VIENNA (Apr. 23)
President Rudolf Kirchschlaeger said Tuesday night that while Kurt Waldheim must have been aware of the German campaign against Yugoslav partisans during World War II, he found no connection between Waldheim and the deportation of Greek Jews from Salonika.
The Austrian President, in a 20-minute speech to the nation broadcast over national television, said that his review of documents from the United Nations archives and the World Jewish Congress on Waldheim’s war-time activities led him to the conclusion that “If I would act as a public prosecutor, I would not dare to lay down an indictment on those documents.”
Kirchschlaeger, at the same time, also expressed his concern about an unleashing of a wave of anti-Semitism in Austria. Saying that the tension caused by the media’s reportage of the allegations against Waldheim had led Austrians to interpret the coverage as a meddling in Austrian affairs, he appealed to all Austrians and especially to those holding political office to calm such sentiments. “Anti-Jewish sentiments never did any good in our history,” he declared. “And besides that, they are deeply inhumane.”
Waldheim, the conservative Peoples Party candidate in next month’s presidential election, said Tuesday night that now the campaign against him had finally collapsed. He said that with the President’s statements, “all accusations against me have collapsed, and I hope that now, in the last phase of the election campaign, we can concentrate constructively on the real problems.”
Kirchschlaeger said the charges against Waldheim were full of questions and that the key witness against him in the Yugoslav documents prove his own position charging other German soldiers.” In addition, the President said a notable question involved why the Yugoslav authorities, neither in the past nor today, tried to prosecute Waldheim, the former UN Secretary General, or demand his extradition from Austria.