Hamilton, Ohio – He lived a century and made an impact that will echo infinitely longer.
Dr. Al Miller – best known as a Holocaust survivor and tireless champion for his adopted hometown of Hamilton, Ohio - passed away at the age of 100 Thursday, August 24.
“Dr. Miller was one of those people that makes Hamilton the special place it is,” said Ian MacKenzie-Thurley, Executive Director of the Fitton Center for Creative Arts. “As a local optometrist for 40 years, he assisted the community with their vision.
“But more importantly, he helped people see the horrors of the Holocaust and fought against injustice. He opened eyes and he expanded hearts through his commitment to sharing his story of survival.”
Miller grew up in Berlin, Germany, as Adolf Hitler came to power in the 1920s and ‘30s.
“My memory has become deficient, but some things I will never forget,” Miller said during a November 2, 2022, appearance at the Fitton Center for a Celebrating Self luncheon. One of them was something his teacher told him in front of the rest of the class. “‘I think you will want to get into a concentration camp and I can help you to get there,’ is what he said. That is what we dealt with.”
By 1937 – at the age of 14 – he fled Germany for Switzerland; his parents stayed behind, unsure of their fate. His brother escaped to England. It was nearly two years before the whole family reunited in Belgium, spent a few days in Holland and made its way to New York City.
Miller told how he misplaced his papers upon arrival in the United States, but a kindly immigration official provided another indelible memory.
“This is another thing I will never forget,” Miller said “He said, ’Sonny, you are now in the United States of America. You are in a free country now. Make something of yourself and we will be grateful you came to live with us.’”
He did, serving in the U.S. Army from 1943 through the duration of the war. He returned to Germany as a Ritchie Boy, working in intelligence and interrogating possible war criminals before coming back to Ohio to open his ophthalmology practice in Hamilton.
Miller and his wife of nearly 70 years, Janie, donated the Steffi Friedman sculpture New Life Out of the Ashes: Remembrance that sits just inside the Fitton Center doors as a reminder of and tribute to all who were lost in the Holocaust.
Funeral services are set for 2 p.m. this afternoon – August 25 - at Weil Funeral Home, Cincinnati, with visitation from 1 to 2 p.m. The Miller family requests contributions be made in his honor to the Holocaust and Humanities Center-Al and Jane Miller Education Fund, in Cincinnati; Beth Israel Synagogue, in Hamilton; the Freestore Food Bank, in Cincinnati; or the Fitton Center in Hamilton.
The Fitton Center for Creative Arts is located at 101 S. Monument Avenue on the Riverfront in downtown Hamilton, Ohio.
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