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Tom DeLay's Rise to the Top; American Diplomats Under Fire; German Woman Relates Hitler's Last Days

Aired May 4, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening, everyone. Glad to have you with us.
Tonight, you're going to hear some amazing stories of unsung heroes risking their lives every day to serve the U.S. on foreign soil.


ZAHN (voice-over): They're the top targets for terror.

PRUDENCE BUSHNELL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO KENYA: It didn't take me long before I figured out that the point was that they're trying to kill us.

ZAHN: Americans in a hostile world.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was thinking, I'm going to die.

ZAHN: On the front lines without flak jackets, diplomats in the most dangerous places.

And the Hammer, how Tom DeLay quietly became one of the nation's most powerful people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will destroy you if you don't play ball with him.

ZAHN: From hard drinking and honky-tonks.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He got the name Hot Tub Tom.

ZAHN: To family values and Christian politics, now in the biggest fight of his life.


ZAHN: And there were some grim reminders today of just how dangerous some parts of the world are for Americans and for the people who help them.

Insurgents in Iraq carried out two deadly attacks. The U.S. military says a suicide bomber killed about 60 people outside a police recruitment center in the Kurdish city of Irbil. Another 150 were wounded. Just hours later, a car bomb went off in Baghdad, killing nine Iraqi soldiers, wounding 17 others. But, along with the attacks, there was a victory in the war on terror. A senior al Qaeda leader has been captured in Pakistan.

U.S. officials say this man, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, is al Qaeda's number three man and his arrest will help in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Al-Libbi is accused of trying to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and is thought to be responsible for al Qaeda's global operations, including strikes against U.S. embassies.

The names of more than 200 U.S. diplomats who have lost their lives while working abroad have a place of honor at the State Department. They're among the thousands dedicated to serving our nation in some of the world's most dangerous places.

Tonight, we meet two diplomats who survived terror in Africa.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There has been a powerful bomb blast at the American Embassy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move out of the way.

BUSHNELL: It didn't take me long before I figured out that the point was that they're trying to kill us.

JOHN LANGE, FORMER U.S. DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION IN KENYA: If I had been sitting at the U.S. ambassador's desk, I could have been killed.

ZAHN: Twin bombings just minutes apart in a corner of the world few people considered a risk for terrorist attack. The 1979 hostage crisis in Iran showed how vulnerable embassy staffs were to political upheaval and raw anger. The Middle East in the 1980s was particularly bloody. The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was bombed twice in just over a year.

And violent hijackings were a constant danger. But the emergence of a global al Qaeda terrorist threat has now made diplomats very vulnerable, no matter where they are based.

BUSHNELL: My name is Prudence Bushnell. I was the United States ambassador to Kenya from 1996 to 1999.

LANGE: My name is John Lange. I was the deputy chief of mission at the U.S. embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I arrived in Dar es Salaam in December of 1997 with my wife, Alejandra (ph), and my daughter, Julia (ph). It is a wonderful place. When you drove out of your house each day, there was the ocean.

ZAHN: Life for diplomats in exotic postings wasn't all glamour. But it was exciting and rewarding. Ambassador Bushnell came to Kenya with a personal mission.

BUSHNELL: When I arrived in Nairobi, I had a wonderful press officer who said to me, choose three things for what you want to be known personally. And I chose struggle against HIV/AIDS and women and women's education. I have terrific memories of meeting extraordinary women and girls in rural areas and then being dressed up, so that they could laugh at me.

ZAHN: The American Embassy in Nairobi was a large building with more than 800 employees. It sat exposed on a downtown street. Ambassador Bushnell had expressed concerns about security to her bosses back in Washington.

BUSHNELL: Did we know about the al Qaeda threat? Of course, no, with we did not. But does an ambassador, does an embassy get threats every single day? Yes. We were getting threats. And knowing how very vulnerable we were in that location was what made me insecure.

ZAHN: But Bushnell's requests for more security were denied, she says for budgetary reasons. In contrast, the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania was a small complex with only 80 staffers.

