(This cartoon reprinted with permission of the famous Mr Bones himself was created when Waldheim’s Nazi Past was revealed. For more great Dry Bones political commentary visit his blog by clicking here)
Waldheim’s unit was involved in Operation Kozara, a particularly ferocious campaign in Yugoslavia against Tito’s partisans in the summer of 1942, in which thousands of partisans and civilians died in battle and in the concentration camps as a result of so-called cleansing operations, in the aftermath of which corpses of civilian hostages were hung on makeshift wooden gallows positioned along the road from Kostajnica to Banja Luka. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred yards of Walheim’s office., and the Jasenovac concentration camp where prisoners endured the most horrific of tortures was just a few miles away. Yet decades later Waldheim would maintain “that he did not know about the murder of civilians there.”
After leaving the UN Waldheim became the President of Austria. During the election campaign for the presidency in 1985, accusations emerged that he had served as an officer in a German army unit that had committed wartime atrocities.When defending himself against assertions that he had links to the Nazis, Waldheim always asserted that he never had belonged to a Nazi-affiliated group. But, in fact, at the age of 19 he joined the National Socialist German Students League – a Nazi youth organization – just a month after the Anschluss. Then in November 1938, he also enrolled in the Sturm-Abteilung, or SA, the paramilitary Nazi organization of storm troopers. Waldheim’s always denied knowledge of any Nazi atrocities, but his concealment of his military service and his later assertion that he and other Austrians had only done their duty led to an international outcry, and Austria’s isolation for many years. During his tenure as Austrian president he made hardly any state trips and he was treated as persona non grata by the United States. He was prohibited from traveling there for the rest of his life.
While supporters in Austria saw him as the innocent victim of a smear campaign, his opponents called for his resignation because of the huge loss of prestige for the country caused by his election. He opted not to run for a second term in 1992 and retired from politics.
But Waldheim’s name appears on the Wehrmacht’s “honor list” of those responsible for the miltarily successful operation, and from the Croatian side, Waldheim received a silver medal with an oak leaf cluster from the fascist Ustashi leader, Ante Pavelic.
Additionally, in 1944, Waldheim reviewed and approved a packet of anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets to be dropped behind Russian lines, one of which ended, “enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over.”