Thursday’s Ha’aretz urged the Israeli government to recall its ambassador to Vienna if, as seems probable, the far-right Freedom Party leader, Jörg Haider, joins a new Austrian ruling coalition with the conservative People’s Party. Noting that this would be the second time Israel had taken this action against Austria (the first being in 1986, when it discovered that President Kurt Waldeim had been an officer of the Wehrmacht in World War II and participated in mass deportations of Jews), the paper said the move would “reverberate in the conscience and heart of the Israeli public.” As reported in the paper’s main front-page news story, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy has already said that Israel will recall its ambassador for “consultations” and reconsider its relations with Austria if Haider joins the Austrian government.
According to Ha’aretz, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said Wednesday in Stockholm, where he is attending a conference on remembering the Holocaust, that “there is no point in sounding warnings in advance. The Austrians understand that Israel will respond very severely.” But in Germany, Die Welt was critical of Israel’s stand. In a front-page commentary, it said “Haider is not Hitler” and added that if Israel can deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, it should have enough self-assurance to give Haider’s party a chance, when in government, to clarify unequivocally the ambiguities in its position.
The Italian newspapers gave particular prominence to the Haider story, with both La Repubblica of Rome and Corriere della Sera of Milan running the same front-page headline, “Alarm in Europe.” They noted that the prime ministers of Germany, France, and Italy have all expressed concern, especially Chancellor Gerhard Schröder who described Haider as a dangerous man. “More than any other European nation, the Federal Republic [of Germany] is apprehensive about the developments in Vienna,” Corriere said. It also quoted Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor, as saying he would cancel a planned visit to Austria if Haider joins the government. Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres told La Repubblica that a government including Haider would automatically condemn itself to “excommunication by Europe, the West, and the community of democratic nations. It would be completely isolated internationally, and certainly it couldn’t have any relationship with Israel.” Peres said of Haider, “He is not a new Hitler, but he reminds many Israelis that Hitler also came from Austria.”
In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair was criticised by the conservative Daily Telegraph for proclaiming an annual Holocaust Memorial Day Jan. 27, beginning next year. In an editorial Thursday, it said this is “the wrong way for Britain to commemorate a uniquely German crime.” The paper said, “To judge from his comments yesterday, Mr Blair wants to use Holocaust Day primarily to ‘celebrate our diversity and build a new patriotism’ for a ‘multi-racial Britain.’ In other words, the most atrocious crime in modern history is, for Mr Blair, merely an excuse to promote the fallacy that British society is riddled with racism.”
The paper also reported on the continuing libel action by controversial British historian David Irving, author of Hitler’s War, against American academic Deborah Lipstadt for allegedly branding him a Holocaust denier. In evidence in court Wednesday, Irving said eyewitness evidence of the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz was “totally demolished” because there were no holes in the roof through which to insert poison.
The Times of London reported Thursday that the Russian newspaper Trud, with the help of KGB archives, has finally resolved the riddle of Hitler’s final resting place. In 1970, KGB agents secretly scattered his ashes in the East German river of Ehle, near the village of Biederlitz. The Times said that fragments of Hitler’s skeleton still exist in Moscow.
In their coverage of the Iowa caucuses Wednesday, many European newspapers highlighted the relatively poor showing of Texas Gov. George W. Bush compared with the massive victory of Vice President Al Gore. The headline in Le Figaro of Paris, for example, was “Bush loses his lustre.” La Repubblica, which last week published a letter from a man on death row in Huntsville, Texas, about the harsh deprivations imposed on condemned prisoners in the days preceding their executions, reported his death Monday night in emotional terms. Billy Hughes had been “a symbol of the possibilities of rehabilitation in prison,” it said. He had taken two degrees during his 24 years inside and had earned the affection of other prisoners by being “affable, sympathetic, and always in good spirits.” It said the only man who could have saved him, George W. Bush, was far away at the time of his killing by lethal injection, distracted by the Iowa caucuses, and in any event opposed to granting him mercy.
In an interview Wednesday with Corriere della Sera, former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo said it was “very probable” that his son Andrew would be chosen by Al Gore as his running mate and would then become the first Italian-American to serve as vice president of the United States. Cuomo also suggested that Andrew’s selection would be “the best way of exploding so many odious prejudices against us Italians.” Gore, said Cuomo, would definitely be the next president, despite his incurable woodenness. “Gore is wooden and always will be. … Instead of changing his personality, to be like an actor or a jester, he would do better to turn his seriousness into a virtue.”
Bush, on the other hand, is too lightweight to be taken seriously. “He is convinced that the solution to all problems—when there are 44 million Americans without health care, only 20 percent of the workforce in skilled occupations, and millions in poverty—is a drastic tax cut that would only benefit the rich.” Cuomo was upbeat about Hillary Clinton’s prospects in her forthcoming Senate battle with Rudolph Giuliani. “After a year of political life and activity between Westchester and Manhattan no one will dare call her a carpetbagger because Hillary will be more a New Yorker than the rest of us,” he said. “Also the shadow of the presidency and the weariness and resentment felt towards her husband will disappear when Bill Clinton has his White House bags in his hands. The voters know that Hillary is much better qualified than Giuliani, whose experience is limited to municipal problems.” He is Italian-American, though.