Famed, former Westport lawyer dies
By FRANK FAY
The Hour | 04/07/2010
.Commander M. Philip Lorber, USNR., an international lawyer, who lived at 4 Larch Tree Lane, Westport, for over 20 years until the 1980s, died at his home in Boca Raton, Fla., on March 20. The husband of the late Joan Hecht Lorber, who died last summer, was 94.
Mr. Lorber gained renown as a lawyer in more than one instance, once for winning a slave labor case in post-World War II Germany and again for serving as co-counsel during the internationally covered "Hoax Trial" which involved the writing of a fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes by Clifford Irving.
In the first case, he tried the Auschwitz slave labor case against the German chemical company, I.G. Farben. The plaintiff, Rudolph Waxman, once a slave laborer, became a soldier in the U.S.Army after being liberated by the Russian army in 1945 before emigrating to the United States with the assistance of his uncle, the award winning arranger and composer, Franz Waxman. Private Waxman was then sent back to Germany by the U.S. Army to serve as a military policeman. As a member of the allied forces, he qualified to use the occupation courts where Lorber successfully represented him, pleading his case in the U.S. Court of the Allied High Commission for Germany and winning for him a substantial settlement.
In the second case, Mr. Lorber represented Clifford Irving in a Manhattan court in 1972 and was also personal counsel for his wife, Edith Irving. The case drew daily media attention and was made into the 2006 movie "The Hoax" starring Richard Gere.
Commander Lorber served in the U.S. Navy during WWII and after being discharged in 1946 was appointed chief attorney and reviewer and legal adviser to the Commanding General in Heidelberg, Germany for three years. Later, he was licensed by General Lucius Clay, military governor of Germany, to engage in the private law practice in civil and criminal law and courts martial.
A wiry built man of medium height, he was a forceful presence in the courtroom. He remained in Germany 17 years where he and his law school classmate, Henry G. Vogel, maintained offices as Lorber-Vogel in Heidelberg, Frankfurt and Paris. During this period, he was Commanding Officer of a Naval Reserve Unit for 8 years, engaging in weekly drills and periodic active duty for training with the Rhine River Patrol, the Judge Advocate General's office in Washington, D.C., and aboard the USS Intrepid with the 6th Mediterranean Fleet. He also served as Vice President of the Association of American Lawyers in Europe (1961-62.).
Attorney Lorber was a member of the Connecticut Bar with offices on East Avenue. In 1977, he was elected to a 4-year term on the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals. He was appointed a Commissioner on the Commission of Human Rights in 1979 by Governor Ella Grasso and continued service under Gov. William O'Neill. Also in 1979, he was appointed by Governor Grasso as Chairman of a select Fact Finding Commission with a mandate to hold public hearings throughout Connecticut, "to investigate incidences of cross burnings and vandalism motivated by racial and religious prejudice." The resulting report lead to increased penalties for such offenses. He had also served on the Board of Directors of the South Palm Beach County (Fla.) Military Officers Association of America.
In 1980 he joined the campaign staff of Sen. Christopher Dodd in his first term election to the U.S. Senate.
He was also partner and General Counsel in the New York City security firm Vogel-Lorber and General Counsel to the Put and Call Brokers and Dealers Association, a subject upon which he published and lectured.
In 2002, following the death of Henry Vogel, his law school classmate, fellow Naval officer and law partner of almost 40 years, he established the "Henry G. Vogel '39 and M. Philip Lorber '39 Scholarship Fund" which supports academically qualified students in need of financial assistance at St. John's Law School. Contributions may be made to this scholarship fund at St. John's Law School, 800 Utopia Parkway, Queens, NY 11439.
He was born in New York City on December 16, 1915, the son of immigrant parents -- Max Lorber and Bertha Mandel -- and the first high school graduate in his family.
In 1952 he married the former Joan Hecht of Baltimore, Md., who predeceased him in August, 2009. She had also gained a measure of fame as a young child of nine by surviving the 1939 U-Boat torpedoing of the American liner S.S. Athenia in the North Atlantic while she was returning from a summer abroad with her nurse. Her great-grandfather had founded he Hecht department store chain.
Mr. Lorber leaves a daughter, Beth Lorber of Port Townsend, WA, a son, Bryan Lorber of Barrington, RI, and three grandchildren, Jora Rehm-Lorber of Fort Collins, CO, and Benjamin and Carolyn Lorber, both of Barrington, RI. He was predeceased by two brothers, Murray and Charlie and a sister, Elsie Wohl.
Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.