NEW YORK (May. 15)
The State Department has undertaken an investigation into the war-time activities of Austrian Presidential candidate Kurt Waldheim to determine whether he should be barred from the United States on the basis of his past actions as an officer in the Wehrmacht in World War II.
The Department, according to a letter dated May 5 from Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead to World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman, will “treat our investigation of the charges seriously and reach a conclusion with due deliberation.”
Whitehead, in saying the State Department “is conducting its own investigation” into the 68-year-old Waldheim’s past activities, indicated the Department is “assisting” in a parallel Department of Justice Investigation.
The Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations has already recommended that Waldheim, the former United Nations Secretary General from 1972-1981, be barred from the U.S. under the terms of the so-called Holtzman Amendment of 1978.
The recommendation from the OSI, written by the agency’s director, Neal Sher, urges that Waldheim’s name be placed on an Immigration and Naturalization “watch list,” a list maintained by the INS of deportable aliens. The Holtzman Amendment to the immigration law bars entry to aliens who took part in Nazi war crimes.
SAVE CHARGES AGAINST WALDHEIM ARE SERIOUS
Whitehead said in his letter that “the charges against Mr. Waldheim are serious,” adding that the State Department “will not be in a position to comment on Mr. Waldheim’s war-time activities” until the “investigation is complete,” Whitehead stressed.
Sher’s recommendation, which is currently before Attorney General Edwin Meese, said Waldheim was “a special mission staff officer in the intelligence and counterintelligence branch” of the German Army Group E, which was involved in reprisals against civilians in the Balkans.
Waldheim has repeatedly defended his wartime record, saying that while he had some knowledge of German atrocities against Yugoslav partisans and others, he was not involved in the activities. He has denied WJC charges that he had knowledge of the deportation of thousands of Greek Jews from Salonika.
Whitehead’s letter was in response to a letter from Bronfman to Secretary of State George Shultz on April 16. In that letter, Bronfman described Waldheim as “a man who is a proven liar” and “unrepentent of his past activities.”