Why Waldheim?

So, according to available evidence, Kurt Waldheim did not actually commit any atrocities, but he lied. He tried to hide the fact that he knew about them, and the witch-hunters who had wanted a burning are having to concentrate their energies on trying to get at least a banishment.


It is perhaps little known that a higher percentage of the Austrian population voluntarily joined the Nazi Party than even in Germany and it is not surprising therefore that an attack on Waldheim’s Nazi past is considered by many there to be an attack on themselves. A result, which could easily therefore be foreseen of this belated attempt to bring him to “justice”, is that latent anti-Semitism has been aroused and is making itself heard and felt to the discomfiture of Jews who either survived in, or have since returned to, Austria.


The question which no-one seems to ask is “Why Waldheim?” The Allies reinstated many in the German judiciary and civil service into jobs held during the Nazi regime; indeed evidence has been forthcoming from time to time that even some who had participated in concentration camp atrocities are holding responsible positions in Germany and are generally held in high esteem. It is safe to assume that, as so well expressed recently by one of Britain’s eminent public persons, they too are “economical with the truth” about their past.


The western powers who are aiding and abetting Wiesenthal’s Nazi hunting are obviously also suffering a loss of memory. Perhaps they should be reminded of Tom Power’s The Paperclip Conspiracy (Michael Joseph. £14.95), published as recently as 1987. This well documented book, the contents of which no-one has refuted, tell how all the Allies, shortly after the end of the second World War went through the files of Nazi doctors and scientists. Those considered useful, however notorious their past, were marked with a paperclip. New personalities, even new nationalities, and false papers were prepared to enable them to start serving their new masters. Ardent Nazis were denazified — on paper — and given American citizenship. Among these was a doctor who had experimented on inmates in Dachau concentration camp. Their findings shaped American Air-Sea rescue operations and helped to put American men into space. Among the many pictures in the book is one of these doctors in laughing conversation with John Glenn, America’s first space hero. The Nazi team who pioneered the fastest submarines were taken, en bloc, to Barrow-in-Furness by the British Admiralty; Nazi aviation experts similarly went to Farnborough. They, and those who brought them to their new homes, may safely be assumed to be hiding their past and identity.


So the question remains “Why Waldheim?” Was it a trade-off to ensure Wiesenthal’s silence about others more useful, or embarrassing, to western leaders; the head on a platter of a prominent public person who, however, is easily expendable to those who are doing the backdoor bargaining? If so, the foreseeable consequences for Jews living in Austria and possibly elsewhere have been completely disregarded not only by those who offered up Waldheim as sacrifice but even more so by the self-appointed avenger. That depth of cynicism would be difficult to equal, even by the double standards of so-called morality we have become used to under capitalism.


Eva Goodman