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NJ Lawyer Claims He Was Defamed in Book About Nazis - New Jersey Law Journal

A Paterson lawyer claims in a suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and one of its authors defamed him in the 2014 book, "The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men."


Aslan Soobzokov said the book falsely portrays his late father, Tscherim Soobzokov, as a Nazi war criminal. Soobzokov said he provided numerous documents to the author, New York Times reporter Eric Lichtblau, and met with him over a period of seven days. But Aslan Soobzokov says he was defamed by the book's notation that he "contributed" to the book, which he said would lead a reader to falsely conclude "that Lichtblau thanked Aslan Soobzokov for assisting him in writing a book of lies about his father." Aslan Soobzokov, who is representing himself, included two counts each of defamation and false light invasion of privacy, as well as one count of intentional infliction of emotional distress. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages and legal fees and expenses.

The book describes how the CIA, FBI and the military helped some Nazis resettle in the United States after World War II, protecting them and putting them to work as spies and scientists while covering up their histories. The book said Tscherim Soobzokov, born in the Caucasus region, collaborated with the Nazis during the invasion of the U.S.S.R. and served as an SS officer. He later settled in Paterson, working for Passaic County in the purchasing department. The Department of Justice sought to indict him as a Nazi war criminal in the 1980s but was unsuccessful, the suit said. He died in 1985 from injuries caused by a pipe bomb that was left outside his home.


In the suit, Aslan Soobzokov claims Lichtblau repeatedly contacted him between 2011 and 2014 but he resisted, citing another book published in 1976, "Wanted: The Search for Nazis in America," which also discussed his father. Tscherim Soobzokov, upset over his depiction in that book as a Nazi, filed a suit against the publisher, The New York Times Book Co., and the author, Times reporter Howard Blum, the suit said. The earlier suit ended in a settlement in 1983, according to the complaint in the latest case. Aslan Soobzokov adds that "in the event The New York Times is involved here, the complaint will be amended accordingly."


The younger Soobzokov said he ultimately agreed to speak to Lichtblau based on his assurances that he would print the truth and would be objective, the suit said. But the book "did not make any reference" to Tscherim Soobzokov's "innocence, and the documents provided in support of," the suit said. It said Lichtblau "had the blind objective to be hailed by survivors of the Holocaust and other groups for his own notoriety and clearly to make money."


The elder Soobzokov was also the target of a mail bomb in 1979. No one was ever charged with leaving either bomb, but Aslan Soobzokov has twice sued the federal government over its investigation. In 2005 he sued to compel the FBI and DOJ to reopen the investigation, but he withdrew that suit after the FBI gave him an affidavit saying the probe was still active. In 2011, he sought mandamus relief to compel the DOJ and FBI to disclose the results of their investigations. That suit was dismissed upon a finding that he failed to show that the agencies committed a clear abuse of discretion or usurpation of judicial power. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed that ruling in March of this year.


Aslan Soobzokov, reached by phone, called the book "an intentional, malicious attack on a dead man who cannot protect himself." He said he understands that survivors cannot sue for defamation on behalf of the deceased, "which is a cruel law, particularly when such egregious crimes are alleged." Lichtblau "not only defamed my father, he also defamed me," Soobzokov said. Mentioning his name throughout the book gave credence to the notion that he "appeared to support Mr. Lichtblau in his conclusions." The author "should show more sensitivity and more wisdom," he said.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Lichtblau did not respond to requests for comment about the suit.


Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal
September 18, 2015

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