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  • NYS Writers Institute

Harry Rosenfeld, editor who stared down Nazis and Nixon, dies at 91

(Lori Van Buren / Times Union photo)

Today we mourn the passing of legendary newsman, Harry M. Rosenfeld. He leaves a legacy of hundreds of journalists who strive to hold those in power to a higher standard. And his two memoirs tell the story of his childhood in Nazi Germany to a distinguished career in newspapers, serving as a key editor at the Washington Post during the Watergate coverage and later at the Albany Times Union.

From the Albany Times Union:

"His death was confirmed by his wife, Anne, who on Friday morning said that her husband's life was in many ways defined by good luck: first in his family's ability to escape Hitler's regime, and in his decision to pursue a career so fitted to his passions and beliefs.

Times Union publisher and CEO George R. Hearst III called Rosenfeld 'the conscience of good and fair journalism, always seeking the truth through rigorous inquiry and factual certainty.'

Rosenfeld came to Albany after overseeing perhaps the most significant political journalism of the 20th century: the Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning coverage of the Watergate scandal, reportage that exposed the misdeeds that led to the 1974 resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. As the Post's managing editor for metro news, Rosenfeld was credited with making sure the sprawling story retained the sort of relentless focus more associated with the crime beat.'

Katharine Graham, the Post’s publisher during Watergate, described him in her 1997 autobiography as 'an old-style, tough, picturesque editor, and another real hero of Watergate for us.' In their best-selling account All the President's Men, reporters Bob Woodward — a Rosenfeld hire — and Carl Bernstein compared him to a football coach — "pleading, yelling, cajoling, working his facial expressions for instant effects — anger, satisfaction, concern." Read more The Washington Post obituary described Rosenfeld as a "burly, brusque and demanding editor" who "became fascinated by world affairs and journalism as a schoolboy in New York. He saw in journalism a way to keep oppressive forces at bay, 'holding to account the accountable, the more powerful the better,' he wrote in his 2013 memoir, From Kristallnacht to Watergate." Read more

His memoir tells the gripping story of growing up in Hitler's Berlin. He saw his father taken away by the Gestapo in the middle of the night, and on Kristallnacht, the prelude to the Holocaust, he witnessed the burning of his synagogue and walked through streets littered with the shattered glass of Jewish businesses.

He followed up Kristallnacht with a second memoir Battling Editor: The Albany Years, which picked up the story of Rosenfeld's career when he came to Albany to head the morning Times Union and the evening Knickerbocker News.

Harry Rosenfeld's books are available at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza:

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