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May 16, 1986 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-05-16

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2

Friday, May 16, 1986

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

PURELY COMMENTARY

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Kurt Waldheim's Dish Of Venom: Feeding The Many Immoralities

magazine, points out, Waldheim
may win the presidential election
because of his Nazi past. Waldheim
is perhaps the ideal Austrian
president: elegant, slippery, com-
promised in the Nazi era, unrepen-
tant and unreliable.

There is, on the inerasable record, a
statement by Richard von Weizsacker,
president of the German Federal Repub-
lic, rejecting an action like Kohl's and af-
firming dignity for post-war Germans.
During a Bundestag speech last May,
marking the 40th anniversary of the de-
feat of the Nazis, von Weizsacker stated:
Hardly any country has in its
history always remained free from
blame for war or violence. The
genocide of the Jews is, however,
unparalleled in history.
The perpetration of this crime
was in the hands of a few people.
It was concealed from the eyes of
the public, but every German was
able to experience what his
Jewish compatriots had to suf-
fer....
Whoever opened his eyes and
ears and sought information could
not fail to notice that Jews were
being deported. The nature and
scope of the destruction may have
exceeded human imagination; but
in reality there was, apart from
the crime itself, the attempt by too
many people, including those of
my generation, who were young
and were not involved in planning
the events and carrying them out,
not to take note of what was hap-
pening.
There were many ways of not
burdening one's conscience, of
shunning responsibility, looking
away, keeping mum. When the un-
speakable truth of the Holocaust
then became known at the end of
the war, all too many of us claimed
that they had not known anything
about it or even suspected any-
thing.
There is no such thing as the
guilt or innocence of an °entire na-
tion. Guilt is, like innocence, not
collective but personal. There is
discovered or concealed indi-
vidual guilt. There is guilt which
people acknowledge or deny.
Everyone who directly experi-
enced that era should today
quietly ask himself about his in-
volvement ... •
Anyone who closes his eyes to
the past is blind to the present.
Whoever refuses to remember the
inhumanity is prone to new risks
of infection ...
There can be no reconciliation
without remembrance.
In a recent OP-ED page column in the
New York Times, Anthony Lewis pointed
out that von Weizsacker's speech came
just three days after another "symbol of
forgetfulness," President Reagan and
West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's
visit to the Bitburg military cemetery and
its SS graves. Lewis concluded:
Chancellor Kohl, with perfect
consistency, has now intervened
in the Austrian election to support
Mr. Waldheim for President. He
cast his vote, once again, for
forgetting instead of remember-
ing.
That Austrians face such a
choice now is not altogether sur-
prising. For diplomatic reasons,
East and West have treated Au-
stria as Hitler's victim, forgetting

Religious News Serv ice

Kurt Waldheim may yet be elected
president of Austria. That can never erase
the background he is continually trying to
hide, nor will it erase the several admis-
sions that he lied about his past. The polit-
ical immoralities aside, in his case the in-
spiration it gave to renewed bigotries is
most deplorable.
Cross-sectionally; editorial analysts
have added to the indictments of Wal-
dheim. He has not come through well.
Guilt is ascribed to the United Nations for
having harbored him.
Political circles have similarly ex-
posed him and his Nazi past is no longer a
secret.
But there are regrettable factors. The
most shocking is the endorsement he re-
ceived from German Chancellor Helmut
Kohl. That a man who has a major respon-
sibility to continue his nation's policies of
rejecting all aspects of Nazism and neo-
Nazism should thus have abused his own
political role in West Germany is outrage-
ous.
The Waldheim revelations revived
interest in the "traditional" Austrian
legacies of imbibing anti-Semitism. Now,
during the Waldheim debates in his quest
for his nation's leadership, there is a revi-
val of the bitterest forms of anti-Semitism.
The threats addressed to Jews in Austria,
that the Hitler "verdict will pursue them
and that they will be annihilated," hardly
benefits a politician like Waldheim, both
when he tries his mind at truth and when
he admits lying.
The Austrian position, judged with a
realistic approach, will always haunt
Waldheim. It will also assess the truth af-
fecting the Austrian Jewish position, as it
was outlined as part of an article in the
Los Angeles Times by Peter Loewenberg,
professor of history at UCLA.
In March, 1985, -I attended a
meeting of students in the packed
Auditorium Maximum of the Uni-
versity of Vienna; they were pro-
testing against a defense minister
who welcomed hoxite a convicted
SS mass-murderer. The meeting
was addressed by Erika Weinzierl,
professor of modern history at the
university and a member of the
Conservative People's Party
(Waldheim's party). She remem-
bered, from her school days,
watching Jewish friends and fel-
low students disappear from Vie-
nna amid increasing terror. She
said that for anyone not to have
known what was happening was
implausible _ , yet contemporary
Austria has never come to terms
with its complicity.
This meeting of an aroused
student body addressed by a lead-
ing Catholic professor represents
the new Austria. The small group
of neo-fascist students in
attendance were regarded as a
weird curiosity. This meeting and
its sentiments were in striking
contrast to the Viennese student
body at the turn of the century,
when "Aryan" clauses were intro-
duced into various student organ-
izations. In the 1920s and '30s,
Jewish students, including Sig-
mund Freud's son Martin, were
beaten when they tried to attend
the university while Vienna police
stood by under the guise of ob-
serving "academic freedom."
Yet anti-Semitism in Austria is
unfortunately alive and well, in
the countryside and in Vienna. I
have heard anti-Jewish calumnies
in public inns and in farm families.
As Peter Lingens, the editor of
Profil, a major Austrian news

