Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Classic photo of Dwight D. Eisenhower on D-Day


News story published by Lurene Kathleen Helzer in The Daily Review, page one, May 22, 1986, “Ex-Nuremberg Attorney Says Waldheim Small Fish.”

This story was surprising for readers back in 1986 because at the time, Kurt Waldheim was defending his political reputation. It had emerged that he was quite embedded with the Nazi party, and that he’d obviously concealed this through his post-war career in his native Austria and United Nations.

In this story, I was able to quote former Nuremberg Chief Prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz talking about the immensity of the crimes. The world would not be watching millions of Nazis waiting in line to be tried.

Total justice and genocide do not shake hands, if this analogy makes sense.

The world had to understand the impossibility of putting millions of Nazis on trial, or try to understand it.

Waldheim’s alleged acts of non-stop murder were not near the magnitude of the mass murders allegedly carried out by those who did stand trial at Nuremberg:

“It was never our intention, it was never our capacity to try all those who might have been engaged in some form or another of Nazi crimes,” said the former prosecutor, Benjamin B. Ferencz of New Rochelle, N.Y.

Those accused of killing only a few hundred people were not tried because prosecutors were too busy with cases such as that of a Nazi doctor who was “responsible for killing 73,000 within two hours,” Ferencz said.

“Two hundred people killed? We don’t waste time with that. Five hundred people killed? We don’t waste time with that,” he said.

Mr. Ferencz was saying this at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club on Market Street. I had to dress in business-formal attire because you usually had notable visitors at The Commonwealth Club, like Henry Kissinger, for example.

I was just 21 then. The Waldheim controversy was in full debate around the world, but especially in Europe and the United Nations. (Mr. Waldheim died at age of 88 in June, 2007.)

I reported what I could, given the text limits and felt I’d done a reasonable story.

Still, reporting for readers the old counselor's words about one of the most known participants/Fascists with the German Einsatzgruppen had me a bit nervous as well as focused. It was one of my first few published news stories. I could not trip and fall, so to speak.


Some time around 2004, I came across the story while digging through files and sent a copy to Mr. Ferencz. He accepted it, but disliked having to pick it up at the post office in New York where he lived. It was a small story, anyway. I forgot it.

But then, in March of 2008, I decided to write a better description to introduce the topic in my online library. I wondered if Mr. Ferencz was still active, still in good health. He had a fantastic website. I sent a note with a face shot to the email address listed. I was glum, though. He had to be about 87 by now, and I would be lucky if I got a reply.

But I did!! On March 18, 2008, the fair counselor wrote short email saying I was welcome to quote from his words online, and that he had nothing new to add to those materials.

Hearing from him changed my day. I was so pleased he was in good enough health to reply and to think clearly. I called my grandmother about this and she was just as uplifted in spirit.

I admit, the Nuremberg Trials are history class for most readers today. If you're in high school, you may not see it all as relevant. But there are important lessons for everyone about the importance of diplomacy and national defense in Ferencz's writings.

He’s a talented attorney. I like studying these materials sometimes, and go to his site at http://www.benferencz.org

From my original newspaper story:

SAN FRANCISCO --- Kurt Waldheim probably never would have made it to the Nuremberg war crimes trials for his involvement with the Nazi party after World War II, one of the trials’ prosecutors said Wednesday night.

“It was never our intention, it was never our capacity to try all those who might have been engaged in some form or another of Nazi crimes,” said the former prosecutor, Benjamin B. Ferencz of New Rochelle, N.Y.

Those accused of killing only a few hundred people were not tried because prosecutors were too busy with cases such as that of a Nazi doctor who was “responsible for killing 73,000 within two hours,” Ferencz said.

“Two hundred people killed? We don’t waste time with that. Five hundred people killed? We don’t waste time with that,” he said.

“What we were really trying to do was just to take a sampling, a brief sampling, of some of those who were involved and to lay bare the historical record.”

Ferencz, speaking at the Commonwealth Club, was the chief prosecutor for the trial in which Hitler’s extermination squads, called “Einsatzgruppen,” were tried. The squads killed thousands of people.

