By Mónica Delgado
For a time now, some European political estates, like Polish or Hungarian, have been giving their version of historyin a scandalous revisionism, even proposing new legislation that claim their innocence regarding any link and responsibility of Nazi horror during World War II. A while ago, media headlines informed about some Polish politicians, denying the existence of concentration camps in the country at war times, or who signaled that there were as much “polish perpetrators as Jewish ones”, distorting the facts and posing a sort of tabula rasa.
Danish filmmaker Ruth Beckermann picks up part of this political debate but does so focusing on one of the figures that made this historical whitening part of his political campaign. Supported with archive material regarding the electoral material that her country lived in 1986, the filmmaker strips the accusations against the ex-general secretary of the UN and ex Austrian president Kurt Waldheim and his Nazi past.
Through these images registered by the filmmaker herself and from the recovery of TV., interviews, judicial audiences, reports and other documents, Beckermann explores some reactions of the politician and his environment on certain serious accusations on his past as part of Hitler troops and as member of the Nazi student syndicate. Waldheim justifies his innocence through all the electoral process, and does it arguing about a memory problem that impedes him from remembering being part of the Nazi army. He admits being a soldier like thousands of Austrians, who saw the horror of war which affected everyone, but decided to study afterwards. Beckermann makes the Austrian politician dance through this waltz of negotiations and justifications. A man made president by people who didn’t see his links with Nazism as dangerous.
Beckerman paints a portrait of Waldheim but also of a society in perspective towards the lags of war. It’s also key how the relations with the U.S. are described, from proof emitted by the Jewish World Council, which also confronted the role of the UN and the politics assumed by Waldheim as general secretary on those years as part of anti-Zionism measures. And, in that respect, the filmmaker lets the images reveal the motives that strengthen Waldheim’s campaign, despite the little clarity of his testimonies.
Winner in the last Berlinale as best documentary and programmed in the international competition of Cinéma du Reel, The Waldheim Waltz offers a documented labor where there’s also place for a personal view of the facts. Meaning, the voice over of the filmmaker appears in certain parts but not to give a touch of denounce, but to complete this generational malaise about the way that the history wants to be rewritten and how the right builds their myths and discourses.
The final shot of a new president getting ready for his television discourse to the people, next to a sweeping lady and a makeup guy, perfectly portray what kind of cleansing has been made. And it seems to be a current process, of politicians with terrible pasts reformed for the electoral audiences, and especially if we take into account that the extreme right keeps governing Austria for years now and the methods of politics doesn’t seem to have changed. Did Waldheim win the elections because he denied his participation or was his Nazi past which propitiated even more the support of the people? There resides the value of the images of Ruth Beckermann documentary, a film that looks to answer this question, which maybe will be solved in the light of the years.
Director: Ruth Beckermann
Script: Ruth Beckermann
Editor: Dieter Pichler
Producer: Ruth Beckermann
Austria, 2018, 93 min