During the last year or so, Austria, which was once called the "island of the blessed," was almost overnight transformed into the "island of unrepentant Nazis and incorrigible anti-Semites." It was of course the Waldheim affair that raised a host of historical, political and moral issues concerning Austria: the allies' decision to treat Austria asa victim of Nazi Germany and, speci-fically, Dr. Kurt Waldheim's conduct during the war as a Wehrmacht officer and the candor, or lack of it, of the former secretary general of the United Nations in dealing with his wartime career.

The election of Waldheim as president of Austria did not put an end to what Shlomo Avineri, the Israeli scholar, described as a "vindictive, ill-prepared and headline-seeking campaign" waged by the World Jewish Congress. No new and credible evidence about Waldheim's alleged direct involvement in war crimes has been presented. Yet at the same time full-scale publicattacks have been launched againstthe Austrian people as a whole, using the same kind of stereotypes and blanket generalizations used by racists, anti-Semites and totalitarian propagandists.

It was particularly unfortunate that recently, through a series of TV and newspaper interviews, the American ambassador, Ronald S. Lauder, who in the meantime left Vienna, has indulged in a spate of unjust and unsubstantiated accusations against the host country. Allegations that no Austrian speaks out publicly against anti-Semitic statements, that Austrians "feel envy for anyone who is successful," that "this is a country that does not give special credit for bravery" and finally that "for the last 45 years the truth {about Austria's role in the war and in the Holocaust} was hidden behind a facade of silence" are absurd.

It is enough to point out that Austrian TV has broadcast in prime time 24 documentaries, each lasting 45 minutes and produced by the liberal journalist Hugo Portisch, on Austria during and after World War II, including the persecution of Jews and anti-Nazis as well as the involvement of hundreds of thousands in the Nazi movement. The books based on the TV films were No. 1 best sellers. Books and conferences, exhibitions and other television and radio programs have helped to keep the memory of Austrian and Central European Jewish life alive. There are also publications and programs about the 65,000 Austrian Jews who were killed and the 35,300 resistance fighters who were executed or perished in camps and jails during the war.

Who knows or who remembers today that during the last decades 270,000 Jews from the Soviet Union and tens of thousands from Poland, Romania and Hungary passed through Austria despite the threats of Palestinian terrorists, who struck several times on Austrian territory against Austrian citizens? Who knows that there are more than 3,000 Russian Jews who did not go to or else came back from Israel and who have their own schools, butchers, bakeries and shops and prefer to live in Vienna?

The quest for a political career or for recognition in Jewish life in the United States should not be carried out on the back of the 7,000-strong Jewish community in Vienna or to the detriment of Austrian-U.S. relations. Regardless of the final outcome of the Waldheim affair, the author of these lines, who was almost killed by Eichmann's thugs and whose family was decimated in the Holocaust, believes that it is high time that reason replace rhetorical confrontation. We are waiting for the next U.S. ambassador, Henry A. Grunwald -- and also at last for an Israeli ambassador to Vienna -- to cope with the delicate issues affecting Austrian-U.S. relations and Austria's place in a complicated phase of East-West relations.

The writer, a Hungarian-born Austrian political writer, is director of Radio Austria International.