Pontiff’s Visit Marked By Protests Against His Meetings With Waldheim With PM-Pope-Austria,
Pontiff’s Visit Marked By Protests Against His Meetings With Waldheim With PM-Pope-Austria, Bjt
VIENNA, Austria (AP) _ Opponents of President Kurt Waldheim of Austria are using Pope John Paul II’s second visit to this country to demonstrate against the controversial president.
Five hours before the pope arrived at Vienna’s Schwechat airport on Thursday, a group of six Jews from the United States, led by Rabbi Avi Weiss of Riverdale N.Y., demonstrated outside Waldheim’s office.
They told reporters the Pope’s meeting with Waldheim on Thursday evening constituted a ″desecration of the memory of those Jews and Christians who were murdered″ at the former Nazi concentration camp at Mauthausen.
Jewish leaders have harshly criticized the pope for meeting Waldheim.
Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress in New York, said late Thursday that the pope’s meeting with Waldheim has thrown into doubt the long-planned meeting between the Vatican and Jewish groups on the Holocaust.
Waldheim has been the focus of international controversy concerning his service in the Balkans during World War II as a soldier in the German army.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
″Do not embrace Waldheim, no 3/8″ said Rabbi Weiss as he stood outside the presidential offices in downtown Vienna.
Standing with Rabbi Weiss were five Jewish students dressed in black and white striped garb like those worn by Nazi concentration camp inmates. They held up posters, including a blown up photograph of Waldheim in a Germam army uniform.
Later Rabbi Weiss and his associates were joined by Paris-based Nazi hunter Beate Klarsfeld and a group of ten Jews from France at a hotel overlooking St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
As the pontiff entered the cathedral, they unfurled banners from windows overlooking the church. One said, ″Pope John Paul, Don’t Meet Waldheim.″
Austrian police stormed the rooms, and one demonstrator was hit when he refused to turn over his poster, Ayall Schanzer, chairman of the New York- based North American Jewish Students’ Network, said. No arrests were made.
″It’s unbelievable,″ Klarsfeld said. ″I think it’s a lack of sensitivity toward the Holocaust.″
Weiss, who heads a group called the Coalition of Concern, said his organization also objects to the planned papal visit to the former Mauthausen concentration camp today, a day after the pope met with Waldheim.
About 110,000 prisoners died in the camp, and Weiss said after the pope leaves the site of the former camp his group plans to ″re-sanctify″ the camp and recite prayers.
About 100 young Austrians belonging to the ″New Austria″ group of intellectuals who oppose Waldheim staged an anti-Waldheim demonstration near the Hofburg Palace at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, one hour before the pope met Waldheim there.
The demonstrators tried to approach the palace but were prevented by police who posted dozens of guards in the area.