Bassett (A Guide to Central Europe) uses his insider's knowledge gained as the London Times' Vienna correspondent for five...

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WALDHEIM AND AUSTRIA

Bassett (A Guide to Central Europe) uses his insider's knowledge gained as the London Times' Vienna correspondent for five years to offer an account, not so much of Waldheim, but of how the Austrian acceptance of him mirrors how Austrians have failed to come to terms with their imperial and Nazi pasts. Bassett asserts that the Austrians are a people of great trauma who have been launched into the modern world with no democratic roots to anchor them: ""No capital city in the world exudes such a baroque detachment from reality as Vienna."" Thus, while the world reeled over the Waldheim revelations, the Austrians wondered what all the fuss about. Everywhere Bassett turns in Austria, he finds conundrums. Here, a nation with one of the finest military traditions in all Europe feels itself to be totally indefensible: ""An army which once had the freest uniforms in Europe is now the worst dressed and equipped."" The one Austrian politician who gave his life defying Nazis--Dollfuss--is commemorated by not one monument or square in any Austrian city. Meanwhile, Bassett takes us through Waldheim's rocky campaign for president. While his slogan was ""the man the world trusts,"" the world outside of Austria was rapidly turning against him, and his smug facade prompted one of his campaign managers to say, ""You have no idea how difficult it is to sell this man."" In the end, Waldheim's success seemed to stem from a blend of: a latent anti-Semitism among, roughly, one-quarter of the Austrian populace; a long national shrug based on the feeling that a man who rose only to the rank of lieutenant during the war could not have been very committed to the Nazi cause; and an emotional feeling summed up by a postman who said that though he had fought during the war, he was no Nazi. An accessible, informed account.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1988

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1988