Britain considers unproved the allegations that President Kurt Waldheim of Austria was involved in Nazi atrocities during World War II and sees no reason to bar him from visiting the United Kingdom, a Foreign Office spokesman said Wednesday.
The British position clashed with the decision by the U.S. Justice Department, announced in Washington Monday, to bar Waldheim from entering the U.S. in private capacity because “a prima facie case of excludability exists” based on evidence of Waldheim’s activities as a Wehrmacht officer in the Balkans during the war.
Commenting on the Justice Department’s move, the Foreign Office official said “British policy remains that the allegation against Dr. Waldheim have not been proved. As a democratically elected head of a friendly state he would be afforded formal courtesies.”
The official said he was unaware of plans to invite Waldheim to Britain but he also knew of no plans to place Waldheim in a category which would prevent him from visiting there in private capacity.
Canada also has no plans to officially ban entry of Waldheim, according to a report from Ottawa Wednesday. But Prime Minister Brian Mulroney told reporters that Waldheim would not be welcome. It was not clear whether Mulroney was enunciating his government’s policy or simply expressing an opinion in reply to a question.
WALDHEIM CHALLENGES U.S. DECISION
In Vienna, meanwhile, Waldheim personally challenged the Justice Department’s findings in a television and radio address broadcast Tuesday night to the Austrian nation. “I have a clear conscience,” he said. “Believe me, otherwise myself, my wife and my kids would not have been able to live through the weeks and months of accusations and allegations,” he said.
Waldheim has admitted that for 40 years–10 of which he served as Secretary General of the United Nations–he had falsified the record of his military service, claiming to have been discharged from the German army in 1941 for a disability. In fact, he served as an intelligence officer in the Balkans.
During his campaign for the Austrian Presidency last summer, researchers for the World Jewish Congress discovered a file in the United Nations War Crimes Commission archive that charged Waldheim with “murder” and “putting hostages to death.” He was on a “wanted list” of war criminals in Yugoslavia after the war.
In his broadcast, Waldheim said his predecessor, former President Rudolf Kirschlaeger, had reviewed all of the documents held against him and found no reason for charging him with war crimes. “Please let me stress that there is no proof of guilt,” Waldheim said. He said he has ordered a “White Book” on his past to be researched and published in the near future. Waldheim stressed that after the war he had worked for peace, first as an Austrian diplomat and later at the United Nations. As to the allegation that he was involved in the execution of hostages in Yugoslavia, Waldheim reminded his audience “in all modesty” that he had helped free hostages, including the American Embassy hostages held in Iran in 1979-80.
“I have always intervened for human rights. I demand the right not to be charged without proof,” Waldheim said.
Regarding his military past, Waldheim said, “I do not want to minimize what all those (people) had to live through who were thrown into that horrible war scenario. It has been the fate of my generation and we will bear it for all our lives, namely the knowledge of the horror of war and the determination to work for peace for the future.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.