Bending with the Winds: Kurt Waldheim and the United Nations

Bending with the Winds: Kurt Waldheim and the United Nations

Bending with the Winds: Kurt Waldheim and the United Nations

Bending with the Winds: Kurt Waldheim and the United Nations

Synopsis

How could a man with a past mired in Nazi membership and alleged involvement in war crimes become Secretary General of the United Nations, an organization dedicated not only to the maintenance of peace but also to the preservation and advancement of human rights? Bending with the Winds is the result of Finger and Saltzman's exploration of that question. Hundreds of confidential telegrams and in-depth interviews, including some with Waldheim himself, provide a basis for study of his performance. This broad discussion leads to a search for a new procedure of choosing a Secretary General.

Excerpt

In 1986 the world was startled by revelations that Kurt Waldheim, former secretary general of the United Nations, had served with German army units in the Balkans in World War II and had been charged with war crimes. These disclosures were more widely disseminated in the United States than in any other country, with the possible exception of Austria. In their treatment of the issue these two countries represented opposite poles. In the United States the media lambasted Waldheim both for his wartime record and for having hidden it. Opponents of the United Nations seized upon the news to discredit the organization itself rather than the major governments, like the United States, which made his election possible. By contrast, the Austrian media were mostly sympathetic to him, citing extenuating circumstances.

Waldheim's subsequent election as president of Austria suggested that these disclosures did not faze the Austrian people. In fact, criticism from abroad aroused a certain chauvinism, seeming to spur the need to defend a fellow Austrian against foreign attacks. The fact that the main instigator of the research that led to the revelations was the World Jewish Congress sparked an antiSemitism that had never receded far below the surface. This reaction, in turn, evoked memories abroad of the tumultuous welcome . . .

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