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New Envoy to Austria Presents Credentials to Kurt Waldheim

January 22, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The new United States ambassador to Austria, Henry Anatole Grunwald, an Austrian-born American Jew, presented his credentials Wednesday to President Kurt Waldheim.

The ceremony, overshadowed by Waldheim’s Nazi past, which has caused him to be declared persona non grata in the United States, was brief and in strict accordance with diplomatic protocol. The two men reportedly had a short discussion of bilateral and international political matters.

The news media were excluded from the ceremony, but Waldheim spoke to reporters afterward.

Asked whether U.S.-Austrian relations are still strained by the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to place him on its “watch list” of aliens who may not enter the United States in private capacity, Waldheim suggested that the arrival of the new ambassador could pave the way for normalizing relations between the two countries.

Grunwald declined to comment on his meeting with Waldheim. In a pre-recorded television interview broadcast Thursday, the American envoy said he saw his task as explaining U.S. policies to the Austrians and Austrian policy to Washington. He did not refer to the Waldheim case.

The Austrian president’s wartime activities are under investigation by an international panel of historians who will try to determine the veracity of charges that Waldheim, as an intelligence officer in the German army in the Balkans during World War II, was involved in the deportation of Greek Jews and played a role in atrocities against civilians and partisan fighters in Yugoslavia.

The panel was scheduled to announce its findings this month, but now says it will not deliver its report until Feb. 9, or possibly later.

At his confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate last year, Grunwald said he would keep his contacts with Waldheim on the official level only. He said he would attend all meetings and receptions required by protocol, but not events where he might meet Waldheim socially.

Grunwald’s predecessor, former Ambassador Ronald Lauder, maintained a similar distance. Lauder, who also is Jewish, served in Vienna for only 18 months.

Grunwald, born in Austria in 1922, fled with his family when the country was incorporated into the Third Reich in 1938. In the United States, before finishing high school, he took a job in the mailroom of Time magazine. He retired last year as editor in chief of Time Inc., a major American publishing empire.

Grunwald told reporters of his new assignment, “This is no homecoming for me. Austria is a foreign country, which I like and am very interested in. Still, my home country is America.”

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