UNITED NATIONS, FEB. 29 -- A Nazi document made public today shows Kurt Waldheim's signature on a letter seeking approval for mass deportation of Greek civilians in 1943 in a "cleansing operation."
The document, found in U.S. National Archives, was vital in the Justice Department's decision to place Waldheim, now Austria's president and formerly U.N. secretary general, on a "watchlist" barring him from the United States, according to Justice Department spokesman John Russell, speaking by telephone from Washington. That U.S. government decision said in part that Waldheim "assisted or otherwise participated" in "mass deportation of civilians."
The document, dated Aug. 15, 1943, was made available to the AP by the World Jewish Congress and its authenticity was confirmed by Justice Department sources.
Waldheim has said he was innocent of war crimes while serving as a lieutenant in the German army in the Balkans.
The document shows that Waldheim, while not authorizing the deportations, received a request via radio, transcribed it and forwarded it, the World Jewish Congress said. The message mentions "heavy bandit concentrations," and says, "Cleansing operations in this area are deemed necessary." There is "hope of success only if all male civilians are seized and deported," it says.
Nazis often used the term "cleansing operations" to refer to destruction of towns and mass execution of inhabitants as a warning to others to report partisans to German authorities. Deported Greek civilians were generally sent to German labor camps.
The request in the document was approved but then was countermanded before the order could be used to deport any Greek civilians, the World Jewish Congress said.
The document also says the "Jewish Committee" operating in the town of Joannina, Greece, "must be regarded as a center of preparations for a resistance movement." The following March, the Nazis deported 1,860 Jews, virtually the full Jewish population of Joannina, to Auschwitz death camp in Poland, the Jewish Congress said.
The Austrian government has complained that the Justice Department has not turned over all information on which it based its decision to prohibit Waldheim's entry into the United States. The U.S. government has said the documents are available to the Austrian government and that Waldheim can appeal the watchlist decision if he wishes. He has not done so.