A Justice Department report kept secret until last week documents previously leveled accusations that former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim participated in war crimes under Nazi command during World War II.
The report, completed in 1987 but released only last Friday, led to the banning of Waldheim from the United States by the Bush administration.
It details that “Waldheim assisted or otherwise participated in persecution because of race, religion, national origin or political opinion.”
It is not known why neither the Bush and, initially, Clinton administrations kept the report from the public eye. The report, written by Neal Sher, who recently resigned as director of the Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations, was made public after the World Jewish Congress filed a request for it under the Freedom of Information Act.
According to a Justice Department spokesman, Attorney General Janet Reno eased the act’s restrictions last fall, thereby allowing documents such as this report to be released.
In 1986, while Waldheim ran for president of Austria, the WJC launched an inquiry into his wartime activities with the Germany army, or Wehrmacht, in the Balkans during World War II.
He was elected president in June of that year.
The report states that in memoranda contesting the attempt to bar him from the United States, Waldheim “offered explanations of historical events which are so completely inconsistent with document facts as to smack at rank distortion.”
Waldheim failed to rebut the case against him or otherwise demonstrate that he did not engage in activities he is accused of participating in, the report said.
The WJC has long sought that the report be made public so that the story of Waldheim, who served as the United Nations top official from 1972 to 1982, would be known.
‘THIS MAN SHOULD NEVER HAVE SERVED’
Israel Singer, WJC secretary-general, said he was pleased that the Justice Department made the report available to the public.
“The report confirms that this man should never have served as secretary-general to the United Nations,” Singer said Monday.
“Waldheim lies about the most horrendous event in world history,” Singer said.
The report states that, as a lieutenant for the German army between 1942 and 1945, Waldheim was involved in the deportation and deaths of nearly 3,000 Greek Jews.
He also played a part in the transfer of civilian prisoners to the SS for use as slave labor, the mass deportation of civilians to concentration and death camps, the utilization of anti-Semitic propaganda and the mistreatment and execution of Allied prisoners.
Much of Waldheim’s wartime involvement has been known for several years.
The 204-page report confirms an important disclosure made only recently in a book by Eli Rosenbaum, former legal counsel at the WJC and now acting director of the OSI, which is responsible for prosecuting Nazi war criminals.
In his book, titled “Betrayal” and published last year, Rosenbaum provides evidence linking Waldheim to an incident in Bosnia during which Jews, Serbs and others were deported to concentration camps.
The book, which Rosenbaum researched using accessible Justice Department documents, states that the people sent to Nazi camps from Bosnia numbered nearly 70,000, including 23,000 children.
The incident is described in the Justice Department report, which states that German authorities were sending Serbs, Jews, and suspected Communists to gruesome concentration camp
Sher, principal author of the report, was OSI director and is now head of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
A statement by the Austrian Press and Information Service on Monday welcomed the report but said all allegations against Waldheim were previously investigated and completely unfounded.
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.