The Full Wiki

Kurt Waldheim: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kurt Waldheim

In office
8 July 1986 – 8 July 1992
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky
Preceded by Rudolf Kirchschläger
Succeeded by Thomas Klestil

In office
1 January 1972 – 31 December 1981
Preceded by U Thant
Succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Born 21 December 1918(1918-12-21)
Sankt Andrä-Wördern near Vienna, German Austria
Died 14 June 2007 (aged 88)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Political party Austrian People's Party
Spouse(s) Elisabeth Waldheim
Children 3
Alma mater University of Vienna
Profession lawyer, diplomat
Religion Roman Catholicism

Kurt Josef Waldheim (21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007) was an Austrian diplomat and politician. Waldheim was the fourth Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and the ninth President of Austria, from 1986 to 1992. While running for President in Austria in 1985, his service as an intelligence officer in the Wehrmacht during World War II raised international controversy.


Early life

Waldheim was born in Sankt Andrä-Wördern, a village near Vienna, on 21 December 1918.[1] His father was a Roman Catholic school inspector of Czech origin named Watzlawick[2] (original Czech spelling Václavík) who changed his name that year as the Habsburg monarchy collapsed. Waldheim served in the Austrian Army (1936–37) and attended the Vienna Consular Academy, where he graduated in 1939. Waldheim's father was active in the Christian Social Party. Waldheim himself was politically unaffiliated during these years at the Academy. Shortly after the German annexation of Austria in 1938, Waldheim applied for membership in the National Socialist German Students' League (NSDStB), a division of the Nazi Party.[3] Shortly thereafter he became a registered member of the mounted corps of the SA.

On 19 August 1944, in Vienna, he married Elisabeth Ritschel; their first daughter Lieselotte was born the following year. Son Gerhard and daughter Christa followed.

Military service in World War II


In early 1941 Waldheim was drafted into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern Front where he served as a squad leader. In December 1941 he was wounded but later returned to service. His further service in the Wehrmacht from 1942 to 1945 (at age 24 to 27) was subject of the international dispute regarding his person in 1985 and 1986. In 1985, in his autobiography, he stated that he was discharged from further service at the front and for the rest of the war years finished his law degree at the University of Vienna and married in 1944.[4] Documents and witnesses which have since come to light reveal that Waldheim’s military service continued until 1945, and confirmed that he graduated with a law degree from the University of Vienna in 1945 and that he married in 1944.

Service in Yugoslavia and Greece

His functions within the staff of German Army Group E from 1942 until 1945, as determined by the International Commission of Historians[5], were:

  1. interpreter and liaison officer with the 5th Alpine Division (Italy) in April/May 1942, then,
  2. O2 officer (communications) with Kampfgruppe West Bosnia June/August 1942,
  3. interpreter with the liaison staff attached to the Italian 9th Army in Tirana in early summer 1942,
  4. O1 officer in the German liaison staff with the Italian 11th Army and in the staff of the Army Group South in Greece in July/October 1943 and
  5. O3 officer on the staff of Army Group E in Arksali, Kosovska Mitrovica and Sarajevo from October 1943 to January/February 1945.

By 1943 he was serving in the capacity of an ordnance officer in Army Group E which was headed by General Alexander Löhr[6]. In 1986, Waldheim said that he had served only as an interpreter and a clerk and had no knowledge either of reprisals against civilians locally or of massacres in neighboring provinces of Yugoslavia. He said that he had known about some of the things that had happened, and had been horrified, but could not see what else he could have done.[4]

Much historical interest has centered on Waldheim's role in Operation Kozara[7]. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred yards of Waldheim's office[8], and at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Waldheim later stated "that he did not know about the murder of civilians there."[8]

Waldheim's name appears on the Wehrmacht's "honor list" of those responsible for the militarily successful operation. The Independent State of Croatia awarded Waldheim the silver medal of the Order of Zvonimir with an oak leaf cluster.[9] Later, during the lobbying for his election as U.N. Secretary General, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito awarded Waldheim the Order of the Grand Cross of Yugoslavia.[citation needed]

According to Eli Rosenbaum, in 1944, Waldheim reviewed and approved a packet of anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets to be dropped behind Russian lines, one of which ended, "enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over."[10]


In 1945, Waldheim surrendered to British forces in Carinthia, at which point he said he had fled his command post within Army Group E, where he was serving with General Löhr, who was seeking a special deal with the British.

