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Yugoslav Document Seems to Have Vanished : Historian to Seek WWII Waldheim Telegram

February 02, 1988|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — A West German military historian flew to Yugoslavia on Monday in an effort to authenticate a World War II telegram said to link President Kurt Waldheim of Austria with Nazi war crimes. But if such a telegram exists it seems to have disappeared.

The historian, Manfred Messerschmidt, a member of a commission set up in Vienna to review Waldheim's service as a lieutenant in the German army, flew from Vienna to Zagreb, Yugoslavia, hoping to see the telegram, even though he told reporters that "at present, no one knows where it is."

According to Der Spiegel, a West German newsmagazine, the telegram was discovered by a Yugoslav military historian, Dusan Plenca, who was quoted as saying that it "seriously implicates" Waldheim in war crimes.

Waldheim, a former secretary general of the United Nations, served as an intelligence officer with a German army unit in the Balkans from 1942 to 1945. He insists that he took no part in any war crimes activity. A spokesman for Waldheim says the Plenca telegram is apparently a forgery.

Text Published

Der Spiegel published on Monday what it said was the text of the telegram. It is as follows:

"Very Urgent. Lieutenant Kurt Waldheim from the staff of General Stahl demands that 4,224 prisoners from Kozara, most of them women and children and approximately 15% older men, be sent on their way: 3,514 to Grubisno Polje and 730 to Zemun."

In wartime Yugoslavia, Grubisno Polje and Zemun were collection points for prisoners. Some executions are known to have taken place there. The total number of prisoners mentioned in the telegram is less than the sum of the two contingents mentioned, but according to a Spiegel editor the discrepancy was in the original document.

The Vienna commission looking into allegations against Waldheim was established at Waldheim's request. Plenca has been serving as an adviser to the commission but is not a member.

No Further Cooperation

Plenca said Sunday that he will not cooperate any further with the commission, which he said has been superficial in its search for evidence.

According to Der Spiegel, Plenca found the telegram in official archives in Zagreb. However, an official at the city's main archives told Reuters news agency that a search of all the files seen by Plenca had failed to produce the telegram.

Plenca has refused to say exactly where he found the telegram. He said he gave his evidence of Waldheim's activities to a Yugoslav journalist, Danko Vasovic, who was to publish it in a book. But last week Vasovic sold the publication rights to this material to Der Spiegel, reportedly for as much as $100,000.

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