Richard Schifter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Richard Schifter
Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
In office
October 31, 1985 – April 3, 1992
President Ronald Reagan
George H. W. Bush
Preceded by Elliott Abrams
Succeeded by Patricia Diaz Dennis
Personal details
Born (1923-07-31) July 31, 1923 (age 95)
Education City College of New York,
Yale Law School

Richard Schifter (born July 31, 1923) is a United States lawyer. He was Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from 1985 to 1992, and has held many other important posts.


Richard Schifter was born in Vienna on July 31, 1923 into a Jewish family. (His family was in Vienna after having been displaced from Poland.[1]) In the wake of the Anschluss by which the First Austrian Republic was annexed by Nazi Germany on March 12/13, 1938, Schifter's family sought permission for all of them to emigrate to the USA, but Richard Schifter was the only member of the family able to obtain a United States visa. This tragic situation arose since he had been born in Austria, and therefore came under the USA. Austrian immigration quota, which was not full. His parents, since born in Poland, were in the Polish quota, in a long queue which was 3 years long.[2] He immigrated to the United States without his family in Dec. 1938, at age 15.[3] In the U.S., he studied at CCNY, the College of the City of New York, where he received a B.A. in 1943.[4]

Schifter then joined the United States Army, becoming one of the Ritchie Boys, young Jewish German refugees whom the U.S. Army trained in the art of psychological warfare.[3] Most importantly, since they all were fluent German-speakers, all the Ritchie Boys were trained primarily in all aspects of Intelligence work. This was with the specific intent that they be involved in interrogating captured German soldiers of all ranks as well as civilians; and in gathering and interpreting captured German documents, both during the war and afterwards.

He was present for the Normandy landings.[3] and did intelligence work in the field. After the Battle of the Bulge, he was stationed in Aachen and tasked with interviewing the civilian population, thus producing one of the first studies of daily life under the Third Reich.[3] He searched for his family after the war, but they had all been killed in the Holocaust.[1] He was discharged from the Army in 1946, but stayed in Allied-occupied Germany working for the U.S. military government as a civilian until 1948.[3][5]

Schifter enrolled in Yale Law School in 1948, receiving his LL.B. in 1951.[4] After law school, Schifter joined the law firm of Riegelman, Strasser, Schwarz & Spiegelberg (which is today Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson).[6] Following the death of Felix S. Cohen in 1953, Schifter, along with fellow attorney Arthur Lazarus, Jr., became the main attorneys for the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Reservation in their repeated disputes with the United States government.[6] Schifter practiced law at Fried, Frank until the 1980s, as one of the foremost practitioners of federal Indian law in the country.[7] He also served on the President's Task Force on American Indians from 1966 to 1967.[7]

From 1981 to 1982, Schifter was U.S. representative to the UNESCO Committee on Conventions and Recommendations.[7] He was also an alternate U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights 1981-82.[7] From 1983 to 1985, he was the United States Representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.[4] He was also Deputy United States Representative to the United Nations Security Council with the rank of Ambassador from 1984 to 1985.[4]

In 1985, President of the United States Ronald Reagan nominated Schifter to be Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. After Senate Confirmation, Schifter served as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs from October 31, 1985 until April 3, 1992. Schifter's views on U.S. foreign policy have been described as neoconservative.[8]

After the election of Bill Clinton, he was appointed to special assistant to the United States National Security Council.[9] He served in this capacity until 2001.[10]

Since leaving government in 2001, Schifter has headed the American Jewish International Relations Institute and the Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeastern Europe.[10] He has also been a trustee of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies.[10]

A moving very ironic fact: - As a child in Vienna, Schifter had told his father he wanted to become a diplomat - to which his father had replied that a Jew could not become a diplomat in Austria, but that he could in the United States. Richard wishes so very much that his parents could have seen him represent the U.S.A. at the U.N. Human Rights Commission.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Hear Ambassador Richard Schifter’s personal Holocaust story",, Apr. 26, 2006
  2. ^ a b "Don't Wave Goodbye," Jason and Posner, Praeger/Greenwood (2004)
  3. ^ a b c d e Profile from Ritchie Boys website
  4. ^ a b c d Continuation of Richard Schifter as an Assistant Secretary of State, June 14, 1989
  5. ^ "Don't Wave Goodbye," Jason and Posner, Praeger/Greenwood (2004)
  6. ^ a b Edward Lazarus, Black Hills, White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States, 1775 to the Present (University of Nebraska Press, 1999), p. 226
  7. ^ a b c d Nomination of Richard Schifter To Be an Assistant Secretary of State, Oct. 1, 1985
  8. ^ Stefan A. Halper and Jonathan Clarke, America Alone: The Neo-Conservatives and the Global Order (Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 83
  9. ^ Paul D. Molineaux, "Richard Schifter: Human Rights or 'Population Exchange' Advocate?", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, June 1994
  10. ^ a b c Profile from Virginia Law School

External links

  • [1] Web-site of the American Jewish International Relations Institute (AJIRI). Richard Schifter is the Chairman of the Board of AJIRI
  • Video on YouTube This 30 minute video presents Ambassador Schifter's very successful life. It contains a very poignant story - his father had told him in Vienna (before he "became" an OTC), that a Jew could never become a diplomat in Austria.
Government offices
Preceded by
Elliott Abrams
Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs
October 31, 1985 – April 3, 1992
Succeeded by
Patricia Diaz Dennis
Retrieved from ""
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "Richard Schifter"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA