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Historian Robert Satloff

Robert Satloff is executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. His new book, Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands, is about the Arabs who protected or aided Jews in North Africa during World War II.


Other segments from the episode on December 14, 2006

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 14, 2006: Interview with Robert Satloff; Obituary for Peter Boyle.


DATE December 14, 2006 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Robert Satloff, author of "Among the Righteous: Lost
Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach inatoArab Lands," talks
about Arabs protecting and helping Jews during World War II

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

This week Iran hosted a conference on the Holocaust that challenged whether
the Holocaust really happened. The Holocaust deniers and white supremacists
were welcomed to the conference by President Ahmadinejad. My guest Robert
Satloff has written a new book about the Holocaust reach into Arab lands. It
tells the story of how the German Nazis, Italian fascists and French Vichyists
applied some of the same anti-Semitic methods in North Africa that were used
against Jews in Europe. The book also tells the lost stories of Arabs who
protected and rescued Jews. It's called "Among the Righteous." Satloff is
executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Robert Satloff, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Is Holocaust denial part of your reason for writing your new book?

Mr. ROBERT SATLOFF: It's actually the principal reason why I first started
writing my book, which was a recognition that Holocaust denial is really the
tip of the iceberg that separates the great cultural divide between many
aspects of Arab and Muslim culture and our own. And I tried to come up with a
way to access, a way for Arabs to access this so that they wouldn't be subject
to the horrible spewing of the deniers. Most Arabs, I find, actually are not
deniers as much as ignorant of the events of World War II, of the Holocaust.
And so I wrote this book to try to find a way for them to access it in a
language and in a history and a context which would make sense.

GROSS: Part of what you wanted to do with your research was to find stories
of Arabs who helped save Jews during the Holocaust. Why was that your angle?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, I very early tried to come up with a hopeful and positive
and constructive way to talk with Arabs of goodwill about the Holocaust. And
the first conclusion I reached is I should try to make it an Arab story, and
not just an Arab story but perhaps a story about which Arabs could identify,
an Arab who saved a Jew. If you accept and celebrate the heroism of an Arab
who saved a Jew, then you have to accept the context that there was something
to save that Jew from. And so in some way I hoped that I could use this as a
way to lance the boil, as it were, of some of the denial that exists in these

GROSS: Before we get to some of the stories you uncovered, let's just look at
the map of Northern Africa during World War II. Which parts of Northern
Africa were controlled by fascists, Nazis or the Vichy government of France,
which was collaborating with Germany after the invasion of France?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, the first observation is that most Arab countries were
under European domination, under European colonialism. You had in North
Africa, for example, France governing Algeria as a colony and governing
Morocco and Tunisia as protectorates. They had their own titular
monarchs--the sultan in Morocco and the bey in Tunis--but they were under
French control. Libya was an Italian colony. Then Germany came to these
lands directly, in terms of their own occupation, only in one Arab country,
and that's Tunisia for a very important six-month period in '42 and '43.

Other Arab countries had their touch with European Axis powers. Syria and
Lebanon, for example, were under Vichy control but only for a brief period of
time. When one speaks principally about the Holocaust's long reach into these
lands, into Arab lands, one is speaking mainly about the North African
experience where Germany, Vichy France and the Italian fascists were in
control from summer of 1940 until the spring, until May, certainly in Tunisia,
until spring of 1943.

GROSS: There were no death camps in Northern Africa, but there were labor


GROSS: What did you learn about those labor camps?

Mr. SATLOFF: Yes. This is just one aspect of the story that I had no idea
existed. There were over 100 slave and forced labor camps in Arab lands. One
hundred spread out from Morocco on the west through Libya on the east. Now,
these were called concentration camps by the French and by the Germans who
established them. As a matter of fact, what we tend to forget is the first
concentration camps ever liberated by the Allies were these, the ones in Arab
lands in 1942. There were torture camps, what the French themselves called
"punishment camps." Sometimes these were for Jews in local Arab lands, the
ones in Tunisia especially and Libya and in some parts of Algeria. Sometimes
thousands of Jews were deported from Europe to serve in slave labor camps in
the Sahara, in Arab lands. So there's a mix of Jews, European Jews, Jews from
Arab lands who suffered, but the total number is over 100 that have now been
recognized by the German government.

