VIENNA (Jun. 8)
Austria’s attempt to return Martin Bartesch to the United States was thwarted, at least temporarily, over the weekend because no airline would issue a ticket to the former SS man who was a guard at the Mauthausen concentration camp during World War II.
The Rumanian-born Bartesch, 61, has been the center of a dispute between Austria and the U.S. since he arrived here last month with a valid U.S. passport, only to be stripped of his American citizenship as soon as he landed. The Austrian authorities were not informed in advance that Bartesch was about to be denaturalized for lying about his Nazi past when he entered the U.S. in 1955. They charged the U.S. Justice Department with high-handedness and subterfuge. Bartesch was taken into custody pending deportation.
Strains with the Americans worsened when it became apparent that U.S. officials had warned all air carriers that if they flew Bartesch to New York they would have to take him back to Vienna at their expense because he would not be admitted. It was a slap in the face for the Austrian Interior Ministry, which had ordered a ticket for Bartesch and brought him to the airport under police guard.
AUSTRIAN OFFICIAL COMPLAINS
Interior Minister Karl Blecha complained of “wild West methods.” Bartesch, who is seeking resident’s status in Austria, was released from custody in Linz. According to the District Attorney there he can be picked up at any time either to be deported or tried for murder. The District Attorney said Bartesch has confessed to killing a camp inmate during an escape attempt.
He also is accused of killing a resistance fighter in Vienna who was identified by the Nazis as a Frenchman, probably Jewish.
He may not have to stand trial because of the statute of limitations and because he was a minor at the time.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Ronald Lauder apologized Monday to Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Alois Mock for failing to inform Austria of the Justice Department’s action against Bartesch. He insisted, however, that the return of Bartesch to the U.S. is “not possible.”
Austria signed an agreement in 1954 which gave the U.S. the right to deport refugees to the country they came from if it was determined that they gained entry to the U.S. illegally. But the agreement also required the U.S. to inform the country of origin in advance.
Mock said after meeting with Lauder that the matter has been cleared up for the time being. But he said there was no guarantee that similar cases would not occur in the future since Austria does not require visas of persons holding U.S. passports.