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February 26, 1982 - Image 64

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1982-02-26

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64 Friday, February 26, 1982


Author Rejects Wiesenthal Plan for Handling War Crimes Cases


(Copyright 1982, JTA, Inc.)

(Editor's note: Charles
R. Allen, Jr. is a con-
tributing editor to The
Churchman and a former
editor of The Nation. In
1963 he wrote "Nazi War
Criminals Among Us."
He is finishing a new
book, "America's Nazi
War Criminals — A His-
tory, A Documentation
and an Indictment.")
NEW YORK — At first
glance, a proposal recently
advanced by Nazi-hunter
Simon Wiesenthal, to
"speed up" the cases of some
217 accused Nazi war crim-
inals havening in the
United States appears to be
a welcome situation to a
long-vexing problem.
Wiesenthal would apply a
novel twist on the extradi-
tion treaty between West
Germany and the U.S. He
would simply declare that
the hundreds under inves-
tigation for possible legal
action by the Justice De-
partment's Office of Special
Investigations (OSI) as well
as 20 of the 22 individuals
now on trial facing de-
naturalization or deporta-
tion would be declared
"German"; that they would
be promptly amenable, as-
sertedly, to the extradition
treaty and the slow-moving
cases would be quickly
In point of fact, the vast
majority of these individu-
als are not German at all,
but rather from Eastern
European countries and the
Soviet Union.
From its outset, Wie-
senthal's approach is
fraught with dangers in
an issue whose com-
plexities and fragilities
vis-a-vis our own legal
safeguards, civil liberties
and as yet unresolved in-
ternational obligations to
the Nuremberg prece-
dents ought never be ex-
posed to undue haste and
short-cuts, no matter how
well intentioned.
The proposal also flies in
the face of history. Its prop-
onent allows that suspected
Nazi war criminals may be
neatly divided into two
"categories": those who.
acted in behalf of a sover-
eign state, such as
Romania, and those who
acted "under the direct or-
ders" of the Nazis them-
selves. In any case, the lat-
ter would be "re-
categorized" as "German."
Consider the case of Vale-
rian Trifa, the de-
naturalized Archbishop of
the Romanian Orthodox
Episcopate in America who
now faces deportation for
having concealed his role in
the destruction of the Jews
of Bucharest in 1941. Trifa

lives in Grass Lake, Mich.,
near Jackson.
Most assuredly, he
"worked directly" for the
Nazis as a leader of the in-
digenous Iron Guard. At the
same time, he was an oppo-
nent of Romania's fascist
government whose dictator,
General Ion Antonescu, was
shot as a war criminal in
1946. Both were eager ser-
vants of their Nazi masters;
one is not now "German."
Indeed in the judgment of
both Romanian and Ameri-
can courts, each is a Roma-
nian war criminal. There
are many major cases now
pending before the OSI
which have the same char-
acteristics as the Trifa mat-
ter. (Trifa is currently
awaiting for deportation
hearings to be scheduled in
Detroit. See story below.)

A high Justice De-
partment aide told me:
"The bottom line of (Wie-
senthal's) proposal is his
notion that we can
change persons'
nationalities like hats. As
a lawyer, this is repug-
nant. If it's possible to
work something out
strictly in terms of our ex-
tradition treaty with
West Germany, fine. But
I'm not so sure the pres-
sures on them from their
own Right and Left
would let them go that
"You know, they've still
got more than a few Nazi
criminals over there them-
Precisely. And this brings
us to another flaw: West
Germany's record in the


post-war trials of Nazi
The 1979 report of the
Central Office of Land Judi-
cial Authorities for the In-
vestigations of National
Socialist Crimes ("Zen-
tralstelle") of the Federal
Republic of Germany (FRG)
claims that 85,802 "pre-
liminary inquiries" had
been conducted of "primary
suspects" through 1979.
About 10 percent were or-

