Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kurt Waldheim, a horrible man

Reading his obituary, it beggars belief that someone with such a shady past could have become President of Austria. Notwithstanding his unforthcoming account of what happened during the war, he didn't exactly endear himself to the sceptics in the decades following it.

When the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Waldheim (then Austria's Foreign Minister) ordered his ambassador in Prague to refuse asylum to fleeing supporters of Dubcek's regime. When he visited Yad Vashem as UN Secretary General in 1973, he refused to wear a kippa. During his time at the UN, he condemned Israel's actions at Entebbe, yet remained strangely silent when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. (Did the Soviets have information on his wartime past that they could blackmail him with? It still isn't clear).

Unlike Germany, Austria has still not come to terms with its wartime past. Now that Kurt Waltheim has died, Austria might take the opportunity for a little more introspection.