Kurt Waldheim
Kurt Josef Waldheim (ˈkʊɐ̯t ˈvaldhaɪm; 21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007) was an Austrian diplomat
A diplomat is a person appointed by a state to conduct diplomacy with another state or international organization. The main functions of diplomats revolve around the representation and protection of the interests and nationals of the sending state, as well as the promotion of information and...

 and politician
A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

. Waldheim was the fourth Secretary-General of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 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
Military intelligence
Military intelligence is a military discipline that exploits a number of information collection and analysis approaches to provide guidance and direction to commanders in support of their decisions....

 in the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 raised international controversy.

Early life

Waldheim was born in Sankt Andrä-Wördern
Sankt Andrä-Wördern
Sankt Andrä-Wördern is a municipality in the district of Tulln in Lower Austria, Austria.- External links :* - town website...

, a village near Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, on 21 December 1918. His father was a Roman Catholic
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 school inspector of Czech origin named Watzlawick (original Czech spelling Václavík) who changed his name that year as the Habsburg monarchy
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

 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
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 of Austria in 1938, a 20-year old Waldheim applied for membership in the National Socialist German Students' League
National Socialist German Students' League
The National Socialist German Students' League was founded in 1926 as a division of the NSDAP with the mission of integrating University-level education and academic life within the framework of the National Socialist worldview...

 (NSDStB), a division of the Nazi Party. Shortly thereafter he became a registered member of the mounted corps of the SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...


On August 19, 1944, he married Elisabeth Ritschel
Elisabeth Waldheim
Elisabeth Waldheim is the widow of Kurt Waldheim, the former UN Secretary-General and President of Austria. She was the First Lady of Austria from 1986 to 1992....

 in Vienna; their first daughter Lieselotte was born the following year. Son Gerhard and daughter Christa followed.


In early 1941 Waldheim was drafted into the Wehrmacht
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

 and sent to the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 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 was subject of the international dispute 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
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

 in addition to marrying in 1944. Documents and witnesses which have since come to light reveal that Waldheim’s military service continued until 1945, and that he rose to the rank of Oberleutnant
Oberleutnant is a junior officer rank in the militaries of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. In the German Army, it dates from the early 19th century. Translated as "Senior Lieutenant", the rank is typically bestowed upon commissioned officers after five to six years of active duty...

, and confirmed that he married in 1944 and graduated with a law degree from the University of Vienna in 1945.

Service in Yugoslavia and Greece

His functions within the staff of German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...

 Group E from 1942 until 1945, as determined by the International Commission of Historians, were:
  1. interpreter
    Language interpretation is the facilitating of oral or sign-language communication, either simultaneously or consecutively, between users of different languages...

     and liaison officer
    Officer (armed forces)
    An officer is a member of an armed force or uniformed service who holds a position of authority. Commissioned officers derive authority directly from a sovereign power and, as such, hold a commission charging them with the duties and responsibilities of a specific office or position...

     with the 5th Alpine Division (Italy)
    5 Alpine Division Pusteria
    The 5th Alpini Division Pusteria was a light Infantry division of the Italian Army, specializing in Mountain Combat. The Alpini are a mountain infantry corps of the Italian Army, that distinguished itself in combat during World War I and World War II...

     in April/May 1942, then,
  2. O2 officer (communications) with Kampfgruppe West Bosnia
    Bosnia (region)
    Bosnia is a eponomous region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It lies mainly in the Dinaric Alps, ranging to the southern borders of the Pannonian plain, with the rivers Sava and Drina marking its northern and eastern borders. The other eponomous region, the southern, other half of the country is...

