WASHINGTON (Jun. 18)
The governments of both the United States and Rumania have been criticized for failure to follow the proper judicial procedures bearing on the prose cution of Valerian Trifa, Archbishop of the Rumanian Orthodox Church in America. The former leader of the Rumanian Fascist Iron Guard’s youth division, accused of responsibility for the massacre of Jews in Bucharest in 1941, faces hearings in the Federal District Court in Detroit, beginning July 30, over the truth of the statements he made when he applied for U.S. citizenship more than two decades ago.
The U.S. Department of Justice charged last week that the Rumanian government is not cooperating in supplying witnesses and is not permitting American officials access to its archives to unearth evidence against Trifa. Rumania’s Chief Rabbi, Moses Rosen, expressed apprehension, on a visit to Washington last week, that U.S. officials are disposed to put the blame in the “wrong place” in the event that the U.S. prosecution, 22 years after Trifa’s naturalization should fail to prove its case in Detroit
Rosen gave a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in which he said he presented evidence against Trifa 17 years ago. He also supplied statements to Radio Free Europe last week for broadcast to Rumania and left a deposition at the justice Department.
Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith expressed concern in a letter to Rumanian President Nicolae Ceausescu over reports that his government would provide only slight assistance to the U.S. Justice Department team preparing for the July 30 hearing. The letter, signed by Abraham H. Foxman, associate notional director of the ADL and Elliot Welles, its consultant on Nazi war criminals, declared that “in order that Trifa be successfully prosecuted and deported, we are asking Your Excellency’s good offices in locating and supplying to the United States government whatever documentation is available concerning Trifa’s crimes, and in certifying existing documents and testimony, so that this man’s deeds may be proven at last in court in a fair and just trial.
The U.S. proceedings against Trifa are in two stages. The Detroit case is an attempt to revoke his citizenship on grounds that his entry into the U.S. from Italy in 1950 was illegal because his claim at that time of being a “displaced person” is alleged to be false. Should the naturalized citizenship which he acquired in 1957 be revoked, the second step would be to effect his deportation to Rumania.
In Detroit, attorneys for Trifa, who lives in Grass Lake, Mich asked Federal Judge Cornelia Kennedy to dismiss the government’s suit to strip the Rumanian cleric of his citizenship. They contended that the federal law regarding barring entry to persons who “advocated or assisted in persecution…” was too brood and vague and therefore unconstitutional. They claimed further that Trifa committed no fraud because the government was at the time aware of the charges against him.
Eugene M. Thirolf, the Justice Department’s Counsellor who is heading the case against Trifa, told the JTA that the government is preparing its response to the dismissal motion. In an interview with the JTA, Thirolf said the Rumanian government has not moved on his request for access to witnesses in Rumania or examining Rumania’s “documentation centers.” But, he said “maybe documents will be coming” from Rumania. He said that during the past 17 months the Justice Department also sought authentication of newspaper reports and other material that reflect on the defendant as described.”
Rabbi Rosen, who referred to a JTA news report on the January, 1941 program in Bucharest as part of his evidence against Trifa said in his statement to the JTA that he would be willing to be a witness at the Trifa proceedings. He gave his deposition to the Justice Department on June 13. thirolf confirmed the deposition but could not say whether Rosen would be a witness.