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Lurene Gisee
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last edit August 17, 2016

13: Fish in San Francisco's Chinatown Wants to Catch Cable Car, Swim Back to Beach

California coast in April of 2007


Undated, unpublished satire, by Lurene Helzer, Probably sometime in mid 1990s, regards scene in San Francisco’s Chinatown at a small grocery. The scene involves a fish being loaded into a box. He falls to pavement. I ask where the fish thought he was going in life:

I was walking through The City a few days ago. I came into Chinatown. A couple of Chinese grocers were loading some fish from cardboard boxes into plastic containers. There must have been about 30 fish stacked up there. Fish are Fools! They have no idea they are going to be at any moment mere decoration in a Chinatown storefront, with their blue eyes staring at passing Chinese ladies with plastic shopping bags.

Anyway, two Chinese guys were slapping them from cardboard box to plastic box, cardboard box to plastic box, and so on. One of the guys had a cigarette hanging from his mouth. A fish, who had somehow managed to survive the journey from the ocean to the store, wriggled out of the man’s hand and slapped himself down to the pavement. There he was: gaFlop gaFlop gaFlop.

The merchant picked up the fish and threw him like a slimy washcloth into the plastic bin with the other fish.

The question struck me suddenly: “Where did that fish think he was going? Did he think he was going to catch a cable car back to the beach or something?”

11, 12: Opinions, Opinions.....The New York Times and C.I.A.


Brief published comment I wrote for a web opinion site sometime in the 1990s, It is still published on the internet under the name Lurene Helzer


New York Times letter to the editor, written by Lurene Helzer, published October 30, 1998. Regards 1998 American Central Intelligence Agency monitoring of peace agreements between Israelis and Palestinians. I say in letter that we ought to have asked another American agency to do the work because the C.I.A. is unpopular in the region.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

10: Berkeley Post Office on Tax Day, April 16, 1999

Money find in 1969 Philly.


Published news story, Post office scene: ‘Regular mail or taxes?’ by Lurene Helzer for Berkeley Daily Planet, page one, April 16, 1999. Story is still fun to remember because Americans of all varieties come out of the closet for federal tax day, which is April 15. You just stand around a city’s main post office for a few hours and return to the newsroom with something pretty entertaining for next day’s issue. Of course, taxes are normally not described as entertaining to collect, most people the world over would agree:

By 9:15 p.m. there was a faster-moving line of people. “The rush has not even arrived,” he said. “Every year, people will wait until 11:45 and flock to the post office.”

It was a nice evening in Berkeley on the dreaded April 15, 68 degrees, light winds of 7 mph.

There were a lot of cars with couples.

“Maybe it’s a night out for them. They come in groups, too,” said Roberson.

Some seem to consider April 15 a family event. One sports utility vehicle went by. A woman with a happily panting dog was in the passenger’s seat and the kids were in the back. A man was driving. They were all laughing.

At nearly 10 p.m., one guy steps up to Roberson. He looks fatigued, slightly shaken. He asks where he can get tax forms.

Another woman wants to give postal workers her envelopes from her sunroof, and as one worker tries to take them, she snatches them back into her car. She holds them out again, the worker reaches out, and she snatches them back again. The worker throws up his hands.

Roberson shrugs his shoulders. “It’s kind of frustrating sometimes.”

There are a few people using the stream of people as a political opportunity. They were giving out flyers for an upcoming protest against the NATO airstrikes in Yugoslavia.

One man stood around on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets. Tony Spaulding of Los Angeles, an engineer visiting town.

Just about every year, he stands out on April 15 at a post office. He’s performed the vigil in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. This year it is Berkeley.

“Only once a year do we all get down on our hands and knees and give royalty to the king,” he quipped.

9: Another odd essay, Dec. 27, 1994


Another Weird Story from San Francisco, unpublished essay by Lurene Helzer, December 27, 1994. Story centers on old roommate Anton Loman. I can’t say he was even a close friend, but he remains a memory of true fascination even now, in 2007. I must also admit I always had sympathy for the history of Russian Jews. I think they have a hard time being truly understood in Israel today, or anywhere they try living outside Russia, actually. They are simply unique people wherever they may wander. Anatoly (Natan) Sharansky today remains a controversial and necessary figure in the history of the 20th Century, as far as I’m concerned. I keep an old news photo of him in 1984 San Francisco in my collection.

8: The Pigeon spoof, September 24, 2000


Published satire, “The Pigeon,” by Lurene Helzer, San Francisco Chronicle, September 24, 2000. This comedic episode is spoof of metropolitan life, most of which floats by unnoticed in its absurdity every day. It is also, on a deeper though not immediately noticeable level, a satiric comment on the dot-com revolution as it was occurring then in the San Francisco Bay area. The paper initially mistook it for a completely accurate series of events, which it was not. For example, there was no drunk on the corner, and there was no “I wonder who does her teeth” comment.