     June/August 1942,
  3. interpreter with the liaison staff attached to the Italian 9th Army in Tirana
    Tirana is the capital and the largest city of Albania. Modern Tirana was founded as an Ottoman town in 1614 by Sulejman Bargjini, a local ruler from Mullet, although the area has been continuously inhabited since antiquity. Tirana became Albania's capital city in 1920 and has a population of over...

     in early summer 1942,
  4. O1 officer in the German liaison staff with the Italian 11th Army
    Eleventh Army (Italy)
    The Italian Eleventh Army was one of the armies of the Royal Italian Army during World War II. It was formed on 9 November 1940 out of the 11th Army Corps, then based in Italian-occuped Albania and engaged in operations against Greece alongside the 9th Army. Its engagement against the Greeks lasted...

     and in the staff of the Army Group South
    Army Group South
    Army Group South was the name of a number of German Army Groups during World War II.- Poland campaign :Germany used two army groups to invade Poland in 1939: Army Group North and Army Group South...

     in Greece in July/October 1943 and
  5. O3 officer on the staff of Army Group E
    Army Group E
    Army Group E was a German Army Group active during World War II.Army Group E was created on 1 January 1943 from the 12th Army...

     in Arksali, Kosovska Mitrovica
    Kosovska Mitrovica
    Kosovska Mitrovica , is a city and municipality in northern Kosovo. It is the administrative centre of the homonymous district....

     and Sarajevo
    Sarajevo |Bosnia]], surrounded by the Dinaric Alps and situated along the Miljacka River in the heart of Southeastern Europe and the Balkans....

     from October 1943 to January/February 1945.

By 1943 he was serving in the capacity of an ordnance
Board of Ordnance
The Board of Ordnance was a British government body responsible for the supply of armaments and munitions to the Royal Navy and British Army. It was also responsible for providing artillery trains for armies and maintaining coastal fortresses and, later, management of the artillery and engineer...

 officer in Army Group E which was headed by General Alexander Löhr
Alexander Löhr
Alexander Löhr was an Austrian Air Force commander during the 1930s and, after the "Political Union of Germany and Austria" , he was a German Air Force commander...

. In 1986, Waldheim said that he had served only as an interpreter and a clerk and had no knowledge either of reprisals against Serb 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.

Much historical interest has centered on Waldheim's role in Operation Kozara in 1942. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred yards of Waldheim's office, and just 35 km away at the Jasenovac concentration camp
Jasenovac concentration camp
Jasenovac concentration camp was the largest extermination camp in the Independent State of Croatia and occupied Yugoslavia during World War II...

. Waldheim later stated "that he did not know about the murder of civilians there."

Waldheim's name appears on the Wehrmacht's "honor list" of those responsible for the militarily successful operation. The Independent State of Croatia
Independent State of Croatia
The Independent State of Croatia was a World War II puppet state of Nazi Germany, established on a part of Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. The NDH was founded on 10 April 1941, after the invasion of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers. All of Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed to NDH, together with some parts...

 awarded Waldheim the Medal of the Crown of King Zvonimir
Medal of the Crown of King Zvonimir
The Medal of the Crown of King Zvonimir was founded as a "visible sign of decoration for merits done, in peace or in war, for Croatian people and Independent State of Croatia."...

 in silver with an oak branches cluster. Later, during the lobbying for his election as U.N. Secretary General, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito
Josip Broz Tito
Marshal Josip Broz Tito – 4 May 1980) was a Yugoslav revolutionary and statesman. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian, Tito was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad, viewed as a unifying symbol for the nations of the Yugoslav federation...

 awarded Waldheim one of the highest Yugoslav orders.

Waldheim denied that he knew war crimes were taking place in Bosnia at the height of the battles between the Nazis and Tito's partisans in 1943. According to Eli Rosenbaum
Eli Rosenbaum
Eli M. Rosenbaum was the director of the U.S. DOJ Office of Special Investigations , which was primarily responsible for identifying and deporting Nazi war criminals, from 1995 to 2010, when OSI was merged into the new Human Rights and Special Prosecution Section...

, in 1944, Waldheim reviewed and approved a packet of anti-Semitic
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

Propaganda is a form of communication that is aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position so as to benefit oneself or one's group....

 leaflets to be dropped behind Soviet lines, one of which ended, "enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over."


