U.N. Report Urged Waldheim Trial
The U.N. War Crimes Commission determined in 1948 that Kurt Waldheim should be tried as a Nazi war criminal for “murder” and for “putting hostages to death,” according to long-secret U.N. files revealed Friday.
The 38-year-old report, released publicly by the World Jewish Congress, said that Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary general, was “responsible for the retaliation actions carried out by the Wehrmacht units in Yugoslavia” between April, 1944, and May, 1945.
Waldheim, 67, who was a lieutenant in his mid-twenties during World War II, has repeatedly denied any knowledge of Nazi atrocities while serving in the German army.
In Vienna, Waldheim accused the World Jewish Congress of recycling old documents that he maintains have been discredited. “It is absurd and deplorable that the world Jewish Congress is trying again . . . to keep hiding the fact that they have run out of new facts,” Waldheim said in a statement, reported by the Associated Press.
The now-defunct 17-nation War Crimes Commission assigned Waldheim its gravest classification in its listing of war criminals, saying there was “sufficient evidence to justify” his prosecution for his actions in World War II.
The seven-page report said that Waldheim served as an intelligence officer for the German army’s Group E that was “the means for the massacre of numerous sections of the Serb population” in reprisals against thousands of Yugoslav partisans and civilians. Waldheim has insisted he served only as an interpreter while on duty in the Balkans.
The U.N. report, the latest disclosure since questions about Waldheim’s war record first arose in January, may be the most damaging because it was prepared by an independent international group at a time when Waldheim was not a known political figure.
Waldheim headed the United Nations from 1972 to 1982 and is favored to win a runoff election for the Austrian presidency on June 8.
The U.N. report, dated Feb. 13, 1948, was based on evidence gathered by the Yugoslav War Crimes Commission in 1947, and was sent back to Yugoslavia for official action. Yugoslavia has never sought to extradite or prosecute Waldheim for the charges, however. Belgrade has refused to become involved in the latest allegations against Waldheim, saying it did want to interfere in the Austrian elections.
“This (U.N. report) is the smoking gun,” said Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, an umbrella group of international Jewish organizations that released the file. “It means the World Jewish Congress isn’t accusing Kurt Waldheim of being a war criminal, the U.N. is.”
The War Crimes Commission, which operated in London, was established in 1943, two years before the founding of the United Nations, and was disbanded in 1948, its files being taken over by the world body.
Steinberg said an “anonymous donor” had provided the file from a U.N. archive in New York containing dossiers on 40,000 suspected war criminals and witnesses. The file previously was released to the U.S., Austrian and Israeli governments.
Steinberg repeated his group’s demand that Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III bar Waldheim from entering the United States because of his war record. Waldheim could be barred under a 1978 amendment to the immigration law that excludes aliens who took part in Nazi war crimes.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Special Investigations recommended in April that Waldheim’s name be placed on an immigration “watch list"to bar his entry. The recommendation is under review by the criminal division and has not been forwarded to Meese, according to Justice Department spokesmen.
Asked to explain the delay, spokesman Patrick Korten said, “It seems like every time we get ready to send it forward, someone comes up with more evidence.”
Another Justice Department official said he expects action on the case early next week, however. The U.N. report also contains extracts of testimony by witnesses interviewed by the Yugoslav War Crimes Commission after the war. One German army staff member who said he had worked with Waldheim, identified as division clerk Johann Meyer, said people were murdered in Sarajevo in November, 1944 “according to the order given by Waldheim.”
Waldheim has denounced Meyer, who reportedly is now dead, as a liar.
Times staff writer Ronald J. Ostrow, in Washington, contributed to this report.