But, in the eyes of terrorists, both embassies were the same, symbols of the power and influence of the United States. For John Lange, Friday, August 7, 1998, started with a routine emergency drill.

LANGE: We heard the drill for fire and bomb and those kinds of normal sirens and rings that went through the building. We had no idea what was to come 39 minutes later.

ZAHN: Four hundred miles away in Nairobi, Prudence Bushnell was at a meeting at the Kenyan Trade Ministry next to the embassy.

BUSHNELL: We heard a noise, a kind of boom. And most of the people in the office got up and started walking up to the window. I had only taken a few steps when the bomb was detonated in the parking lot. The extent of the force made the building move.

On the one hand, I was thinking, I'm going to die. It was rather peaceful. And, on the other hand, every cell in my body was saying, oh, no, you're not.

ZAHN: A delivery truck had driven up to the embassy compound. One of the drivers through a stun grenade that drew curious staffers to the building's windows. Then, seconds later, a more powerful blast, 2,000 pounds of exploding TNT.

BUSHNELL: We went down 21 flights of stairs, crawling over doors that had been blasted in. Now and then, a body would be passed down and over us. We were bleeding all over one another.

ZAHN: Concrete and steel had collapsed on top of hundreds of people. Others had been shredded by flying shards of glass as the windows blew in around them. Bushnell herself was injured, bloodied and dazed. Yet she rushed to take command from a nearby emergency post.

Just minutes later, a second suicide attack. Another 2,000 pounds of TNT went off in front of the embassy in Dar es Salaam. John Lange remembers the terror.

LANGE: We all heard this low rumbling sound for a few seconds. And then the glass from a high window behind me blew in over my head and landed on the people in front of me. I got out of the building and there was one of our security guards who was totally black and charred and in the last gasps for life.

And he had been blown about 75 feet from where the bomb went off.

ZAHN: Back in Kenya, it didn't take long for Bushnell to make sense of what had happened and what it meant.

BUSHNELL: A couple of hours after the bombing, I heard that the embassy in Dar es Salaam had been blown up. And it was clear then that it was a terrorist attack.


ZAHN: Coming up next, how those attacks changed everything.


LANGE: If they tell you to vary your route to work, do it. If they tell you to vary the times, do it, because it is all designed to keep you safe. And as somebody who went to too many funerals, I can tell you, this is real.


ZAHN: A new way of life under threat for American diplomats abroad. And later, how a Texas exterminator became one of Washington's most powerful movers and shakers, but now faces the fight of his political life.


ZAHN: It was just another day at work for our foreign service diplomats in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that is, until terrorists struck with deadly force. The day then turned into sheer horror.

Here's part two of diplomats under fire.


ZAHN (voice-over): When the smoke cleared, more than 220 people had been killed in the double terrorist attacks, 12 of them Americans; 5,000 people were injured. And both embassies lay in ruin. For both Prudence Bushnell in Kenya and John Lange in Tanzania, the need to continue representing the U.S. government was a test of leadership.

LANGE: It was a very intense effort, the most intense period of my life. It is the turning point when I changed from being a manager to a leader, because I had to lead this mission at that point.

ZAHN: It was also a test of personal strength.

BUSHNELL: I deliberately wore the brightest colors possible afterwards, because I didn't need to show my people how much I hurt for them. But, by God, I wanted to show the people who blew us up that I was in pink and I was in red.

ZAHN: For those in the diplomatic corps, the East Africa bombings were their 9/11 that led to a new way of living and a new way of thinking.

LANGE: I wish this were a different world. I wish that we did not have the problems that have been exacerbated in the last 10 years from Osama bin Laden. But I can't change that. And we know that we can't continue with the kind of old think. We have to deal with this new reality.

ZAHN: Both Prudence Bushnell and John Lange completed their assignments, winning great praise. They went on to other postings and have focused on making work safer for those serving on the front lines of diplomacy.

