Kurt Waldheim

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Kurt Waldheim (1971)Kurt Waldheim's signature

Kurt Josef Waldheim (born December 21, 1918 in St. Andrä vor dem Hagenthale , Lower Austria ; † June 14, 2007 in Vienna ) was an Austrian diplomat and non-party politician . He was an officer in the Wehrmacht during the Nazi era . He began his professional career as a diplomat. From 1968 to 1970 he was Austria's Foreign Minister, from 1972 to 1981 Secretary General of the United Nations and from 1986 to 1992 Federal President of Austria. As a result of the Waldheim affair, in which he was accused of involvement in war crimes or knowledge of such, he fell into international isolation.



Kurt Waldheim was born as the son of a teacher and school inspector, who was originally called Václavik, in St. Andrä-Wölker near Vienna. He attended the Stiftsgymnasium Klosterneuburg . During this time he was involved in the founding of the Catholic Austrian secondary school association Comagena Tulln in the Mittelschüler-Kartell-Verband (MKV) as a founding fox. From 1937 to 1938 he was an external listener at the Vienna Consular Academy (graduation in 1939) and then began studying law .

military service

After graduating from high school in 1936, Waldheim volunteered for the armed forces and was trained as a reserve officer in the cavalry until August 31, 1937 . After the "Anschluss" of Austria , he was called up by the German Wehrmacht in August 1938 and took part in the occupation of the Sudetenland after the ratification of the Munich Agreement as a soldier in the 11th Cavalry Regiment of Wehrkreis XVII (Vienna) in Stockerau . In October 1938 he was retired. While still at the consular academy , Waldheim joined SA- Reiterstandarte 5/90 on November 18, 1938 . He denied membership in the NS Student Union (NSDStB) and in the SA, which were recorded on his military record card , in 1986 after they became known.

On August 23, 1939, Waldheim was drafted again and first went through an officer course at the Krampnitz cavalry and armored troop school near Potsdam . After the invasion of Poland , he worked for two years in Reconnaissance Department 45 of the 45th Infantry Division, which was mainly recruited from Austrians, and was platoon leader there . He took part in the campaign in the west (May and June 1940) and until spring 1941 in the occupation of France. From June 1941 he took part in the German-Soviet War and was seriously wounded in the leg near Oryol . Here he received the Iron Cross II. Class and the Eastern Medal . He was nursed to health near Vienna until March 6, 1942 and then declared fit for duty again. On March 14, 1942, he was transferred to the High Command of the 12th Army in the Balkans.

From March 22, 1942 he was part of the Bader Combat Group in this army and served as an interpreter for the Italian 5th Mountain Division (Pusteria) at its headquarters in Pljevlja , Montenegro . At that time this fought together with the German 12th Army against Yugoslav partisans and was on the side of the Ustascha in the establishment of the vassal state of the Axis powers called " Independent Croatia " (NDH). On May 28, 1942, the Bader Combat Group was disbanded. Waldheim was then transferred to Kampfgruppe West Bosnia and was stationed at the headquarters in Banja Luka from June . During this time, this combat group led a retaliatory campaign against partisans. After its completion, on July 22, 1942, Waldheim was awarded the Order of King Zvonimir's Crown in Silver with Oak Leaves by the Ustasha regime in Croatia “for brave fighting under enemy fire”.

On August 28, 1942, the combat group West Bosnia was disbanded. Waldheim became a member of the General Staff of the 12th Army in Arsakli near Saloniki in northern Greece under Colonel General Alexander Löhr . During a study leave from November 19, 1942 to March 31, 1943, he was promoted to lieutenant in December 1942 . From April to July 1943 he was a liaison officer of the Italian 9th Army near Tirana in Albania. From July 19 to October 4, 1943 he was first officer ("O1") of the General Staff for "special tasks" near Athens. The headquarters had moved there since the end of July 1943. From October 1943 to April 1945 Waldheim was the third aide ( "O3") in the Department of reconnaissance (Ic / AO) of the high command of the 12th Army, which now Army Group E said. On January 1, 1944, he received the War Merit Cross, 2nd class with swords, and on April 20, 1945, the 1st class with swords. During this time Waldheim took part in staff meetings, prepared reports on the enemy situation and reports on the interrogation of prisoners of war. He also had knowledge of war crimes and deportations to concentration and extermination camps . Authority he did not have.