The published form can be seen in two versions, however. The original version, unedited, that ran in that Sunday’s SF Chronicle, is the one here. A second version, edited significantly, remains today on the San Francisco Chronicle’s website if you search for it by using my last name then, which was Helzer.

7: Engagement party poem for Lukeris' on April 26, 2003

Melissa as a teen, visiting me in San Francisco Bay area, 1990s.


Unpublished engagement poem, April 26, 2003 by Lurene Helzer for sister Melissa Helzer and Gabe Lukeris’ engagement party. They are today married, raising two boys, Drasil and Ashton, in Bellingham, WA.

6: "Sleeping My Way to the Top" joke essay, Aug. 12, 1992

Sam and Me, Copy of Life Magazine that was on 1964 newsstands week I was born.


Unpublished Satire by Lurene Helzer, August 12, 1992, “Sleeping My Way To The Top.” This is a joke essay I put together for old friend Victoria Hecht in college. It centers on childhood habit of using Fox Terrier “Sam” as cover to get more sleep in morning. I blame long-dead Sam, the Los Angeles Police Department, California’s earthquakes, and Russia’s communists for all my tough breaks in life:

Los Angeles. 1985. The citizens of this metropolis peacefully slept in the middle of a typical southland evening. Some were awake attending peacefully to the business of the city’s night. Driver’s drove, bakers baked, muggers mugged, cops ate donuts and beat people up. Then, it happened.

Los Angeles jolted. Earthquake.

As the horror swept the city, guests at an obscure Motel 6 awoke astounded. They saw the water in the pool swish back and forth. Sixty-seven year old Betty Hornbecker awoke in astonishment, her face pasty and white with Ponds Cold Crème, and grabbed hold of the American Flag by her bedside under the misimpression that the Russians were finally invading.

But in room number five, the stunned tourists watched in living fear of death a truly unbelievable scene. “Mom. Oh my God. Is she…could she be…?”

5: Oil Spill Bird Victims in Northern California, Dec. 9, 2001


Published news story, December 9, 2001, bcn67: Oiled Birds Still Turning Up On Coast, by Lurene Helzer, Bay City News, San Francisco. This story I wrote for Bay City News around 4 that morning was picked up by most Northern California news organizations, be they radio, television or newspapers.

Those who subscribed to our news service were able to write or broadcast the news in that same day. Many others were able to write or broadcast greater stories about the oil spill’s effects on coastal birds later in the week.

But the main thing here is that I got the interviews first, wrote this story, and sent it out through BCN to Northern California’s various client news outlets. With respect to getting the story out first, I beat every news organization in Northern California with this one.

This actually happened often in my work, but usually only because I was covering metropolitan issues which had little importance for most people. In other words, I was the first reporter to write about a budget cut for El Cerrito, but mostly because reporters were not fighting for space in El Cerrito’s City Council chambers to report on the issue. But in other cases, issues would have a regional importance or sensational appeal.

This disaster story, giving visual details about the innocent birds who were by then drowning in oil, perishing from the broad and toxic sheen’s effects on their little feathers, had obvious appeal to residents of the Bay area and the greater population of California.

4: ...his career as an oil company executive, Palm Springs interview, April 24, 2005


Unpublished interview by Lurene Helzer April 24, 2005 in Palm Springs, CA with Marten Plante. The interview regards his career as oil company executive in Africa, and his life in Europe. See blog in this group: mobiloilnigeriaman.blogspot

3: "Ecohouse Momentum Growing..." April 9, 1999, Berkeley Daily Planet


Published news story, Berkeley Daily Planet, Friday, April 9, 1999, Ecohouse Momentum Growing, Escrow Should Close Thursday, by Lurene Helzer, then with The Daily Planet staff. Story is about an abandoned house that was transformed using ecologically friendly materials. It was difficult to use as a realistic example for other homeowners and builders, though, because the cost of using all-natural building materials was and remains comparatively prohibitive.

