The date of the Austrian presidential election was incorrect in an article and photo caption yesterday. The correct date is May 4. An article yesterday about a D.C. Court of Appeals decision i
The World Jewish Congress today released captured German military records showing, it said, that former U.N. secretary general Kurt Waldheim was decorated as a member of a Nazi unit that killed thousands of Croatian and Yugoslav civilians in the 1942 Kozara Massacres.
At a news conference here, the congress, an umbrella group of Jewish organizations in 70 countries, called on the governments of Austria, Yugoslavia and Greece to investigate Waldheim's role as a "senior intelligence officer" for Nazi forces during World War II.
The group also said it had written Attorney General Edwin Meese III requesting that Waldheim "be placed as soon as possible on the watch-list of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as an alien excludable from entry to the United States" for "his participation in acts of Nazi-sponsored persecution."
Robert Herzstein, a University of South Carolina historian and a consultant to the group, said the records revealed that Waldheim was decorated for his involvement in the German army's "Operation West Bosnia" in July 1942, later known as the Kozara Massacres. The records were obtained from the National Archives.
Waldheim, U.N. secretary general from 1971 to 1981, is running for Austrian president in a May 5 election. The Associated Press reported from Vienna today that Waldheim called the group's claims "nonsense." "There were no massacres," he said. "It was a cruel war in those days, and I regret that deeply."
In official resumes and in two books, Waldheim has said that after receiving a leg wound in 1941 he was medically discharged from the German army and remained in Vienna, studying law, for the rest of the war.
On Monday, however, Waldheim's press secretary, Gerold Christian, said Waldheim had been assigned temporarily as an interpreter to a unit called the "Fighting Group West Bosnia."
"But he did not take part in any combat action whatsoever, and therefore he never had contact with partisans," Christian said.
Copies of records from the German army's 714th division, to which Waldheim was attached as a lieutenant, list him among 30 men commended in what Herzstein called "a table of honor." Waldheim was one of two men in the West Bosnia campaign to receive the silver King "It was a cruel war in those days, and I regret that deeply." -- Kurt Waldheim Zvonimir medal from the puppet Croatian regime, Herzstein said.
He said a document dated July 31, 1942, lists Waldheim as a translator with the intelligence division of the 12th German army staff. A photograph taken in May 1943, according to the group, shows him at an airfield in Podgorica, Yugoslavia, at a strategy session dealing with "Operation Black," in which 12,000 civilians later were killed.
"Lt. Waldheim participated in the discussion, perhaps exclusively as a translator," Herzstein said.
But by December 1943, Herzstein said, Waldheim was listed on another document as head of an intelligence division unit known as "O3" that was responsible for "prisoner interrogation" as well as "special tasks." "Special tasks" or "special handling" was a euphemism for secret operations including torture, kidnaping, execution and the burning of villages, Herzstein said.
"Far from being a mere translator as Waldheim now claims, while still in his mid-20s, 1st Lt. Waldheim had become a major intelligence figure in an army of 300,000," the World Jewish Congress said in a statement.
Waldheim has acknowledged that he was a translator, beginning in 1942, on the staff of Gen. Alexander Lohr, the Austrian commander of the 12th German army who was hanged by the Yugoslavian government in 1947 for war crimes. Waldheim has said he was not aware, however, of the 42,000 Jews shipped to death camps from the Army's Salonika headquarters under Lohr's command.
In one document, a signed report by Waldheim, his repeated use of the word "sauberung" or "cleansing operations" in Bosnia in 1942 "was one of the euphemisms used by the Nazis for mass murders. In the operations referred to in the document, the Germans lost 71 dead, while killing almost 5,000 'partisans,' " Herzstein said.
During the deportations of 1943, Herzstein said, the Germans were desperate to learn Allied plans for invading the Balkans, and Waldheim "reported on intelligence extracted from Greek prisoners and other Allied personnel."
According to a March 1943 document, Waldheim's 03 unit received intelligence about agreements between a British mission and a leader of the Greek insurgency. In document dated the following July, Waldheim reported on an interrogation of a Greek leader, Napoleon Zervas.
"By this time, he was responsible for drafting these vital reports," Herzstein said.