NEW YORK — The Austrian government withheld records of Kurt Waldheim's World War II German army service and his membership in Hitler's Brown Shirts when it endorsed him as U.N. secretary general, the World Jewish Congress charged Friday.
The organization also said that Austrian Foreign Ministry files reveal that Waldheim's service in Yugoslavia and Greece continued long after he claimed to have been wounded and discharged. It said he was even decorated for "valor under fire" nearly a year after he claimed to have been discharged.
"It now appears that the Austrian government engaged in a cruel deception by withholding the relevant documents which would have spread the word about Kurt Waldheim," Kalman Sultanik, vice president of the congress and a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, said.
There was no immediate comment from the government in Vienna nor from Waldheim, who was elected president of Austria last year.
Waldheim has defended his wartime record in the past, saying he acted only as a translator in Yugoslavia and Greece. The World Jewish Congress has previously alleged that he was attached to a unit involved in the massacre of Yugoslav partisans and the transport of Jews from the northern Greek city of Salonika.
Last month, the congress said that German army documents recovered by the U.S. National Archives showed Waldheim was also involved in the transfer of British prisoners of war, who were later tortured or executed.
The congress said that the records were ignored by the Austrian government when it endorsed Waldheim as U.N. secretary general in 1971 and that no mention of his wartime service was included in official U.N. biographical notes published when Waldheim was appointed in December, 1971.
"Entries in the Austrian file, had they been made available in 1971, would have made clear to the U.N. member states that Waldheim's portrayal of his wartime record was patently false," the congress said in a statement.
It said its allegations were based on Waldheim's complete personnel file--from Nov. 26, 1945, to June 30, 1983--located at the Austrian Foreign Ministry by investigators.