One of the small measures of pride--actually, it's a great measure of pride,
my contribution was modest. One of the great measures of pride for my
research was to help contribute to this effort through some of my findings
that convinced the German government to provide compensation to some of the
Jewish survivors of these camps.

GROSS: You know, you point out that there were labor camps in Northern
Africa, even though they were not death camps. I was not aware of that. At
the same time, I've seen the movie "Casablanca" a lot. You point out a scene
in "Casablanca" in which labor camps are referred to, that I have to say went
right past my attention every time I've seen it.

Mr. SATLOFF: It went past...

GROSS: You want to describe that scene?

Mr. SATLOFF: Yeah. It went past my attention the first dozen times I saw
the movie, too, until it finally dawned on me, as I was watching it for the
umpteenth time, that Major Strasser warns Ilsa that it would be better for her
husband to give himself up and go back to Paris or else, he says, `I will put
him in a concentration camp here.' And the critical word is "here." He meant a
concentration camp in Morocco. And, I mean, there's a lot of technical flaws
in "Casablanca," but that one was absolutely right. And one has to remember,
"Casablanca" actually came out in December '42, only one month after the
Allied invasion of North Africa. And they knew it and they understood it, and
this was well known at the time. And that's really, really why I subtitle my
book "Lost Stories," not "Unknown Stories," because there was a time when
people knew about these and talked about them.

GROSS: Now you described some of the laws that were put into effect in North
African countries during World War II that limited the rights of Jews,
stripped some Jews of their citizenship. You say that a lot of Jews in that
part of the world were already second-class citizens.

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, I think it's very important to understand the
relationship between Jews and Arabs in Arab countries historically. It is
absolutely true that you were better off being a Jew living in an Arab or
Muslim land historically than being a Jew being born in a Christian land.
Jews of Christian lands suffered the Inquisition, being burnt at the stake,
the pogroms, the Massacre of York. One never had any of that in Arab lands, a
very different experience. So, relatively, you were better off in Arab and
Muslim lands.

Objectively speaking, life for Jews in Arab lands wasn't itself a rose garden.
You were a vinly. You were--which is a vinly is a Muslim religious terms
which referred to non-Muslim people of the book, non-Muslim believers who had
a different rank, a different status in society than Muslims themselves. You
paid special taxes. You were subject to special laws, special restrictions on
where you could live, what you could do as an occupation. It was difficult,
sometimes very difficult. So relative to the Jews of Christendom, you were
much better off. Of course, you didn't know that if you only grew up and
lived in these countries.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Satloff, author of "Among the Righteous." He's also
the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is Robert Satloff, and he's the
author of the new book, "Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the
Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands."

Let's get to some of the stories that you uncovered about Arabs who helped
protect or save Jews during World War II in Arab lands. First of all, you say
that there were Arab guards in camps who intentionally disobeyed orders to
help protect Jews.

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, there is some testimonies from some Jewish survivors of
these camps that at times the torture or the orders coming from the fascist
commandants, usually French Legionnaires, were so egregious, so inhumane, that
some of them did what they could to undermine the orders or not implement
them. There is one example of a testimony where Arab guards willfully shot
their weapons away from Jews who they were ordered to shoot on. Or sometimes
there were Arab guards who were especially kind to Jews who were suffering at
the hands of torture. And the torture there, in some cases, rivalled the
torture of some of the camps in Europe. So we do have these testimonies from
some of the Jewish survivors.

GROSS: You describe Algiers as being the setting for one of the war's most
remarkable episodes of Arab solidarity with Jews. What happened there?

Mr. SATLOFF: Vichy France tried to win as much support among the local Arab
population for its policies as it could, and it tried to bribe local Arabs.
And one way it tried to bribe them was to invite Arabs to serve as custodians
of Jewish property, confiscated property--shops, stores, factories--that Vichy
took from Jewish property owners, and they offered Arabs the opportunity to
run these. And it was make quite a nice tidy profit.

And then one Friday in 1941, all the mosque preachers in Algiers issued a
hutpah, a mosque speech, on the same Friday, in which they said it was
forbidden for any believer to take the bribe from Vichy. And the remarkable
thing isn't just that the mosque preachers, the imams, all issued that order.
The really remarkable thing is that not a single Arab took the bribe, not a
single one broke with the edict.

