The United Nations today gave Israel and Austria copies of a secret file on former secretary general Kurt Waldheim, and informed sources described the contents as a summary of a 1947 report on Waldheim by a Yugoslav war crimes commission.
Release of the file, whose existence was only recently acknowledged by U.N. officials, marked the latest turn in the month-old controversy about Waldheim's activities as a German Army officer in Yugoslavia and Greece from 1942 until the end of World War II in 1945.
Israeli and Austrian diplomats here, citing U.N. rules about confidentiality, refused to discuss the documents they were given.
As a result, there was no immediate way of telling whether the U.N. file will shed any light on why Waldheim, in his memoirs and other statements, sought to conceal his wartime service with the Nazis in the Balkans.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's U.N. ambassador, said, "All I can say is that from an initial look at its contents, it can't be said that the matter can be laid to rest. There is here clear indication of the need and direction for further comprehensive investigation."
Karl Fischer, Austria's chief U.N. delegate, and Thomas Klestil, its ambassador in Washington, said they only had instructions to ascertain that they were given true copies of the U.N. file for transmission to Vienna. Waldheim is a candidate for president in Austria's elections to be held May 4.
The Yugoslav Foreign Ministry has confirmed that a file on Waldheim was sent to the U.N. War Crimes Commission in January 1948.
The only detailed information about the file's contents came from the Belgrade newspaper, Vecernje Novosti. On March 26, it published a facsimile of what it said was the report on Waldheim prepared in December 1947.
According to the newspaper, the report described Waldheim as a former intelligence officer who had been involved in reprisals against Yugoslav partisans including killings and the burning of villages.
Sources here declined to say whether that was an accurate characterization of the material in the U.N. file. But they confirmed that what the Austrians and Israelis were given today was a four-page, English-language summary of the 1947 Yugoslav report.
Some sources said the summary might also have contained some material from postwar U.S. Army files noting that Waldheim was wanted in Yugoslavia as a war criminal.
Waldheim has written a detailed memorandum seeking to counter charges that he participated in atrocities and directed interrogations of prisoners during his service in the Balkans.
His son, Gerhard, who gave the memo to The Washington Post, noted that the Belgrade newspaper report said the charges made against his father in 1947 were based, in large part, on the testimony of Johan Mayer, identified as an Austrian clerk who worked under Waldheim during the war.
Gerhard Waldheim charged that Mayer, who died in 1972, reportedly said later that he had given the Yugoslavs names of German officers who were dead or beyond reach. The son also charged that Mayer was an unreliable individual who was convicted five times of crimes in Austria after the war.