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Modai Says UN Will Give Israel Broad Access to War Crimes Files

Israel’s Justice Minister Yitzhak Modai disclosed here that the United Nations has agreed to give Israel a list of the 40,000 suspected Nazi war criminals in its archives and to provide the actual files of any on the list that Israel might ask for.

Modai, who briefed a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, also said he “strongly disagreed” with those Jews who felt it was “not proper to loudly and publicly expose the Nazi past of Kurt Waldheim,” who was elected President of Austria on June 8.

“Nor do I agree with those who say we must do nothing to annoy the Austrians because Vienna is the only gateway for Jews who one day may come out of the Soviet Union. It is not the only gateway — but even if it were we have no right to keep silent,” the Justice Minister said.

He did not identify any of the Jews with whom he disagreed. But President Chaim Herzog of Israel, in urging coolness and caution by Israel in the aftermath of Waldheim’s election, referred to the fact that Vienna is the first stop for Jews leaving the USSR to immigrate to Israel.

Waldheim, who served as UN Secretary General from 1972-81, has been linked to war crimes when he was a Wehrmacht officer in the Balkans during World War II. His is one of the files compiled by the now defunct UN War Crimes Commission and presently in the archives.

Representatives of the Israeli and Austrian governments were given access to the Waldheim file before the first Austrian Presidential elections held last May 4.

TIME FOR FORMALITIES IS OVER

Modai said Israel was promised the list of files by UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar at a meeting recently. “I went to see Mr. Perez de Cuellar for one purpose — to end the 42 years of silence that surrounded the UN’s files on Nazi war criminals,” Modai said. He said he had stressed to the Secretary General that he wanted the names made known for the sake of the six million Jews slaughtered by the Nazis, not on behalf of Israel or of the Jewish people.

“I told him that the time for ‘formalities’ and ‘procedures’ was over, and that, particularly in view of the revelations about his predecessor, Kurt Waldheim, those names and those files must be turned over to any nation that requests them. I was gratified and pleased with the Secretary General’s positive response,” Modai said.

The Israeli Justice Minister said in Jerusalem before Waldheim’s election that the evidence Israel had been able to obtain was not sufficient to charge him directly with war crimes but enough for him to be tried as an accomplice.

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