And the Jews of Algiers remembered this. The leaders of the Jewish community
said, you know, it wasn't their battle, but still they understood and were
fraternal, and they remembered. And I think that is a great story of
solidarity at a time of war.

GROSS: Another story from Algiers is about a Muslim leader who resisted and
urged people to resist any efforts to create a Jewish pogrom.

Mr. SATLOFF: Yes. There were Muslim religious leaders in Algiers in the
early 1940s, late 1930s, who although the Vichy and Nazi anti-Semitism was
targeted first towards Jews, they understood that Arabs were only slightly
lower on the ladder of peoples that would be the object of that persecution.
And if, you know, first the Jews went, targeting the Arabs wouldn't be too far
behind. This wasn't widely accepted. There were some Arabs who did welcome
the coming of the fascists. But especially among a group of liberal Muslim
religious leaders and part of the Algerian nationalist movement, they said,
`No, we shouldn't let this happen to Jews because first go the Jews and then
go the Arabs.'

GROSS: You write that the most famous of the Arabs who helped save Jews
during World War II was Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco. What did he do?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, the most important thing that the sultan of Morocco did
was to lend vital moral support to the Jewish community of that country.
Morocco was under Vichy control. Vichy wanted to apply the Vichy laws. And
in one famous episode, the sultan said in front of Vichy officers and the
international diplomats that were in his court that the Jews were all his
children. `All the people of Morocco are my children and I don't make any
distinction between and among them based on religion.' Vichy went ahead and
implemented its laws in Morocco, but the Jewish people of Morocco forever
remember the sultan for standing up and not acquiescing himself in the fervor
with which Vichy went about its business.

GROSS: Now his Tunisian counterpart also helped Jews. What did he do?

Mr. SATLOFF: Yes. His Tunisian counterpart Moncef Bey was less well known
because, well, there was a revolution in Tunisia which got rid of the
monarchy. And the rulers, the victors get to write history. And there still
is a monarchy in Morocco. And Moncef Bey had a very difficult situation
because the Germans actually came to Tunisia, and he had to wrestle with how
to keep his country intact, how to deal with the German occupation and still
do what he can to protect Jews.

And when he first came to the throne in '42, one of his first acts was to
decorate a large number of Jewish personalities to give the message to Vichy
and to their German allies that Jews were integral part of his kingdom. And
he surrounded himself, his principality, he surrounded himself with a court of
very liberal people who did wonderful deeds on behalf of individual Jews:
warning Jews that the SS was coming to make arrests, helping to exempt Jews
from forced labor, individually helping Jews, and this was all under the
patronage of Moncef Bey.

And the Tunisian ruling family, the royal family, to this day is remembered
with great fondness by the Jewish community. Actually, in my research, I went
to visit the grand rabbi of Tunisia, who lived at the time. He's passed away
since. He lived at an apartment right next door to the oldest living heir
from the Tunisian royal family. And I knocked on his door and I was led in,
and he explained to me that for the last 50 years, since the overthrow of the
monarchy, that he and his family have been taken care of by Jews. His
apartment was paid for my Jews. His son's education was paid for by Jews.
And this was a wonderful testament to the memory in which his family was held
by the Jewish community of that country.

GROSS: You also visited the home of Mohammed Chenik, who was the prime
minister of Tunis during the German occupation. What did you find out there?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, Mohammed Chenik was a philo-Semite. Many of his business
partners were Jews. Many of his friends were Jews. And there's some really
compelling stories that he did what he could to help save Jews during the
German occupation. And so I, at one point, I wanted to find out more about
him, and so I gathered together his family, his children, grandchildren,
nieces, nephew, etc. They all met at the family home, and I went to see them
to see if they could provide me more stories, more evidence. And while they
were very polite and welcoming, this was the first experience of mine where I
found that they were really not interested in learning about the wonderful
deeds that their father and grandfather had performed.

And I guess I was a bit naive. I had thought that these sorts of exploits,
these great humanitarian exploits would be welcome to learn about. They were
very, as I said, very polite, but I'm quite sure that they were pleased when I
left, and they were very happy to show me the door.

