LIES THAT MATTER: A federal prosecutor and child of Holocaust survivors, tasked with stripping US citizenship from aged Nazi collaborators, finds himself caught in the middle

Allan Gerson
Vellum, 2021
236 Pages, 39 photos
ISBN 978-1-7348659-5-0 Paperback
ISBN 978-1-7359378-5-4 Hardcover
Price: $24.00 Paperback
$36.00 Hardcover

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About the Author

ALLAN GERSON, a maverick international lawyer, was widely recognized as the first American attorney to successfully sue a foreign government for complicity in acts of terrorism. He chronicled his groundbreaking work in The Price of Terror: How the Families of Pan Am 103 Brought Libya to Justice (with Jerry Adler). Among Dr. Gerson’s other books is The Kirkpatrick Mission: Diplomacy Without Apology, documenting the years as senior counsel to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He also was a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and Council on Foreign Relations, and a distinguished professor of international law at George Mason University. Dr. Gerson learned a J.D. at NYU Law School (1969), an LL.M from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (1972), and a J.S.D. from Yale Law School (1976). He was married to the cookbook author Joan Nathan, and was the father of three children. Dr. Gerson died on December 1, 2019.

About the book

Allan Gerson tells the gripping story of his two years at the Department of Justice office charged with investigating and deporting aging Nazis living quietly in our midst. His interrogation of suspected perpetrators forces him to uncover secrets of his family and other anguished victims that he never wanted to know… This narrative reads like a bildungsroman, a coming of age story of a lawyer who went on to seek American legal remedies for historic crimes and injustices committed elsewhere.”—Samuel Norich, President, The Forward


“Lies That Matter is both engaging and important. It is at once an autobiographical account of one man’s unique life experiences and a thoughtful treatment of universal issues of identity, accountability, and compromise in the world of displaced persons and international migration. Mr. Gerson takes the reader into the mind of a child Holocaust refugee, whose promising legal career leads him to the Office of Special Investigations, where his mission—to ferret out and remove those who assisted Nazi persecution —impels him to discover his own complicated journey to the United States citizenship, and the contrasts and surprising parallels between that journey and those of the men he prosecutes. The lessons Mr. Gerson learns, and shares, could not be more timely.”—Seth Waxman, U.S. Solicitor General, Clinton Administration

“This is an immensely moving personal memoir of a matter of great international concern. Attorney Gerson writes clearly and with style. Not only does he explain how deportation works, he also explains how his own mind works. Rarely will you read a book so intimate in its revelations.”—Anthony D’Amato, Distinguished Professor of Law, Northwestern University

“When someone cheats or lies to gain entry to America, what should be our response? Allan Gerson has written a moving memoir that thoughtfully puts in perspective the gravity of the answer as our country struggles with today’s vexing immigration issues. Gerson’s own family were Polish Jews who were Holocaust survivors, and who immigrated to America through a lie— falsely assuming the identity of a family that had valid visas. After graduating from Yale Law School’s advanced degree program, Gerson would later become the first trial attorney with the Office of Special Investigations of the U.S. Justice Department, charged with catching and deporting naturalized Americans who had lied about their collaboration with the Nazis. Although holding collaborators accountable was for Gerson a noble cause, his mother was alarmed that wide prosecutorial discretion to revoke U.S. citizenship could one day be turned against Jews caught up in Nazi death camps. Gerson has to ultimately wrestle with the dilemmas inherent in using immigration law, rather than criminal law, to achieve historic accountability, dilemmas that are especially poignant for Gerson given his own clouded past.”—Robert H. Mnookin, Williston Professor of Law; Director, Harvard Negotiation Research Project; Chair, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School