Ludwig Wittgenstein once remarked, "I think the good in Austria is particularly difficult to understand. In a certain sense it is more subtle than all the rest, and its truth is never on the side of probability." For forty years official Austria, christened by the Allies as Hitler's first "victim," wagered that the sedulously cultivated visions of cherubic choir boys, Lippizaner horses, and Mozartkugels could seduce the world into ignoring another truth about Austria, that of Wehrmacht soldiers, antisemitic slurs, and cheering crowds on Heldenplatz. The debate surrounding Kurt Waldheim dashed such "improbable" illusions permanently. Richard Mitten seeks to discover the "truth" behind the Waldheim controversy in its historical and political context. Whereas other books have focused on Waldheim's personal biography, Mitten argues that the essential point in the Waldheim affair is not Waldheim himself but the political and cultural climate that made his election possible. Mitten examines Waldheim's 1986 presidential election campaign, which both elicited and profited from profound chauvinistic and antisemitic resentments. The Politics of Antisemitic Prejudice is also the first book in English to study the dynamics of the Waldheim affair in the Austrian and American media. The author demonstrates how mistaken perceptions led both Waldheim's supporters and his critics to press their nearly diametrically opposed convictions with an identical moral vocabulary. Finally, Mitten re-examines the debate over Waldheim's criminality and suggests that the former UN Secretary General has come to stand as the symbol of a more general postwar unwillingness or inability to adequately confront the implications of the Nazi abomination.
Introduction: "Homo austriacus" Agonistes -- Austria Past and Present -- From Election Catatonia to the "Waldheim Affair" -- "What Did You Do in the War, Kurt?" -- Dis"kurt"esies: Waldheim and the Language of Guilt -- The Role of the World Jewish Congress -- The Waldheim Affair in the United States -- The "Campaign" Against Waldheim and the Emergence of the Feindbild -- When "The Past" Catches Up