dered to trial. Some 76,750
inquiries were dropped.
Some seven percent (6,440)
of the triable suspects re-
ceived "non-appealable sen-
tences." Twelve (not one-
tenth of one percent) had
been given death sentences,
156 life imprisonthent and
114 were "fined." (One was
sentenced as a "juvenile of-
However, a close
analysis of the official re-
port raises doubts. Curi-
ously, the FRG takes full
credit for all war crimes
proceedings on its terri-
tory before 1949 when it
became a sovereign
entity; those proceedings
had been conducted by
the Americans, British
and French. Thus the net
of proceedings actually
undertaken by the FRG is
reduced by 2,413; the
number of "non-
appealable sentences"
becomes 3,021 rather
than 6,440, or a bit better
than a three percent rate
of success in prosecuting
Nazi war criminals over
30 years.
Most historians generally
agree that from three to five
million persons were in-
volved directly or indirectly
in implementing the
Holocaust and other
genocides of World War II.
They further agree that
most got off scot-free. Prob-
ably the single largest rem-
nant have lived untouched
in West Germany for the
past 36 years.
Even upon assuming the
dubious constitutionality of
the Wiesenthal proposal,
the dumping of some 217
triable cases of our own sus-
pected war criminals into
the lap of the West Germans
would mean neither swift
nor certain justice.
There is another yet more
disquieting facet to this
scheme. Quite patently, it is
designed to avert the ulti-
mate question: what will we
do when, inexorably, the
time comes to deport a Nazi
war criminal from our
shores? Where would he, or
she, be sent? Thus far under
present legal proceedings,
not a single one has been
Under the complexities
of immigration law, it is
conceivable that a pro-
ven genocidist could re-
main here as a stateless
person. One may well ask
if there is life after a de-
portation order for a
criminal of the Holocaust
in post-Nuremberg

Actually, we do not have
to accept such an eventual-
ity. Nor does the Wiesent-
hal approach help as it com-
pletely ignores the Nurem-
berg context of this issue.


At the height of the
Holocaust, numerous pro-
nouncements, declarations,
covenants and agreements
dealing with Nazi criminals
who had fled the scenes of
their crimes were solemnly
entered into by the U.S. and
its allies.
authored the pertinent re-
solves of the 1943 Moscow
Declaration which pro-
claimed that "most as-
suredly, the Allied Powers
will pursue them (Nazi
militarists and party lead-
ers) to the uttermost ends of
the earth and deliver them
to their accusers so that jus-
tice may be done."

The 1945 London Agree-
ment affixed this principle
in the Nuremberg war
crimes trial and the sub-
sequent proceedings
through the late 1940s
when it was considerably
broadened to include those

found guilty of crimes
against humanity:
"Murder, extermina-
tion, enslavement, depor-
tation and other in-
humane acts . . . against
any civilian population
. . . or persecutions on
political, racial or reli-
gious grounds . . ."
Much of the world com-
munity has since incorpo-
rated these precedents into
their national corpus juris.
The U.S. as yet has not. The
original members of the
United Nations War Crimes
Commission continue to
support explicitly the
Nuremberg system. No
party to the London Agree-
ment has repudiated it.
Even the U.S. State De-
partment (the foremost
stonewaller of the Nazi war
criminal issue) acknowl-
edges that it remains in
On several occasions, the
United Nations has reaf-
firmed exactly this point
(for example, UN Resolu-
tion 170, Oct. 31, 1947):
"members of the United Na-
tions forthwith take all
necessary measures to
cause the arrest of those
(wanted) war criminals . . .
and to cause them to be sent
back to the countries in
which their abominable
deeds were done, in order
that they may be judged and
punished according to the
laws of those countries."
Most of those alive and
well in America today are
accused of crimes against
humanity. In one manner or
another, many have been
the subject of demands that
they be returned to their
own homelands where al-

