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Former ‘iron Guard’ Leader Faces Loss of U.S. Citizenship

The United States Attorney in Detroit has filed suit to revoke the citizenship of Rumanian Orthodox Bishop Valarian D. Trifa of Grass Lakes, Mich, on grounds that he falsely dented his membership in the Rumanian Fascist “Iron Guard” and participation in pogroms against Rumanian Jews in 1941 when he applied for naturalization. Trifa, 61, was granted American citizenship in 1957.

The cleric, a one-time leader of the Rumanian Christian Students which the government, in its suit described as “a section of the Iron Guard,” has 60 days to reply to the charges which were served formally two days ago. The government’s action against him was the culmination of an extensive review by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that followed allegations that Trifa had misrepresented his activities in Rumania in the early years of World War II.

Members of the “Iron Guard,” the Rumanian equivalent of Hitler’s Storm Troopers during the Fascist regime of Ion Antonescu, were automatically excluded from the U.S. at the time Trifa arrived in this country claiming status as a displaced person. According to the government’s suit Trifa “did advocate the killings of Jews and Masons and did participate in the activities commencing on or about Jan. 21, 1941 which resulted in the murder of Jews and destruction of property.

The incident referred to was a violent “Iron Guard” uprising in Bucharest during which several score Jews were murdered in a mock ritual kosher slaughter in a slaughterhouse. The government has obtained eye-witness accounts of the rampage of looting, raping and murder in the Jewish quarter from persons in the U.S., France and Israel. All of the witnesses place, Trifa, whose given name then was Viorel, at the scene of the violence.

The formal proceedings against Trifa will not move into judicial chambers before next fall and a prolonged and complex case is expected that might continue for years. The defendant is expected to appeal if the verdict is de-naturalization and even if the government wins its case it will have to initiate separate proceedings to secure Trifa’s deportation.

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