There is no mystery to “Waldheim’s Mysterious Past,” which was the the headline on your editorial (April 7.)
The former secretary general of the United Nations is the People’s Party candidate for president of Austria. And the People’s Party is acknowledged as the “home” for old-time Nazis.
The party’s predilections were known to the Jewish leaders with whom I met while in Vienna on a recent trip. The president of the city’s B’nai B’rith Lodge was active politically, and had served on the City Council.
What concerned the leadership was how to immunize future generations from the disease of anti-Semitism. They were aware that those who had served in Hitler’s army were regaling their children and grandchildren with tales of yesterday’s glories under Nazism.
At the same time, they didn’t feel threatened. In fact, an exhibit at the City’s Museum--"From Dream to Reality"--was highlighting the contributions of Viennese Jews in the growth of the city. But historical reality made few very optimistic as to the future of Jewish life in Austria.
Though far removed from Austria, American Jews, and the general public, also need to be concerned with the question as to what kind of education we must give our children to keep them from being infected with anti-Semitism.
The polls showing Waldheim gaining in popularity, because of the exposure of his World War II past, is unsettling, to say the least.
My own experience in the field, for more than 40 years as a professional, suggests education and public opinion-making are not enough. We need laws to deal with advocates of hate, just as we needed civil right laws to deal with prejudice, and the resulting acts of discrimination in the public arena.
HYMAN H. HAVES