Waldheim's Last Word
Austrian news sources have revealed that former President Kurt Waldheim left a final address to the world. The controversial statesmen, who passed away on Thursday aged 88, sparked a wave of controversy in the mid-80's when allegations surfaced of his involvement in war-crimes.
'To all those who stood against and criticised me, goes my greeting and my request to reflect once more on their motives and, when possible, to reconcile with me.'
Although a full-fledged President of Austria from 1986 to 1992, Waldheim was officially barred from entering America owing to his association with Nazi war-crimes.
For many years, Waldheim had concealed his deployment in Saloniki, Greece, where a series of atrocities against Yugoslavs had taken place in 1943. However, as his presidential star rose in 1986, the World Jewish Congress was amongst several bodies that helped shed light on Waldheim's wartime past.
Mr. Waldheim was later obliged to admit that he had served in Greece, although he always denied involvement in atrocities. An international committee of historians later found evidence to suggest Waldheim's knowledge of preparation for war-crimes, but no material to suggest physical involvement in such actions.
The so called Waldheim Affair set in motion a wave of self-analysis in Austria. Debates raged over questions of Nazi guilt. Such themes had been less vocally aired in Austria than in neighbouring Germany. Hitler's Germany had absorbed Austria via referendum (Anschluss) in 1938.
'My merits and my mistakes now stand before a judge who alone knows the truth. I step up to him confidently in the knowledge of his justice and his mercy,' Waldheim added in his final statement.