GROSS: You think that they weren't that enthusiastic about the idea that
their father and grandfather had helped rescue Jews?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, one of the phenomenon that I've witnessed in the last
couple of years, since I've gone around talking to various children and
grandchildren of these rescuers, is a very mixed reaction. And sometimes
they're very honest. You know, sometimes children and grandchildren will say,
`What my grandfather or father did half a century ago was wonderful then, but
politics makes it very difficult for me to touch the story now.' And this has
to do with this very sad reality that somehow over the last 50 years, in many
parts of the Middle East, many parts of Arab societies, it became toxic to
celebrate stories of Arabs who saved Jews. And even though, you know, the
politics--this is before the state of Israel. There is certainly no political
implication here, but still the politics has become so toxic that for many of
them it's very difficult to embrace at least in a public way.

GROSS: Now, one of the really interesting documents you found you actually
got in France from a mosque there. And this is a document that showed that a
mosque had provided certificates of Muslim identity to Jews so that Jews could
pass as Muslims and not be in danger.

Mr. SATLOFF: Yes. This is a fascinating story because it occurred right in
the heart of Europe, right under the German occupation, when Vichy is in
control, when the Germans are in Paris. And the story concerns the Great
Mosque of Paris, the foremost Muslim institution in all of Europe. Its head
was an Algerian by birth named Si Kaddour Benghabrit. And there is compelling
evidence that Si Kaddour Benghabrit saved up to 100 Jews in a very clever
fashion by providing them with certificates of Muslim identity, false identity
papers: birth certificates, marriage certificates saying that this person is
Muslim. And with that, they could evade arrest and deportation. He even went
so far in one episode to help save a certain famous Jewish singer, a man by
the name of Simone Hallali, by inscribing the name of Hallali's grandfather on
a tombstone in the Muslim cemetery outside Paris. So that when the Germans
came for Hallali, he was able to say, `But wait a minute, look at my
grandfather's name on that tombstone. I'm really a Muslim.' Hallali just died
a couple of years ago, and that anecdote was mentioned in all of his
obituaries. And when I was in Paris a little more than a year ago, the
current rector of the mosque handed me a document from French archives which
showed that the Germans had even brought in his predecessor, Benghabrit, and
scolded him and warned him stop providing the assistance that helps so many
Jews. So I thought that was pretty compelling evidence.

GROSS: Robert Satloff is the author of "Among the Righteous" and the
executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. He'll be
back in the second half of the show.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.



I'm Terry Gross back with Robert Satloff, the director of the Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, and author of the new book "Among the
Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands." It
tells the story of Arabs who protected and rescued Jews during World War II
after the Germany Nazis, Italian fascists and French Vichyists enacted
anti-Semitic measures in North Africa.

I figure you've been following the coverage of the convention in Iran that
challenged whether the Holocaust existed. That convention was held earlier
this week. What have your impressions been from what you've read?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, it's a pretty sad collection of people that have gathered
in Iran. Sad because they are the most obscure and fringe people among
European and American Holocaust deniers. They don't even reflect the main
thrust of the problem of Holocaust denial in the Middle East today. I mean,
those people are truly fringe. I mean, they happen to have an inherent who
runs the major state and is very serious about his intent, I think, to
implement what he has to say, which is the destruction of Israel. But I think
even most Arabs who read this will say, `Well, you know, that is so far out.'
That's not what I think. But most people in the Middle East are dominated by
ignorance, not, I think, by deep seeded, well-thought-out hatred and malice.
And that's why we need to touch people and try to attack the ignorance.

I would like to think that Arabs actually have a Holocaust story that they
could tell back to Ahmadinejad that their own experience, both with
perpetrators and with heroes--I think Arab historians have their own
experience with the Holocaust, even apart from what happened in Europe, as
terrible and as hugely grotesque as that was. But Arab historians can stand
up if they want, if they knew this, and they could say, `Wait a minute. It
even happened here. So don't tell me, don't lecture to me about the

GROSS: You write about two trends in Holocaust denial. One is the trend of
like `It never happened, it's just a lie.' Or, you know, `It's just a lie to
justify the creation of Israel.' But then there's what you describe as
Holocaust minimization. Well, just an exaggeration, six million, you know,
maybe some Jews died, but it certainly wasn't six million.

Can you talk a little bit about Holocaust minimization as a trend?