Diplomatic career

Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945, after finishing his studies in law at the University of Vienna. He served as First Secretary of the Legation in Paris from 1948, and in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Vienna from 1951 to 1956. In 1956 he was made Ambassador to Canada, returning to the Ministry in 1960, after which he became the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in 1964. For two years beginning in 1968, he was the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs in Austria serving for the Austrian People's Party, before going back as Permanent Representative to the U.N. in 1970. Shortly afterwards, he ran and was defeated in the 1971 Austrian presidential elections.

United Nations Secretary-General

After being defeated in his home country's presidential election, he was elected to succeed U Thant as United Nations Secretary-General the same year. As Secretary-General, Waldheim opened and addressed a number of major international conferences convened under United Nations auspices. These included the third session of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (Santiago, April 1972), the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, June 1972), the Third UN Conference on the Law of the Seas (Caracas, June 1974), the World Population Conference (Bucharest, August 1974) and the World Food Conference (Rome, November 1974). However, his diplomatic efforts particularly in the Middle East were overshadowed by the diplomacy of then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.[11]

On September 11, 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin sent a telegram to Waldheim, copies of which went to Yasser Arafat and Golda Meir. In the telegram, Amin "applauded the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich and said Germany was the most appropriate locale for this because it was where Hitler burned more than six million Jews."[12] Amin also called "to expel Israel from the United Nations and to send all the Israelis to Britain, which bore the guilt for creating the Jewish state."[13] Among international protest "the UN spokesman said [in his daily press conference] it was not the secretary-general's practice to comment on telegrams sent him by heads of government. He added that the secretary-general condemned any form of racial discrimination and genocide."[13] In 1976, Waldheim described the Israeli rescue of hijacked airline passengers at Entebbe, Uganda, as "a serious violation of the national sovereignty of a United Nations member state (meaning Uganda). "[14]

In 1973 Waldheim rejected requests to wear a Jewish Kippa during a visit to the Israeli Holocaust memorial[15]. In a 1976 security council debate Waldheim described the Israeli rescue of hijacked airline passengers at Entebbe, Uganda as "a serious violation of the national sovereignty of a United Nations member state. "[16] When Syria invaded Lebanon in 1976, the UN did nothing, but when Israel invaded Lebanon two years later, Waldheim quickly organised a resolution condemning Israel.[15]

Waldheim was re-elected in 1976 despite some opposition. Waldheim and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter both prepared written statements for inclusion on the Voyager Golden Records, now in deep space.[17] He was the first Secretary-General to visit North Korea, in 1979.[18] In 1980 Waldheim flew to Iran in an attempt to negotiate the release of the American hostages held in Tehran, but Ayatollah Khomeini refused to see him.[11] While in Tehran, it was announced that an attempt on Waldheim's life had been foiled. Near the end of his tenure as Secretary-General, Waldheim and Paul McCartney also organized a series of concerts for the People of Kampuchea to help Cambodia recover from the damage done by Pol Pot.[19] The People's Republic of China vetoed Waldheim's candidature for a third term, and he was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru.

Presidency of Austria

Election and Waldheim Affair

Waldheim had unsuccessfully sought election as President of Austria in 1971, but his second attempt on 8 June 1986 proved successful. During his campaign for the presidency in 1985, the events started that marked the beginning of what became known internationally as the "Waldheim Affair". Before the presidential elections, Alfred Worm revealed in the Austrian weekly news magazine Profil that there had been several omissions about Waldheim's life between 1938 and 1945 in his recently-published autobiography. A short time later, the World Jewish Congress alleged that Waldheim had lied about his service as an officer in the mounted corps of the SA, and his time as an ordnance officer in Saloniki, Greece, from 1942 to 1943.[20] Waldheim called the allegations "pure lies and malicious acts".[21] Nevertheless he admitted that he had known about German reprisals against partisans: "Yes, I knew. I was horrified. But what could I do? I had either to continue to serve or be executed."[21] He said that he had never fired a shot or even seen a partisan.[21] His former immediate superior at the time stated that Waldheim had "remained confined to a desk".[21] Former Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky denounced the actions of the World Jewish Congress as an "extraordinary infamy"[21] adding that Austrians wouldn't "allow the Jews abroad to ... tell us who should be our President.".

