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The Waldheim Waltz

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by Ruth Beckermann

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A lot of time has passed since the scandal surrounding the Nazi past of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim made headlines worldwide, not least because he denied it. It all started during the 1986 Austrian presidential campaign, when Waldheim was supposed to gain victory and thus reach the pinnacle of his storybook post-war political career. Based on smartly chosen international TV archive material, this documentary essay reconstructs how this heated debate progressed, all the way up to the second round of voting in June 1986. The positions of the various stakeholders – excerpts from the press conferences of the World Jewish Congress, debates in the UN General Assembly, hearings in the US Congress as well as statements by the Austrian People’s Party and its candidate – are joined by Ruth Beckermann’s subjective, analytical commentary in voiceover. She’s also there in the video footage she shot herself, documents of an oppositional movement that show anti-Waldheim events and verbal disputes with resentful and anti-Semitic passersby. Rabble-rousing, slander, media-bashing, and denying facts – they all broke new ground here. Yes, a lot of time has passed, but it’s not over yet.

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