Mr. SATLOFF: Yeah. Actually, Terry, I think there's three different

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SATLOFF: And on one end of the spectrum there is denial. It's a myth it
didn't happen. At the far other end of the spectrum, it's not denial, but
there's celebration. Yes, it happened, and it was good. And the only bad
thing about is that Hitler didn't finish the job. You also see this written
in some regrettably mainstream newspapers in Arab countries. But the vast
amount of people, I think, have the third view which is relativism or
minimization, which is, `Well, it was nothing special. We don't know actually
how many died. Was it 80,000? 600,000? Six million?' This is almost exactly
what the president of Syria told Charlie Rose several months ago. `I don't
know how many died, and it doesn't really matter.' This is what the president
of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, wrote his doctoral dissertation
on 30 years ago in the Soviet Union when he said the numbers are open to
dispute. All of this is really an effort to delegitimize Israel where if
there's nothing uniquely special, if this wasn't the most effective effort to
exterminate an entire people in human history. If there's nothing uniquely
special about this, then there's no need for a unique remedy, which is how
many Arabs view the creation of Israel. And I think that's why Holocaust
relativism, the idea of it that, `No, we don't need a special word. Genocide,
a special word that was created just for the Holocaust. We don't need these
special words because, OK, bad things happen over time. They've happened
before and they'll happen again.' But, in fact, the world recognizes that the
Holocaust was a uniquely depraved moment in human history for which we had to
create new words to describe the enormity of the depravity.

GROSS: You're the director for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
How would you describe the goals of your group?

Mr. SATLOFF: Our group is--was founded 21 years ago to try to provide a
balanced and realistic view of the nature of Middle East politics and how the
United States government should try to assert its interests in the Middle
East. Now everyone is trying to grab the mantle of realism these days, but I
believe that what we've tried to do for the last 20 years is bring great
regional expertise, people who know the language, society, history, politics
and culture of the Middle East and try to offer an alternative source of
analysis and recommendations for, in a very bipartisan fashion, for the
executive branch of government, for the policy-making community in Washington,
who are always looking for good ideas and good analysis and good

GROSS: Are you still doing your show on Alhurra? Am I saying that right?


GROSS: This is, Alhurra is an Arabic cable station that's funded by US money.

Mr. SATLOFF: Satellite.

GROSS: Satellite. OK. Satellite. And I guess it's beamed across the Arab
world. And I think your show is the only show done by an American. Do I have
that right?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, from what I understand, I'm the only non-Arab to host an
Arabic talk show on Arab satellite television anywhere. Alhurra is the US
government-funded Arabic satellite television which goes out to all the Arab
countries in the Middle East. And then last August, we started beaming to the
Arabic speakers of Europe. It is independent of the government in the sense
that, in the same way that Voice of America has a firewall that separates it
from, you know, direct intervention by the government. And my talk show is
designed to demystify Washington for Arab viewers. It's called "Inside
Washington." And every week I look at different aspects of politics,
personality and policy in Washington and try to give Arabs a way to access
what really makes Washington tick.

GROSS: How long has Alhurra been on the air?

Mr. SATLOFF: Alhurra has been on the air for about three years. I've been
on the air for just over one year. We had our celebration about a month ago.

GROSS: So is this the station that was created after the invasion of Iraq?

Mr. SATLOFF: This is the station...

GROSS: To improve our image in the Arab world?

Mr. SATLOFF: Yeah. I personally don't like that phraseology because I don't
think we have an image problem as so much we are fighting an ideological
campaign against radical extremism. And I think what we need to try to do is
through our public diplomacy is to identify, nurture and support allies in
this campaign against radical extremism. But, yes, the idea of the station
emerged after 9/11. The Congress, bipartisan support, and the administration
was hugely supportive, and it got off the ground I think in 2003.

GROSS: Do you feel like in some ways you're fighting a losing battle trying
to make your points on a station that I think is seen in a lot of the Arab
world as being American propaganda?

