Return to Transcripts main page


Holocaust Survivor Narrowly Avoided Synagogue Attack; White House Defends Trumps Rhetoric in Wake of Hate Crimes; National Mourns After Week of Unthinkable Violence. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired October 29, 2018 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] SAMATHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: It was the Jews on Saturday, it was African-Americans earlier in the week. And so right now, what we have to do is quell that hate, because it will move on to another minority group. Whether it's migrants, whether it's immigrants, refugees, name your minority group. And so, what we need to do right now is all come together as a community. That's something he's taught me when I was a little girl. I shared a poem with you. Everything you need to do is speak up against conspiracy theories on Fox News, against the President spreading misinformation, even today, about what the media is. Because that's how we get at the source of the hatred. Social media is a piece of that, but again, we have to go to the source.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Call it out, condemn it, thank you, Oliver and Laurie and Sam. Appreciate it very much. Coming up next here, an 80-year-old man who survived the holocaust says he could have been one of the victims in the Tree of Life synagogue if he had not been running late just by four minutes. He joins us live in a moment to remember the friends who are lost.



RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, SURVIVED MASS SHOOTING: To me, as a rabbi, as a Jew, one anti-Semitic act is one act too many. One act of hate against any other human being is one act too many. I'm not just concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism, I'm concerned about the rise of hate in our country.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: That was Rabbi Jeffrey Myers from Tree of Life synagogue just a few moments ago. I want to introduce you to a man who narrowly avoided the synagogue shooter. He's 80 years old. His name is Judah Samet. He survived the holocaust as a child. He was running four minutes late on Saturday, arriving at the Tree of Life parking lot to find police in a shoot-out with the gunman at his place of worship. Judah Samet joins us now. Thank you so much for being with us. I'm sorry it's under these circumstances.

JUDAH SAMET, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR WAS 4 MINUTES LATE TO PITTSBURGH SYNAGOGUE: By all means. COOPER: Can you tell me a little bit about what happened when you got


SAMET: Well I was moving into the -- along the building, you have a handicap lane, and I have a handicap ticket, I have problems with my knees. So, I moved in slowly and this guy came, knocked on my window, somebody dressed almost like you, black coat, black pants, white shirt. And he said, you better back out, there is a shooting going on in the synagogue.


SAMET: And he did it twice. It took me maybe a minute to process.


SAMET: What's going on. And all of a sudden, I see this guy standing right outside my car, behind the wall, with a pistol and he started shooting. And he was shooting two, two, two, two, three. The other guy was answering with rapid fire. Da da da da, da da da da, da da da da. So, I'm a curious guy. So, eventually, I move towards the passengers, so I could see him.

COOPER: You wanted to see what was going on?

SAMET: Yes, I wanted to see who he was shooting -- who the policeman was shooting. I figured he was a detective. And I saw the guy. He was only about four or five cars from me. So --

COOPER: Did he have an expression on his face, or --

SAMET: Well, he was busy shooting, you know. So, I didn't look at his eyes real good, but I saw the rest. I have been questioned by the FBI three times. And I said, the first thing I noticed that he had -- I wasn't sure if it was a wind breaker, light blue, or it was his shirt. And he had a, jeans, blue jeans, so was the detective, also, he had a wind breaker. This guy didn't have it. And that thing went on for maybe 90 seconds or something like that. And then he disappeared. Yes.

COOPER: And then what -- did you pull out?

SAMET: Well, it was very hard to back out, because there were other cars backing out at the same time. There were no cops yet.

And then I started to go home, I see all those hundreds of police vehicles coming from all over the place.

COOPER: Right.

SAMET: And they -- looking at the guy, yes, he looked very concentrated, very focused. Da da da da, da da da da. And they asked me, what was the color, was it an Uzi? I said, no, my ammo in the military was an Uzi --

COOPER: You were in the Israeli military, so you know? SAMET: Yes. My ammo, because I was a combat radio man, was an Uzi.

COOPER: You also -- I mean, you survived -- you were in the Israeli military, you survived the holocaust. You were in Bergen-Belsen as a child, 6 1/2 years old.

SAMET: Yes, well, 7, I turned 7.

COOPER: Seven.

SAMET: And we survived because of my mother. She spoke fluent German, so she was the interpreter. But that's not what helped us survive. My mother, Rachel, was 4'10", beautiful woman, you know? Brilliant out of the box. And they -- she was guts, sheer guts.