Today, Ambassador Bushnell is a dean at the Foreign Service Institute, which trains diplomats in the skills they need to excel at their jobs and to protect themselves.

BUSHNELL: You have to think about the fact that terrorists are not smarter than we are. They're not. Now, what they want is an easy, risk-free kill that will create a big impact.

ZAHN: Bushnell is determined to make it harder for terrorists to succeed in creating that impact.

BUSHNELL: If they tell you to vary your route to work, do it. If they tell you to vary the times, do it, because it is all designed to keep you safe. And as somebody who went to too many funerals, I can tell you, this is real.

ZAHN: Bushnell hears familiar concerns when she meets with the newest foreign service recruits.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is no way that my immediate family would do what I'm doing. And they don't really understand. I lived two blocks from a sports club that was bombed. And that was an eye- opening experience.

ZAHN: For them, she has some frank advice.

BUSHNELL: If you have children and you're going to a dangerous or hardship post, have a discussion about who is going to take the kids.

It is too easy to forget the Americans who are on the front lines overseas without flak jackets in civilian clothes, who, out of a fierce patriotism, choose to put themselves and their families in danger on behalf of the American people.


ZAHN: And we all have such enormous respect for that commitment.

The embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania have been linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network. Four men have been sentenced to life in prison for their roles in those attacks. More than a dozen suspects, including Osama bin Laden, are still on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

Still ahead tonight, the rise of one of the most powerful men in the country. He flies under the radar and keeps his troops in line.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will feed you. He will fund you. But, in the end, he will destroy you if you don't play ball with him.


ZAHN: So how will Tom DeLay survive a storm of ethics questions?

Stay with us.


ZAHN: Still ahead, from exterminator to power broker, what you don't know about the very powerful House majority leader, Tom DeLay.

And when she was just 3 years old, little Irmgard Hunt sat on Hitler's knee and it changed her life forever. Tonight, she reveals the secret of a lifetime.

But, first, time to check the hour's top stories with Erica Hill at Headline News at just about 20 minutes past the hour.

Hi, Erica.


A milestone today in the Michael Jackson trial. Prosecutors rested their case against the king of pop today, after two sometimes tumultuous months. Now Michael Jackson's lawyers will call witnesses, including actor Macaulay Culkin, to defend him against charges of child molestation.

Just yesterday, Private Lynndie England pleaded guilty to abusing detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison, as shown in this famous photo. But, today, another soldier testified he ordered England to pose for the pictures. So, a military judge declared a mistrial. And that killed England's entire plea-bargain deal. Now her attorney says she will change her plea to not guilty. The military will decide whether to refile charges against her.

And an apology of sorts from runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks today through her lawyer.


LYDIA SARTAIN, ATTORNEY FOR WILBANKS: She is very sincere and is very, very bothered by what has happened and certainly is very remorseful for the pain that she knows she's caused her parents, her fiance and the community.


HILL: Lydia Sartain says Wilbanks, though, is still too upset to speak for herself after she hopped a Greyhound to escape her impending wedding, triggering, of course, a nationwide search. Now, she still faces possible criminal charges, still waiting to hear, though, when that decision will be made.

And that's the latest from Headline News -- Paula, back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks, Erica.

And I guess it's not surprising that her attorney also said that it is very difficult for her even to talk about what transpired over the last week without breaking down.

HILL: Yes.

ZAHN: And then you add on top of that all the scrutiny that she's enduring right now. What a mess.

HILL: Indeed.


ZAHN: Erica, see you in about a half-hour from now.

And it is time for all of you to vote for the person of the day. Your choices, Australia's foreign minister Alexander Downer for going on Al-Jazeera television to plead for the life of an Australian kidnapped in Iraq, the quick-thinking gas station attendant who saved the day when a pump caught fire. Wait until you hear what his actions were, or Travis Reid, the CEO of the Loews movie chain, for the decision to post real movie start times, instead of the times that the endless on-screen ads begin.

Cast your vote at I will reveal the winner a little bit later on in this hour.