legedly they carried out „,'
their crimes.
The problem is that the ,,J1
countries insisting upon
their return are Com-
munist. Eastern Europe
and the Soviet Union were
the places where the dispro-
portionate share of such at-
rocities took place.
Moreover, the Wie-
senthal proposal is palp-
ably designed to pre-
clude the deportation of
any Nazi war criminal to
a "Communist natio n. As
such it is clearly vie:
of a basic precede_
tablished at Nuremberg
as well as contrary to the
spirit of that interna-
tional achievement.
Furthermore, it would
short-circuit the truly his-
tonic developments which
have been taking shape
within our own jurispru-
dence by way of the de-
naturalization - deportation
trials. The highest court in
the land has already ren-
dered a landmark decision
(U.S. v. Federenko, 1981) in
stripping a former Treb-
linka death camp guard of
his ill-gotten American citi-
There well may be addi-
tional rulings in the future
affecting not only immigra-
tion law but, in effect,
kneading further elements
of the Nuremberg system
into our own body of law.
This sense of a civilized
process must be allowed to
make its way to an un-
equivocal resolution, re- 1
gardless of the time re-
quired. This process is con-
cerned with justice, not
vengeance. Let it go for-

Bishop Trifa's Deportation Case
to Be Scheduled in Near Future'

Deportation proceedings
for Romanian Orthodox Ar-
chbishop Valerian Trifa of
Grass Lake, Mich., near
Jackson, will be scheduled
in Detroit "in the near fu-
According to Acting Dis-
trict Director Ronald
Brooks of the U.S. Immigra-
tion and Naturalization
Service in Detroit, a hear-
ing will be scheduled as
soon as the INS can assign a
new judge to hear the case.
Adolf Angelilli, the only
INS judge in Detroit, has
disqualified himself from
hearing the case because of
his previous involvement
with it.
Trifa voluntarily gave
up his U.S. citizenship in
1980 after five years' of
legal proceedings. Now
67-years old, he is ac-
cused of concealing his
ties to the fascist Iron
Guard when he entered
the U.S. in 1950 and when
he applied for citizenship
in 1957.
As an Iron Guard official,
Trifa is accused of leading a
Bucharest pogrom in
January 1941 which took
the lives of hundreds of
Romanian Jews and Chris-
tians. If deported by the

U.S. to Romania, he could
stand trial for war crimes.
New York dentist Dr.
Charles Kremer has been
pushing the government on
the Trifa case for nearly 30
years. His efforts led to the
original court action
against Trifa in 1975. The
case has been winding
through the courts ever
In the fall of 1980, after
voluntarily renouncing his
citizenship and agreeing
not to appeal his decision,
Trifa appealed anyway.
U.S. Justice Department
lawyers said the appeal was
"frivolous" and a means of
"buying time." Last No-
vember, the U.S. Sixth Cir-
cuit Court of Appeals in
Cincinnati rejected the ap-
Since 1953, Bishop
Trifa has been head of the
35,000-member Roma-
nian Orthodox Episco-
pate in the U.S. and
He was tried in absentia
in June 1941 by a Romanian
military tribunal for his al-
leged part in the Iron
Guard's revolt, and was
given a life term at hard
labor. That term was later

Along with several
hundred Iron Guard mem-
bers, Trifa was given
sanctuary by the Nazis in
Germany. He came to the
U.S. from Italy in 1950.
Trifa argues that he was
not a member of the Iron f l
Guard, that he was not in- '
volved in a pogrom, and that
he would not receive a fair
trial in Romania because of
his anti-Communist activi- -

Schools Focus
on Holocaust

Holocaust curriculum for,'
Jewish schools developed by
the Jewish Education Serv-
ice of North America
(JESNA) is now in use at 20 -
schools throughout
The curriculum,
being used by a public
school and a Catholic junior
high school in addition to 18 `-
Jewish schools, was de-
veloped under a grant from '-
the Memorial Foundation
for Jewish Culture. The
10-unit curriculum features
the work of such noteV
scholars as Dr. Lucjan Dob-
roszycki, Rev. Franklin Lit-
tell, Dr. Henry Feingold and
Dr. Jack Wertheimer.

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