During a study leave from February 25 to April 16, 1944, he completed his dissertation at the University of Vienna on the subject of The Imperial Idea under Konstantin Frantz , thereby earning his doctorate in law . On August 19, 1944, Waldheim married Elisabeth Ritschel in the Karlskirche in Vienna . There were three children from this marriage.

At the end of April 1945 the General Staff of Army Group E moved to Zagreb . Waldheim gave various details about his whereabouts at the end of the war on May 8, 1945: He claims to have been near Trieste or Villach in southern Austria. On May 9, 1945 he was released from the Wehrmacht.

Diplomatic service

From Trieste, Waldheim returned to Carinthia at the end of the war. Shortly after his return, he joined the Austrian diplomatic service. From 1945 to 1947 he took part in the negotiations for the Austrian State Treaty in Paris, London and Moscow, which came into force on May 15, 1955.

In his denazification procedure, which he went through in 1946, Waldheim stated that he had "only been purely sporting" with the SA equestrian standard. Waldheim became secretary to Foreign Minister Karl Gruber in 1947 . At that time, the Foreign Minister knew that Waldheim was a member of the SA equestrian standard during the Nazi era (Heinrich Wildner: Gruber wants to save him ).

From 1948 he worked as the embassy secretary in Paris and, on his return, headed the personnel department of the Austrian Foreign Ministry as a legation counselor. When Austria was admitted to the UN in 1955, he took part in the General Assemblies as a member of the Austrian delegation. From 1956 to 1960 he was Austria's ambassador to Canada. After having been a permanent observer at the UN from 1955 to 1956 , he represented Austria there from 1964 to 1968 and from 1970 to 1971 as ambassador . In the meantime from 1960 to 1962 he headed the West Department in the Foreign Ministry in Vienna and then the Political Department until 1964. In May 1965 he was elected chairman of the Outer Space Committee (OSC) of the UN.

Foreign Minister

In January 1968 the incumbent Austrian Chancellor Josef Klaus appointed him to his government as Foreign Minister. In this position he dealt with the difficult problem of the South Tyrol issue and the regulations of Austria's economic relations in the common European market. With Italy he succeeded in building a solid relationship of trust to settle the disputed issues. In this context, he was involved in the implementation of the South Tyrol Package in 1972 , which granted the German-speaking population in the Italian province of South Tyrol rights of autonomy. Kurt Waldheim was also confronted with the situation during the Prague Spring in 1968. At that time he gave the order to close the embassy in Prague and not to accept any refugees. The ambassador at the time, later Federal President Rudolf Kirchschläger , ignored this and issued visas to all those wishing to leave the country.

Since the parliamentary elections in Austria in 1970 were won by the SPÖ, Kurt Waldheim resigned from the position of Foreign Minister. As early as 1971 he was a candidate for the federal presidential election . But he was defeated in the elections in April 1971 against the incumbent Franz Jonas with 47.2% of the vote. In the same year his first book The Austrian Way was published. From isolation to neutrality at Molden Verlag in Vienna.

UN Secretary General

Kurt Waldheim as Secretary General. Tapestry , gift from the Islamic Republic of Iran , UN headquarters , New York City

In October 1970 Waldheim was again appointed permanent representative of Austria to the UN in New York. During this time he also returned to chair the space committee. On December 21, 1971, on his 53rd birthday, the UN Security Council decided to elect him to succeed the incumbent UN Secretary General Sithu U Thant . He was elected the following day and held that office for two five-year terms, from 1972 to 1981. On January 1, 1972, he took up the post of UN Secretary General. Here he pursued a "quiet, preventive diplomacy" and extremely busy traveling. This took him to South Africa, among other places, to hold talks about the difficult situation in Namibia. In June 1972 he mediated the critical Cyprus issue and in July spoke out against the US bombing of North Vietnam. This angered Kurt Waldheim in the United States. He also incurred the wrath of Israel and the United States when he defended Yasser Arafat's appearance at the UN General Assembly in November 1974. This was followed by UN resolutions 332 (April 21, 1973: condemnation of Israeli military aggression against Lebanon ), 452 (July 20, 1979: condemnation of Israeli settlement policy in occupied territories) and UN resolution 3379 (1975). The latter condemned Zionism as racism , but was withdrawn in 1991.

