BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Former U.N. chief Kurt Waldheim received a high Nazi award for bravery in military operations against partisan forces in Yugoslavia in 1942, the newspaper Vjesnik reported Thursday.
The order conferring the award on Waldheim was signed Sept. 9, 1942, on behalf of Ante Pavelic, founder of the Nazi puppet regime of independent Croatia, the newspaper Vjesnik in Zagreb in western Yugoslavia said.
The medal was awarded 'for courageous behavior in fighting the rebels in western Bosnia' in central Yugoslavia in the spring and summer of 1942, the newspaper said. The forces mentioned were communists who fought the Nazi occupation under Josip Broz Tito and took power in Yugoslavia after World War II.
On Tuesday the World Jewish Congress, a coalition of Jewish organizations, accused Waldheim of having been a Nazi who served in a unit that shipped more than 40,000 Jews to death camps during World War II.
In Vienna, Waldheim, who is a candidate for the Austrian presidency, called the accusations 'nonsense,' saying they were an effort to discredit him before the May 6 election.
The Yugoslavian newspaper said documents found in war archives in the republic of Croatia showed Waldheim was decorated with the silver medal on the recommendation of a Nazi, Maj. Gen. Von Stahl, who was stationed in western Bosnia.
It said the name of Waldheim, who served as secretary-general of the United Nations from 1972 to 1982, appeared on a list of 13 people proposed for the award, a medal depicting 'King Zvonimir's crown with oak leaves.'
World Jewish Congress general counsel Eli Rosenbaum said the group had documents showing Waldheim joined the Nazi Party of the German Student Union on April 1, 1938, less than three weeks after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany.
Rosenbaum said the documents also show Waldheim joined the Sturmabteilung -- the Nazis' 'brown-shirt' paramilitary organization also known as the S.A. -- in November 1938 and remained a member until he joined the Wehrmacht, or German army, on Aug. 15, 1939.
Waldheim, 67, previously was cleared of ties to the Nazi Party by the Austrian government and later by the U.N. Security Council before he became secretary-general.