SAMET: She was unbelievable. And she saved a lot of Jews. Because when the train came for us, finally, and they -- she noticed that they were putting two buckets in each car. Those small buckets, you know, that milk -- farmers use to milk their cows in, three gallon or so.

[15:40:02] The one with the water, and the other one was for toilet purposes, and then they loaded us, 70, 80. So it was standing room only.

COOPER: In boxcars.

SAMET: So, my mother did something that would have killed her. She addressed the commandant. She said, I know where we are going. This water is not going to be enough. What will we do? You know, along the way, they say, what happened to the Germans? They used to be the flower of Europe. So, there was a sergeant, gestapo. There was always a sergeant with the commandant. He took out his gun, put it to my mother's head. Hitler had a very specific rule. If a Jew opens his mouth, you shoot them dead. The only way they can talk, is they ask a question, you ask it.

COOPER: Did you ever think that you would be faced with that kind of hate again here in Pittsburgh?

SAMET: Well, I know that you have all of those white supremacists' organizations. In fact, the "Liberty" paper is punished -- is published right here in West Virginia, within maybe 50 miles or so from here. And -- I was always wondering, if nothing happened here, maybe they didn't want to do it here near their homes.

COOPER: So what is your message to those who hate? What is your message to those who did this?

SAMET: You know, there is a thing in the bible, not in the five books of Moses, but I don't remember which prophet, [SPEAKS HEBREW] alas, Esau hates Jacob. So, I read -- you know, there was a wonderful essay by Orwell -- by George Orwell, anti-Semitism and why. And he concludes. He says, the Jews are the biggest contributors in every human in their field, considering their slight numbers. You know? So why are they hated so much? And it says, I think it's in their DNA. Hatred is in their DNA.

People ask me sometimes, you know, I lost a brother in one of the wars in Israel. I remember when he died. And I came home and my mother said, at least he didn't die in Bergen-Belsen, he died for the state of Israel. It was somewhat of a pride in her. But they -- I remember I was asked. Do you hate the Arabs? And I said, Jews don't have hatred in their DNA. They don't know how to hate. In fact, they feel sorry for them.

COOPER: Do you hate the man who did this?

SAMET: I don't know. I hate what he did. But I don't know the guy.


SAMET: But evidently, he's a sub-human.

COOPER: Well, let's -- I appreciate you talking to us. I know it's a difficult day and you've been through a lot.

SAMET: I'm a tough guy.

COOPER: You are a tough guy. There's a lot of tough folks here and you're going to get through it. Judah, thank you. It's an honor.

SAMET: Thanks very, very much. Thank you.

COOPER: Thank you very much. Brooke, back to you.


BALDWIN: A tough guy. A tough guy, he says. I'll let you keep talking to him, Anderson. Thank you so much. Appreciate that and appreciate him and his stories and his own personal history, it's extraordinary.

My next guest here coming up on CNN says anti-Semitism is like a canary in the mine shaft. What does he mean by that? We'll discuss this horrific attack there at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue, in the context of our nation and our world's history. Stay with me.


BALDWIN: The White House is defending President Trump's response to the series of hate crimes across the country. He blames the media. Check his Twitter. Not his own rhetoric for spreading rage and division. And with me now is CNN presidential historian, Tim Naftali. And Tim, I wanted to read this -- part of this Patty Davis -- daughter of President Ronald Reagan. She wrote a piece in the "Washington Post" this morning. The headline is, "Let's Stop Asking Trump for Comfort After Tragedies." And she writes this.

This President will never offer comfort, compassion or empathy to a grieving nation. It's not in him. When questioned after a tragedy, he will always be glib and inappropriate. So I have a wild suggestion. Let's stop asking him. His words are only salt in our wounds.

Do you agree?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I agree with Patty Davis. Anti-Semitism, hatred, bigotry, predates Donald J. Trump. We as a nation, as a people, have to remember what our values are. The problem with Donald J. Trump is that the pot is on the stove, and he could turn down the heat. But instead he repeatedly turns up the heat and stirs even harder.

We have to look to ourselves. We have to look to our communities. We have to look to our faith leaders. We have got to find it within ourselves to deal with this toxic political climate. Our presidents have historically been the leaders. We are lucky. If you think about the amount of power that our President has, we are darn lucky that in a Cold War, in World War II and after the Cold War, we've had more uniters than dividers. That was not inevitable. We happen to have a divider right now in the White House.

