Kurt Waldheim : biography
Throughout his term as President (1986–1992), Kurt Waldheim and his wife Elisabeth were officially deemed personae non gratae by the United States. In 1987, they were put on a watch list of persons banned from entering the United States and remained on the list even after the publication of the International Committee of Historians’ report on his military past in the Wehrmacht.
Military service in World War II
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 later returned to service. His further service in the Wehrmacht from 1942 to 1945 was subject of the international dispute 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 in addition to marrying in 1944. Documents and witnesses which have since come to light reveal that Waldheim’s military service continued until 1945, and that he rose to the rank of Oberleutnant, and confirmed that he married in 1944 and graduated with a law degree from the University of Vienna in 1945.
Service in Yugoslavia and Greece
His functions within the staff of German Army Group E from 1942 until 1945, as determined by the International Commission of Historians,see page 39 of The Waldheim Report. Submitted 8 February 1988 to Federal Chancellor Dr. Franz Vranitzky were:
- Interpreter and liaison officer with the 5th Alpine Division (Italy) in April/May 1942, then,
- O2 officer (communications) with Kampfgruppe West in Bosnia in June/August 1942,
- Interpreter with the liaison staff attached to the Italian 9th Army in Tirana in early summer 1942,
- O1 officer in the German liaison staff with the Italian 11th Army and in the staff of the Army Group South in Greece in July/October 1943 and
- O3 officer on the staff of Army Group E in Arksali, Kosovska Mitrovica and Sarajevo from October 1943 to January/February 1945.
By 1943 he was serving in the capacity of an ordnance officer in Army Group E which was headed by General Alexander Löhr.Walther-Peer Fellgiebel (2000), Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939-1945. Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 3-7909-0284-5 In 1986, Waldheim said that he had served only as an interpreter and a clerk and had no knowledge either of reprisals against Serb civilians locally or of massacres in neighboring provinces of Yugoslavia. He said that he had known about some of the things that had happened, and had been horrified, but could not see what else he could have done.
Much historical interest has centered on Waldheim’s role in Operation Kozara in 1942. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred yards of Waldheim’s office, and just 35 km away at the Jasenovac concentration camp. Waldheim later stated "that he did not know about the murder of civilians there."
Waldheim’s name appears on the Wehrmachts "honor list" of those responsible for the militarily successful operation. The Nazi puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, awarded Waldheim the Medal of the Crown of King Zvonimir in silver with an oak branches cluster. Decades later, during the lobbying for his election as U.N. Secretary General, Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito awarded Waldheim one of the highest Yugoslav orders.
Waldheim denied that he knew war crimes were taking place in Bosnia at the height of the battles between the Nazis and Tito’s partisans in 1943. According to Eli Rosenbaum, in 1944, Waldheim reviewed and approved a packet of anti-Semitic propaganda leaflets to be dropped behind Soviet lines, one of which ended, "enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over."Rosenbaum, EM with Hoffer W, Betrayal: The Untold Story of the Kurt Waldheim Investigation and Cover-Up St. Martin’s Press, 1993, ISBN 0-312-08219-3, p. 338