United Nations History/Kurt Waldheim
Who was he?[edit | edit source]
Kurt Josef Waldheim (21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007) was an Austrian diplomat and politician. Waldheim was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992. While running for President in Austria in 1985, his service as a Wehrmacht intelligence officer during World War II raised international controversy.
Service in World War II[edit | edit source]
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 returned to service later on. 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. Later documents and witnesses would come to light revealing that Waldheim’s military service continued until 1945, while it is correct that he graduated from the University of Vienna in 1945 receiving a law degree and that he married in 1944.
As Secretary General[edit | edit source]
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 United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Santiago, April 1972), the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, June 1972), the Third United Nations 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 over shadowed by the diplomacy of then US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. In a 1976 security council debate he 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."
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. 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. 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.
When Waldheim sought a third Secretary-General term, the People's Republic of China used their veto powers to block this development. He was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru.
Ostrovsky claims[edit | edit source]
In 1994 the 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 the reason was Waldheim's criticism of Israeli action in Lebanon. Controversy surrounds Ostrovsky and his writings and the veracity of his writings is widely disputed, with some intelligence experts arguing The Other Side of Deception should be viewed as a novel rather than a work of non-fiction.