NEW YORK (Apr. 27)
The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday a long-awaited decision to bar Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, accused of involvement in Nazi atrocities, from entry to the United States as a private citizen.
Although Waldheim has not been barred from visiting the U.S. in his official capacity as the Austrian head of State, President Reagan pledged in a letter written last year, that he would never extend an invitation to Waldheim for an official visit.
A State Department spokesperson said “The Department of Justice has determined that a prima facie case of excludability exists with respect to Kurt Waldheim as an individual.” (See related story.)
Austria recalled its Ambassador to the United States Monday in protest. Austrian Foreign Minister Alois Mock said in a statement, “This decision . . . causes Austria deep dismay and is categorically rejected.”
The decision assures that Waldheim, the former United Nations Secretary General, will never legally enter this country again. Jewish organizations praised Attorney General Edwin Meese and the Justice Department for taking the appropriate action in the Waldheim case.
A CLEAR MESSAGE HAS BEEN SENT
The World Jewish Congress, which discovered and exposed the first documentation of Waldheim’s wartime activities which he concealed for four decades, issued a statement saying: “The Attorney General of the United States of America, Edwin Meese, has acted in a courageous manner and has sent a clear message: Nazis are not welcome here. After 40 years, justice has been done in the case of Kurt Waldheim.”
Waldheim’s past came to public attention in spring 1986 after a World Jewish Congress researcher discovered that a file in the United Nations War Crimes Commission (UNWCC) archive charged Waldheim with “murder” and “putting hostages to death.” The documents showed that Waldheim served as an intelligence officer in the German Army and committed atrocities in Yugoslavia and Greece by ordering the murder of Jews, Gypsies, Serbs and resistance fighters.
Waldheim has admitted that he concealed part of his wartime service by claiming repeatedly that he was discharged in 1941 and finished a law degree in Vienna for the remainder of the war. But he has denied that he perpetrated any Nazi persecutions.
“Today the U.S. government formally determined that Kurt Waldheim falls under the ‘Holtzman Amendment’ which holds that ‘Nazi persecutors’ are ineligible to enter the United States,” the WJC statement said. Elizabeth Holtzman, Brooklyn District Attorney, authored legislation barring Nazi war criminals from entering the U.S. when she served in Congress.
Holtzman issued the following statement Monday: “Today Kurt Waldheim’s past has finally caught up with him. I am pleased that Attorney General Edwin Meese has agreed to bar Kurt Waldheim from the United States, enforcing the law that I wrote that bars Nazi persecutors form our shores. Waldheim participated in the German Army’s reprisals against innocent civilians during World War II and has consistently tried to cover up his past. Under the Holtzman amendment, such a person cannot enter this country.
“The next step is to determine how a man with Waldheim’s past was supported by our own government and many others while he was Secretary General of the UN. The opening of Waldheim’s secret UN file exposed his past to the world. The United States government must reverse its position on releasing the 37,000 other files on accused Nazi war criminals.”
The WJC statement praised the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations (OSI) for acting “in a manner befitting its role as the moral conscience of this government.” The OSI prepared a 200-page report supporting the case to bar Waldheim from the U.S.
“It is particularly fitting in this week set aside for commemoration of the victims of the Holocaust, that the final legal judgement has been rendered in the case of Kurt Waldheim,” the WJC statement said.
In other reactions from the Jewish community, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said “The Attorney General’s action demonstrates the determination of this government to see to it that the Holocaust is remembered as it must be for all time. It also shows that the watch-list policy is administered without regard to rank or station.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said, “We believe that Mr. Waldheim should not be treated differently than any other accused war criminal. In addition to the serious allegations made against him in connection with atrocities in World War II, Waldheim, as Chief executive human rights officer for our planet for over a decade, deliberately violated the trust placed in him by consistently and deliberately lying about his past.”