Kurt Waldheim

Austrian politician and diplomat (1918-2007)

Kurt Josef Waldheim (21 December 1918 – 14 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.

Kurt Waldheim
9th President of Austria
In office
8 July 1986 – 8 July 1992
ChancellorFranz Vranitzky
Preceded byRudolf Kirchschläger
Succeeded byThomas Klestil
4th Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
January 1, 1972 – January 1, 1982
Preceded byU Thant
Succeeded byJavier Pérez de Cuéllar
Personal details
Born(1918-12-21)December 21, 1918
Sankt Andrä-Wördern near Vienna, Austria
DiedJune 14, 2007(2007-06-14) (aged 88)
Vienna, Austria
Political partyAustrian People's Party
Spouse(s)Elisabeth Waldheim
Alma materUniversity of Vienna

Political career


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. He became an oberleutnant in the Wehrmacht. Waldheim participated in Operation Kozara in 1942.[1] According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were often shot within only a few hundred meters of Waldheim's office[2] and 35 kilometres (22 mi) away at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Waldheim later said, "he did not know about the murder of civilians there".[2]

A commission of several historians looked at the issue. They decided Waldheim had behaved as he should have done. They said he had not committed 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 were against the law. Thus, 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 went to Baghdad. Through talks he got Hussein to release the Austrian and the Swiss hostages. Both countries are neutral.

On June 14, 2007, Waldheim died of heart failure.[3]


  1. Kandell, Jonathan (15 June 2007). "Kurt Waldheim". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010. 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 of Serb women and children to concentration camps.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Casey, Dennis (1 May 2005). "Kurt Waldheim: man of mystery". Spokesman Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 November 2011.
  3. Reports: Ex-UN Chief Waldheim Dead at 88