The Eulogizer: Veteran TV writer, Nazi hunter

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Veteran TV writer

Del Reisman, a veteran TV script writer and producer who worked on legendary shows such as "The Twilight Zone," "Peyton Place" and "Little House on the Prairie," died Jan. 8 at 86.

Reisman also was a longtime leader of the Writers Guild of America West, and spent two years as its president.

"Del was a wonderful man, a staunch defender of writers, and a tremendous friend whose many years of selfless service to the Guild have improved working lives for thousands of writers and their families. He will be missed," said guild president John Wells.

As a Writers Guild leader, Reisman worked to restore the credits and reputations of writers who were shut out of Hollywood during the era of the Hollywood blacklist.

In a lengthy video interview in 2003, Reisman defended the importance of writers. The script, he said, is "clearly the most significant element of any film. Everything else is important, but if the story doesn’t work, all of the charisma of the star, the talent of the director, the skills of everybody associated with it, are for naught."

Reisman, a self-described studio brat who grew up on the back lots of early Hollywood, produced episodes of "Rawhide," "The Twilight Zone" and "The Untouchables." He also wrote scripts for "The Six Million Dollar Man," "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Peyton Place," the groundbreaking mid-1960s nighttime soap opera that dealt with, among other themes, teen pregnancy and sexuality. Reisman wrote the show’s cliffhanging final episode in which one of the main characters is on trial for murder. The series was canceled without a finale.

Reisman was a bombardier on the B-17 Flying Fortress in World War II, during which he flew 35 combat missions. He said Hollywood politics was nothing compared to actual combat "because nobody was shooting at you."

Longtime Nazi hunter

Tuvia Friedman, who hunted Nazis for decades and gathered material that helped identify Adolf Eichmann in advance of his capture by Israel in 1960, died Jan. 13 at 89.

Friedman lost his entire family in the Holocaust except for a sister, but escaped from the Nazis toward the end of World War II by grabbing the rifle of a German soldier who fell asleep while guarding him. Friedman worked with famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal in the early days after the war. Nazi officers captured by Friedman in those days included Herbert Bottcher, head of the SS in Radom, Friedman’s hometown, and his assistant, Wilhelm Blum, who sent 300,000 Jews to Treblinka. Both were both later hanged.

Friedman continued on his own in Israel beginning in 1952 and established the Institute for the Documentation of Nazi War Crimes in Haifa after the U.S. lost interest and Wiesenthal settled in Vienna. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Wiesenthal Center in Israel, said Friedman’s efforts were limited after he moved to Israel, but that "he continued to do invaluable work by collecting data, finding documentation and engaging in educational activities on the Holocaust until the end of his life.”

Once he was in Israel, Friedman helped keep the search for Eichmann going by finding one of Eichmann’s girlfriends, who had a photograph of the notorious Nazi. Friedman once put out a news release claiming that Eichmann was in a Persian Gulf country, possibly knowing that information was inaccurate, but looking to goad others into action.

Friedman published an autobiography in 1961 in the wake of Eichmann’s capture and trial titled "The Hunter: The Autobiography of the Man Who Spent Fifteen Years Searching for Adolf Eichmann." In video interviews in his later years, Friedman discussed his decades-long hunt for Nazi war criminals.

In recent days, as the 50th anniversary of the start of Eichmann’s trial in April 1961 has approached, the long-dead Nazi has been in the news again. Media reports have said Germany knew of Eichmann’s whereabouts as early as 1952, and Israel was preparing a commando raid to capture him as early as 1949 but aborted it because of faulty intelligence.
 
 

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