Kurt Waldheim

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Kurt Waldheim (born December 21, 1918) is an Austrian diplomat and conservative politician. He was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and Federal President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.

Born at St. Andr-Wrdern near Vienna, Waldheim served as a German military officer during World War II. In 1945, he surrendered to British forces in Carinthia, at which point he said he had fled his command (Heeresgruppe D), where he was serving with General Lhr, who was seeking a special deal with the British. Questions were later raised about Waldheim's truthfulness as to his World War II service (see "The Waldheim Affair," below).

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. He was defeated in the Austrian presidential elections in 1971, but was then elected to succeed U Thant as United Nations Secretary-General the same year (Video of Kurt Waldheim sworn in as UN-Secretary-General (http://www.aeiou.at/aeiou.film.data.film/o430a.mpg)). He was re-elected in 1976 despite some opposition. In 1981, his bid for a third term was blocked by a veto by China, and he was succeeded by Javier Prez de Cullar of Peru.

The Waldheim affair

Waldheim had unsuccessfully sought election as President of Austria in 1971, but his second attempt on June 8, 1986 proved successful. 1986 also marked the beginning of what became known as the Waldheim affair. Before the presidential elections, the Austrian weekly newsmagazine Profil revealed that there had been several omissions about Waldheim's life between 1938 and 1945 in his recently-published autobiography. A short time later, it was revealed that Waldheim had lied about his service as an officer in the SA-Reitercorps (stormtroopers), a paramilitary unit of the NSDAP (Nazi Party) before the war, and his time as an ordinance officer in Saloniki, Greece from 1942 to 1943. It is known and documented that many crimes against civilians were committed during the military occupation of Greece. Instead, Waldheim had incorrectly stated that he was wounded and had spent the last years of the war in Austria. Speculation grew, and Waldheim was accused of being either involved, or complicit, in "war crimes".

Throughout his term as President (1986-1992), Waldheim was deemed persona non grata by many countries. In 1987, he was put on a "watch list" of people barred from entering the United States). In six years he made almost no state visits, notable exceptions being Vatican City, which he visited twice during his term, and the Near East.

Because of the ongoing international controversy, the Austrian government decided to appoint an international committee to examine Waldheim's life between 1938 and 1945. Ultimately, the committee found no evidence of Waldheim's involvement in war crimes, but its final report stated that he must have known more than he was now willing to admit.

Waldheim's behaviour reflects a characteristic feature of how many Austrians have dealt with their Nazi history: denial or unwillingness to take responsibility for their actions. Waldheim famously defended himself by saying, Ich habe im Krieg nichts anderes getan als hunderttausende sterreicher auch, nmlich meine Pflicht als Soldat erfllt (I did not do anything different than hundreds of thousands of Austrians during the war, I just fulfilled my duty as a soldier).

Miscellaneous

His memoirs, mainly about his time as U.N. Secretary-General, was published in 1985 under the title Im Glaspalast der Weltpolitik (English: In the Eye of the Storm).

Waldheim and then-U.S. President Jimmy Carter both prepared statements for inclusion on the Voyager Golden Records. The spacecraft carrying the records are now in deep space, and will probably endure long after the Sun and Earth are gone.


Template:End boxda:Kurt Waldheimde:Kurt Waldheimes:Kurt Waldheimfr:Kurt Waldheimhe:קורט ולדהייםja:クルト・ヴァルトハイムnl:Kurt Waldheimno:Kurt Waldheimpl:Kurt Waldheimfi:Kurt Waldheimsv:Kurt Waldheim
Preceded by:
Lujo Tončić-Sorinj
Foreign Minister of Austria
19681970
Succeeded by:
Rudolf Kirchschlger
Preceded by:
U Thant
UN Secretary-General
19721981
Succeeded by:
Javier Prez de Cullar
Preceded by:
Rudolf Kirchschlger
President of Austria
1986–1992
Succeeded by:
Thomas Klestil
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