Mr. SATLOFF: No, not at all because if you view yourself as vying for the
same market as Al Jazeera, then, of course, you're going to be despondent
because there's no way that an American-funded station can compete with the
yellow sensationalism of an Al Jazeera. But that's not, at least, how I view
it. Our objective is more the--what I would call the PBS market in the Arab
world. Those thinking people who are looking to understand Washington, who
are looking for a liberal alternative, who are looking for a place on their
remote control which they can call a home. And that's very different from
what most people in the Middle East find on all the other stations. And so I
think that obviously we need to do better in our ratings. But the key
objective is to reach out to those people who are on the front lines, and if
we can touch them and have them access us, then I think we're doing a
first-class job.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Satloff, author of "Among the Righteous." He's also
the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Robert Satloff, author of "Among the Righteous: Lost
Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands." He's also the
executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

You know a lot of experts who follow the Arab world say that the war in Iraq
has just been an incredible setback for the United States in terms of our
image and our diplomacy. Do you agree?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, there's no doubt about the war in Iraq being a, you know,
huge deficit on America's ability to achieve its objectives throughout the
Middle East. But I would not take the reality of the war in Iraq as difficult
and as troubling as it is and be a Cassandra about America's entire standing
in this part of the world. Arabs are--still want us very much to be engaged
for many reasons. Arabs fear a rise in Iran. Arabs know that we provide an
important security protection against a rising Iran and the Iranian influence
that is spreading in many parts of the region. Arabs know that we are still
the key broker in helping to achieve an Arab-Israeli peace. And they want us
to be engaged. Arabs know that we remain the most powerful external actor
throughout the Middle East. And if you go and speak to Arab leaders, informed
opinion throughout the Middle East, they are fearful of our departure far more
than they're fearful of our continued deep presence in this part of the world.

GROSS: Just curious, did you support the war in Iraq at the time of the
invasion, and do you still think now what you thought then?

Mr. SATLOFF: You know I was living in Morocco at the time of the invasion.
And so it was a rather unique vantage point in which to see what was going on
back here in Washington. I did support the idea of ultimately using military
force to overthrow Saddam Hussein and to change the course of that country. I
mean, in my view, I still think it was the right thing to do. I think the
greatest problems occurred after we had achieved that military victory, and I
have deep regret about many of the decisions that have occurred since then. I
still think that it was the right thing to do.

GROSS: In spite of everything that's gone wrong and all the setbacks that
have resulted?

Mr. SATLOFF: Well, I mean, you know, as a historian by training, and I know
that this is going to be not the easiest thing for many people to swallow, but
a historian by training, we're still extremely early in the process. I think
that we have been dealt--we have dealt ourselves a terrible situation in Iraq,
but I think that overall the idea that Saddam Hussein would not just be in
power but that would be free of sanctions, which was really what the option
was back in late '02 and early '03, I think that would be an even worse
situation given a rising Saddam, and a rising Iran I think would have been a
much more difficult situation. So, I'm quite modest about the benefits,
believe me, that have accrued to us in the last couple of years.

GROSS: I'm sure when you started the process of trying to research how the
Holocaust affected Arab lands and what Arabs did to try to protect Jews who
were in jeopardy, I'm sure when you started that process, you had some idea of
what you were going to find. How does that preconception compare with what
you actually found?

Mr. SATLOFF: It's a very interesting question. I'd thought, when I first
decided to do this, that these stories existed, that they were just out there,
and all I had to do was really just find them in obscure books and popularize
them, just make them more better known. But then pretty soon after I first
made this initial decision, I learned that, of the 20,000 non-Jews recognized
by Yad Vashem, the official memorial to the Holocaust in Israel, the 20,000
non-Jews recognized for rescuing Jews, the righteous, the righteous of my
title, that none of them were Arabs. There were Muslims. There's Bosnians,
Albanian, Turks. There were people from east Asia. There were people from
all over the world, but there were no Arabs. So then that said to me, you
know, there's something going on here. There has to be. I mean the war was
fought at least partially in these countries. There had to be some. And so
at that point on, I just had images in my mind of what these stories would be.
And only by really tracking them down and being very fortunate some of the
people rescued tracked me down. Then I was able to piece together these
stories. They, in many respects, were even more wonderful in their
humanitarianism than I had originally imagined.

GROSS: Robert Satloff, thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. SATLOFF: It's a pleasure. Thank you.

