Waldheim Withdraws Supporting Quote After U.N. Denial
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Secretary-Genral Javier Perez de Cuellar did not utter a remark used to defend Kurt Waldheim against allegations of war crimes, and Waldheim has withdrawn it, a U.N. spokesman said Monday.
The quote had Perez de Cuellar calling the accusations ″absurd.″ His spokesman, Francois Giuliani, said Perez de Cuellar ″has not passed any judgment″ on the charges made against his predecessor.
The World Jewish Congress issued a statement Monday quoting Alvaro de Soto, an aide to Perez de Cuellar as saying: ″I have triple-checked and I can assure you the secretary-general never said such a thing.″
The congress, which has released documents about the former U.N. secretary- general’s hitherto unknown activities with Adolf Hitler’s army in World War II, said it was ″shocked, but not surprised, at this latest episode of mendacity.″
Giuliani said Gerhard Waldheim delivered a memorandum to Perez de Cuellar last week countering allegations that his father was guilty of war crimes and had made misleading statements.
The memorandum, a copy of which was made available to The Associated Press, includes quotations supporting Waldheim. One attributed to Perez de Cuellar on March 29 of this year was: ″The allegations brought forth against Dr. Waldheim are absurd.″
Giuliani said Gerhard Waldheim had informed the secretary-general’s office ″that they are withdrawing the part of the memorandum on what the secretary-general is supposed to have said.″
Perez de Cuellar has been non-committal throughout the controversy over Waldheim’s war record.
His only known comment was made March 5 after revelations that Waldheim had been attached to Army Group E in the Balkans, which fought Yugoslav partisans with great brutality and deported Jews from Greece. The army group’s commander, Gen. Alexander Loehr, was hanged in 1947 as a war criminal.
Perez de Cuellar said only that Waldheim ″served the United Nations as secretary-general with great dedication for 10 years,″ beginning in 1972.
Hugh Newton of Hugh Newton and Associates, a Washington public relations firm representing Gerhard Waldheim, said the Perez de Cuellar quote in the memorandum came from an Austrian newspaper. He said it was not a direct quote and did not name the newspaper.
The World Jewish Congress claimed Saturday that Waldheim changed a date in the memorandum in an attempt to cover up evidence linking him to the deportation of Jews in Greece.
Gerhard Waldheim gave the memo to the U.S. Justice Department on April 6. One section said Waldheim went to German army headquarters in Salonica, Greece, in April 1943. A new version, released by Waldheim’s son April 12, said he arrived in Salonica in July 1943.
The World Jewish Congress said 42,000 Greek Jews were deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp from mid-March to mid-May 1943.
Gerhard Waldheim said the memo was changed because later research showed his father first went to Albania and did not arive in Salonica until July.
Yugoslavia indicated Monday it may be ready to investigate Waldheim’s wartime activities in that country.
An analysis written by ″the diplomatic editor of Tanjug,″ the official Yugoslav news agency, said the archives of West Germany and the victorious World War II allies must be examined first.
Waldheim is a candidate in the May 4 election for president of Austria. He and his aides have asked the Yugoslav government to publish all available documents on his activities there, which they say would exonerate him.
Yugoslavia’s initial reaction was that it did not want to interfere in Austrian internal affairs.
At a news conference Monday in Washington, Gerhard Waldheim said Simon Wiesenthal had given ″perhaps the best assessment of the irrelevance″ of charges against his father.
He quoted the Nazi hunter as saying, ″The World Jewish Congress has claimed that Dr. Waldheim’s unit in the Balkans was responsible for the deportation of Jews from Salonica. This accusation is false. Those deportations were made by the SS.″
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, said the only contact between Kurt Waldheim and Wiesenthal occurred in two recent telephone calls from the former secretary-general, ″each time lasting less than 60 seconds, when Waldheim tried to get Wiesenthal to understand his point of view.″
According to Hier, Wiesenthal told Waldheim in one conversation: ″I do not believe you that you did not know about the Greek Jews being deported because you were right there when it happened, when one-third of the city of Salonica was deported.″
The rabbi said Wiesenthal ″has authorized me to say that he has never spoken to Gerhard Waldheim, doesn’t know him″ and ″is absolutely furious″ about the remarks attributed to him.