In February 1973 Kurt Waldheim demonstratively took part in the international security conference for Vietnam. In July of the same year he addressed the Conference for European Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). The Yom Kippur War also fell during his tenure in 1973, which ended with a US- negotiated ceasefire after the Syrian and Egyptian attacks were pushed back by Israeli forces . Sharp criticism of the behavior of Waldheim and the UN Security Council during the war continues to this day. Above all because of the negative attitude of the Soviet Union to an immediate ceasefire, the latter initially did not condemn the attack on Syria and Egypt and only after the war had turned in favor of Israel demanded "stop the fire immediately".

When the two space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched into space in 1977 , the data disk Voyager Golden Record was installed on board . In addition to music, image and audio information, this also contains a spoken greeting from Kurt Waldheim as UN Secretary General. His second publication, The World 's Most Difficult Job , was published in 1978. Here he summarized the experiences and political statements he had made in the office of the UN Secretary-General.

His application for a third term was overturned in December 1981 by a veto by the People's Republic of China . After serving at the top of the United Nations, Waldheim accepted a visiting professorship in international relations at Georgetown University in Washington, DC . The "Action Council of Former Heads of State and Government for International Cooperation" appointed him in 1983 as its first chairman.

Federal President

In 1985 Waldheim was nominated as a candidate of the ÖVP for Federal President . At about the same time he published a third book about his time as UN Secretary General with the title Im Glaspalast der Weltpolitik ; This also contains an autobiographical chapter about his time before 1945, but no information about his activities in the German Wehrmacht from 1942 to 1945. Various journalists then researched this phase of his life. Eight weeks before the election date on May 4, 1986, the news magazine Profil , the New York Times and the World Jewish Congress (WJC) announced from March 1986 that Kurt Waldheim was a member of the SA and NSDStB in the 1930s and later in the During the war he worked temporarily under General Friedrich Stahl and then in the General Staff Löhrs , whose army units had committed serious war crimes. The suspicion that Waldheim might have contributed to this preoccupied the Austrian and international media very intensively. They found and published more and more details about Waldheim's wartime and mixed them up with false, half-true and / or speculative claims. Waldheim initially denied his SA and NSDStB membership, any knowledge of the deportation of Jews and any involvement in prisoner interrogations. His supporters and the ÖVP spoke of a " dirt bucket campaign " led by the WJC and relied on a solidarity effect on the part of the Austrians. So he was able to win the runoff election on June 8, 1986.

After he took office on July 8, 1986, the international discussion about his Nazi past did not ebb away. Even more, it increasingly burdened Austria's international relations. For example, several ambassadors stayed away from the date of his inauguration. In April 1987 the USA put Kurt Waldheim on their “watch list” for undesirable persons, which in fact amounted to a travel ban for him as Federal President. Therefore, from this point onwards, he was no longer invited by any western state and received only a few state visits, mostly from the Eastern Bloc , as well as invitations from some Arab and Islamic states. His own visits abroad, such as a papal audience (July 1987), a visit to the Middle East region (November 1987) and a visit to Saddam Hussein in 1990 on the occasion of the successful liberation of 97 Austrians and Swiss held hostage, were accompanied by violent protests. The relationship between Austria and Israel remained strained until 1992.

In June 1987 the Austrian government set up an international commission of historians, which until February 1988 found Waldheim to have “no personal culpable conduct” and “no involvement in war crimes”, but his precise knowledge of it. He allegedly made it easier to commit some crimes, for example through his "enemy situation reports". He also tried to "let his military past be forgotten and, as soon as that was no longer possible, to play it down." Waldheim refused to resign and declared on March 11, 1988 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the " Anschluss " Many Austrians complicit in Nazi crimes. On June 5, 1988, an international television tribunal chaired by Judge Sir Frederick Lawton acquitted him of allegations of involvement in war crimes. On July 1 of the same year he himself withdrew his lawsuit against the chairman of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) Edgar M. Bronfman , who had called him “part of the Nazi killing machine”. The "Spiegel" also apologized in October 1988 because of the unprovable accusation that he "was an accomplice". But Kurt Waldheim remained isolated until the end of his tenure in 1992, a lonely man in the Vienna Hofburg - as individual journalists have characterized him. Domestically, too, he achieved very little and in 1991 decided not to run again. The Waldheim affair caused an intensified confrontation with the Nazi era in Austria . In the following 20 years, a number of claims for compensation from victims of National Socialism were recognized.