[15:50:00] We know that, because his go-to position is a political position. In the past, we've had uniters, Patty Davis' father, John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford. Franklin Roosevelt. We're lucky. Right now, we don't have that kind of leadership in the White House. We have each other. And let's not forget that.

BALDWIN: Thank you for that. And with one minute to go, you and I were both sitting here for special coverage Saturday night. And you said that anti-Semitism is like a canary in a mine shift. What did you mean?

NAFTALI: Yes. It's a warning. Whenever our country falls into these terrible moments of toxicity, anti-Semitism is on the rise. Whether it was 1939, 1940-41, when the country was debating whether to enter into World War II, anti-Semitism was on the rise. Whether it was in the 1950s during the McCarthyite period, anti-Semitism was on the rise. When we were at each other's throats over what to do in Vietnam, there was anti-Semitism. And we see it again. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the sickness throughout our country. So, everybody who is against hatred, everyone who is against those values that are clearly against those anti-American values espoused by haters, they have to see what happened in Pittsburgh as an attack on all of us.

BALDWIN: Yes. We all have to speak up as a result of it. Tim, thank you very much. Appreciate you.

BALDWIN: Coming up next, we remember the victims by name. The 11 beautiful human beings who were taken from this world too soon.


BALDWIN: I want to end on this. A synagogue is a place of worship. It's a temple. It's a community, it is a home. And as many Jews know, going to Schule is a way of life. It's where you see your friends and your family. It's where you can freely express your belief. Babies are named. Children become adults at their bar and bat mitzvahs. Couples are wed. It's also, where men and women are buried. But this week, it is where 11 mothers and fathers and grandparents, brothers, friends were killed.

Here's the thing. The United States is a country of freedom. That's what it's built on. That is the American dream. But this week in America, that dream was shattered for so many families. Politicians and leaders were sent bombs because of their political leanings. Two African-Americans were murdered in a grocery store, it's believed, because of the color of their skin. Eleven Jews were slaughtered in a sanctuary because of their beliefs. We are so much better than those people perpetrating violence and fear.

No matter where your sympathies with any cause may rest, there is a line that must never be crossed. Violence of any kind from any position must be universally condemned. And to do any less, to condemn only on a case-by-case basis is all it takes for it to be tolerated. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, condemnation is your duty. Call someone out. Do a good deed, a mitzvah. Because nothing less is acceptable. Words matter. And so, let my final words today go to the people who can no longer speak for themselves. Those who died at the Tree of Life synagogue, 66-year-old Jerry Rabinowitz who's a doctor who bushed with the gun fire to help the wounded. His nephew says his uncle always wore a bowtie that made people smile.


SUSAN BLACKMAN, FRIEND AND PATIENT OF MASSACRE VICTIM: He was always available by telephone, if I had a question, and I would always be able to ask him, well, what are the red flags? You know, when should I start to worry? And he would always put me -- put my mind at ease.


BALDWIN: 97-year-old Rose Mallinger was described as spry and vibrant. She regularly attended synagogue with her daughter.

88-year-old Melvin Wax was leading Shabbat services when the shooting began. Friends say he was quiet but loved to tell jokes.

71-year-old Daniel Stein attended synagogue every Saturday and had just become a grandfather.

75-year-old Joyce Fienberg was a former research specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. She is being remembered as a, quote, engaging, elegant and warm person.

65-year-old Richard Gottfried owned a dental practice with his wife for more than 30 years. The couple helped prepare other couples for marriage at his wife's Catholic church.

Bernice and Sylvan Simon were wed at a candlelight ceremony at Tree of Life back in 1956, and their neighbors said that they were the sweetest people you could imagine.

Cecil and David Rosenthal were brothers who always sat in the back of the temple and greeted people as they came in to worship. The 59 and 54-year-old brothers were described as inseparable. Their funerals are scheduled for tomorrow.


SUZAN HAUPTMAN, MEMBER, TREE OF LIFE SYNAGOGUE: Cecil was tall. David was small. They stood proud at the front door, at the door that was open into the sanctuary, which ever sanctuary it was. They just stood there, hello. They gave you a book where they said hello or they were the good Shabbos or they -- they were like the ambassadors.


BALDWIN: And finally, 69 -year-old, Irving Younger was a former realtor and little league coach. Neighbors say he was a wonderful father and grandfather who went to synagogue every single day.

And our deepest condolences going out to the families and the Squirrel Hill community and beyond. Thank you so much for being with me.

"THE LEAD" starts now.