Coming up next, though, flying under the radar. He reached one of the country's highest political offices.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If anyone within his own party disagrees with him, they find an opponent waiting in the wings in the next primary.


ZAHN: We'll show you why Tom DeLay was once known as Hot Tub Tom.

And then, a little bit later on, she is a retired grandmother who is only now revealing a secret of a lifetime, Irmgard Hunt on her meeting with Hitler. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ZAHN: By any measure, House Speaker Tom DeLay is one of the most powerful men in Washington, but, for most outside the beltway, little more than a name in the news.

DeLay, who was admonished by the House Ethics Committee three times alone last year, faces new questions about alleged ties to lobbyists and overseas trips. The committee could begin its investigation tomorrow.

Well, today, he was mobbed by reporters and photographers as he tried to make his way to his Capitol Hill office. Polls show support for DeLay slipping. According to a CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, 38 percent have an unfavorable opinion of the House leader. That's up from 31 percent in April.

Candy Crowley goes behind the scenes for a close-up look at the gentleman from Texas in tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An American patriot, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay of Texas.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a long way from the limelight to Laredo. But that's where Tom DeLay was born and where his story begins. The book on DeLay's personal life is full of blank pages. Little has been written because little has been said.

BOB BARR, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It wasn't really as if he hid his personal life from us. But he didn't wear it on his sleeve either.

CROWLEY: Tom DeLay was the second of four children in a family dominated by a man described as a boisterous, domineering alcoholic.

J.D. HEYMAN, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, "PEOPLE": Was a terribly demanding parent and had a way of communicating that his sons had always disappointed him.

CROWLEY: After his father died in the late '80s, DeLay stopped talking to his mother and siblings. In a 2001 interview in "The Washington Post" magazine, Maxine DeLay said of the son she calls Tommy: "I see him on TV and it helps. I keep all the tapes."

DeLay says nothing. He is Texas-born and bred, save the five years the family spent in Venezuela, while his father, a wildcatter, worked the oil fields. Charlie DeLay wanted Tommy to be a doctor. And he seemed on track, a top high school student and athlete. But two rambunctious premed years at Baylor were followed by an invitation to leave. LOU DUBOSE, AUTHOR, "THE HAMMER": He got crossways with the administration because something that had happened at Texas A&M. Baylor is a Baptist institution, painting something green, you know, smalltime vandalism involving sports.

CROWLEY: DeLay graduated from the University of Houston, a biology major. He went into pest control.

DUBOSE: He got a job mixing rat bait in Houston and ended up gradually working himself into a position in which he could buy an exterminating company.

CROWLEY: His business drew three separate IRS liens for not paying payroll and income taxes. He tangled with business partners, twice settling out of court.

But the years were most notable as a launching pad. The exterminator grew to loathe regulations. He called the EPA the gestapo of government. Tom DeLay went into politics.

BEVERLY CARTER, PUBLISHER, "FORT BEND SOUTHWEST STAR": He came in and told me that he was running for state representative as a Republican. And I said, oh, yay. I'm a Republican too. And he said, well, you're about the only one out here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most of the legislature probably, all but maybe 20 members, were Democrats. So, when Tom won, it was unusual.

CROWLEY: He was the Republican representative from Sugar Land and he was a lot of fun, able to master both the legislative process and the art of auctioneering.

DELAY: Fourteen thousand dollars. I got a $14,000. Make it $15,000.

CROWLEY: DeLay's stint in the state legislature was unremarkable, but he was well liked by all parties.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tom was a good sport. You could tease Tom and he would take it and he would tease back. So, when things would come -- if DeLay got up there, we would start chanting DeLay, DeLay.

CROWLEY: The Texas legislature meets for four months every two years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will come to order.

CROWLEY: The pay is so small, few can live on their own in Austin. In 1981, six of them shared a condo. Brewer, DeLay, two more Republicans, two more Democrats. They called themselves the "Macho Manor Group" and hung out at the Broken Spoke.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you remember the old TV program called "Cheers," it's kind of a spot like that. But you have got to put it in the country western setting.

