Remembering David Horowitz (32): Counsel for the Defense

It was during the spring of 1977 when David Horowitz ran into an old friend at the screening of “Operation Thunderbolt,” the account of the dramatic Entebbe rescue operation.

It was Paul O’Dwyer, president of the City Council of New York. O’Dwyer, a prominent attorney in the law firm of O’Dwyer and Bernstein, had known Horowitz since the days of the Jewish underground when Prime Minister Menachem Begin headed the Irgun. Both Paul and his late brother William O’Dwyer, a former mayor of the city of New York, were active on the American scene in dedicated support of the Jewish struggle for independence.

Little did Horowitz know at the time, how important the chance meeting and warm visit was to become later on.

David Horowitz had been instrumental in reactivating the case against the notorious Rumanian Nazi war criminal Bishop Valerian D. Trifa, resulting in his deportation. Now, based upon information supplied by a Rumanian-American Christian, Dean Milhovan, Horowitz was attempting to expose yet another Hungarian-Transylvanian living in the U.S., with a Nazi past.

Horowitz’s relentless battle against Nazi war criminals was fueled with profound personal emotions.

While living in Palestine in 1927, he married a Polish Jew, Pola Kleinowa. After spending six months with her parents in Poland, where a son Emmanuel was born, David then returned alone to the U.S. with plans for his family to follow. But Pola delayed departure several times, eventually remaining in Poland for ten years until she died of a cancerous tumor in 1938.

Horowitz wrote to his father-in-law, Loeble Klein, and contacted the American Consulate General in efforts to have Emmanuel sent to him in America. The boy’s grandfather refused, choosing instead to wait until he was older.

Emmanuel never got the chance to grow up. His life ended at Auschwitz.
On April 29, 1977, Horowitz wrote a letter to Congressman Edward I. Koch of New York to inform him about Hungarian community issues and a suspected troublemaker with a Nazi fascist past.

Horowitz wrote, among other things, “The purpose of my letter to you at this time is to alert you to the fact that in the U.S. today are a number of Hungarian emigres, old-time fascists, who are stirring up much trouble in the legitimate Hungarian and Rumanian- American communities. One of these troublemakers resides in New York City. His name is Ferenc Koreh.”

Ferenc Koreh did indeed have such a past. He was a member of the Hungarian “Arrow and the Cross” Nazi party. During the years 1941-1944, he was the chief editor of “Szekely Nep,” the largest provincial newspaper in Axis Hungary. During that period, the propagandist published over 200 racist articles that created a climate in Hungary that made Nazi persecution of Jews acceptable.

David Horowitz, the consummate journalist, had begun his expose. In addition to his letter to Congressman Koch, he petitioned many others, including Mario Cuomo, American Jewish Congress, Haifa University, and his UN colleague in Budapest. He also wrote letters to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and to noted Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal.

As credible evidence began to surface, Horowitz released expose’ articles in the United Israel Bulletins and syndicated in other Anglo-Jewish newspapers.

In the summer of 1977, David Horowitz received some shocking news.

Hungarian Ferenc Koreh had filed a 3 million dollar libel suit against him. Koreh’s suit was based upon a story that appeared in the spring issue of the United Israel Bulletin in which he was accused of World War II pro-Nazi activities. The story was based upon charges previously published in the American-Rumanian publication “Dreptatia” (The Justice), edited by the Rumanian-American Christian writer Dean Milhovan, who was also being sued.

The high-powered Wall Street law firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft represented Koreh. Horowitz, not having that kind of money for a libel defense lawyer, appealed to several Jewish organizations in vain.

