Ford, Watergate — and the Holocaust

The passing of former president Gerald Ford has led to reminiscences in the press about his presidency and, of course, Watergate. I remember that time well, and am aware that many people now are too young to remember that time. I want to add to the stories one more, different from those we’ve been hearing.

My neighbor at the time was a Jewish woman who, with her husband, had left Austria early in its occupation by the Germans with the diamonds from their two mothers’ engagement rings sewn into the lining of her coat. Most of their two families died in the Holocaust. Her sister committed suicide in Israel a few years after the war as a result of survivor’s guilt.

My neighbor had just retired (from a career as a social worker for the city of San Francisco) at the time of the Watergate hearings. The local PBS station played the entire hearings on tape delay every evening, starting at 6 or 7 and often running into the small hours.

My neighbor watched them assiduously every night, staying up as late as necessary. Because, she explained, she felt an obligation to bear witness. And because she remained astonished and grateful that she was living in a country where even the president was not above the rule of law.

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