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The beleaguered Waldheim rejected the allegations as "pure lies and malicious acts." He later admitted, however, that he was aware of German reprisals against the partisans: "Yes, I knew. I was horrified. But what could I do? I had either to continue to serve or be executed." He said he never fired a shot or even saw a partisan. Indeed, his immediate superior at the time, former Lieut. Colonel Herbert Warnstorff, said last week that Waldheim "remained confined to a desk" during his tour. As for the medal he received, military historians support Waldheim's contention that it was given to hundreds of officers, whether or not they were involved in combat. Says a defiant Waldheim: "Why should I apologize?"
Waldheim, 68, is running on the conservative Austrian People's Party ticket in the May 4 elections. Last week Party Leader Alois Mock called the W.J.C. "campaign" against Waldheim a "base and improper intervention in Austrian affairs." Former Chancellor Bruno Kreisky, himself of Jewish extraction, called the W.J.C.'s actions an "extraordinary infamy," adding that in the election, Austrians "won't allow the Jews abroad to order us about and tell us who should be our President." Indeed, Waldheim's popular standing has improved since the disclosures. A recent poll shows him leading his Socialist opponent, 43% to 32%.