VIENNA (Feb. 4)
The original of a document said to link Austrian President Kurt Waldheim directly to war crimes in Yugoslavia during World War II could not be found there Wednesday.
Manfred Messerschmidt, a West German member of an international commission of historians examining the Austrian president’s wartime activities, flew to Zagreb on Tuesday to determine whether the document, said to be in an archive there, was authentic. The panel is expected to issue its final report on Monday.
But Messerschmidt reported that he could not find the incriminating document in Zagreb or at any archive in Belgrade. It reportedly refers to an order by Waldheim to deport more than 4,000 civilians from the Bosnian town of Kozara in 1942, to concentration camps in Yugoslavia or forced labor camps in Norway.
what sent Messerschmidt on his search was the claim by the West German news weekly Der Spiegel that it obtained a photocopy of the original from Yugoslavian military historian Dusan Plenca, who gave the magazine a sworn statement as to its authenticity.
According to Plenca, he found the document in a hitherto unknown file of the Croatian puppet state, known as the Ustasha government, set up by the Nazis when they invaded Yugoslavia in 1941. Ustasha collaborated with the Nazis.
Meanwhile, the Yugoslavian newspaper Politica published another document Tuesday referring to the Kozara deportations. Waldheim’s name is not mentioned in the text, which is otherwise similar to the document published by Der Spiegel.
Waldheim, who formerly served as secretary general of the United Nations, has acknowledged that he served as a German army intelligence officer in the Balkans during World War II. But he has repeatedly denied that he is in any way connected with atrocities there.