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'Waldheim: Past and Present'

June 17, 1986

Your editorial (June 10), "Waldheim: Past and Present," says Austria is "a country that for 40 years has wanted to forget its past," a judgment that is less than fair.

Numerous facts and developments clearly point at the onesidedness of the picture drawn by your paper.

Although three-fourths of the present Austrian population was not yet born or were still small children at the time of the Holocaust, Austrians are not indifferent to the greatest crime in history. Austrian students regularly visit a former concentration camp and young Austrian soldiers pledged their allegiance to a democratic Austria at that very same Mauthausen camp.

Great efforts are being made, particularly in the field of education, to deal with anti-Semitism and other forms of racism.

Our children are being taught the history of the Austrian resistance to Hitler: after all, by the time Hitler's supporters greeted him at Vienna's Heldenplatz, 70,000 Austrians had already been jailed or put into concentration camps. Yes, there was a genuine resistance against Nazism and its abhorrent ideology: between 1938 and 1945, about 100,000 Austrians were involved in Resistance activities. There were 35,300 who sacrificed their lives in the fight against the Nazis; 9,687 were murdered by the Gestapo, and 6,420 died in prison; 2,700 Austrian Resistance fighters were executed, and 16,493 perished in concentration camps.

Austrians have not forgotten the past; they also suffered tremendously from their involvement in the Third Reich. At the end of the war, 247,000 Austrians drafted into the German Wehrmacht had been killed or were missing in action; 24,300 Austrian civilians had lost their lives in air attacks and other acts of war. Altogether almost 400,000 Austrians, or 6% of the population, including more than 65,000 Austrian Jews, had perished during the Nazi period. People do not forget such things.

Austria's human rights record compares well with that of any democratic country. Nazi activities are prohibited by law, and offenses are criminally prosecuted. So are racial, religious or other forms of discrimination.

Austria is aware that in order to overcome the legacy of the past still more will have to be done in the future. Not to forget, but to heal and reconcile. To pass judgment over Austria and its people in disregard of the whole gamut of historical facts and the country's postwar record is surely not the way to achieve this objective.


Counsul General of Austria

Los Angeles

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