CROWLEY: They talked issues, partied, pulled practical jokes, and over time DeLay's antics earned him a rep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Tom had a real strong reputation of having a very good time while he was there. In fact, he got the name "Hot Tub Tom."

CROWLEY: After six years as a state lawmaker, Tom DeLay spotted an opening and took his shot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He filed for that open seat and grabbed on to Reagan's coattails and he won election to the House.

CROWLEY: Tom DeLay was moving on and up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The House will be in order. Members elect and their guests.

CROWLEY: He arrived in Washington as he left Texas, a true believer in fewer regulations, lower taxes, smaller government and a swaggering party hardy guy.

REP. DAVID DREIER, (R) CALIFORNIA: There were a few times I remember in the '80s when, you know, I was there and Tom was having a very good time and all.

CROWLEY: DeLay by his own account consumed up to 12 martinis a night prowling receptions and fund-raisers that make up social life in the city of politics. And then one day that first term, "Hot Tub Tom" was reborn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE; He was converted in the offices of Frank Wolf, a Virginia Congressman who gave him a James Dobson tape, changed his life.

CROWLEY: It was a tape about fatherhood. It moved DeLay to tears. He knocked off the hard liquor, became a regular churchgoer, rededicated himself to his wife and child, developed an unshakable faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A deep and profound belief in evangelical Christian ideology and politics. And a feeling that that is the deliverance of this country. And it will make us a better democracy and a better culture.

CROWLEY: Still, there was very little he could affect for most of his decade in Congress. DeLay with a back bencher, a newbie in a minority party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the Republicans are working.

CROWLEY: Things would change with time and cookies.


ZAHN: Cookies? Coming up next, Tom DeLay steps up to the big leagues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every morning when he wakes up, he's trying to figure out a way that the conservatives can win and that the Democrats lose.


ZAHN: How Tom DeLay became known as "the Hammer" when we come back.


ZAHN: During his time on Capital Hill Tom DeLay has been working hard to consolidate his authority. Tonight's "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" continues as Candy Crowley follows DeLay's rise, how he turned cookies and political favors into absolute power.


CROWLEY (voice-over): After ten years in the U.S. House, Tom DeLay had earned some seniority.

DELAY: These members have worked very, very hard.

CROWLEY: Learned the ways of the Hill and shown a spot on aptitude for the practice of politics. He had been elected secretary of the Republican conference, but DeLay was looking to trade up. It was 1994.

REP. DAVID DREIER, (R) CALIFORNIA: In his first campaign for Whip, the Republican women in Houston would send to each of the budding campaigns of Republican candidates around the country big boxes. And in it had pencils and papers and home baked cookies. So a candidate for Congress that would be out knocking on doors, meeting with supporters, talking about issues, debating his or her opponent, would come back to the headquarters and they would say, this guy Tom DeLay just sent home baked cookies from Texas.

CROWLEY: The cookies got their attention. The cash from DeLay's political funds to dozens of congressional wanna-bes, won seats and loyalty. When the House opened for business in 1995, Republicans were in charge for the first time in four decades. And Tom DeLay, supported by many a grateful freshman, was elected Republican whip. The person responsible for rounding up votes. He was very good at it.

BOB BARR, (R) FRM. GEORGIA CONGRESSMAN: He's worked for each member to get elected and to be re-elected. That is something that members don't forget or forget at their own peril.

CROWLEY: Supporters say they've never even heard him raise his voice. That DeLay would not be where he is if a blunt instrument were his only tool.

BILL PAXON, (R) FRM. NEW YORK CONGRESSMAN: A kind of person who would always reach out to help, help with your political needs, your congressional needs, your personal needs. He is one of the most caring men of integrity and warmth and sincerity I've known in my 30 years in Republican politics.

CROWLEY: He was once described as a cross between a concierge and a mafia don.

