Nazis’ Victim Convicted in Slaying of Publisher

May 26, 1947
Los Angeles

Angelenos will recall the shocking case of linotype operator Otto P. Parzyjegla, 38, who on February 15 killed his boss, Alfred Haij, publisher of the Swedish newspaper California Veckoblad, in the paper’s print shop at 821 W. Venice Blvd. and dismembered him with a blade from the paper cutter.

The two men had been arguing for weeks, and February 15 was to be Parzyjegla’s last day, with a new operator due to arrive from San Francisco. Parzyjegla claimed that despite his being let go, he still took his job seriously.

Parzyjegla: I told Haij that the linotype machine needed attention. All of a sudden he ran wild and said, “You dirty German, you aren’t going to run my business.â€Â

Parzyjegla, who is a Russian-born Pole, was held prisoner in a German concentration camp, during which incarceration he was tortured by standing in a fake execution by firing squad. He claims that being called a German, and a dirty one at that, triggered a dreamlike flashback state, during which he beat his employer to death. Then he pinched and hit himself, hoping to wake up, and realized it was real.

Within minutes, several people walked into Haij’s office asking for the publisher. Parzyjegla said that he was out, and locked the door. All day, Parzyjegla sat in the print shop with Haij’s body, wondering what to do. “Finally I thought of the blade on the paper cutter.â€Â Wrapping rags around the blade, Parzyjegla dismembered Haij and packed the parts into cartons, cleaned the floor and burned the rags, Then he went home to 415 W. Jefferson Blvd., his 21-year-old wife and infant child. Around midnight, having been unable to sleep, Parzyjegla returned to the print shop with idle thoughts of disposing of the body—maybe he could rent a car, take it someplace—but police, alerted when Haij failed to return home to 1445 S. Hayworth Ave., were already in the vicinity.

Radio Patrolmen B.H. Brown and A.J. Drobatz spotted Parzyjegla in front of 1609 Cherry St., in the act of tossing Haij’s watch away, and observing his cut hand, took him to the print shop. There Parzyjegla promptly confessed and acted out the assault and dismemberment.

Noting that one of the anonymous Black Dahlia confession letters had clearly been prepared in a print shop, Captain Jack Donahoe of Homicide Division expressed interest in Parzyjegla and arranged a line up where six recent female assault victims tried and failed to recognize him.

In Superior Court today, in a juryless trial before Judge William R. McKay, Parzyjegla repeated that since 1939 he has been subject to black outs and “seeing red,â€Â which he claims that he did before striking Haij. McKay convicted Parzyjegla of second degree murder, and invited him back on Thursday for sentencing of between five years and life.

Published by

Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

3 thoughts on “Nazis’ Victim Convicted in Slaying of Publisher”

  1. One other thing occurred to me, although I suppose this is almost too obvious to mention:

    You’ll note that Parzyjegla didn’t have a car, unlike the Black Dahlia killer. While the Red Cars long ago acquired sainthood in Los Angeles, they did pose something of a challenge for anyone trying to dispose of a murder victim.

  2. And on an unrelated subject:

    Syndicate Buys Newport
    Shipyards as Play Area
    Pleasure Craft Anchorage and Motels Would
    Be Constructed on 3200 Feet of Water Frontage

    NEWPORT BEACH, May 25—Sale of the $500,000
    Newport Beach shipbuilding plant of Consolidated Steel
    Corp. to a California syndicate for development as a recre-
    ational and pleasure craft mooring area was announced
    here today.

    Paul S. Snyder, rancher and
    yachtsman, Cecil Miller and R.J.
    Laughlin, all of Pomona, said the
    plant with 3200-foot water front-
    age near Lido Isle Channel and
    covering 22½ acres, including
    Lido Isle Anchorage, will
    be developed to provide con-
    struction, repair and servicing of
    craft and with motel and hotel

    War Development

    Undeveloped prior to the war,
    the property was developed ex-
    tensively to meet war construc-
    tion needs. Large-scale dredging
    provided good water depth for
    ship operations and made vir-
    tually an island of the peninsula.

    Many minesweepers and other
    naval craft were constructed at
    the yards during the war.

    A former proposed sale of the
    yards to Columbia Steel Corp.
    of Torrance was blocked by the
    U.S. Department of Justice on
    the claim that the acquisition
    would tend to create a monopoly.

    This, my friends, is how to make a fortune. Half a million dollars works out to $22,222 an acre. Adjusted for inflation (thanks to that’s $4.7 million in 2005 dollars for 22½ acres of waterfront property, where the median home price is $1.2 million as of March 2005, according to the California Assn. of Realtors.

    source: Los Angeles Times, May 26, 1947

  3. As tragic as it is, the Otto Parzyjegla case is wonderful example of the distinct contrasts between the murder of Alfred Haij and Elizabeth Short, and the differences between the major Los Angeles papers in the 1940s.

    Note, first of all, that while The Times buried the story inside (as it did with the Black Dahlia case) the Herald-Express bannered it on the front page with a typical screamer headline:

    Strange Phantoms Walk Weird Path of L.A. Mysteries

    As Hearst papers, the morning Examiner and the afternoon Herald ran far more details than The Times of this grisly crime—and it was extremely grisly.

    First of all, unlike the Black Dahlia killer, Parzyjegla had a terrible time cutting up the body—into six pieces. It took him all day and required several trips to get an assortment of sharp implements. He began with a butcher knife from home. Then a saw. Next, a hatchet. Finally, he finished the job with the blade from a paper-cutting machine.

    Then he made it even more difficult because, unlike the Short murder, Haij was fully clothed when Parzyjegla cut him up.

    And unlike The Times, the Examiner wasn’t squeamish about reporting that Haij’s son had gone to the shop to look for his father. While he was piling up boxes so he could look over the transom, police said, one of them burst and parts of the body tumbled out. You simply never get those kinds of details in The Times.

    Services were held for Haij at Mission Covenant Church, 851 Francisco St., and he was buried at Forest Lawn. Parzyjegla was eventually released from prison; his whereabouts are unknown. [Dear crime writers who pick up this tidbit, please acknowledge me as your source. Thanks.]

    Whenever I read about these cases, I always wonder about the collateral victims: Haij’s family and Parzyjegla’s wife and baby daughter, who was 3 months old at the time. For that matter, I wonder what became of Laura Trelstad’s three children, who were photographed by the papers, too young to understand much of what was going on.

    ps. Note that Parzyjegla lived in a small house at the back of 415 Jefferson.

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