In 1945, Waldheim surrendered to British forces in Carinthia
Carinthia (state)
Carinthia is the southernmost Austrian state or Land. Situated within the Eastern Alps it is chiefly noted for its mountains and lakes.The main language is German. Its regional dialects belong to the Southern Austro-Bavarian group...

, 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
Foreign relations of Austria
The 1955 Austrian State Treaty ended the four-power occupation and recognized Austria as an independent and sovereign state. In October 1955, the Federal Assembly passed a constitutional law in which "Austria declares of her own free will her perpetual neutrality." The second section of this law...

 in 1945, after finishing his studies in law at the University of Vienna
University of Vienna
The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world...

. 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
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 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
Austrian People's Party
The Austrian People's Party is a Christian democratic and conservative political party in Austria. A successor to the Christian Social Party of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is similar to the Christian Democratic Union of Germany in terms of ideology...

, 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
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 as United Nations Secretary-General
United Nations Secretary-General
The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat of the United Nations, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations....

 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
United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body. It is the principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment, and development issues....

 (Santiago, April 1972), the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment
United Nations Conference on the Human Environment
The United Nations Conference on the Human Environment was an international conference convened under United Nations auspices held in Stockholm, Sweden from June 5–16, 1972...

 (Stockholm, June 1972), the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (Caracas, June 1974), the World Population Conference (Bucharest, August 1974) and the World Food Conference
World Food Conference
The first World Food Conference was held in Rome in 1974 by the United Nations under the auspices of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization , in the wake of the devastating famine in Bangladesh in the preceding two years....

 (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
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...


On September 11, 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin
Idi Amin
Idi Amin Dada was a military leader and President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979. Amin joined the British colonial regiment, the King's African Rifles in 1946. Eventually he held the rank of Major General in the post-colonial Ugandan Army and became its Commander before seizing power in the military...

 sent a telegram to Waldheim, copies of which went to Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

 and Golda Meir
Golda Meir
Golda Meir ; May 3, 1898 – December 8, 1978) was a teacher, kibbutznik and politician who became the fourth Prime Minister of the State of Israel....

. 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." 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." 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."

Waldheim was re-elected in 1976 despite some opposition. Waldheim and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter
James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr. is an American politician who served as the 39th President of the United States and was the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, the only U.S. President to have received the Prize after leaving office...

 both prepared written statements for inclusion on the Voyager Golden Record
Voyager Golden Record
The Voyager Golden Records are phonograph records which were included aboard both Voyager spacecraft, which were launched in 1977. They contain sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth, and are intended for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for...

s, now in deep space. He was the first Secretary-General to visit North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

, in 1979. In 1980 Waldheim flew to Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

 in an attempt to negotiate the release of the American hostages
Iran hostage crisis
The Iran hostage crisis was a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in Tehran in support of the Iranian...

 held in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

, but Ayatollah Khomeini refused to see him. 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
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

 also organized a series of concerts for the People of Kampuchea
Concerts for the People of Kampuchea
Concerts for the People of Kampuchea is a double album from Wings, The Who, Queen, Elvis Costello, The Pretenders, The Clash, The Specials, and many more artists of the highlights from the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea held at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, England to raise money for the...

 to help Cambodia
Cambodia , officially known as the Kingdom of Cambodia, is a country located in the southern portion of the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia...

 recover from the damage done by Pol Pot
Pol Pot
Saloth Sar , better known as Pol Pot, , was a Cambodian Maoist revolutionary who led the Khmer Rouge from 1963 until his death in 1998. From 1976 to 1979, he served as the Prime Minister of Democratic Kampuchea....

. The People's Republic of China vetoed Waldheim's candidature for a third term, and he was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Pérez de Cuéllar y de la Guerra is a Peruvian diplomat who served as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1, 1982 to December 31, 1991. He studied in Colegio San Agustín of Lima, and then at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú. In 1995, he ran unsuccessfully...

 of Peru
Peru , officially the Republic of Peru , is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean....