CHARLIE STENHOLM, (D) FRM. TEXAS CONGRESSMAN: If anyone within his own party disagrees with him, they find an opponent waiting in the wings in the next primary, they find a threat to reduce the amount of funding available to them.

CROWLEY: He was eight years the whip, three now as majority leader. They call him "the Hammer."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every morning when he wakes up, he's trying to figure out a way that the conservatives can win and that the Democrats lose.

CROWLEY: The Hammer can pound money out of donors.

DELAY: $8100. Never trust a politician.

CROWLEY: His unofficial network of allies and former staffers so vast and successful, it is called DeLay Inc..

BEVERLY CARTER, PUB. FORT BEND SOUTHWEST STAR: Tom is like a shark. You know how a shark has to keep swimming or he dies, Tom has to keep raising money or he dies. That's how he has consolidated his power in the Republican Party by raising money and giving it to other candidates.

DELAY: We ready?

CROWLEY: The hammer can pound votes out of Republicans, appealing to party loyalty, calling in chips.

ERIK SMITH, FRM. DEM. CONGRESSIONAL AIDE: He always knows exactly what pressure points to hit on people. It is a rare thing to happen that a member of Congress will vote yes and then couple of minutes vote no. He gets it done all the time. And it is really stunning. And it speaks to his power.

CROWLEY: But even as they line up behind him, Republicans worry DeLay's world view may bite them in the rear. The problem with DeLay, said one colleague, is he thinks the entire country is Sugarland, Texas.

After the death of Terri Schiavo, DeLay seemed to threaten judges when he said, "the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."

DELAY: We will look at an arrogant, out of control, unaccountable judiciary that thumb their nose at Congress and the president. CROWLEY: DeLay may have hurt his party with his unartful, some say menacing, performance in the Schiavo case. He took back of some of what he said about judges, explaining he pops off when he's upset. In the end, he is the puzzle wrapped inside an enigma. He is a loner in a people job, a Washington insider trying to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's never become part of the culture of Washington. For instance, he never spends a weekend in Washington, D.C., so has not become part of the social fabric of Washington, D.C.

CROWLEY: A devoted grandfather, father and husband who does not speak to his mother or siblings, a brass-knuckles politico, called "funny boy" by the children of one friend, plays with the children of another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coat's off, the tie's pulled down, he's on the floor, playing with the kids and the dogs.

CROWLEY: But, on the other floor, his reputation has the warmth of a tarantula.

LOU DUBOSE, AUTHOR "THE HAMMER": He will feed you. He will fund you, but in the end, he will destroy you if you don't play ball with him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With all due respect, talk about an odd couple.

CROWLEY: But, he has teamed up with Hillary Clinton on a foster care bill. He's a foster father himself and gets huge props across the political spectrum as a powerful advocate for abused children.

DELAY: These children, many of them have been severely abused and neglected, have been taken from their home. They have issues that they have to deal with.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Reading of the gospel...

CROWLEY: He is a born-again Christian, warned by the House ethics committee more than any current member of Congress. He has loyal colleagues and salivating critics and they agree to this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, that's the thing about DeLay, is he always wins.

CROWLEY: Tom DeLay wields great power with no apology, few boundaries, and nobody takes odds against him.


(on camera): If the House Ethics Committee proceeds with a new investigation of Tom DeLay, he is promised to turn over a decade's worth of documents. He also says he wants a chance to address the committee directly to try to clear his name.

Still ahead, she was just the perfect-looking German girl, the kind that Adolf Hitler was proud to be with.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: People started to shout, screams went up, and he came out and he looked and, you know, I was this little girl, blonde braids, blue eyes. He just thought this is a cute little girl.


ZAHN: But why did Irmgard Hunt wait 60 years to tell her story?

And, the "Person of the Day," will it be Australia's foreign minister for pleading on al Jazeera for the life of an Australian kidnapped in Iraq, the gas station attendant who saved lives when a fire broke out, or the head of the Loews Theater chain for deciding to post real movie start times. Find out when we come back.


