Kurt Waldheim

Kurt Waldheim (kŏŏrt vält´hīm), 1918–2007, Austrian diplomat, secretary-general of the United Nations (1972–81) and president of Austria (1986–92). He entered diplomatic service after World War II, serving in France and Canada. When Austria entered the United Nations in 1958, Waldheim was a member of its delegation. Austria's permanent representative to the United Nations (1964–68), he later served (1968–70) as Austria's foreign minister and lost (1971) an election for the Austrian presidency.

Elected to a five-year term as UN secretary-general in Dec., 1971, Waldheim attempted, with little success, to end the Iran-Iraq war and the China-Vietnam war and to gain the release of American hostages in Iran. He was reelected in 1976 despite Third World opposition, but was blocked from a third term by a Chinese veto in 1981. He was succeeded as secretary-general by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.

In 1986 he was elected president of Austria, despite the scandal caused by the revelation that he had been an officer in a German army unit that committed atrocities in Yugoslavia during World War II. He consistently denied any knowledge of the atrocities, and an international investigation cleared him of complicity. Nonetheless, many felt he must have known more than he revealed, and the allegations overshadowed his diplomatic and political legacy. His tenure as president was marked by international isolation, and he did not run in 1992.

See his memoir (1986) and autobiography (1999).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Bending with the Winds: Kurt Waldheim and the United Nations
Seymour Maxwell Finger; Arnold A. Saltzman; George Schwab.
Praeger, 1990
From World War to Waldheim: Culture and Politics in Austria and the United States
David F. Good; Ruth Wodak.
Berghahn Books, 1999
Political Memoirs and Negative Rhetoric: Kurt Waldheim's in the Eye of the Storm and IM Glaspalast der Weltpolitik.(In the Glass Palace of World Politics)(Critical Essay)
Vansant, Jacqueline.
Biography, Vol. 25, No. 2, Spring 2002
Nation against Nation: What Happened to the U.N. Dream and What the U.S. Can Do about It
Thomas M. Franck.
Oxford University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Kurt Waldheim begins on p. 121
From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism
Bruce F. Pauley.
University of North Carolina Press, 1992
Librarian’s tip: "The Waldheim Affair" begins on p. 310
Austria: Out of the Shadow of the Past
Anton Pelinka.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Kurt Waldheim begins on p. 191
Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism
Martin Reisigl; Ruth Wodak.
Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: "The political and historical Austrian context and the 'Waldheim Affair'" begins on p. 94
Symptoms of Modernity: Jews and Queers in Late-Twentieth-Century Vienna
Matti Bunzl.
University of California Press, 2004
Librarian’s tip: "The Specter of Waldheim" begins on p. 54
Sheathing the Sword: The UN Secretary-General and the Prevention of International Conflict
Thomas E. Boudreau.
Greenwood Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Thant and Waldheim: The Struggle Ebbs"
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