by Sabina Becker
Gott sei dank, jetzt ist die Welt um einen Nazi-Mistbock leichter. Nur schade, dass es so lange gedauert hat...
The former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Josef Waldheim has died aged 88, Austrian media has reported.
The career of Mr Waldheim, who headed the UN from 1972 to 1982, was overshadowed by a scandal about his secretive World War II service.
Despite allegations he belonged to a German army unit that committed atrocities in the Balkans, he was elected Austria's president in 1986.
Admitted to hospital in Vienna last month, he died of heart failure.
The allegations arose in 1986, shortly after his nomination for the role of Austrian president.
The World Jewish Congress claimed he had been an officer attached to a German Army command which sent more than 42,000 Greek Jews from Salonika to their deaths, and was responsible for the massacre of thousands of Yugoslavs in the Kozara mountains.
Many Austrians did not believe the accusations against the man they elected president.
But they sparked international censure. The US, for example, banned him from visiting the country.
Later, Mr Waldheim said that the scandal surrounding his presidency forced Austrians to admit that they were not all passive victims of Nazi Germany.
I should say they were not. After all, Austria is the same country that gave us Hitler--the crummy little no-account who rose from the lowly rank of Gefreiter (Private First Class, not even a corporal!) to the chancellor's chair in the Reichstag. For many Austrians, that day must have felt like a coup, and the Anschluss was something they yearned for, and were proud of. At war's end those same ones got off very lightly, given their location and politics. That country remains more Nazified today than Germany, and that's no coincidence either. In 1949, for instance, former Nazis were allowed to stand for election--imagine that happening in postwar Germany! There is a whole slew of Austrian history still to be uncovered--particularly that of its Catholic Church, whose anti-semitic attitudes, going back centuries, nourished Adolf Hitler's mania.
I hardly need say that the real Austria bears no resemblance to the idyllic picture painted by The Sound of Music. Except, of course, for the scenery. It really does look that pretty in Salzburg. (And yes, I have been there. It's a lovely place to visit, especially the Mozart-Haus. But that movie is not only sugar-coated, it's horribly revisionist. Even Maria Trapp would eventually admit as much.)
And Kurt Waldheim was living proof that the Austrian connection was left untouched. Not just inadvertently, but on purpose. The official version had to be propped up somehow, and to admit that there were war criminals in Austria (not just Germany proper!), was to admit that an entire country was complicit. In fact, Austria wanted the Anschluss, and was annexed without even the pretence of a fight. Those inconvenient truths alone would shatter the "we were passive victims" myth.
Hitler could not have done what he did all alone; he had a lot of help. He had help as a beer-hall bully, in the pre-electoral days, both from his own SA goon squad and the Freikorps (which even the "leftist" Social Democrats could not resist employing to keep the Socialists and the Communist Party from rising to power). He had help from the conservatives, whose backroom deals made him unelected Chancellor in order to keep German (and foreign) business leaders "safe" from evil, wicked trade unionists (and, again, those damn commies). He had help in Eastern Europe, with its long bloody history of czarist pogroms, where the hatred of Jews was much stronger than in Germany, and where there was no shortage of willing collaborators. And then there were the right-wing leaders of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal...and Austria. Kurt Waldheim was one of Austria's many collaborators.
And now, he's totally gotten away with it. He has never been arrested, never been tried, and has died despised, but unpunished. Who says you can't get away with murder?
I find it odd, though, that the US only banned him from visiting after he became president of Austria. Yet not earlier, when he was Secretary-General of the UN and would have had to work in New York? What on Earth could that mean? And what were people thinking, electing him to that post (or any other) with such a cloud hanging over him? Questions, questions, inconvenient questions.
Seems to me that there is still no shortage of collaborators, only now they are too cowardly to strap on a swastika so that the rest of us may know them for what they really are.
"IN TIMES OF UNIVERSAL DECEIT, TELLING THE TRUTH WILL BE A REVOLUTIONARY ACT." - George Orwell
“If the world is upside down the way it is now, wouldn’t we have to turn it over to get it to stand up straight?” - Eduardo Galeano
A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. -- Edward R. Murrow