John Koehler said today it will be "a black day in journalism" if he is deprived of taking the position of White House communications director because he served in a Nazi youth organization for six months as a 10-year-old.
In a telephone interview, Koehler exploded in anger over the reports that his appointment, announced Thursday by President Reagan, might be jeopardized by his brief membership in the Jungvolk in 1940.
Asked if he thought his appointment was in jeopardy, Koehler, 56, a former Associated Press executive said: "It if does, it's a black day in journalism."
Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said later in the day that Reagan had not known about Koehler's childhood membership in Jungvolk, but that the Administration was standing behind his selection as successor to Patrick J. Buchanan.
"It's incomprehensible," Koehler said. "I just ask myself the question, 'Why is it I can be with the AP for 28 years and no one asked any questions?'
"I was 10 years old at the time," Koehler said. "I took myself out because I was bored" after six months.
Koehler said his first wife was Jewish and his current wife is Jewish. He said he was married twice by a rabbi and attends services, although he has not joined the faith. "What does that make me?" he asked. "A Zionist or a member of the Stern gang?"
He said that belonging to the Nazi youth group was "almost mandatory" at the time, when he lived in Dresden, Germany, with his family, and it included "after school drills once a week and Saturday outings."
Koehler said he served in the U.S. Army and was a consultant to the U.S. Information Agency. His appointment to succeed Buchanan, who has resigned effective March 1, was recommended by USIA Director Charles Z. Wick and cleared by White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan.