JERUSALEM (Apr. 28)
A brief flurry of excitement over a request for trade connections in Israel from what appeared to be a Soviet trading company, ended late yesterday when the firm turned out to be West German. The owners of Intorg (International Trading Organization) of Frankfurt, clearly indignant over the mistake, identified its nationality to newsmen.
But for several hours yesterday, speculation was rife that a letter from Intorg to the Tel Aviv Chamber of Commerce may have been a signal from the Soviet Union that it wanted to end its 10-year trade embargo of Israel and possibly even restore diplomatic ties with Jerusalem. Although official sources here denied that there were any political or diplomatic implications in the letter, local newspapers featured the story on their front pages and the news was flashed all over the world.
The letter from Intorg, which was written in French and came from Paris, said “We are a foreign trade firm which has offices in Moscow, Paris, Frankfurt, London, Vienna and New York. We do business both with Western and Eastern countries. One of our areas of operation is the paper and printing industry. We are interested in selling Israel: printing machinery; newsprint; types of ink; paper….Please be good enough to provide us with a list of names and addresses of companies that might be interested in buying this sort of material.”
NAME LED TO WRONG CONCLUSION
The letter was signed by D. Tremski, a Russian-sounding name. The letterhead listed offices in Frankfurt, London, Vienna and New York but the most prominent listing and the only one for which an address was given was in Moscow. That, and the fact that the suffix “torg” is common to Soviet trading firms apparently led Chamber of Commerce president Zvi Amit to conclude that Intorg was one of the “top” Soviet trading companies.
But Intorg, according to its co-owner, Mrs. Elka Lehmann-Altenbrandt, is a West German company based in Paris with office facilities in a Moscow hotel suite. This is the entire extent of its Soviet connection. Mrs. Lehmann-Altenbrandt, who called the Tel Aviv bureau chief of the German Press Agency last night from Frankfurt to set the record straight, denied that the firm was pushing Soviet goods for sale in Israel. She said the printing equipment mentioned was of French manufacture. She also expressed concern that the Soviet authorities might act adversely toward Intorg because of the widely publicized error. (By David Landau)