ZAHN: Still ahead, when she was just five, she sat on Hitler's knee. We'll hear her story, one she has kept secret for decades. But, first, just about 15 minutes before the hour, time to check the top stories with Erica Hill at Headline News. Erica?

ERICA HILL, HEADLINE NEWS: Paula, it is voting day in Britain, and Prime Minister Tony Blair is expected to carry his Labor Party to power for a third time, but by a slimmer margin than ever. He support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has angered most British voters. One observer calls the vote an anti-war referendum.

It is back to the drawing board for the freedom tower. The 1776 foot replacement for New York's World Trade Center towers is being redesigned and it may actually be scrapped entirely due to security concerns.

A brain-damaged Buffalo, New York, firefighter is no longer communicating in the same startling way he did last Saturday. That's when Donald Herbert astonished doctors and his family by breaking a decade of silence in a flurry of consciousness that lasted 14 hours. His wife says he has since stopped speaking, but the family is still overwhelmed. They are more hopeful than ever.

And, you know, it takes a lot of salami to feed an army, and two New Jersey deli owners are shipping two tons of the spicy sausage to soldiers in Iraq to show their appreciation. Lots of generous volunteers involved in "Operation Salami Drop."

And, that's the latest from Headline News, Paula. Back to you.

ZAHN: Thanks so much, Erica.

"LARRY KING LIVE," straight up at the top of the hour, 14 minutes from now. Hi, Larry. What are you focusing in on tonight?

LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": Hi, Paula. We're going to focus on one of the most puzzling aspects of human nature, the mind of a psychopath. What makes someone do deeds we would never imagine doing? What makes someone a serial killer? We'll have two psychologists, a psychiatrist, and a veteran of the FBI's behavioral unit. The mind of a psychopath, that's the topic, with your phone calls, at the top of the hour. Paula, should be fascinating.

ZAHN: Should be interesting, and unfortunately, no shortage of cases lately.

KING: No. Not kidding.

ZAHN: See you at the top of the hour. Thanks, Larry.

And, who is our person of the day? Australia's foreign minister who went on al Jazeera to plead for the life of an Australian kidnapped in Iraq, the gas station attendant who saw disaster coming and stopped it, or Travis Reid, CEO of Loews for deciding to post real movie start times, instead of when the ads start. And you choose the quick-thinking gas station attendant.


(voice-over): Whether you pump your own gas or you live in parts of the country where someone else does it for you, filling up is part of everyday life for millions of Americans -- expensive, but routine. But at one Mobil gas station in East Chester, New York, filling up was anything but routine for one motorist.

At first, as captured here on surveillance video, nothing out of the ordinary. A man in a Mercedes stops to fuel up, starts the gas pumping and then goes into the store to buy a pack of cigarettes. He chats, jokes. He leaves the store, gets into his car and then drives away. But, wait, the nozzle is still stuck in the car. In a matter of seconds, the pump it torn out of the ground and a dangerous fire erupts.

MOSES KOUASSI, GAS STATION EMPLOYEE: It was something -- very scary stuff, because everybody was running, you know, all the customers.

ZAHN: But for one quick-thinking employee, whose name the gas station refuses to give out, panic was not an option.

TOM NABER, GENERAL MANAGER: This is the button that my guy pulled.

ZAHN: He triggered the emergency extinguisher, setting off a cloud of fire suppressant foam, and saved the day.

NABER: Everybody, you know, thanking that guy for pulling this switch at the right time, OK, and thinking that, OK, this is the right time to do it.

ZAHN: Because of one man's actions, a potentially explosive situation was narrowly averted, saving lives, saving the station and making him an unsung and unknown hero, as well as the "Person of the Day." (END VIDEOTAPE)

(on camera): And it seems the man in the mercerdee -- mercerdee? That's really good. Let's try it -- Mercedes, just kept on driving, but police say they have been in touch with him and, you might guess, his lawyer. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: That was Israel marking Holocaust Memorial Day today, just one of many reminders that 60 years ago this month, Germany surrendered, ending World War II in Europe. And while the evil of Adolf Hitler seemed so long ago, it is not really. Just ask someone who came face to face with him.


