NEW YORK (Nov. 25)
Beate Klarsfeld said she will stop searching for Nazi war criminals if Kurt Waldheim will resign as President of Austria. Klarsfeld made that offer of reciprocity Monday night at a meeting of the World Jewish Congress honoring her for her long-time work of pursuing Nazis around the world who have gone unpunished, and following the debut Sunday night of the television film about her.
“I will give up my work as a Nazi-hunter if I will oblige Waldheim to resign as President of Austria,” she said. “Perhaps the Austrians one day will understand it’s an embarrassment” to have a man with a documented Nazi past as titular head of their nation.
Klarsfeld gave full credit to the WJCongress for its research into Waldheim’s past and its exposure of the former United Nations Secretary General’s lies to both the world and to the American people. She said she is basing her work on Waldheim “on the files of the World Jewish Congress. But the admission of his guilt, and his removal from office has to come from the Austrians themselves.”
The world-renowned Nazi-hunter, a Protestant who was born in Germany and married Serge Klarsfeld, a Jewish lawyer from Paris, said her family life would be enough to sustain her without her constant pursuit of Nazis. “I never sacrificed my personal life,” she said of her years of campaigning and locating war criminals. “A happy family life gives us the power to go out and act. Serge is acting as a Jewish lawyer, I as a German and a non-Jew.” She spoke lovingly and proudly of her family and their closeness. The couple have two children, a boy, 21, and girl, 13.
Klarsfeld also indicated her satisfaction with the ABC-TV film about her life, “Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story,” especially Farrah Fawcett who portrayed Beate and Tom Conti who portrayed Serge. She voiced support for “action, not words” for Jews and the Jewish homeland. “You have to be on the side of the State of Israel and wherever Jews are persecuted,” Klarsfeld declared.
WJC ROLE IN EXPOSING WALDHEIM
Edgar Bronfman, president of the WJCongress, in praising Klarsfeld at the meeting Monday night, also explained the role of his organization’s campaign to expose Waldheim’s Nazi past. He answered the question he said he has been asked frequently, “Why did you do what you did?” regarding Waldheim, by saying “There is a moral imperative here.”
Bronfman drew a parallel between the relentless campaign of the WJCongress for facts about Waldheim’s wartime activities and the Jewish directive to remember and retell, as exemplified by the Passover Haggadah.
“The Haggadah enjoins us to tell the story of the Exodus from generation to generation, world without end. We have before us the greatest example of man’s inhumanity to man … and I suggested that this, too, should be passed on from generation to generation. I am convinced that what we did for the Waldheim story was exactly that: to keep telling the story from generation to generation.” The Waldheim affair, he added, “cannot be swept under the rug.”
Bronfman described Klarsfeld as “one of the great ladies of all time.” He said her role “is not so much punishment for the guilty as making sure that this doesn’t happen again. To feel as deeply as she did about the great injustice that was done” is a historical contribution to justice.
The WJCongress meeting followed elections to its American Section. Rabbi Wolfe Kelman was named chairman, succeeding Frieda Lewis, who was honored for her service; and Menachem Rosensaft was named chairman of the executive committee. Kalman Sultanik, WJCongress vice president, presented Klarsfeld with a book, “Polish Jewry Between Two World Wars.”