This Austrian election billboard, calling Kurt Waldheim The President We Now Need,"
was smeared with a swastika in Vienna.

the fact that many Austrians
played an eager role in Nazi
savagery. A study two years ago
by Prof. Hilde Weiss of Vienna
University concluded that one Au-
strian in four was still anti-
Semitic.
If Kurt Waldheim is elected
president, much of the world will
see it as a vote for denying the
past. And some of us will want
nothing to do with Waldheim's
Austria.

No matter what the results in the
June election, Waldheim's guilt will re-
main an important page in linking even so
notorious a politician with guilt that
caused the Holocaust. The facts about
Waldheim will never be erased.

Wiesel: Unlimited

Elie Wiesel's books, magazine essays,
views on major Jewish issues are pub-
lished constantly.The eminent author has
been in the limelight among the most
representative Jewish spokespeople for a
quarter of a century.
Wiesel's publishing career is uninter-
rupted. Now there also is a continuity of
republishing his works. A 20-volume im-
pressive collection of his writings is now
in the process of a massive anthological
task. Meanwhile, there is a response to
the popular call for his works in the form
of paperbacks. Two of his well-known
books, reissued as paperbacks, are:
The Fifth Son, an original Simon and
Schuster publication, now reissued by
Warner Books, is a valuable portion of the
Holocaust library. It deals with a son of a
survivor from the Nazi terror who seeks to
penetrate- his father's silence and secret
past.
The Oath , republished by Schocken, is

another of the valuable Wiesel contribu-
tions to Holocaust literature.

Auschwitz Escape:
Dramatic Exception

Auschwitz spelled terror and death
and in general inescape from it for its mil-
lions of victims. There was one exception
which is related in Escape From Au-
schwitz (Bergin and Garvey).
This true story of an escape, accom-
panied by a tragedy suffered by the es-
capee's non-Jewish collaborator, is related
by Erich Kulka, himself a survivor from
Auschwitz who became an historian of the
Holocaust and the events that marked the
Nazi terrors.
Kulka's revealing and deeply-moving
book has several important aspects. There
is a tribute to the author in a foreword by
Herman Wouk. Then there is an impor-
tant introduction by Dr. Yehuda Bauer
who throws some additional light on the
story. Besides, there is a sort of autobiog-
raphical account by the author himself —
all adding to a very important volume.
Dr. Bauer provides an historical
background of the growth of the Nazi
power and the establishment of Auschwitz
in 1940 "as a concentration camp for
Polish political prisoners and, later, for
Soviet prisoners of war. In the summer of
1941, at the behest of Heinrich Himmler,
Auschwitz was designated by its com-
mander, Rudolph Hess, as a future central
murder installation for Jews. A first, ex-
perimental gassing with Zyklon B, a de-
rivative of prussic acid, took place in Au-
schwitz on Sept. 3, 1941 . . ."
Dr. Bauer proceeds to relate how
other murder camps were established,
leading up to Auschwitz becoming the
"main killing center."
Such was the background of a death

Continued on Page 22

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