Waldheim U.N. File Based on Yugoslav Charges of Murder
UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ A secret U.N. War Crimes Commission file on Kurt Waldheim is based on Yugoslav accusations that the former U.N. secretary-general was involved in Nazi reprisals against civilians, sources said Friday.
The United States became the third country granted access to the file. Earlier this week, it was examined by the Israeli and Austrian ambassadors.
The sources, who spoke on condition they not be identified, summarized the Yugoslav charges made 40 years ago, some of which were reported last month by the Belgrade newspaper, Vecernje Novosti.
Earlier this week, the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry tacitly confirmed that the Vecernje Novosti reports came from the documents given the U.N. commission in 1947. ″At present we have no new facts,″ the ministry said.
A translation of three Vecernje Novosti articles, made available here, said the Yugoslav evidence was forwarded in a seven-page report to the U.N. commission’s headquarters in London on Dec. 25, 1947, with a request fo Waldheim’s extradition.
The commission, according to a document published in Belgrade, listed Waldheim as a person sought for ″murder, putting to death of hostages.″ The commission disbanded in 1948 and sent its files to the U.N. archives in New York City for safekeeping.
Still unanswered is why the case was not followed up four decades ago. Waldheim has noted that Yugoslavia twice voted for him to be U.N. secretary- general, during his tenure from 1972-81.
Waldheim has acknowledged he was in he German army during World War II but has denied being a Nazi and says he knew nothing about Nazi atrocities or deportations. Waldheim, running for president of Austria, has said the charges are an attempt by his political opponents to discredit him just before the May 4 election.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador Herbert Okun copied the file to forward it to the State and Justice Departments on Friday, said Irene Payne, a spokeswoman at the U.S. mission.
In Vienna, President Rudolf Kirchschlaeger gave Waldheim copies of the file and invited his comment, a government statement said.
Waldheim was campaigning in eastern Austria. His spokesman, Peter Marboe, said Waldheim would not examine the copies until Saturday, and he did not know whether there would be an immediate comment.
According to Vecernje Novosti, the war crimes commission report said the I- C Department of the German Army Group E was involved in reprisals against civilians in the Balkans. The report implied that Waldheim, as a first lieutenant in the department, also was involved.
Waldheim did not mention his Balkan service in his biography. Recently, he amended the biography to include it, but said he had been an interpreter and worked behind the lines as a staff officer with Army Group E, denying any knowledge of reprisals. Gen. Alexander Loehr, commander of Army Group E, which occupied Yugoslavia and conducted a merciless campaign against Yugoslav partisans under Josep Broz Tito, was hanged in 1947 as a war criminal.
According to the World Jewish Congress, German army documents show Loehr’s group also was responsible for the mass deportation of Greek Jews at a time when Waldheim was serving with the group in Greece.
The Yugoslav charges were based in part on testimony by Johan Mayer, an Austrian clerk who worked in Loehr’s headquarters with Waldheim. The Belgrade paper said Mayer accused Waldheim of drafting procedures for ″hostages, reprisals, war prisoners and civilians.″
The Yugoslav documents cite another witness identifid as Egbert Hilcer in one report and Heinz Egbert-Hilker in another. He is accused of responsibility for the burning of three villages and the death of 114 people in the Kocani and Stip areas in late October 1944. The witness was said to have testified that Waldheim also bore responsibility.
In a detailed denial of the charges delivered to the U.S. Justice Department by Waldheim’s son, Gerhard, the former U.N. chief takes specific issue with this allegation.
Waldheim said that during the German retreat in the Balkans, he and other Army Group E staff officers were evacuated by air to an area 200 miles from the burned villages on Oct. 13, a week before the reprisal.
In a related development, a Greek Jew said Friday in Rhodes that Waldheim was one of hree German officers who robbed local Jews of their valuables during the war. Maurice Soriano, 72, said he recognized Waldheim from recent newspaper photographs.
″He was tall and lean, one of three German officers who on July 14, 1944, were present hen about 1,000 Jewish men were ordered to appear at German Air Force headquarters,″ Soriano said in an interview.
″We were ordered to surrender our valuables. Many of us dropped our jewelry and money in two suitcases lying open in front of the three men. When the suitcases were filled, the three officers took them away,″ Soriano added.