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
Austrian presidential election, 1986
Presidential elections were held in Austria on 4 May 1986 with a second round on 8 June 1986. Kurt Waldheim, former Secretary-General of the United Nations was elected...

, Alfred Worm
Alfred Worm
Alfred Worm was an Austrian journalist, author and university professor.-Career:...

 revealed in the Austrian weekly news magazine Profil
Profil (magazine)
profil is an Austrian news magazine. It was founded in 1970 by Oscar Bronner, who also founded the magazine Trend and the daily newspaper Der Standard....

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
World Jewish Congress
The World Jewish Congress was founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in August 1936 as an international federation of Jewish communities and organizations...

 alleged that Waldheim had lied about his service as an officer in the mounted corps of the SA
The Sturmabteilung functioned as a paramilitary organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party . It played a key role in Adolf Hitler's rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s...

, and his time as an ordnance officer for Army Group E
Army Group E
Army Group E was a German Army Group active during World War II.Army Group E was created on 1 January 1943 from the 12th Army...

 in Saloniki, Greece, from 1942 to 1943 based in files from the United Nations War Crimes Commission
United Nations War Crimes Commission
The United Nations War Crimes Commission was a commission of the United Nations that investigated allegations of war crimes committed by the Nazi Germany and its allies in World War II.The Commission began its work at the behest of the United States and the other Allied nations in 1943, prior to...

. Waldheim called the allegations "pure lies and malicious acts". 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." He said that he had never fired a shot or even seen a partisan. His former immediate superior at the time stated that Waldheim had "remained confined to a desk". Former Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky
Bruno Kreisky
Bruno Kreisky was an Austrian politician who served as Foreign Minister from 1959 to 1966 and as Chancellor from 1970 to 1983. Aged 72 at the end of his chancellorship, he was the oldest acting Chancellor after World War II....

 denounced the actions of the World Jewish Congress as an "extraordinary infamy" 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
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 were Austrians and Austria became part of the Third Reich
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

). Austria refused to pay compensation to Nazi victims and from 1970 onwards refused to investigate Austrian citizens who were senior Nazis. Stolen Jewish art remained public property until well after the Waldheim affair.

Because the revelations leading to the Waldheim affair came shortly before the presidential election, there has been speculation about the background of the affair.

Declassified CIA documents show that the CIA had been aware of his war-time past since 1945. Some sources report information about Waldheim's wartime past was also previously published by a right wing Austrian newspaper during the 1971 presidential election campaign - including the claim of an SS membership - but the matter was supposedly regarded as unimportant or even advantageous for the candidate at that time.

It has been asserted that his war-time past and the discrepancies in his biography, "In the Eye of the Storm", must have been well known to both superpowers before he was elected UN secretary and there were rumors that the KGB had blackmailed him during his UN time.

In 1994, self-proclaimed former Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

 officer Victor Ostrovsky
Victor Ostrovsky
Victor John Ostrovsky is an author, artist and former katsa for the Israeli Mossad . He authored two non-fiction books about his service with the Mossad: By Way of Deception, a New York Times No. 1 bestseller in 1990, and The Other Side of Deception several years later...

 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
Benjamin Netanyahu
Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu is the current Prime Minister of Israel. He serves also as the Chairman of the Likud Party, as a Knesset member, as the Health Minister of Israel, as the Pensioner Affairs Minister of Israel and as the Economic Strategy Minister of Israel.Netanyahu is the first and, to...

 in the UN file, and triggered the "Waldheim Affair". Ostrovsky says it was motivated by Waldheim's criticism of Israeli action in Lebanon. Controversy surrounds Ostrovsky and his writings and some of his claims are disputed. Many of them have not been verified from other sources, and critics such as Benny Morris and author David Wise have charged that the book is essentially a novel.