Death and burial

Waldheim's grave in the Vienna Central Cemetery

Kurt Waldheim died at the age of 88 on June 14, 2007 in Vienna due to cardiovascular failure . Shortly before his death, he again admitted mistakes in dealing with allegations during the Waldheim affair and asked his critics for a reconciliation . On June 23 President held Heinz Fischer of the deceased Cardinal under Christoph Schönborn celebrated Requiem in Vienna's St. Stephen's a eulogy.

“Kurt Waldheim deserves to be honored in its entirety for his life's work and to put out of dispute what cannot be disputed. Therefore, even today - and especially today - I stick to the statement that I made 15 years ago, in July 1992 as President of the National Council in the Federal Assembly on the occasion of Kurt Waldheim's departure from the position of Federal President. Namely the statement that the person and the Federal President Kurt Waldheim were wronged when he was accused of actions, including war crimes, that he did not commit. [....] Kurt Waldheim became a projection screen for guilty conscience in connection with our dealings with the Nazi era and with failures in post-war history. "

- Federal President Heinz Fischer : funeral speech for Kurt Waldheim, June 23, 2007

Waldheim was buried in the presidential crypt in Vienna's central cemetery. At the personal request of the deceased, no foreign state guests were invited. The highest-ranking foreign state guest at the funeral was the Liechtenstein Prince Hans Adam II.

Elisabeth Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim's widow Elisabeth died at the age of 95 on February 28, 2017 and was buried on March 9, 2017 in the presidential crypt in Vienna's central cemetery. Former Federal President Heinz Fischer praised the deceased as a “brave woman”, “who has stood by her husband's side for more than six decades, even in difficult times”. You have fulfilled your tasks in an exemplary manner.

Civil awards


  • The Austrian way. From isolation to neutrality. Molden Verlag Vienna 1971, ISBN 3-217-00239-3 .
  • The hardest job in the world. The UN - the best of all opportunities. Molden Verlag Vienna 1978, ISBN 3-442-11236-2 .
  • In the glass palace of world politics. Econ, Munich 1985, ISBN 3-430-19453-9 .
  • The answer. Amalthea Signum Verlag Munich, 1996, ISBN 3-85002-371-0 .


  • Georg Tidl : Waldheim. How it really was. The story of a research . Vienna: Löcker, 2015. ISBN 978-3-85409-781-5 .
  • James Daniel Ryan: The United Nations Under Kurt Waldheim, 1972–1981 . Lanham et al .: Scarecrow Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8108-3701-3 .
  • Karl Gruber, Ralph Scheide, Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff: Kurt Waldheim's war years - a documentation . Vienna: Carl Gerold's Sohn, 1987. ISBN 3-900812-00-4 .
  • Andreas Khol, Theodor Faulhaber, Günther Ofner: The campaign. Kurt Waldheim - victim or perpetrator. Background and scenes of a case of media justice . Munich / Berlin: FA Herbig, 1987. ISBN 3-7766-1470-6 .


