The World Jewish Congress said yesterday that it has found a 1944 report allegedly linking former U.N. secretary general Kurt Waldheim to Nazi reprisals against partisans on Crete and said U.S. prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials had cited it as evidence of Nazi war crimes.
WJC general counsel Eli M. Rosenbaum said the document, discovered in the National Archives here and made public in New York, was a secret report dated Aug. 11, 1944, that bears Waldheim's signature and describes "band activities" south of Iraklion, capital of the island of Crete.
"Band activities" was a commonly used term for partisan guerrilla actions against the German occupation.
Rosenbaum said the report was one of several documents read aloud at a 1947 Nuremberg trial that resulted in war-crimes convictions for 10 German officers. He said Waldheim, who in 1944 was an intelligence officer on the staff of Gen. Alexander Loehr's Army Group E headquartered near Salonika, Greece, apparently prepared and read the report at a briefing for senior officers.
According to Rosenbaum, another document used at Nuremberg quotes Loehr, executed as a war criminal by Yugoslavia in 1947, as ordering that attacks by partisans "be retaliated in every case with shooting or hanging of hostages, destruction of the surrounding localities, etc."
Two days after the report bearing Waldheim's signature was made, German troops killed 20 hostages and burned two villages in the area identified in the report, Rosenbaum said.
WJC executive director Elan Steinberg said, "Waldheim had to know what the effect of his report would be because of a standing order issued by Loehr that surprise attacks on German officers were to be met with retaliation, including the shooting and hanging of hostages."
Waldheim, a candidate for president of Austria in elections scheduled May 4, last week issued a detailed rebuttal to charges that during his service in Greece and Yugoslavia from 1942 to 1947, he knew about prisoner interrogations, deportation of Jews and other war crimes.
In his explanation, he acknowledged that his duties as an intelligence officer included managing a paper flow by certifying that reports reaching his headquarters were "true copies" and forwarding them to his superiors. However, he insisted that he rarely, if ever, looked at the reports' contents.
Rosenbaum conceded that Waldheim's signature on the report about Crete does bear German "true copy" certification marks.
But he also noted that Army Group E personnel records made public earlier state that Waldheim's duties included giving daily morning and evening briefings to Loehr's senior officers, and he insisted that it would "involve a real stretch of the imagination" to assume that Waldheim did not know the contents of the report.
In a television interview broadcast Sunday on CBS News' "60 Minutes," Waldheim said that, for 40 years, he concealed his wartime service in the Balkans and sought to give the impression that he was instead in Vienna studying for his law doctorate.