Kurt Waldheim

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Waldheim, Kurt

(ko͝ort vält`hīm), 1918–2007, Austrian diplomat, secretary-general of the United NationsUnited Nations
(UN), international organization established immediately after World War II. It replaced the League of Nations. In 1945, when the UN was founded, there were 51 members; 193 nations are now members of the organization (see table entitled United Nations Members).
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 (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 CuéllarPérez de Cuéllar, Javier,
1920–, Peruvian diplomat, secretary-general of the United Nations (1982–92). He entered the Peruvian foreign service in 1940 and served in several posts, including ambassador to the USSR (1969–71) and the United Nations
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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); R. Beckermann, dir., The Waldheim Waltz (documentary, 2018).

Waldheim, Kurt


Born Dec. 21, 1918, in Sankt Andrä-Wördern, Lower Austria. Austrian political figure and diplomat. Secretary-general of the United Nations (1972–81).

The son of a civil servant, Waldheim graduated from the Vienna Consular Academy in 1938 and from the University of Vienna, where he received a doctor of laws degree, in 1944. He entered the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945. From 1951 to 1955 he headed the personnel division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In the period 1956 to 1960, Waldheim served first as minister to Canada and then as ambassador. He was director-general for political affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1960 to 1964.

Waldheim was Austria’s permanent representative to the United Nations from 1964 to 1968 and again in 1970 and 1971. He served as minister of foreign affairs from 1968 to 1970. In 1971 he was the candidate of the Austrian People’s Party for president of Austria.

Waldheim holds honorary doctor of laws degrees from a number of foreign universities. In 1977, Waldheim was awarded an honorary degree of doctor of sciences from Moscow State University for his fruitful activities in the area of international cooperation and for his active struggle to strengthen peace and friendship among peoples.


Der Österreichische Weg [2nd ed.]. Vienna-Munich-Zürich, 1971. In Russian translation: Avstriiskii put’. Moscow, 1976.