World Jewish Congress President Edgar Bronfman said in a brief statement Monday that Austrian President Kurt Waldheim withdrew his slander suit against him because of a lack of evidence.
“It is obvious that Waldheim dropped the suit because he has no case,” Bronfman said.
Waldheim had initiated a lawsuit after Bronfman, speaking at a WJCongress meeting in Budapest on May 5, 1987, said that Waldheim was “part and parcel of the Nazi killing machine.”
Bronfman’s statement Monday was in response to the announcement made by a Waldheim spokesman on Friday, that the Austrian president had written the Vienna public prosecutor’s office listing three reasons for dropping the suit against Bronfman.
The reasons included what Waldheim called the U.S. Justice Department’s refusal to provide legal assistance to Austrian courts preparing the case, and his desire “to contribute to calming down and reconciliation.”
The third reason, according to the letter, was the fact that an international commission of historians and private undertakings– including a mock-trial television special broadcast on cable television– “have determined my personal innocence.”
In New York, World Jewish Congress executive director Elan Steinberg said Monday that his organization’s findings continue to “coincide with the conclusions of the historical commission, which found that Waldheim lied consistently about his past, was unquestionably a member of pre-war Nazi organizations and personally assisted Nazi war crimes.”
Waldheim served as an intelligence officer in a unit of the German army during World War II that participated in the transfer of Greek Jews to concentration and death camps, and in the execution of Allied prisoners, among other war crimes.
He has been on the Justice Department’s “Watch List” of undesirable aliens since April 1987.
A report issued in February by the historical commission concluded that Waldheim was aware of wartime atrocities and “repeatedly assisted in connection with illegal actions and thereby facilitated their execution.”
During the past year, Bronfman repeatedly said he stood by his Budapest statement and looked forward to any actions the Austrians wished to take.
Asked Monday why he thought Waldheim dropped the suit, Steinberg replied: “Because he was afraid of being cross-examined under oath.”
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.