2: Revolutionary Ideologies, May 29, 1992, SF State course


Unpublished examination essay by Lurene Helzer for SF State course taught by Prof. Dwight Simpson, Revolutionary Ideologies, May 29, 1992. I earned grade of A-minus. This slightly edited reproduction of the handwritten text should be perceived by reader as my early ideas, not necessarily my opinions of 2006 and on. Still, it’s interesting to read now just because I am so much different in my opinions.

I later changed many of my views because of academic studies, and what I like to think is common sense. I also changed because I had talks with people of diverse national backgrounds – former residents of Eastern Europe, Russia and Iran. After talking with people from dictatorial states, I increasingly recognized my early, far-left views as childish. Needless to say, the majority of American apologists for Cold War Russia of those years vanished after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Few, if any, have since stepped forward to admit they had been deliberately blind, and wrong.

I do not have the original test questions, unfortunately.

1: Council Upholds Condo Project in Spite of Residents' Petition" in El Cerrito, Dec. 21, 1986

Photo above of San Francisco soup kitchen line, 1985, by Photographer Lloyd Francis.


Published news story by Lurene Kathleen Helzer for El Cerrito Journal, December 21, 1986, “Council Upholds Condo Project In Spite Of Residents’ Petition”.

A few things stand out while revisiting this news work I did twenty-two years ago. The El Cerrito Journal ran not only this story below about the proposed residential development, but alongside it my two related stories. The first was about a proposed retail development, the other about 1986-87 revenues for El Cerrito. The budget story was one of three I did on the subject that year for the paper.

Councilmembers openly say they are encouraging commercial and residential development which ultimately attract younger, more prosperous residents:

“Councilwoman Anna Howe, commenting during the meeting to residents involved in the appeal, said the condominiums would encourage younger families to move to El Cerrito and that apartment owners as compared to renters are ‘better additions to the community.’”

This is, in 2008, for an elected person, politically difficult to say in a major urban or suburban zone. Politicians today, to keep their jobs, have to literally contradict themselves.

They have to say to the city’s newspaper that they ‘deeply regret’ the loss of affordable housing in the city. They must be seen working to implement effective local programs to assist the poor.

As they say this to voters and to the media, however, they must simultaneously and far more strenuously work toward a slow, quiet reduction of the lower-cost residential or commercial buildings/neighborhoods they are pledging to protect or expand.

Why is this? Is it because they enjoy double-dealing this way? In some cases, perhaps so.

More likely, most of them would prefer to be plain about the embedded costs of affordable housing, but can not. Whether he/she enjoys lying or spinning campaign exaggerations is beside the point, anyway. If the leader wants the job, he’s got to talk out both sides of his/her mouth. Complete truth is for the political activist but not the elected city official.

But why is lower-cost housing nearly impossible for a city to construct and maintain? Because cheap housing is, when bunched up into neighborhoods, a financial liability for a city. The struggling neighborhood is not an asset from which the municipality can collect taxes, and, in turn, repair roads and pay police. This is what the 1986 member of the city’s council was admitting, in effect, with her statement.

That’s a meaningful fact regarding this story because next to my stories on this 1986 front page is a story about charity organizations for the homeless. That story, written by Jim Zelinski, focuses on the conditions of local homeless people. The story runs with an informational sidebar and two photographs.

One photo depicts a man quoted as saying he’s been homeless for 15 years. The second photo shows a demonstration in Oakland’s Martin Luther King Park. A tent city is standing which is dubbed “Reaganville.”

Ronald Reagan was then the U.S. president. He was unpopular with liberal activists, needless to say. We were used to derogatory slogans targeting Ronald Reagan. The point is, some political figures can withstand such pressures, and others can not.

Those sincerely supporting affordable housing, assistance for the homeless, will rarely be prominent figures. They will be charity figures, activists, like the ones shown in this 1986 newspaper.

In early August of 2008, The San Francisco Chronicle ran a few stories about the slow exodus of the city’s less prosperous residents. The mayor and San Francisco’s other city leaders were pledging to form action groups to keep the less-prosperous populations intact.

Today, the city’s elected officials surely will form such groups. But mainly for show. Will those leaders truly work to expand housing for the poor in San Francisco? Expand low-cost housing for residents of the Bayview/Hunter’s Point region? Continue to direct city resources toward fighting the high homicide rates within those districts?

I won’t even answer my own foolish inquiry. We well know what a large city – its residents -- can and cannot, will and will not, pay for in 2008. As for the question of where we place, as a society, struggling populations, I honestly have never had a great answer to this.