LISBON (Apr. 10)
Archbishop Valerian Trifa is a man without a country. But he has found a haven in Portugal under mysterious circumstances. Departed by the United States in August 1984 for his alleged role in the mossocre of Rumanian Jews in 1941, he went to Portugal where he continues to live in comfort in Lisbon under the protection, it is reported, of Dec-Nazi groups.
At the expiration of Trifa’s temporary visa last November, the Minister of Internal Affairs, largely in response to protests by Jewish leaders within and without Portugal, revoked his right to further residence. Trifa, who appealed that decision, still lingers on here and no one cores to predict when he may be forced to leave the country.
Time seems to be on his side. Even if the minister’s order is upheld, the case must be brought before another court whose function would be to find at least two countries willing to receive Trifa, and to which he would be ready to go. It appears obvious that this man with “a dark past,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice, is the beneficiary of long and number some legal procedures.
What seems strange is that despite the sweeping Investigation by authorities in Washington, the government of Israel and its Embassy in Lisbon prefer not to become involved in helping bring Trifa to justice. Dr. Joshua Ruah, the leader of the Jewish community of Portugal, confesses his continuing frustration at the delays and difficulties in expelling Trifa.
The Archbishop’s deportation from the U.S. was based on considerable evidence compiled by the Justice Department’s Office of Special investigations (OSI), relating to his activities as a leader of the fascist Iron Guard in Rumania and his complicity in a pogrom against the Jewish community in Bucharest in 1941.
Neal Sher, the director of the OSI, has dubbed Trifa “our most notorious and visible defendant … his deportation was OSI’s highest priority … he has left the U.S. in disgrace, his dark past having been exposed to the public.”
Trifa entered the U.S. in 1930 and resided in Michigan for 30 years before his deportation was ordered in 1980. It remains to be seen how successful he will be in avoiding a second deportation, this time from Portugal, and which other country will accept a man accused of responsibility in the extermination of thousands of Bucharest Jews.