WALDHEIM (1918-2007) was United Nations Secretary General (1972
to 1981) and President of Austria (1986 to 1992). His hidden
complicity in Nazi war crimes was exposed late in his career. While it was never proved conclusively that
Waldheim himself committed atrocities during World War II, he was a lieutenant in
army intelligence, attached to brutal German military units that executed
thousands of Yugoslav partisans and civilians and deported thousands of Greek
Jews to death camps from 1942 to 1944. The true nature of his involvement
remains unsolved, though it is generally accepted that he at least was aware of
the atrocities. The New York Times reported in Waldheim’s obituary that he lied
about his wartime service in the Balkans, maintaining that his military career
ended in 1942 after he was wounded in a battle on the Russian front. In 1948, according to the Times, the UN War
Crimes Commission listed him as a suspected war criminal. A copy is included.
Noted collector Jerry Granat spent many years looking into allegations leveled against Waldheim. This archive of letters and documents, totaling about 50 pages, is the result of his efforts. Granat is candid and sometime harsh in his letters to Waldheim while Waldheim and his son avidly deny the charges.
Highlights include a one-page TLS from Waldheim to Granat. “I did not participate at Dr. Schuschnigg’s historical meeting with Hitler but was politically active for the Socialist movement in the underground.”
A detailed ALS from Waldheim’s son, Gerhard, three pages on two sheets, dated May 15, 1986, outlines evidence aimed at refuting the accusations against his father. In small part, “…The continued charges, clearly it is implicated [sic that he carries at least co-responsibility as a desk lieutenant writing enemy reports…[It is either a conscious effort to prove guilt by misconstruing facts or the sad result of someone who has never served in the military…”
The archive includes a chronological record of Waldheim’s military career from 1936 to 1945, produced in April 1986, with about 30 notations, including one of his being wounded in 1941 and being declared unfit for duty as a result. He was transferred to the Balkans as an interpreter in April 1942, a crucial point for Granat, who accuses Waldheim of being aware of the atrocities by virtue of being an interpreter.
Two typed documents list statements made by about 25 individuals attesting to Waldheim’s innocence from 1937 to 1947. Each document lists the name of the individual with his or her comments. One of the documents also lists the phone number of each person. Dr. Karl Gruber, who worked in the Austrian underground resistance as a fighter against the Nazis, stated that Waldheim’s “upright personal attitude…promoted me to put him to work on politically important issues.” Fritz P. Molden, who also worked in the underground, said Waldheim was screened by Austrian State Police and the Intelligence Services of the occupying allies and “not the least burden of any Nazi affiliation or membership in organizations forbidden by the allies…was found…” Still another attests that she had never seen Waldheim wearing a brown-shirt uniform or heard “a single word of sympathy for the Nazi Movement.”
Granat has written an angry note on a carbon copy of a letter, dated March 28, which he sent to Waldheim, but hadn’t received a response. “Why do you choose to ignore my letter of March 28? Is it because, as an American, I don’t mean anything to you. Or is it also due to the fact I am correct in my [allegations]…I left the door open a crack especially after listening to your son’s assessments in your affairs—but I guess the truth is what I read in the American newspapers…” The letter itself contains strong accusations. “…It seems the more you protest on the very minor actions taken by you in Yugoslavia, the more facts arise contradicting your stance. Your first mistake obviously was to say you never were a Nazi when you actually belonged to two of their organizations…The more one protests, the more ‘dirt’ historians will dig up…As an interpreter, assuming you were a capable one, you were privy to all the atrocities this leader was concocting…Your U.N. record towards Jews was biased against them…”
On May 7, 1985, Waldheim writes a one-page, TLS, apologizing for not having answered his earlier letter but saying he was busy with his presidential campaign. “I have taken note of your concerns and wish to assure you that I take your suggestions very seriously. I have asked my son, Gerhard, who traveled this morning to the United States, to contact you and to give you the information needed. I am confident you will be satisfied with his explanations…Kurt Waldheim”
In a lengthy typewritten document, entitled “Dr. Kurt Waldheim On Recent Allegations Levied Against Him,” Waldheim denies allegations of Nazi atrocities.
At one point, the Austrian People’s Party hired a Public Relations Counsel in Washington, DC, to help dispute the allegations against Waldheim. The Counsel, Hugh C. Newton, apparently arranged for Waldheim to make the talk show circuit. A copy of a letter from Newton explaining his involvement is included.
Waldheim’s son, Gerhard, was also active in responding to charges against his father. Gerhard appeared at the National Press Club in April 1986. A typed copy of his statement is included. In it, Gerhard claims that the charges against his father were aimed at preventing him from being elected President of Austria. He quotes the famous Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal as saying that “Dr. Waldheim was never a member of the Nazi Party nor any of their affiliated organizations…”
On May 9, 1975, Kurt Waldeim writes to Granat, who was President of the Philmore Manufacturing Co., referencing Granat’s earlier letter, “As my office informed you…concerning my activities in February 1938, the Social-Democratic Party, of which I am now the chairman, was outlawed at the time by Dr. Schuschnigg’s undemocratic conservative government. Therefore, I did not participate at Dr. Schuschnigg’s historical meeting with Hitler, but was politically active for the Socialist movement in the underground.”
In another two-page, ALS, dated May 15, 1986, Gerhard writes to Granat: “My Father’s personnel files from the University of Foreign Affaires have been found after they were said to be lost – a disquieting event during an election campaign, which certainly hindered him in being able to refute this days earlier. Documentary proof let me quote from these files:…There was no effort to cover up anything. The continued charges, whereby it is implied that he carries at least co-responsibility as a desk lieutenant writing enemy reports for everything that is described in these reports is either a conscious effort to prove guilt by misconstruing facts or the sad result of someone who has never served in the military trying to judge on military practice…”
The final piece of the archive is a carbon of a TLS by Granat to Waldheim on May 28, 1986. He writes, “…All you have to offer as evidence is that you had no part in military instructions against Balkin Jews and others is your army service record and defending statements – both stated by you, a public relations company hired by you and people who vouch for your innocence before documents were released questioning your innocence…From all the evidence recently released, there was a lot more to your daily activities [than that of a desk job]…Your best bet is to allow an international court of judicial experts, bring everything out in the open by allowing both sides to be cross examined. Any other way, as I see it, is so much rhetoric. I personally think your best argument is…that the allegations against you haven’t hurt in the Australian polls (in fact, it probably helped you). So bringing this out could show your concern in spite of your probable election victory in Austria.” Waldheim was elected President in July 1986.
The archive also includes a matte-finish 4 x 5 ¾ photo, signed in ballpoint, “Kurt.”
Overall in excellent condition with expected folds, toning, but an incredible piece of World War II history about allegations of Waldheim’s involvement in atrocities, something historians are still trying to resolve.
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