VIENNA -- Veteran Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal says that he is "not surprised" by the resurgence of overt anti-Semitism in Austria.
"The role of Nazis from Austria in the Holocaust was a few times bigger than in Germany, in terms of a percentage of the population," Wiesenthal said in an interview here.
"Austria was about 8.5 percent of the population of greater Germany. Nazis from Austria, in positions of responsibility in the machine, were responsible for half the crimes of the Holocaust," he said. Austria was incorporated into the Nazia' German Reich in March 1938 by Adolf Hitler.
Wiesenthal, 78, heads the Documentation Center of the Society of Nazi Victims. From his office here, he has in 40 years helped to bring 1,100 former Nazis to trial, he said.
One of Austria's problems, Wiesenthal said, was that the nation found it too easy after World War II to forget its role in the Third Reich. Austria, he said, was happy after the war to portray itself as Hitler's "first victim."
"The Germans knew immediately after the war that they had to buy a ticket, through moral and material restitution, to rejoin civilized society," Wiesenthal said. "Austria was declared the first victim of Hitler's aggression. They got a ticket for nothing," he said.
Asked about Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, who is the focus of what currently is the most controversial case from the nation's past, Wiesenthal said he believed that Waldheim would be cleared of personal involvement in war crimes by the six-member historians' commission that currently is reviewing the evidence against him.
"Based on what I have seen and on my experience, I believe that they will not find that he personally killed people," Wiesenthal said.
Wiesenthal asserted that Waldheim knew more about war crimes than he has admitted about the deportation of Greek Jews to Auschwitz, despite claims to the contrary. Wiesenthal said Waldheim should resign after the commission's report is issued, probably by January or February.