Web links

Commons : Kurt Waldheim  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Die Welt : Austria: Former President Kurt Waldheim is dead June 14, 2007
  2. Cf. Cohen-Rosenzweig, Waldheim , New York 1988, p. 20.
  3. Michael Wladika : On the representation of politicians and mandataries with a Nazi past in the Austrian People's Party 1945–1980. A group biographical study. Research project on behalf of the Karl von Vogelsang Institute. Vienna 2018, p. 121 ( PDF ( Memento from September 9, 2018 in the Internet Archive )).
  4. Herbert Lackner: Media: The story of a research. Article in profile online from March 18, 2006.
  5. Dietrich Strothmann : (Die Zeit, March 14, 1986): The man and his shadow. Kurt Waldheim in the election campaign and in the justification dispute
  6. Karl Gruber, Ralph Scheide, Ferdinand Trauttmansdorff (eds.): Kurt Waldheim's wartime years. A documentation. Gerold, Vienna 1987, ISBN 3-900812-00-4 , p. 34.
  7. a b James L. Collins Jr., Hans Rudolf Kurz, Jean Vanwelkenhuyzen, Gerald Fleming, Hagen Fleischer, Jehuda L. Wallach, Manfred Messerschmidt: Report of the International Commission of Historians, final consideration ( Memento of August 7, 2007 in the Internet Archive ), 8 February 1988. Also reprinted in: Michael Gehler: Die Affäre Waldheim: A case study on dealing with the Nazi past in the late eighties. In: Rolf Steininger , Michael Gehler (Hrsg.): Austria in the 20th century. A study book in two volumes. From the Second World War to the present. Böhlau, Vienna 1997, pp. 395-410.
  8. ^ Republic of Austria Parliament
  9. ^ Catalog list Austrian National Library
  10. All stations and dates of the wartime according to memoranda and statements of Waldheim, compiled and documented in: Neal M. Sher and others: The Matter of Kurt Waldheim (extended report of the Office of Special Investigations , US Department of Justice, submitted 1994, p. 21– 27; PDF; 66.0 MB)
  11. Michael Wladika : On the representation of politicians and mandataries with a Nazi past in the Austrian People's Party 1945–1980. A group biographical study. Research project on behalf of the Karl von Vogelsang Institute. Vienna 2018, p. 121 ( PDF ( Memento from September 9, 2018 in the Internet Archive )).
  12. Wildner's diary entry from February 1, 1947, quoted in: Florian Gasser: Das uncomfortable diary , in: weekly newspaper Die Zeit , Hamburg, No. 8, February 14, 2013, Austria edition, p. 15
  13. ^ The Times (June 15, 2007): Kurt Waldheim
  14. Dr. Kurt Waldheim, biography, United Nations in: https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/kurt-waldheim
  15. a b Reinhard Olt : Late satisfaction. On the death of Kurt Waldheim. In: Kurt Waldheim is dead , June 15, 2007.
  16. ^ Mitchell G. Bard: Allegations and Facts - Yom Kippur War . On The American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise website .
  17. ^ Waldheim's message on the Voyager Golden Records
  18. Sagan (Hgs): Murmurs of Earth. The Voyager Interstellar Record, New York 1978, p. 27
  19. the book was also published by Molden Verlag Vienna
  20. on the course of 1985/86: Ruth Wodak et al .: The "campaign" and the campaign with the "campaign" - the "Waldheim affair". In: Ruth Wodak, Johanna Pelikan, Peter Nowak , Helmut Gruber, Rudolf DeCilla, Richard Mitten (eds.): “We are all innocent perpetrators!” Discourse-historical studies on post-war anti-Semitism . Frankfurt am Main 1990, pp. 59–120 ( pdf )
  21. Kurt Waldheim, Biography, Internationales Biografisches Archiv Munzinger 39/2007 of September 29, 2007 in: https://www.munzinger.de/search/dokument/Kurt-Waldheim
  22. Otto M. Maschke: Search for understanding - Austria in the view of the Netherlands. In: Oliver Rathkolb and others: Seen with different eyes. International perceptions of Austria 1955–1990. Austrian national history after 1945. Vienna 2002, p. 383.
  23. Otto Pleinert: Israel's view of Austria. In: Oliver Rathkolb and others: Seen with different eyes. International perceptions of Austria 1955–1990. Austrian national history after 1945. Böhlau, Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-205-99105-2 , pp. 786–796.
  24. ^ Kurt Waldheim died , ORF, June 14, 2007.
  25. Dr. Kurt Waldheim: One last word ( Memento from July 3, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 100 kB)
  26. ^ Memorial service for Kurt Waldheim ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 31 kB)
  27. ^ "Injustice was done to Waldheim" Wiener Zeitung , June 25, 2007
  28. ^ Announcement on the ORF website from February 28, 2017
  29. See Berlin on April 7 , Chronicle Berlin.
predecessor Office successor
- Austrian Ambassador in Ottawa
Franz Matsch Permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations in New York
Heinrich Haymerle
Heinrich Haymerle Permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations in New York
Peter Jankowitsch