holocaust survivor and author of "Hiding for our Lives." Senior Writer Erik Beene talked with her about her thoughts on the in Chapel Hill Silent Sam protests and other recent events.
Daily Tar Heel: From your personal experiences, what are your thoughts on the recent events that happened in Charlottesville?
Esther Lederman: Well this reminded me very unfortunately of about happenings in Germany in the 1930s. It started with mobs. It started with appealing to the lowest human instincts and of course these instincts always have followers because they are so brilliant. It sounded frighteningly familiar and I’m scared. That’s all I can tell you.
DTH: Chapel Hill is experiencing a lot of controversy with Silent Sam, what are your thoughts on the recent protests?
Lederman: It’s ridiculous. The whole thing is ridiculous. It’s a statue. It’s reminder of history and maybe it’s good it’s there it reminds you of what stupidity people believed in. So, it can go both ways.
DTH: Recently there’s been a rise in white nationalism and the alt-right movement in the United States. What do you think is contributing to the rise?
Lederman: I think in times of crisis, of any time of crisis, that’s what happened in Germany after World War I when there was a tremendous economic downturn. There was unemployment, there was hunger, money had no value. Somehow the base instincts come out and they appeal to mobs as I said before.
DTH: Are there any parallels you see in the political climate of today and that of 1930s Germany?
Lederman: It is familiar and I just hope in the American people’s minds are not so corrupt. I hope that the person who sits in the White House gets a sudden cramp and resigns. Wishful thinking.
DTH: What are your feelings on the direction of the U.S. and the new policies being implemented?
Lederman: I came to this country in 1949 after the war. I am an immigrant. Immigrants built this country. We are all immigrants. When I came here I started a new generation. We have four generations of extremely accomplished people. People who do things for others and accomplish and enrich this country. Not in money, in mind, in culture. This is our home. This is our county. And we’re not the only ones. But you open the door. This was the country with open doors and opportunities. And you can do it. You can do it. We survived Hitler. We are holocaust survivors. So, it was not easy but we made it.
DTH: What do you think about the sudden turn against immigration?
Lederman: It is an issue because there’s this wave of immigration from Mexico. Our leader (President Donald Trump) said he’s going to build a wall and they’re going to pay for it and other craziness. And now thank God, we got (Hurricane) Harvey. So, we have another issue here. Costly issue, life, and goods, and money. And we have to face that, not the wall, not this craziness, these ideas. And now we have a big issue. Immigrants, of course they want to come here.
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