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Trifa Has Left the U.S. for Portugal; Justice Official Says Trifa Will Never Return to the U.S.

August 15, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Archbishop Valerian Trifa, who was ordered deported from the United States in October, 1982, for his activities in leading the Rumanian Iron Guard in a pogrom against Jews in 1941, left the U.S. yesterday for Portugal, the Justice Department announced today.

“Mr. Trifa’s departure is permanent,” Stephen Trott, Assistant Attorney General, criminal division, said at a press conference at the Justice Department. “We have taken steps to ensure that he will never ever come back into the United States of America.”

Trott noted that Trifa’s departure ends nine years of legal efforts by the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations(OSI) to first strip Trifa of his citizenship because he entered the U.S. in 1950 after lying about his Nazi past and then to deport him.

Neal Sher, director of the OSI, noted that before the legal activities began, several persons had sought to bring Trifa to public attention, particularly Dr. Charles Kramer of Rumania, now a New York dentist.

Trott said that U.S. officials were present when Trifa left from Kennedy International Airport in New York yesterday and when he arrived in Portugal. “This represents a highly significant victory of the Office of Special Investigations, because Trifa, who has been highly visible, as the Bishop of the Rumanian Orthodox Church of America, was a symbol of this country’s recent concerted efforts to move against Nazi war criminals, ” Trott declared.

“His departure proves that denaturalization and removal from the United States of individuals engaged in persecution under the Nazi regime are not idle threats,” he said.


Trott noted that Trifa is the third Nazi war criminal under prosecution by the OSI to have left the U.S. in recent months. In April, 1983, Hans Lipschis, of Chicago, a Lithuanian-born SS Deaths Head guard at the Auschwitz death camp, was deported to West Germany. In July, Anatoly Hrusitzky fled the United States for Venezuela and renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Sher said the OSI presently has 35 cases in litigation and is investigating some 300 others.

The 70-year-old Trifa entered the U.S. in July 17, 1950 and was naturalized on May 13, 1957. He lived in Grass Lakes, Michigan, near Detroit. In May, 1975 the U.S. began denaturalization proceedings against him in Detroit. But in September, 1980, on the eve of trial, he surrendered his certificate of naturalization.

The OSI then instituted deportation proceedings. The trial began on October 4, 1982, but after three days of testimony establishing Trifa’s role in the anti-Semitic persecution of Rumanian Jews by the Iron Guard, Trifa agreed to deportation.

Sher explained that in an agreement with him, Trifa was given two years to find a country to go to and if he could not do so by October, 1984, he would be deported to Rumania. Sher said that since then, the OSI has been in discussion with Rumania, Israel, West Germany, and Switzerland about taking Trifa. He said that Trifa, apparently fearful of going to Rumania, obtained a visa to Portugal on his own. Sher said he believed that Israel is pleased by this result.

Trott said that a deportation charge is a civil proceeding and that if Trifa was to illegally enter the country again he would face criminal charges. He noted that Trifa is well known so that he could be spotted if he re-entered the U.S.

Trott said that the U.S. cannot prosecute people for the crimes they committed during World War II, but can order them deported. Both Sher and Trott stressed that even if Trifa is not prosecuted, he is still being punished by being forced to leave the United States. “This was not a man picking up and leaving because he wanted to spend his golden years outside of the U.S.,” Sher said.

David Brody, the Washington representative of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, who attended the briefing, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the “successful culmination of the nine year effort of the Justice Department will leave every Nazi who lied to get into this country many a sleepless night. Its a signal that our government is going to proceed and has been proceeding with vigor and determination to remove every person who lied about his wartime activities in order to” get into the U.S.

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