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June 05, 1987 - Image 7

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-06-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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A campaign poster for Kurt Waldheim from last year's Austrian presidential election is smeared with
a swastika.

Austria Preoccupied With Its Image
Instead Of Its Sordid Past

.

.

FRANKLIN H. LITTELL

According to a recent story in the
Washington Post, Austria is feeling the
burden of an "image problem." The image
problem arises from the fact that the presi-
dent of Austria is Kurt Waldheim.
I am tempted to pause and reflect upon
the moral implications of the intense con-
cern for "image." It seems there is a general
concern among politicians for image, often
marked by a sublime unconcern for the
truth. When John Tower released his report
on the White House committee's findings
about the Iran-contra affair, he mentioned
that the President was troubled by the ef-
fect upon his image. Image is, of course, the
point of reference for people who are more
concerned about appearances than reality.
But there is another problem, larger
and more complex, to deal with. Granted
that Kurt Waldheim hid his war record,
granted that he lied as long as he could to
cover up the facts, granted that a
democratic government should not be head-
ed by a Nazi officer, was he in fact a war
criminal?
Neither Italy nor Austria was ever pro-
perly "de-Nazified" after the war. Italy was
allowed to reorganize politically with both
Fascist and Communist parties. In fact, the

Rev. Littel is founder and director of the
Anne Frank Institute in Philadelphia.

Italian Communist Party became the
largest outside the Eastern bloc. One of the
fundamental reasons for the chronic in-
stability of Italian governments since the
war is precisely the power — and often
violence — wielded by terrorists of the
fascist and communist camps. Austria'was
divided four ways between the victorious
powers. Due to the jockeying between the
Western powers (America, England and
France) and the East (Russia), Austria was
never sanitized so far as Nazism was
concerned.
The myth was thus allowed to grow
that Austria had been an unwilling victim
of German aggression. At the time the TV
series Holocaust was shown throughout
Western Europe a few years ago, a professor
in the Roman Catholic theological faculty
in Vienna wrote a major review article in
which he claimed that Austria was the first
occupied and victimized people — and
therefore had nothing to be ashamed of
when the Holocaust was remembered. This
review was unusual in featuring two lies,
rather than just one.
First, a higher percentage of Austrians
were Nazis than of Germans in the
Vaterland, and the Austrians supplied a
much higher percentage of killers during
the "final solution." Second, the Austrians
welcomed Hitler and the Anchluss with
wild enthusiasm. Hitler invaded on March
13, 1938. The plebiscite of April 10 gave

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Continued on Page 13

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