WASHINGTON (Dec. 6)
Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D.NY) has urged President Carter to consider the “immediate dismissal” of a member of the National Security Council staff who characterized as “silly” the concern expressed over an interview that Radio Free Europe broadcast last May with Valerian Trifa who is under investigation as a suspected Nazi war criminal.
In a letter to the President made available to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today, Holtzman wrote that the statements made by Paul Henze, who has been on the NSC staff since the beginning of the Carter Administration, are “unconscionable and grounds for his immediate dismissal.”
Radio Free Europe, on May 1, 1979, broadcast a 45-minute interview with Trifa, a naturalized American citizen, who, Holtzman pointed out in her letter, is “alleged to have incited atrocities against Jews in Bucharest during World War 11.” She pointed out further that “no mention was made during the broadcast that the Department of Justice had initiated proceedings against Trifa in May, 1975 to strip him of his citizenship because of his alleged participation in war crimes and that the case was expected to go to trial in Federal Court in Detroit in the near future.”
Trifa, a Bishop, heads the Rumanian Orthodox Church in America: The interview came under wide attack at the time. John Gronouski, a former Postmaster General and chairman of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting which oversees the operations of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, strongly deplored it and expressed the wish that it had never taken place.
CLAIMED WHITE HOUSE VIEWPOINT REFLECTED
In her letter to the President, Holtzman noted that she had directed an investigation by the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee of which she is chairperson of “the circumstances surrounding the airing of the interview.” She wrote that “According to evidence I have received in the course of my investigation, Mr. Henze, during the Board for International Broadcasting’s meeting of August 15, 1979, characterized concern about the interview as ‘silly’ and stated flatly that it ‘certainly isn’t serious from the point of view of the White House’.”
Holtzman’s letter reported that “Despite strenuous protests from several Board members, Mr. Henze continued in the following vein: ‘Let me state the White House position on this issue: Bishop Trifa, as an American citizen, represents an important ethnic group.’ Similar statements were made by Mr. Henze at a Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty Board of Directors meeting. Not only does Mr. Henze evidently find nothing seriously wrong in Radio Free Europe providing a platform for an alleged Nazi war criminal under charges by the Department of Justice, but he implies that the propriety of the interview should be judged solely on whether Trifa’s ‘ethnic group’ would approve of or be placated by the broadcast,” Holtzman wrote.
WOULD CALL OTHERS TO ACCOUNT
She observed that Henze’s statements “are outrageous enough if they represent only Mr. Henze’s personal feelings on this matter.” But, she added, “if his comments accurately reflect the position of, or were sanctioned by Dr. (Zbigniew) Brzezinski (chairman of the National Security Council) or other White House officials, they too should be called to account.”
The JTA placed two calls to Henze’s office in an effort to obtain his reactions and two calls to the National Security Council. None of the calls was returned.
At the Board for International Broadcasting, Walter Roberts, the executive director, said he could not discuss the matter until he received the text of Rep. Holtzman’s letter. The JTA learned, however, that minutes were kept of the Board’s Aug. 15 meeting and that Henze’s statements reported by Holtzman were apparently accurate. “There is no question, the record is clear,” the JTA was informed by a source at the Board. Holtzman noted that Henze “apparently serves as a National Security Council liaison with the Board.”