Then David happened to remember old friend Paul O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer had just run for a second term as president of the New York City Council, a post in which he had served for five years, but lost his bid for re-election to Carol Bellamy. He returned to his law practice. One of his first calls was from his old pal David Horowitz. O’Dwyer recalls the phone conversation in his autobiography, “Counsel for the Defense:”

“I know you didn’t want to lose the election,” David said, “but I think God has made you available to me.”
“What’s up, David?” I asked.
“I need you. I’m being sued for libel.”
“Do you have a defense, David?”
“The best in the world.”
“What is your defense?”
“Truth! He was a Nazi bastard. I want you to make him eat the ton of papers he served on me. But I want to tell you he’s got Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft on his side.”

“All right, David,” I said. “Come right down and tell me again the story of David and Goliath.”
“It was if I had never been away.”

When Horowitz met with O’Dwyer, the entire Koreh episode was recounted to him. After patiently listening to Horowitz, Paul O’Dwyer’s response was: “David, let me handle this case. We’ll get this guy.” Without mentioning money or costs, Paul O’Dwyer took the case.

The Horowitz-Milhovan defense, as presented by O’Dwyer of the Wall Street law firm O’Dwyer and Bernstein, proclaimed that the facts contained in the article were true and would be proven at the trial. Horowitz says he confirmed and substantiated the facts through an official of the Rumanian government who claimed that written documents proving the charges were in the possession of the government.

On April 26, 1978, David Horowitz wrote another letter to Dr. H. Rosenkranz, Director at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. After thanking Rosenkranz for directing him to Professor Bela Vago at Haifa University, who was an expert historian on the fascist regime in Hungary, Horowitz related the results of a personal meeting he had with Vago recently at his UN office in New York. David also included copies of key incriminating documents against Koreh in his possession, “for use in the Yad Vashem archives.”

Horowitz closed his letter to Rosenkranz by stating: “No doubt thousands of Jews faced their death as a result of Koreh’s activities and the time has come for him to be exposed. For some 30 years here in America no one knew that he had been a Nazi.”
“It is important now that Ferenc Koreh be exposed.”
“At the age of 14, my son Emanuel was butchered at Auschwitz.”
Horowitz then wished Mr. Rosenkranz a “Happy Passover.”

In June 1978, Nazi-hunter, Simon Wiesenthal provided additional information to attorney Paul O’Dwyer that Koreh had been found guilty by the People’s Court of Budapest in 1947 of war crimes that espoused the Nazi cause.

What transpired was two years of depositions, two years of battles between Paul O’Dwyer, the tough Irishman and the equally tough law firm for Koreh. But the incriminating evidence was mounting against Ferenc Koreh.

A trial date was set for July 1, 1979 in Federal Court but was postponed until later in the year. At a pre-trial hearing, attorney Paul O’Dwyer was confronted with a request by the judge in the presence of Koreh’s lawyer for a summary judgment. Realizing that O’Dwyer now had the proof of Koreh’s guilt, they sought to avoid a public trial.

The civil action suit was settled without trial after a year’s proceedings in U.S. District Court in New York. Judge Joseph Griesa read a statement saying Koreh was responsible for the mass murder of Jews.

A New Jersey Federal Judge, Maryanne Trump Barry, finally revoked Koreh’s citizenship on a summary judgment. Koreh immediately appealed the decision to the 3rd Circuit Court.

In a process that took years, Ferenc Koreh was stripped of his American citizenship by a U.S. District Court in Newark in June 1994 and was ordered deported. A federal appeals court upheld that decision in February 1995.

Ailing Nazi war criminal Ferenc Koreh died on April 1, 1997 at the age of 87 after undergoing surgery. The U.S. government had agreed at the time of the court order that it would not act to remove Koreh from the U.S. unless his rapidly deteriorating health improved.

In summary, the 30-page ruling that contained most of the facts, which the Office of Special Investigations of the Justice Department had taken years to check and verify, had been supplied by David Horowitz and by the Paul O’Dwyer law firm files.

The law firm of O’Dwyer and Bernstein donated a major portion of their services to “pursue this case to a positive conclusion” as was stated by Paul O’Dwyer.

 

Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.

This post is the thirty second in the ongoing series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.

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