WSJ Admits Waldheim Wasn't a Member of the SS, but ...





The Austrian embassy to the U.S. points out that we erred in our editorial last week on Simon Wiesenthal in describing Kurt Waldheim as a "one-time SS officer" ("Nazi Hunter," September 21). The weight of the evidence indicates that Mr. Waldheim, who also served as U.N. Secretary General and as president of Austria, did not serve in the SS. We regret the error.

Our modest editorial point, we hasten to add, was that Wiesenthal had not accused Mr. Waldheim of war crimes because he only accepted the highest standards of evidence. But this does not mean Mr. Waldheim is entirely innocent of Nazi association. In the first editions of his memoirs, Mr. Waldheim claimed to have spent most of the war as a law student after being wounded in 1941 while serving in the German Army. He denies ever having been a Nazi and insists he merely did his duty as a soldier.

In fact, Mr. Waldheim's involvement with Nazi organizations began in 1938 shortly after the German-Austrian Anschluss, when he enrolled in the Nazi student union of Vienna's Consular Academy. Later that year, Mr. Waldheim enlisted in a mounted unit of the Sturm Abteilung, or SA, the paramilitary brownshirts founded by Adolf Hitler. In 1942, Mr. Waldheim returned to duty as an intelligence officer with the Wehrmacht's Army Group E, which at one point deployed some 400,000 troops throughout the Balkans and in Greece.

After the war, Mr. Waldheim was named a war criminal by the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal on charges of "murder, slaughter, shooting of hostages and ravaging of property by burning of settlements." In 1947, the United Nations War Crimes Commission listed Mr. Waldheim as a class A suspect because it believed there was clear evidence establishing his guilt. Yugoslavia never pressed its extradition request, and the matter was essentially forgotten until Mr. Waldheim ran for the Austrian presidency in 1986. Since then, Mr. Waldheim's name has been on a U.S. government watch list of suspected war criminals and he is banned from traveling here.



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