ZAHN (voice-over): Irmgard Hunt is a proud and loving grandmother, happily retired in Washington, D.C. But she has a secret she's been keeping for decades.

IRMGARD HUNT, AUTHOR: The indoctrination was absolutely all around.

ZAHN: Like most politicians, Hitler wanted to be seen with children. He made it a habit of having his picture taken with them. She was just a 3-year-old living in a tiny village near Hitler's fortress when Irmgard was chosen to sit on the furor's knee.

HUNT: We had walked up to Hitler house a short walk from where we lived, right down the mountain from Hitler's territory. People started to shout, screams went up. And he came out and he looked around and I was this little girl, blonde braids, blue eyes, he just thought this is a cute little girl.

ZAHN: And she became a local celebrity.

HUNT: An aunt came, a visitor came. The teachers, well, you live in Berchtesgaden and did you meet Hitler? You say, yes, and I sat on his knee.

ZAHN (on camera): What's so interesting to me is your parents basked in the glory of you sitting on Hitler's knee. But there was this internal war going on. And your grandfather was adamantly opposed to Hitler. He viewed him as a criminal. Was he upset you got used that way?

HUNT: Yes, he was upset. And I looked up, sort of nervously and on Hitler's lap, my grandfather took his walking pole and sort hit it, hit the air with it. Angrily, turn away, try to find his way out through the crowd. He just had enough of that.

ZAHN (voice-over): Two years later, a Nazi teacher questioned Irmgard about her grandfather.

HUNT: She was an informer it turned out later on. And she wanted to hear what my grandfather was saying at home, because he had been called before the Gestapo once before, because he had talked publicly negatively about Hitler. I didn't know that I would be betraying him. I just thought she had just a real interest in what goes on in families. I didn't. And so what kept me from telling her was that I just didn't like her.

ZAHN (on camera): You proceeded to say he doesn't talk.

HUNT: He doesn't talk, right.

ZAHN (voice-over): In 1941, Irmgard's father was killed fighting for the German Army. She learned in school that the proper reaction was not grief, but pride.

(on camera): So when an ardent fanatical Nazi teacher asked you to get up in front of your class, and explain why the sacrifice of your father's life was worth it.

HUNT: Yes.

ZAHN: It had to be extremely painful for you.

HUNT: It was shocking. Because all you want to do as a child is to cry, and be very sad, be allowed to be sad. And we were not really allowed to be sad.

ZAHN (voice-over): Over the years, she has struggled with her feelings about her father.

HUNT: It is a very finite thing when your father dies. And it became particularly sad when it turned out that he died for a criminal dictatorship, 55 million dead, six million Jewish people just cruelly murdered. And your father fought in that army, and I think that was equally hard to deal with as his actual death. I could only think, well, you know, there's nobody in this whole world who will ever respect him or any German soldier. I didn't know who would ever put a flower on my father's grave.

ZAHN (on camera): How difficult has it been for your own children, and your grandchildren to come to terms with that part of German history?

HUNT: My son when he was a little boy, he was embarrassed that he had a German mother. And I never talked about my past to anybody, not even my ex-husband or to my children about that past until actually my son now, he's a historian. And he said, mom, you have got sit down and write this down.

ZAHN (voice-over): Part of her coming to terms with her past included a visit to her childhood home, once Hitler's Mountain. She went with the man she considers her life partner. He is a Jew.


ZAHN: Irmgard Hunt has put down her painful story in a book called "On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood." And that wraps it up for all of us here tonight. Thank you so much for joining us.

Tonight on "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown, an FBI computer foul up may have left an alleged serial killer go free so that he could kill again.

And a portrait of Dennis Rader, the suspected BTK killer. Hear from a woman who worked closely with Rader over the years.

Again, thanks for joining us tonight. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.



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