Gottfried Reinhardt, son of legendary stage director Max Reinhardt, has written Austrian President-elect Kurt Waldheim asking him not to visit the memorial center dedicated to the director as is traditionally done at the opening of the annual Salzburg performing arts festival next month.
Max Reinhardt, founder of the prestigious festival, was an Austrian Jew who fled to the United States in 1934 to escape Nazi persecution. He died in 1943, and the Max Reinhardt Research and Memorial Center was established in his memory about 10 years ago, his son said Thursday in Los Angeles.
Gottfried Reinhardt, 73, a producer and director, said he did not want men like Waldheim to "bask in the sun of the very people they practically destroyed."
Waldheim, a former U.N. secretary general, was elected June 8 amid allegations that he was involved in or knew of war crimes while serving as a lieutenant in the German army during World War II. He is to be inaugurated July 8.
In the letter dated June 15, Reinhardt wrote: "At the very time my father died in exile, victim of a pernicious regime, you were loyally and, I presume, effectively serving it. I urge you not to desecrate the Reinhardt testimonial with your presence."
Reinhardt said he is also protesting Waldheim's election by refusing a Medal of Merit that was to be presented to him by the city and province of Vienna at a ceremony in New York on Tuesday.
Although he said that it pains him to refuse it, "I cannot accept a medal in an official building where (Waldheim) probably has his picture hanging."
Nikolaus Scherk, Austrian consul general in Los Angeles, would not comment on the letter.
Gottfried Reinhardt worked at MGM during the 1930s and '40s, producing "Red Badge of Courage," "Comrade X" and "Rage in Heaven," among other films.
His father is credited with ushering in a new era of theater with his 1905 direction of "Midsummer Night's Dream" in Berlin. His students included George Cukor, Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch.
Gottfried Reinhardt said life in the United States was hard on his father, whose career languished here and who vowed never to return to Austria. "He felt robbed. He lost parts of his family in the gas ovens."