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Norman Miller, German Refugee Who Helped Arrest a Top Nazi, Dies at 99

Norman Miller was visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1999 with his sons, Steven and Michael, when they stopped at an exhibit that described the top Nazi leaders who had carried out the extermination of six million Jews. When he pointed to a picture of Arthur Seyss-Inquart, a high-level but not widely known Nazi, he made a stunning admission.

“I told you I arrested him, didn’t I?” Norman Miller said.

“We were incredulous,” Steven Miller recalled in an interview. “We turned to him and said, ‘What?’”

Until then, the elder Mr. Miller had not said a word to them about Mr. Seyss-Inquart, who, as the Reich commissioner of the German-occupied Netherlands, was responsible for deporting thousands of Dutch Jews to concentration camps. He had held a similar job in Poland, where he was known for policies that favored Jewish persecution.

The chance encounter between Mr. Miller, a German refugee who was serving in the British Army, and Mr. Seyss-Inquart happened on May 7, 1945, the day Germany surrendered to the Allies to end the war in Europe. Mr. Miller was part of the Royal Welch Fusiliers regiment, which was guarding a checkpoint between the American and British sectors in Hamburg.

When a brown Opel, which had been driving erratically, was forced to stop at the checkpoint, one of the four men in the vehicle said that he had papers for Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery to sign. One of the soldiers asked a German policeman if the papers were in order, according to a newspaper published by the regiment after the incident. The officer said the papers, which were in German, looked all right. But the fusilier was not satisfied with the response.

So he asked Mr. Miller, who read German, for help.

“He came over to me, showed me the paper,” Mr. Miller said in an oral history interview with the Holocaust museum in 2013. (The regiment’s newspaper said that the fusilier brought all four men to Mr. Miller.) And then, he said, he realized that “we have a big Nazi fish here.”

Mr. Miller, who knew Mr. Seyss-Inquart’s name and face from newspapers, recalled that he had him arrested and sent to the battalion commander. He was convicted of war crimes by the Allied military tribunal in Nuremberg and hanged on Oct. 16, 1946.

But Mr. Miller did not get a lot of satisfaction from the arrest.

“I mean, I wasn’t overjoyed,” he said in an interview last year with WNBC-TV in New York. “It didn’t help bring my parents back, my family back.”

Mr. Miller died on Feb. 24 in a hospital in Manhattan. He was 99.

His son Steven confirmed the death.

Mr. Miller was born Norbert Müller on June 2, 1924, in Tann in der Rhön, Germany, and moved with his family to Nuremberg in 1930. His father, Sebald, was a teacher, and his mother, Laura (Jüngster) Müller, managed the home.

The Müllers’ desire to leave Germany became even more urgent during the pogroms of Kristallnacht, in November 1938. Nazis entered the family’s apartment and used axes to smash furniture, musical instruments including a piano and cello, featherbeds and a cupboard with jars filled with jams and pickles.

The next year, Norbert, his parents and his sister, Susanne, moved to another building in Nuremberg designated for Jews only. They shared an apartment with an older couple.

Despite their desire to keep their family intact, Norbert’s parents could secure safe passage for Norbert only through the Kindertransport, the British rescue effort that brought some 10,000 children to safety from German-occupied countries.

On one stop in the journey, in Cologne, Germany, Mr. Miller’s father realized that his son didn’t have the correct paperwork to reach the Netherlands. Mr. Miller said that his father sneaked into the closed British consulate and emerged with the signed document that he needed to board the Kindertransport train and later enter Britain on a ship from the Dutch seaport of Vlissingen. (Mr. Miller believed that his father most likely bribed someone to get the document.)

It was late August 1939. Only a few days were left before Germany would invade Poland on Sept. 1 to start World War II. Fifteen-year-old Norbert’s family would never get the visas they needed.

In London, Mr. Miller lived in an orphanage and later in rented rooms. He also learned to weld.

But he was alone, a teenager without his mother, father and sister. He and his family exchanged letters over the next two years.

One day, his parents sent him a haunting photograph that looked like a vision of the wish that they had never been separated. A picture of Norbert was inserted into a studio photo, between his mother, who was leaning to her left, and his sister. His father was at the right.

“It’s devastating,” Fred Wasserman, who curated Mr. Miller’s 2016 donation to the Holocaust museum of documents including letters and notebooks, said by phone. “This is an instance where a picture is worth a thousand words.”

In 1944, when he was 20, Norbert joined the British Army — he believed that it was the best way to learn what happened to his family after their correspondence ended — and Anglicized his name to Norman Albert Miller. A sergeant, he was assigned to the intelligence section because he was fluent in German, which explains why he was at the checkpoint in Hamburg.

After his discharge in 1947, Mr. Miller left England the next year for New York, and within a few days took a train to Toronto. He returned to New York in September 1949. He worked for many years as a tool and die maker, mostly in the Bronx. In 1951, he married Ingeborg Sommer, who had left Germany with her family in 1938. She died in 1996.

In addition to his son Steven, Mr. Miller is survived by his son Michael and two grandchildren, one of whom is named Suzanna, for his sister.

Not long after the war, Mr. Miller learned in a letter from a friend who had survived the Jungfernhof concentration camp in Riga, Latvia, that his parents, sister and maternal grandmother had arrived there in late 1941. In March 1942, they were among the old and sick Jewish prisoners who were taken by bus and truck to a nearby forest on the outskirts of Riga, shot to death and buried in a mass grave.

Mr. Miller and his son Steven traveled to Riga in 2013. They saw the remnants of the camp and went to the forest. While they were there, Mr. Miller filled three vials with soil from the killing fields: one for him and the other two for his sons.

At Mr. Miller’s burial in Paramus, N.J., his sons and other family members poured the soil from his vial onto the coffin after it was lowered into the grave.

“It was unbearable,” said Mr. Wasserman, who attended the funeral and burial. “The rabbi said that he had never seen such a thing in 40 or 50 years.”

In his eulogy, Steven Miller said that the purpose of sprinkling the coffin with the Riga soil was “so that they, who were torn from him and never had a proper burial of their own, can finally be prayed over and reunited and laid to rest with their son.”

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