Waldheim Apologizes to Israel for Falsifying His Army Record

From Times Wire Services

Austrian President Kurt Waldheim apologized to Israel in an interview published Friday for misleading statements about his German army service in World War II, but again denied that he committed war crimes.

Waldheim also was quoted as urging Israel to upgrade its diplomatic representation in Vienna and to return the ambassador it withdrew in protest after Waldheim's election in 1986.

"In the past years my hand has been extended, and it has always remained hanging in the air," Waldheim said in an appeal to the Jewish state. His interview, conducted Monday in Vienna, was published in the liberal Haaretz newspaper.

Waldheim reiterated that he has not been involved in war crimes. "The accusations against me are completely baseless," he told the newspaper.

Waldheim was referring to allegations that he was involved in the massacre of Yugoslav partisans and the deportation of Greek Jews to Nazi death camps. About 45,000 Greek Jews were sent to Nazi death camps while Waldheim was stationed in the Balkans.

A 1988 investigation by six historians said there was no evidence Waldheim had directly taken part in Nazi war crimes, but it also said his assertions that he did not know about the fate of Jews deported from Greece were "not believable."

In his official biography, Waldheim said that he left the German army after being wounded on the Russian front in 1941.

He later admitted that he had omitted from the biography his reassignment to the Balkans, where he served as an intelligence officer until the end of the war.

"I apologize that I did not bring up the Balkan matter. I confess that there was a mistake here," Waldheim said. "I did not foresee that the issue would open in such a tragic direction."

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