Part of the reason for the controversy was Austria's refusal to address its national role in the Holocaust (many including Adolf Hitler were Austrians and Austria voluntarily submitted to Nazi rule). Austria refused to pay compensation to Nazi victims and from 1970 onwards refused to investigate Austrian citizens who were senior Nazis.[22] Stolen Jewish art remained public property until well after the Waldheim affair.[23]

In 1994, former Mossad officer Victor Ostrovsky claimed in his book The Other Side of Deception that Mossad doctored the file of the then UN Secretary General to implicate him in Nazi crimes. These allegedly false documents were subsequently "discovered" by Benjamin Netanyahu in the UN file, and triggered the "Waldheim Affair". Ostrovsky says it was motivated by Waldheim's criticism of Israeli action in Lebanon.[24] Controversy surrounds Ostrovsky and his writings and some of its claims disputed; many of which have not been verified from other sources; critics, such as Benny Morris and author David Wise charged that the book is essentially a novel.[25]

The International Committee of historians

In view of the ongoing international controversy, the Austrian government decided to appoint an international committee of historians to examine Waldheim's life between 1938 and 1945. Their report found no evidence of any personal involvement in those crimes. Although Waldheim had stated that he was unaware of any crimes taking place, the historians cited evidence that Waldheim must have known about war crimes.[26]

In an account of the controversy, Simon Wiesenthal states that Waldheim was stationed 5 miles from Salonika while, over the course of several weeks, the Jewish community which formed one third of the population there, was sent to Auschwitz. Waldheim denied any knowledge of this. Wiesenthal states:

I could only reply what the committee of historians likewise made clear in its report: "I cannot believe you."[27]

Wiesenthal stated there was no evidence found by the committee that Waldheim took part in any war crimes, but was guilty of lying about his military record.[28] The International Committee in February 1988 concluded, with regard to Waldheim's ability to do something about the crimes he knew that were going on in Yugoslavia and Greece:

In favour of Waldheim is, that he only had very minor possibilities to act against the injustices happening. Actions against these, depending on which level the resistance occurred, were of very different importance. For a young member of the staff, who did not have any military authority on the army group level, the practical possibilities for resistance were very limited and with a high probability would not have led to any actual results. Resistance would have been limited to a formal protest or on the refusal to serve any longer in the army, which would have seemed to be a courageous act, however would have not led to any practical achievement. [29]

Term of presidency 1986–1992

Throughout his term as president (1986–1992), Waldheim and his wife Elisabeth were officially deemed personae non gratae by the United States.[30] In 1987, they were put on a watch list of persons banned from entering the United States and remained on the list even after the publication of the International Committee of Historians' report on his military past in the Wehrmacht. He also was not invited to, and therefore did not, visit any other Western countries during his term as Austrian president. Waldheim therefore concentrated his state visits on the Middle East, the Vatican and some communist states.

Late life

After his term ended in 1992, Waldheim did not seek a second term. In 1992 Waldheim was made an honorary member of K.H.V. Welfia Klosterneuburg, a Roman Catholic student fraternity that is a part of the Austrian Cartellverband (ÖCV). In 1994, Pope John Paul II awarded Waldheim a knighthood in the Order of Pius IX and his wife a papal honor.[31] He died in June 2007 from heart failure. On 23 June his funeral was held at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna and he was laid to rest at the Presidential Vault in the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery).[32] In his speech at the Cathedral, Federal President Heinz Fischer called Waldheim "a great Austrian" who had been wrongfully accused of having committed war crimes. Fischer also praised Waldheim for his efforts to solve international crises and for his contributions to world peace.[33] At Waldheim's own request, no foreign heads of states or governments were invited to attend his funeral. Hans-Adam II, the Prince of Liechtenstein, a neighbouring country of Austria, was the only one to be present. Also present was Luis Durnwalder, governor of Italian province of Bolzano-Bozen. Syria and Japan were the only two countries that laid a wreath. In a two-page letter, published posthumously by the Austrian Press Agency the day after he died, Waldheim admitted making "mistakes" ("but these were certainly not those of a follower let alone an accomplice of a criminal regime") and asked his critics for forgiveness[34].

