Kurt Waldheim, whose conduct in Hitler’s army was questioned during his election campaign, pledged today to fight anti-Semitism as president of Austria. His wife acknowledged that she once was a Nazi party member.
“I will concentrate especially on dialogue, above all with our Jewish fellow citizens, and do all I can to work against religious, racist and ethnic discrimination,” the former U.N. secretary-general said at his first news conference as president-elect.
The issue of Waldheim’s past became a focal point of the campaign for the largely ceremonial presidency, which he won in last Sunday’s runoff election.
He denied repeatedly that he had belonged to Nazi youth organizations or knew about war crimes while serving as a lieutenant in the Balkans, as the World Jewish Congress and other foreign groups have alleged.
Elizabeth Waldheim acknowledged today that she joined the Bund Deutscher Maedchen, the German Young Women’s Union, and became a Nazi party member at age 18. She said she left the party Dec. 11, 1943, more than three years later at Waldheim’s request when they became engaged.