Waldheim Issue, Austria’s Past

Kurt Waldheim, who is running for election as president of Austria, is neither a defender or friend to the State of Israel nor to Jewish people, as Jeane J. Kirkpatrick noted in her column (Editorial Pages, April 13,) “An Amiable Waldheim, Anti-Semitic U.N.”

Waldheim, according to damaging new evidence, is instead a former agent of the Nazis--a man who consciously contributed to the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews and others the Nazis deemed as “undesirables” during World War II.

Despite the release of new, and seemingly more damaging evidence, Waldheim continues to be the front-runner in the Austria election--the last opinion poll showed him with a 11-point lead.

However, Austria is no stranger to embracing Nazi war criminals: In January 1985 the Austria Defense Minister Friedhelm Frischenschlager personally welcomed Austrian-born Nazi war criminal Walter Reder. Reder, a 70-year-old former SS major who was convicted of the mass murder of civilians in Italy in 1944, had just been released after spending 40 years in prison in Italy. Jewish leaders around the world expressed outrage about the incident, but they only got an apology from the Austrian government.


The Austrian voters will do disservice to their country and to the victims of Nazi brutality if they elect Waldheim. However, if Austrian politics are any indication, they might ignore world opinion and go ahead and elect Waldheim despite serious questions about his involvement in Nazi war crimes.