Media references

  • W. G. Sebald's novel The Rings of Saturn (1995; English trans., 1998) refers to Waldheim, though not by name.[35]
  • As a much-heralded invited guest on Dame Edna Everage's talk show The Dame Edna Experience, a dignified "Kurt Waldheim" began a grand entrance, except that halfway down the staircase he abruptly fell through a hidden chute and disappeared: the band's fanfare stopped as Dame Edna explained she had decided at the last minute to "abort" Dr. Waldheim's appearance because it would have been "too political." The episode aired 12 September 1987.
  • A running segment on the The Howard Stern Show is called Guess Who's the Jew and features Fred Norris portraying a Nazi Kurt Waldheim, Jr.[36]
  • Harry Turtledove's alternate history novel, In the Presence of Mine Enemies, in which Germany won the Second World War, a "Kurt Haldweim" is the third Führer of Germany, and parts of Haldweim's biography closely parallel Waldheim's.
  • In a 1988 ice hockey film entitled Hockey, The Lighter Side, former New York Rangers goaltender John Davidson is explaining his fictional goaltender school and as hockey highlights play he exclaims, "You'll have more shots taken at you than Kurt Waldheim".
  • In episode 3, series 2 of The Million Pound Radio Show, Andy Hamilton announces next week's special guest as Waldheim, "although he'll deny [his appearance on the show] in 40 years time."
  • In an episode of The New Statesman, aired in 1989, Alan B'Stard (Rik Mayall) attempts to blackmail an aged former Nazi officer, who complains that, "it's not fair; I'm living here in the tripe capital of Europe, while Kurt Waldheim is President of Austria- and he was beneath me!"

Further reading

  • Bassett, Richard (1988). Waldheim and Austria, Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0140130195
  • International Commission of Historians (1993). The Waldheim Report. Copenhagen: Museum Tusculanum, University of Copenhagen. pp. 224 p. ISBN 87-7289-206-4. 
  • Waldheim, Kurt (1985). In the eye of the storm: the memoirs of Kurt Waldheim. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-78678-4. 
  • Waldheim, Kurt. Die Antwort (The Answer). 
  • Waldheim, Kurt. The Austrian Example. 
  • Waldheim, Kurt. The Challenge of Peace. 
  • Waldheim, Kurt. Building the Future Order. 


