dear BAM

yes its been a while

but who wants to give up

a lovely

and possibly historic



think how much this helps

both of us

in our life review processes

we’re in a better position here

than the shrinks and women and children

who didn’t know us

when we were young and illusioned


Since your last I have often pondered two things

Harcourt Brace and the Holocaust Museum Show

on which I saw you on CBS


That you attribute Kerouacian life to me is indeed flattering

I am after all a footnote in most Kerouac biographies

            for my Village Voice review in 1957

I am peeved though that more recent scholars

than the seminal (pardon the pun) Ann Charters bio

in which I first appear

are starting to misspell my name


There is a little Brecht poem I have lived with all my life

he was after all a Hitler era refugee also


in America

Brecht wrote

he is always asked



Which I think the entire Harcourt Brace episode --

(unfinished sentence)

incidentally they’re now broke and we’re not

How about that?

Or are we --





substance abuse is the best revenge

don’t you think


Your Holocaust bit

like the Harcourt Brace routine

shows the contrast between our lives even more effectively

I arrived in the USA illegally in 1941

avoiding being one of the non-French

Jewish children of Paris

sent in 1941-1942 to the transit camp at Drancy

and then

to Auschwitz


Back in

Hah Vuhd Yahd I didn’t realize yet

that this would always make

such a great and unavoidable difference

but wot the hell archie

twas ever thus


I am still cheerfully telephone tootling in LA
was hospitalized last year from April to July

for pneumoniapsychiatricdiabetes

brought about by the usual mindmasturbatory gymnastics

which I have always substituted for concrete thought

but now am totally fine

I just go to the topnote VA clinic for everything

as I have done since 1984

So much for Korean war motherfuckers


I realize I did not finish with the Holocaust bit -- as usual

Just prior to the hospitalization

for my illegal Nicaraguan passport to which I owe my life

and was good for every country in the world including the US

(except of course Nicaragua)

(but see WYMAN, D.S.: THE ABANDONMENT OF THE JEWS -- subtitled

America and the Holocaust 1941-1945 -- in print from Pantheon in paperback)


Now that we’re finished with tonight’s survivor syndrome routine

we can hopefully move into better if not juicier things


My oldest daughter Milena is expecting a child this summer -- my third grandchild

(the family tree in AMALEK* is unnecessarily bitter on this subject)

Milena lives in Dracut, MA so is conceivable I may come East at that time

would dearly love to see you somewhere (NYC perhaps?)

or should we await the 50th reunion in 2002 (Common Era)?


Did you receive the recent opinion research questionnaire on Harvard alumni

            attitudes to the OLDE SKUL?

A lovely questionnaire

I didn’t ream them out too badly though

because I still hope to telemarket some extension cords

to the Ford Foundation through my contact man McGeorge Bundy


I will probably (or maybe) leave LA in 1996

with Social Security and Austrian Social Security reparation

a good new program to salve their souls by Hitler’s and Waldheim’s homeland

and move to Jerusalem or just back to St. Marks Place or perhaps even Odessa

            but not Vienna or Paris

But more likely I will continue with a phone in my hand

until the cord rises to strangle me for over 30 years of bullshit


I am not quite as celibate as I have been for the last 10 years

have one extremely nice girlfriend and a coupla others that aren’t bad at all

not the Doors’ LA WOMAN type though, more earthy and streety


After all, why not lead a Kerouacian life after all? I tried everything else




(Note: Following correspondence is reprinted with permission of the author, Jan. 1998)


                     Mar. 28, 1994

Dear AO,


Well, I’ve been slow. But I’ve been away some--Cleveland for the Democratic National Committee (high excitement, of course), Illinois for the primary and so on. But I regret my long delay.


Harcourt Brace? Elaine? You write, “They’re now broke and we’re not.” Really?  Elaine, at least, worked for the State Dept. forever and must have a pension. You can knock the feds for lots of things, but they give good pension.


The Holocaust Museum. Well, it isn’t really a U.S. Museum. It was paid for privately; the government donated the land; the museum will be privately maintained. It got built basically because American Jews wanted it--and some other Americans too, of course.


You would probably know better than I whether the U.S. government knew during the war exactly where Auschwitz was. I remember, probably about fifteen years ago now, a couple of Air Corps vets who’d flown strikes against the nearby Farben (I think) chemical plant and who wondered if their gun cameras had filmed the camp. They plowed through a lot of very old footage and yes, their cameras had. You could see lines of people standing in snow, waiting. I’ve been to Auschwitz a couple of times, when I was in Poland doing stories about that still Communist country when the Pope visited it in ’83 and ’87. It is of course more haunted than any museum.


But the thing I remember most was on the ’87 visit, when I did a story about the Jewish community in Krakow, a lovely city the war failed to destroy. Most Jews who survived the war left Poland, of course. Why not, since the Poles killed some the Germans had missed. So the Jewish community, in ’87, was a handful of old men, just enough to make a minyan, which is what, ten or so. We took pictures and the producer and I asked them why in the world they’d stayed. It was what we knew, one said. Another added, “ was a life.”


It’s hard to draw morals. Does the Holocaust mean the U.S. should have intervened in Bosnia? I don’t know. When I went to Vietnam after covering a number of other people’s wars, a colleague said VN would be different, seeing dead Americans would be different. He was right. I wouldn’t have risked American kids for anything that war was supposed to be about. World War Two was in a good cause, I think. I’m not sure there’ve been many good causes since.


Your book* shows a lot of thought about the past. You are probably more thoughtful than I. Reporters tend to want to get on to the next good story, and I am no exception.


And you have a commanding lead in grandchildren. My two otherwise swell grownup kids haven’t done that yet. The rocker (my son) is married but broke and my daughter is single but not against kids in principle. We shall see. Anyway, if you come East, we should probably meet. I have no plans to be in Odessa; New York’s a lot easier.


I didn’t get a questionnaire about Harvard. A pity; I’d have said nice things about them, mostly. I learned a lot--more, of course, from the people I met than from the courses, but still. I did interview McGeorge Bundy once, and I thought of reminding him that he once threw me out of Winthrop House. But I didn’t.


Write if you come East. No, forget that, write anyway.






Washington, D.C.





·        The book, Forgetting Amalek by Arthur Oesterreicher, will appear in toto or in part on the Artur’s Studio site at some point in the near future (if not even as you are reading this.) – The editor.




All material: Copyright © Big Step Down 2000.