GROSS: Robert Satloff is the author of "Among the Righteous" and the
executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Actor Peter Boyle, who died Tuesday at age 71, talks
about several of his films in his 1988 interview

After a long career as a character actor in movies like "Joe," "The
Candidate," "Young Frankenstein," "Taxi Driver" and "Hammett," Peter Boyle
became a regular presence in the homes of millions of TV viewers in his role
as Ray's father in the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond." Boyle died Tuesday at
the age of 71. He had multiple myeloma and heart disease.

We're going to listen back to an interview I recorded with Peter Boyle in 1988
when we talked about several of his films.

Why don't we start with your first starring role in "Joe," which became a kind
of frame of reference for certain kinds of working class bigot of the period.

Mr. PETER BOYLE: Yeah. "Joe" was a film that was made in, 25 years ago and
during the time of the war protests and, you know, just in the first years of
the Nixon administration. And I didn't realize it until a few months ago, but
the movie was made in late 1969, 1970 about this bigoted, hard hat kind of guy
and children, involved having kids on dope and he goes crazy and he shoots up
a bunch of hippies, blah, blah, blah. But the movie was made and released
only five weeks after Penn State. And when it was released, it really caught,
you know, the tragedy and the craziness of that time.

GROSS: Why don't we hear a bit of that?

Mr. BOYLE: Oh, you're going to play it?

GROSS: Yeah, we'll play a bit of that.

Mr. BOYLE: This is going to shake me up.

(Soundbite from movie "Joe")

Mr. BOYLE: (As Joe) All you got a do is act black and the money rolls in.
Set fire to the cities, burn a few buildings, you get paid for it. Throw a
few bombs, you get money and jobs. If you can't read, you've got a better
chance of getting hired. A lot of good my education did me. And the kids,
the white kids, money don't mean nothing to them. Motorcycles, marijuana,
fight on the records. A dollar ain't worth...(censored by network).

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: So, who did you pattern "Joe" on?

Mr. BOYLE: Who did I pattern "Joe" on? Oh, you know, certain people I knew
as I grew up, uncles, policemen, teachers, certain people with certain social

GROSS: Did people start to confide their prejudices to you?

Mr. BOYLE: Yeah, the ones who said, `Joe, you know, you had the right idea
about all of those hippies. You know what we should do? We should put them
in a big boat and take it out to the middle of the ocean and drop a nuclear
bomb on it.'

At any given time in this society, there's any number of people that life
would like to murder a certain group of people. So, there was a certain funny
kind of reaction to it.

GROSS: What impact did "Joe" have on your career?

Mr. BOYLE: Well, it sort of started my career, but it also distorted it a
little bit. So, I kept trying to avoid a stereotype. But the more I did, the
more I got into it, so.

GROSS: You got into this stereotype the more you tried to avoid it?

Mr. BOYLE: Well, movies are very--and people are very stereo--you know, the
movie typecasting goes on forever. And if you do one role and you make an
impression, that's all they want you to do. It's really true.

GROSS: Now, let me move on to a very different...

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: ...role, "Young Frankenstein," right?

Mr. BOYLE: Did I make you nervous?

GROSS: No, no, no. No, no.

Mr. BOYLE: OK. I thought you were defending the typecasting system.


Mr. BOYLE: Going to "Young Frankenstein."


Mr. BOYLE: From a bigot to a monster.

GROSS: That's progress.

Mr. BOYLE: Not such a simple--yes, "Young Frankenstein."

GROSS: This is Mel Brooks' horror...

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: ...spoof.

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: And you were the monster?

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: So, did you go back and watch the original, study Boris Karloff?

Mr. BOYLE: I didn't have to because I had seen the original when I was about
12 years old. In the era before television where there was a movie in
downtown Philadelphia that used to show old movies, and a friend of mine went
down--and I went down to see the original "Frankenstein." And it scared me.
And it made such a strong impression on me that I really didn't have to go
back and do research because I patterned my performance on Karloff and made,
you know, did it a certain way. And I wanted to make it like there was
somebody inside the monster.

GROSS: Did you remember the monster's grunts, which, of course, you had to

(Soundbite of Peter Boyle's grunt)

Mr. BOYLE: Yes, of course. Yes.

GROSS: The makeup is actually funny for the film because you could see where
the makeup is.