  1. ^ Former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim dies at 88 - Haaretz - Israel News
  2. ^ Kurt Waldheim, The Daily Telegraph, 15 June 2007.
  3. ^ Report of the International Historical Commission of 8 February 1988, section on "Membership in National Socialist Organizations", as cited for example in
  4. ^ a b "Kurt Waldheim: Austrian head of the UN who as president of his country was later tainted by charges of complicity in Nazi atrocities". The Times (London: News Corporation). 15 June 2007. Retrieved 13 October 2008. 
  5. ^ see page 39 of The Waldheim Report. Submitted 8 February 1988 to Federal Chancellor Dr. Franz Vranitzky
  6. ^ Walther-Peer Fellgiebel (2000), Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5
  7. ^ "Kurt Waldheim". The New York Times. 15 June 2007. ""Waldheim took part in, and was decorated for, Operation Kozara, a large-scale antipartisan operation involving mass reprisals – at the rate of 100 executions for every German killed – and mass deportations to concentration camps."" 
  8. ^ a b Casey, Dennis (1 May 2005). "Kurt Waldheim: man of mystery.". Spokesman Magazine.;col1. 
  9. ^ Letter from Europe: Vienna, 20 June: The New Yorker
  10. ^ Rosenbaum, EM with Hoffer W, Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Kurt Waldheim Investigation and Cover-Up St. Martin's Press, 1993, ISBN 0-312-08219-3, p. 338
  11. ^ a b BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Obituary: Kurt Waldheim
  12. ^ Israeli-Ugandan Relations in the Time of Idi Amin by Arye Oded, Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^,303909
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^ National Review, 9 July 2007, Vol. LIX, No. 12
  17. ^ Voyager - Spacecraft - Golden Record
  18. ^ "Discipline and Devotion", TIME, 28 May 1979 article. Accessed 1 December 2008.
  19. ^ - Arts - Music - Charity Begins
  20. ^ See Section "Military Service" above
  21. ^ a b c d e Serrill, Michael S.; William McWhirter, Wayne Svoboda (7 April 1986). "Sequels Running Out of Answers". Time (magazine).,9171,961050-2,00.html. Retrieved 13 October 2008. 
  22. ^ Efraim Zuroff, "Worldwide Investigation and Prosecution of Nazi War Criminals, 2001–2002," Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jerusalem (April 2002).
  23. ^,1518,545392,00.html
  24. ^ Victor Ostrovsky (1994). The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda. HarperCollins (New York). 
  25. ^ "18 June 2008 meeting - Victor Ostrovsky, Former Mossad Officer". AFIO. June 2008. 
  26. ^ Simon Wiesenthal "The Waldheim Case" in Contemporary Jewish Writing in Austria edited by Dagmar Lorenz. pp 81-95, University of Nebraska press
  27. ^ Simon Wiesenthal "The Waldheim Case" in Contemporary Jewish Writing in Austria edited by Dagmar Lorenz. page 91, University of Nebraska Press
  28. ^ Kurt Waldheim | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
  29. ^ James L. Collins Jr. u.a.: Bericht der internationalen Historikerkommission, Schlussbetrachtung, 8. Februar 1988. (translated from German)
  30. ^ "Waldheim, ex-UN leader and Nazi, buried in Austria". Reuters. 23 June 2007. 
  31. ^ "Waldheim's Wife Gets a Papal Award". The New York Times. 22 August 1994. Retrieved 14 June 2007. 
  32. ^ "Former Austrian president whose term was marred by wartime service buried", Associated Press (International Herald Tribune), 23 June 2007.
  33. ^ Speech of President Heinz Fischer (official text)
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ Howard

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Lujo Tončić-Sorinj
Foreign Minister of Austria
1968 – 1970
Succeeded by
Rudolf Kirchschläger
Preceded by
U Thant
United Nations Secretary-General
1972 – 1982
Succeeded by
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Preceded by
Rudolf Kirchschläger
President of Austria
1986 – 1992
Succeeded by
Thomas Klestil

Simple English

Kurt Waldheim
File:Bundesarchiv Bild 183-M0921-014, Beglaubigungsschreiben DDR-Vertreter in UNO

9th President of Austria
In office
8 July 1986 – 8 July 1992
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky
Preceded by Rudolf Kirchschläger
Succeeded by Thomas Klestil

In office
January 1, 1972 – January 1, 1982
Preceded by U Thant
Succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar

Born December 21, 1918(1918-12-21)
Sankt Andrä-Wördern near Vienna, German Austria
Died June 14, 2007 (aged 88)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality Austrian
Political party Austrian People's Party
Spouse Elisabeth Waldheim
Alma mater University of Vienna
Religion Roman Catholic
Kurt Josef Waldheim (21 December 191814 June 2007) was an Austrian diplomat and conservative politician. He was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992. At the time of his death he was the oldest living former Secretary-General of the United Nations and the oldest living former President of Austria. On June 14, 2007, Waldheim died of heart failure.[1]

Shortly before 1986, Waldheim published an autobiography. During his campaign to become president in 1986, it became public that some statements in that biography were not true. These were about his past. Waldheim was an officer for Germany in the Second World War. There was a commission of several historians who looked at the issue. They did find that Waldheim had behved as he should have done. He did not commit any War crimes. However, in his role of an officer, he must have known about the deportation of about 40.000 Jews into concentration camps. These transports, as well as the shooting of soldiers were a clear breach of law.

Because of this, he was not allowed to travel to the United States any more.

In 1990, he had a success: Saddam Hussein held several foreigners as hostages at the start of the Second Gulf War. When Waldheim heard this, he personally went to Baghdad. Through talks he could get Saddam to release the Austrian and the Swiss hostages (both countries are neutral)


  1. Reports: Ex-UN Chief Waldheim Dead at 88

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address