The International Committee of historians and allegations of Nazi War Crimes

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.

In an account of the controversy, Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal
Simon Wiesenthal KBE was an Austrian Holocaust survivor who became famous after World War II for his work as a Nazi hunter....

 stated that Waldheim was stationed 5 miles from Salonika while, over the course of several weeks, the Jewish community which formed one third
History of the Jews of Thessaloniki
The history of the Jews of Thessaloniki, Greece, reaches back two thousand years.The city of Thessaloniki housed a major Jewish community, mostly of Sephardic origin, until the middle of the Second World War...

 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."

Wiesenthal stated the committee found no evidence that Waldheim took part in any war crimes, but was guilty of lying about his military record. 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.

Term of presidency 1986–1992

Throughout his term as president (1986–1992), Waldheim and his wife Elisabeth were officially deemed personae non gratae
Persona non grata
Persona non grata , literally meaning "an unwelcome person", is a legal term used in diplomacy that indicates a proscription against a person entering the country...

by the United States. In 1987, they were put on a watch list
Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System
The Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System is a counter-terrorism system in place in the United States air travel industry...

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
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 and some communist states.

Later years and death

After his term ended in 1992, Waldheim did not seek reelection. The same year, he was made an honorary member of K.H.V. Welfia Klosterneuburg, a Roman Catholic student fraternity
A Studentenverbindung is a student corporation in a German-speaking country somewhat comparable to fraternities in the US or Canada, but mostly older and going back to other kinds of...

 that is a part of the Austrian Cartellverband
Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen
The Cartellverband der katholischen deutschen Studentenverbindungen or Cartellverband is a German umbrella organization of Catholic male student fraternities .-Foundation:...

 (ÖCV). In 1994, Pope John Paul II awarded Waldheim a knighthood in the Order of Pius IX
Order of Pius IX
The Order of Pius IX , also referred as the Pian Order , is a Papal order of knighthood founded on 17 June 1847 by Pope Pius IX.-Classes:The Order comprises five classes:...

 and his wife a papal honor. He died on June 14, 2007, from heart failure. On June 23, his funeral was held at St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, and he was laid to rest at the Presidential Vault in the Zentralfriedhof
The Zentralfriedhof is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, largest by number of interred in Europe and most famous cemetery among Vienna's nearly 50 cemeteries.-Name and location:...

 (Central Cemetery).
In his speech at the Cathedral, Federal President Heinz Fischer
Heinz Fischer
Heinz Fischer GColIH is the President of Austria. He took office on 8 July 2004 and was re-elected for a second and last term on 25 April 2010. Before he took office, Fischer was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Austria...

 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.
At Waldheim's own request, no foreign heads of states or governments were invited to attend his funeral. Hans-Adam II
Hans-Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein
Hans-Adam II , is the reigning Prince of Liechtenstein. He is the son of Franz Joseph II, Prince of Liechtenstein and his wife Countess Georgina von Wilczek . He also bears the titles Duke of Troppau and Jägerndorf, Count of Rietberg...

, the Prince of Liechtenstein
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a doubly landlocked alpine country in Central Europe, bordered by Switzerland to the west and south and by Austria to the east. Its area is just over , and it has an estimated population of 35,000. Its capital is Vaduz. The biggest town is Schaan...

, a neighbouring country of Austria, was the only one to be present. Also present was Luis Durnwalder
Luis Durnwalder
Luis Durnwalder is a politician of Italy, governor of the multilingual autonomous province of South Tyrol, and vice-president of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, in Northern Italy.- Biography :Durnwalder was born in Pfalzen...

, governor of the Italian province of South Tyrol
South Tyrol
South Tyrol , also known by its Italian name Alto Adige, is an autonomous province in northern Italy. It is one of the two autonomous provinces that make up the autonomous region of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. The province has an area of and a total population of more than 500,000 inhabitants...

. Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 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.

