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Panel Likely to Delay Waldheim Hearings Until After Austrian Vote

April 23, 1986|DON SHANNON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on human rights, which Tuesday heard war crimes charges against former U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, indicated that he is likely to postpone further hearings until after the May 4 Austrian presidential elections, in which Waldheim is a candidate.

In hearings before the panel, of which Rep. Gus Yatron (D-Ga.) is chairman, Waldheim's son Gerhard and former Austrian Foreign Minister Karl Gruber defended the former U.N. chief.

But Eli M. Rosenbaum, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress--which first raised questions about Waldheim's complicity as a Nazi staff officer in the extermination of Yugoslav partisans and the deportation of Jews from Greece--declared that Waldheim should be placed on the Justice Department's list of people barred from entry to the United States.

"At the very least, Mr. Waldheim is an unrepentant liar," Rosenbaum, once a war crimes investigator with the Justice Department, said. "He lacks the moral character required to enter the United States."

'Watch List'

Yatron said that Waldheim's omission of his World War II service in the Balkans from his autobiography had undermined his credibility. When asked if the subcommittee will recommend that Waldheim be placed on the so-called "watch list" of prohibited visitors, Yatron would say only that "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

For now, the panel chairman said, he is asking the State and Justice departments to give him any documents related to the case. When asked if this means that the subcommittee will take no public action until after the Austrian elections, Yatron replied: "Probably."

At the hearing, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.), a member of the full House Foreign Affairs Committee, and California Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo), a subcommittee member who survived the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary, lashed out at Waldheim.

Solarz accused Waldheim of "deception" in concealing his duty in the Balkans.

'Went Out With Goebbels'

Lantos commended the younger Waldheim for defending his father but said: "It's very difficult if you and your father persist in the 'big lie.' That went out with (Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef) Goebbels. We'd like you to come clean--that's the way to help your father."

Gerhard Waldheim, a Vienna banker who came here to support his father, told Lantos that he believes his father did not deliberately cover up his record in the Balkans. He said his father was only an interpreter and that he was stationed in Tirana, the capital of Albania, when most of the Jewish population of Salonika was sent to the gas chambers at Auschwitz in March and April of 1943.

In Vienna, Austrian President Rudolf Kirchschlager said in a television address that U.N. documents indicate there is prima facie evidence that Kurt Waldheim was involved in the German army reprisals against Yugoslav civilians, the Associated Press reported.

Question on Deportation

But Kirchschlager, who examined 500 pages of documents from the World Jewish Congress and a file from the U.N. War Crimes Commission, said he saw no evidence that Waldheim knew Jews were being deported from the Balkans. And he noted that the Yugoslav government never took any action against Waldheim after the war.

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