Kurt Waldheim has pronounced himself "happy" with the findings of an international panel of historians commissioned by his government to investigate his service with the German army in World War II. The Austrian president, if he is indeed happy, must be among the world's more easily satisfied people. For what the historians concluded after five months of research is that Waldheim never opposed a wartime order that he recognized as unjust, that he "repeatedly went along with unlawful acts," and that his claim that he knew nothing about deportations of Greek and Yugoslav civilians to Nazi death camps could not be believed. By any standard of judgment this is not a vindication but an indictment.
What then has brought supposed joy to Waldheim's heart? The answer is that the historians found no evidence tying Waldheim directly to the commission of war crimes. That isn't the same thing as absolving him from the allegations of such activities. In its report the panel notes that "the question of Waldheim's culpable behavior during the war cannot be conclusively answered." The commission said that it is prepared to reopen its investigation if further evidence should emerge.
Such evidence may exist. The U.S. Justice Department, which last year put Waldheim on a not-welcome list for future entry into the United States, informed the commission that it had evidence implicating him "in (wartime) acts which clearly constitute persecution under established legal precedent." For reasons that it refuses to disclose, the department did not provide this evidence to the commission.