Media references

  • W. G. Sebald
    W. G. Sebald
    W. G. Maximilian Sebald was a German writer and academic. At the time of his death at the age of 57, he was being cited by many literary critics as one of the greatest living authors and had been tipped as a possible future winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature...

    's novel The Rings of Saturn (1995; English trans., 1998) refers to Waldheim, though not by name.
  • As a much-heralded invited guest on Dame Edna Everage
    Dame Edna Everage
    Dame Edna is a character created and played by Australian dadaist performer and comedian, Barry Humphries, famous for her lilac-coloured or "wisteria hue" hair and cat eye glasses or "face furniture," her favorite flower, the gladiola and her boisterous greeting: "Hello Possums!" As Dame Edna,...

    's talk show The Dame Edna Experience
    The Dame Edna Experience
    The Dame Edna Experience is a British television comedy talk-show hosted by Dame Edna Everage . It ran for twelve regular episodes on ITV, plus two Christmas specials. The first seven aired for the first time in 1987, the next seven in 1989...

    , 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 Howard Stern Show is called Guess Who's the Jew and features Fred Norris
    Fred Norris
    Eric Fred Norris is an American radio personality known for being the longest-tenured staff member of The Howard Stern Show aside from Stern himself...

     portraying a Nazi Kurt Waldheim, Jr.
  • Musician Lou Reed
    Lou Reed
    Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed is an American rock musician, songwriter, and photographer. He is best known as guitarist, vocalist, and principal songwriter of The Velvet Underground, and for his successful solo career, which has spanned several decades...

    's 1988 "New York" album contains a song called "Good Evening Mr. Waldheim."
  • Harry Turtledove
    Harry Turtledove
    Harry Norman Turtledove is an American novelist, who has produced works in several genres including alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy and science fiction.- Life :...

    's 2003 alternate history novel, In the Presence of Mine Enemies
    In the Presence of Mine Enemies
    In the Presence of Mine Enemies is an alternate history novel by American author Harry Turtledove, expanded from the eponymous short story. The novel depicts a world where the United States remained isolationist and did not participate in the Second World War, thus allowing victory to the Axis...

    , in which Germany won the Second World War, a "Kurt Haldweim" is the third Führer
    Führer , alternatively spelled Fuehrer in both English and German when the umlaut is not available, is a German title meaning leader or guide now most associated with Adolf Hitler, who modelled it on Benito Mussolini's title il Duce, as well as with Georg von Schönerer, whose followers also...

     of Germany, and parts of Haldweim's biography closely parallel Waldheim's.
  • In a 1988 ice hockey
    Ice hockey
    Ice hockey, often referred to as hockey, is a team sport played on ice, in which skaters use wooden or composite sticks to shoot a hard rubber puck into their opponent's net. The game is played between two teams of six players each. Five members of each team skate up and down the ice trying to take...

     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
    The Million Pound Radio Show
    The Million Pound Radio Show was a long-running radio programme written by and featuring Nick Revell and Andy Hamilton that aired on Britain's BBC Radio 4...

    , Andy Hamilton
    Andy Hamilton
    Andrew Neil Hamilton is a British comedian, game show panellist, television director, comedy screenwriter and radio dramatist.-Early life:...

     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
    The New Statesman
    The New Statesman is an award-winning British sitcom of the late 1980s and early 1990s satirising the Conservative government of the time...

    , aired in 1989, Alan B'Stard (Rik Mayall
    Rik Mayall
    Richard Michael "Rik" Mayall is an English comedian, writer, and actor. He is known for his comedy partnership with Ade Edmondson, his over-the-top, energetic portrayal of characters, and as a pioneer of alternative comedy in the early 1980s...

    ) attempts to blackmail an aged former Nazi officer, who complains that, "it's not fair; I'm living here in the tripe
    Tripe is a type of edible offal from the stomachs of various farm animals.-Beef 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 978-0-14-013019-5

External links

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