Peter H. Silberman, who fled Nazi Germany as a child for the relative safety of Japanese-occupied Shanghai, grew up to become a journalist and retired as the third-ranking editor at The Washington Post, died Feb. 8 at a hospital in Bethesda, Md. He was 93.

The cause was sepsis and COVID, said his longtime friend and former wife, Dina Modianot-Fox.

Peter Silberman, far right, with Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham and President Gerald Ford at a party at Graham’s home in September 1975. Ricardo Thomas/The White House/Courtesy of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library

After joining The Post in 1960, Silberman spent more than three decades at the newspaper, mainly as an editor and initially on the foreign and national desks. Later, as assistant managing editor for financial news, he expanded coverage by launching the weekly Washington Business section in 1980. He subsequently directed the national staff during the run-up to the 1984 presidential election.

Leonard Downie Jr., who worked under Silberman on the national staff and later served as executive editor, recalled Silberman as an unusually soft-spoken figure in the hubbub of the newsroom and a steady, calming presence amid deadline pressures and sometimes fragile egos.

Downie said Silberman earned the affection of his staff with his self-effacement, sound judgment and ability to delegate – qualities that also made him an “ideal choice” for the No. 3 job of deputy managing editor. In that post, Silberman focused on weekly sections while also sometimes running the newspaper’s daily operations and handling some personnel matters.

After six years as deputy managing editor, Silberman retired from The Post in 1990 but stayed on staff for two more as a consultant.

Peter Heinz Silbermann (later Peter Henry Silberman) was born in Berlin on May 28, 1930. His father was forced to sell the family’s wholesale haberdashery business for little money after Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, and he later earned a modest living selling insurance.

Along with many other German Jews, the Silbermanns booked passage by boat to Shanghai in January 1939 and spent years consigned to a Jewish ghetto under Japanese rule. Living in deprivation, his father sold his prized stamp collection to help the family get by.

Silberman learned English at a Jesuit school, which he was allowed to attend by special permit. “The fellow who was in charge of the passes was kind to children,” he later said.

The family obtained U.S. visas in 1947 and settled in the New York City borough of Queens. Silberman received a bachelor’s degree in English from Queens College in 1952 and was an editor on the campus newspaper.

After obtaining U.S. citizenship, he served in the Army in South Korea from 1952 to 1954 and then entered the University of Missouri journalism school. He completed his master’s degree in 1956 and worked at the Kansas City Star as a reporter and editor before joining The Post.

He inherited his father’s abiding interest in stamp collecting, but gambling at poker, bridge and the racetrack also held for him an intense intellectual fascination, colleagues said.

In retirement, Silberman, who had no immediate survivors, spent several years as an owner and breeder of race horses – and, he said, lost most of his life savings on the endeavor.

Until recently, he went most Saturdays to the Laurel Park horse-racing track in suburban Maryland for betting, and savored the cigars he smoked during the car ride to and from his apartment in Washington. Modianot-Fox said it was his final wish to have his ashes scattered at the track.

Share your condolences, kind words and remembrances below. You must be logged into the website to comment. Subscribers, please login. Not a subscriber? Register to comment for free or subscribe to support our work.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.