From Kristallnacht to Watergate
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2013. 359 Pages. $29.95 This is the fascinating autobiography of a newspaper editor who played an important role in the Washington Post coverage of the Watergate story. Rosenfeld was born in Berlin in 1929 to Polish parents who had settled in Germany because his father worked as a furrier for a large Berlin fashion house. Alarmed by the rise of the Nazis and increasing anti-Semitism, the family—which consisted of Rosenfeld’s older sister, himself at the age of 10, and their father and mother—left Germany in 1939 and moved to New York where they had relatives.
Rosenfeld decided to attend Stuyvesant High, a selective school that required passing competitive entrance exams for admission. He did well there, played on the soccer team, and developed some conservative attitudes. He helped to organize a school paper and, in 1947, He legally became a United States citizen. His decision to become a newspaperman led to his selecting Syracuse University which has a well-known journalism school. During his high school years, he met Annie, also an immigrant from Germany, who eventually became his wife and the mother of their three children.
With some months between the end of high school and the beginning of college, Rosenfeld sought and found a job as a shipping clerk at the New York Herald Tribune, choosing that paper because he shared its conservative views. During his summer years, he had a variety of jobs for the Herald Tribune and, on graduation, he worked there full time until being drafted. While in the army, he married Annie before being sent to Korea. After his discharge, he returned to the Herald Tribune for six years until it went out of business. During this time, he made an overseas trip for the paper that included a stop in Israel where he interviewed Ben Gurion.
In 1967, Rosenfeld went to work for the Washington Post and remained there for 12 years in a variety of senior assignments until he was recruited to become the editor of the Albany, N.Y., Times-Union where he remained for almost 20 years until he retired. A large part of the book is given over to his experiences at the Washington Post that included supervising Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in their reports on the Watergate story. As its significance grew, Ben Bradlee, editor of the Post and Katherine Graham, its publisher, became involved in important decisions. This exciting inside narrative provides a special view of publishing the information that eventually led to President Nixon’s resignation.
Although the inside story about Watergate is the highlight of the book, Rosenfeld includes details about his family some of which he included in a lecture he gave at his synagogue on the anniversary of Kristallnacht. This well-rounded presentation is eminently worthy of considerable plaudits.
Dr. Morton I. Teicher is the founding dean, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University and Dean Emeritus, School of Social Work, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.