Holtzman Denounces Response from White House About Trifa
Menu JTA Search

Holtzman Denounces Response from White House About Trifa

Download PDF for this date

A White House response to Rep Elizabeth Holtzman (D.NY) that sought to squelch her complaint about an Administration official’s comments regarding alleged Nazi war criminal Valerian Trifa has drown a second angry letter from her to President Carter that renewed her call for the official’s dismissal.

Describing the response as “inappropriate. inadequate and inaccurate, ” Holtzman, who is chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and International Law, said the fact her complaint was answered by a staff member of the National Security Council (NSC) and a co worker of John Henze, whose dismissal she is seeking, “suggests that the White House attaches little importance to the issue I have raised. “

The issue, Holtzman wrote to Carter, “is not, as the response states, that Mr. Henze never indicated any sympathy for Trifa’s alleged past activities’ but whether he, or the White House, currently is willing to overlook those activities because Trifa ‘represents on important ethnic group and might be able to deliver their votes. “

In her first letter to the President Dec. 5, Holtzman reported that on May 1, Radio Free Europe broadcast a 45 minute interview with Rumanian Orthodox Church Archbishop Trifa, a naturalized American citizen, who is alleged to have incited atrocities against the Jews in Bucharest, Rumania, during World War II. The interview made no mention, she observed, that the Department of Justice had initiated proceedings against Trifa in May 1975 to strip him of his citizenship and that trial of the case is pending in federal court in Detroit.

Top officials of the U.S. Board for International Broadcasting, Which oversees Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, subsequently deplored the interview and expressed their wish it had not been aired. However, on Aug. 15, Henze at a board meeting characterized concern about the Trifa interview as “silly, “Holtzman pointed out to Carter, and that “despite strenuous protests from several Board members, ” Henze had added let me state the White House position on this issue: Bishop Trifa, as an American citizen, represents an important ethnic group.”


The White House response, signed by Christine Dodson, Staff Secretary at the NSC, said Hense’s “personal estimate of the importance of the Trifa broadcast can be justifiably contested by others” but that he had “explicitly shared the view” that the broadcast was an “error of judgment” and “nowhere in the discussion did he either support this broadcast or indicate, even in the slightest, any sympathy for Archbishop Trifa’s alleged past activities.”

Dodson concluded, “obviously the crimes that were committed during World W### Two are recognized as heinous and have no sympathy among anyone in the civilized world.”

Taking issue with the Dodson response, Holtzman told the President that it “does not indicate whether Mr. Henze’s remarks represent the position of, or were sanctioned by, the White House as he so stated at the August 15 meeting. ” She described the response as “inaccurate because it does not in any way reflect the verbatim transcript” of the Aug. 15 meeting. Henze, she wrote the President, “steadfastly refused to retract his comments despite pleas from several participants in the meeting to do so.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund