Justice Minister Moshe Nissim said Thursday that mounting evidence that former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim has a Nazi past will require Israel “to consider carefully” whether it is possible to have any relations with him in the future.
Waldheim is the conservative Peoples Party candidate for the Presidency of Austria in elections to be held May 5. Austrian and Yugoslavian newspapers and the World Jewish Congress have made public in recent weeks wartime and post-war documents indicating that Waldheim was involved in the murder and torture of partisan fighters while a lieutenant attached to the German General Staff in the Balkans during World War II.
He also may have been implicated in the deportation of Greek Jews from Salonika. Nissim was the first ranking Israeli official to comment on the Waldheim affair. He said Thursday that Israel would have to weigh its position if, for example, the question of Waldheim’s visiting Israel arises in the future.
There have been no indications from present or past officers of the Israel foreign service as to whether Israel knew of or suspected Waldheim’s alleged Nazi activities during his two terms as UN Secretary General–1972-81.
Waldheim denied any Nazi past in an interview with Israel Radio from Vienna Wednesday. He said his wartime service in the Balkans was limited to acting as an interpreter for the German High Command.
MORE DOCUMENTS PUBLISHED
Two Yugloslavian newspapers and the Austrian daily Kurier published documents found in a Belgrade archive which reveal that Waldheim was wanted for war crimes in 1947 in connection with atrocities committed against partisans and civilians during the German occupation.
Last Sunday, the World Jewish Congress in New York released a 1948 U.S. Army document showing that after World War II both the Army and the United Nations War Crimes Commission listed Waldheim as a suspected Nazi war criminal. The document, from the Army’s “Combined Registry of War Criminals and Security Suspects” (CROWCASS), reports that Waldheim’s arrest was sought by Yugoslavia on suspicion of complicity in what the Registry listed as “murder.”
According to the documents published in Belgrade and Vienna, it was Waldheim who, despite his junior rank, made proposals for retaliation measures against local populations after partisan attacks and on the treatment of hostages. His proposals were passed on to his superiors.
Waldheim Thursday flatly rejected the allegations as “lies, defamation and devilish intrigue.” He maintained that the documents lumped all German officers together and because no proof was ever found, the charges were quietly dropped by the Yugoslav authorities.
YUGOSLAVIA URGED TO CHECK ALLEGATIONS
Simon Wiesenthal, who heads the Nazi war crimes documentation center in Vienna, said Thursday that the Yugoslav authorities should check into why the allegations against Waldheim were not pursued after 1947. “There is a whole range of possibilities, from pure laziness and sloth to a feeling that the suspicions were not justified,” he said.
Meanwhile, Alois Mock, chairman of the Peoples Party, accused the WJC Thursday of “infamous meanness and unwarranted interference with Austrian political matters.” Mock called on the Socialist-led Austrian government to protect Waldheim as a citizen from unjustified attacks coming from abroad.
Another Peoples Party spokesman, Robert Graf, called Thursday on President Rudolph Kirchschlaeger to call a special session of Parliament to reject foreign intervention in Austrian politics.
But Socialist Chancellor Fred Sinowatz said no such session was necessary. He said it was Waldheim’s duty to prove the charges unfounded. He added that the government would not intervene against a private organization in the U.S., meaning the WJC.