An international commission of historians examining the military activities of Kurt Waldheim likely will delay preparation of its final report, scheduled for Feb. 8, because a member flew to Yugoslavia on Monday to check a new document.
The document reportedly implicates the Austrian president directly in the deportation of civilians to Nazi-run camps while he was an officer in the German army in the Balkans during World War II.
Manfred Messerschmidt, a West German member of the panel, was asked before flying to Belgrade if the document would prove Waldheim is a war criminal. He replied, “Definitely, this is the document that brought him closest to war crimes so far.”
It was brought to light last week by the West German news weekly Der Spiegel, which plans to publish it Sunday. Der Spiegel bought it from Dusan Plenca, former head of the Belgrade Institute for Military History, who gave the magazine a sworn statement as to its authenticity.
The document was found in an archive in Zagreb, according to Plenca, 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. The Ustasha army cooperated closely with the Germans.
The document is a telegram sent by an Ustasha officer in 1942 in which he refers to a request made by Lt. Kurt Waldheim to deport 4,224 persons from the municipality of Korsara in Bosnia, now a region of Yugoslavia.
In the summer of 1942, the German army undertook its first major retaliatory measures against the civilian population for the activities of partisans and resistance fighters. About 68,000 civilians were killed, including children.
According to Der Spiegel, an unspecified number of Jews were among the civilians allegedly ordered deported by Waldheim to concentration camps in Yugoslavia or forced labor camps in Norway. Few survived.
A spokesman for Waldheim, Gerold Christian, has called the document an obvious forgery Plenca insists it is authentic and has threatened to sue Waldheim and Christian for impugning his credibility.
An editor of Der Spiegel, Hans Peter Martin, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency on Tuesday that “We did all the checking on can do. To us the document looks correct.”
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.