More Austrians Support Waldheim Now Than Elected Him As President

The Austrian people support President Kurt Waldheim by a much larger majority than elected him last summer, according to a straw poll published here following the U.S. Department of Justice’s announcement last week that Waldheim would be barred from entry into the United States because of his alleged involvement in Nazi persecutions and atrocities during World War II.

The poll, in the newspaper Neue Kronen-Zeitung, found that more than 70 percent of the respondents do not want Waldheim to resign in wake of the American charges; 57 percent think he should file libel suits; and 53 percent want Chancellor Franz Vranitzky to cancel his scheduled official visit to the U.S. later this month.

Vranitzky is being urged to call off his visit by politicians of his own Socialist Party, his conservative coalition partners and the opposition liberal-right Freedom Party. They are echoed by editorials in their respective party newspapers which have called the American action an anti-Austrian measure. Freedom Party chairman Jeorg Haider said, “You do not shake one hand after the other has hit you.” But Vranitzky announced after a brief meeting with Waldheim Thursday that he would make the visit which was planned some time ago. He said that while the government rejects the charges against Waldheim because of lack of evidence, the matter should be dealt with coolly and without emotion.

Vice Chancellor Alois Mock, chairman of the conservative People’s Party which ran Waldheim as its Presidential candidate last year, announced Friday that the President has been invited on a state visit to Hungary, to be made some time next year. King Hussein of Jordan extended an invitation to Waldheim while he was in Austria on a skiing vacation in February. Waldheim is also scheduled to visit Egypt. Apart from Hungary, no European country has invited him. Waldheim claims he has a number of invitations under consideration but did not identify the countries.

Mock, who is also Foreign Minister, told a press conference that he summoned the U.S. Ambassador, Ronald Lauder, last week and gave him Austria’s official response to the U.S. ban on Waldheim for transmission to Washington. Mock said the Austrian government demanded that the U.S. authorities provide it with all the material and documents which led to their decision.

Last Wednesday, Waldheim demonstratively visited the Jewish Museum in Eisenstadt, the provincial capital of Burgenland, where he addressed a conference of the organization of war victims. The museum occupies part the former home and private synagogue of the wealthy Wertheimer family. Waldheim wore a cap, which he had refused to do on a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem a number of years ago when he was Secretary General of the United Nations. His address to the war victims was essentially the same as his nationwide radio and television broadcast last week in response to the American ban. In neither speech did he mention the Holocaust or Jewish suffering. He dwelt on the horrors of war and his own clear conscience.

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