Mr. BOYLE: Well, they--you know, the "Young Frankenstein" really sort of a
spoof of the early "Frankenstein" movies which were actually among the first
sound movies ever made. They were made in 1931. And the lighting and the
makeup was very much in the style of the silent movie. It hadn't gotten that
sophisticated. So, some of the makeup was, you were aware that it was makeup.
That was somewhat intentional.

GROSS: One of the highlights, I think, of "Young Frankenstein" is when Gene
Wilder, who plays Dr. Frankenstein the scientist, is showing off you, his

Mr. BOYLE: Yeah.

GROSS: ...his creation to a big audience...

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: ...of scientists. And then you, as he's showing you off...

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: do a duet with him of "Puttin' on the Ritz."

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: In full top hat, white tie and tails.

Mr. BOYLE: Mm-hmm. And seven--you know, and shoes that are elevated eight,
have soles that are eight inches thick. You know, because that's the part I
remember. And I had to tap dance in those.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. GENE WILDER: (As Dr. Frankenstein) (Singing) "If you're blue and you
don't know where to go to why don't you go where fashion sits?"

(Soundbite of snapping fingers)

Mr. PETER BOYLE: (As monster) (Shouting) Puttin' on the Ritz!

Mr. WILDER: (As Dr. Frankenstein) (Singing) "Different types who wear a day
coat, pants with stripes, or cutaway coat perfect fits..."

(Soundbite of a thump)

Mr. BOYLE: (As monster) (Shouting) Puttin' on the Ritz!

Mr. WILDER: (As Dr. Frankenstein) (Singing) "Dressed up like a
million-dollar trooper..."

(Soundbite of a thump)

Mr. WILDER: (As Dr. Frankenstein) (Singing) "Trying mighty hard to look
like Gary Cooper..."

Mr. BOYLE: (As monster) (Shouting) Super dooper!

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: You grew up in Philadelphia?

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: And in this city, you were famous as the son of Uncle Pete.

Mr. BOYLE: That's true.

GROSS: The show that your father did...

Mr. BOYLE: Yeah.

GROSS: ...that people I know who grew up in Philadelphia remember was called
"Lunch with Uncle Pete."

Mr. BOYLE: Yes.

GROSS: And why don't you describe what he did on that show.

Mr. BOYLE: Well, he would have kids come into the studio and also this is a
time when kids would actually go home from school and have lunch, or little
kids who were home would have lunch and he would announce his menu for each
day. And he'd have a little lunch and he'd draw some pictures and tell some
stories, talk to the kids in the studio and show various old movies. A lot of
times he showed "Our Gang" comedies. And he also went to another period where
he showed a lot of Hopalong Cassidy.

GROSS: How old were you when he was doing "Lunch with Uncle Pete"?

Mr. BOYLE: Well, when he was doing all that, I was not a little kid anymore.
I was really like a guy. I was--you know, when all this went on, I was like
in high school and then out of high school and in college.

GROSS: Was it exciting to have a father on TV? Was it ever embarrassing?

Mr. BOYLE: Well, it was really--well, sometimes, you know--I mean, I don't
remember too much--sometimes it would be--only you get recognized everywhere.
But what was exciting for me was he would bring me down to, especially in the
early days--because everything was live on television. There was an
incredible excitement. And he would bring me down to the studio, and I would
sit and watch them rehearse and watch them shoot these shows. And since
there's no tape and there's no error, there's no repeating anything.
Everything was very exciting. And then also sometimes there would be
fascinating guests or, you know, just people would pass through the station.
But they would go from studio to studio. I remember seeing a TV crew wrap a
show, rip off their microphones and run down the hall into the next studio to,
you know, fire up the cameras for the next show. So, I enjoyed watching all
of that, the production of it and seeing him do it and hanging out with him.
It was really exciting.

GROSS: Did that ever give you the bug to perform?

Mr. BOYLE: Oh, I don't know. Maybe. I think it did. Yeah, it did. Also,
my dad, you know, we grew up in Philadelphia, my dad was an avid movie buff
and theater buff, and he took me to the theater a lot.

GROSS: That's great.

Mr. BOYLE: So we saw a lot of plays, a lot of musicals, but also a lot of
plays that used to, when there was more of a--when Philadelphia was more of a
tryout town.

GROSS: Peter Boyle, recorded in 1988. He died Tuesday at the age of 71.

(Soundbite of music)


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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