Kurt Waldheim

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Kurt Waldheim : biography

21 December 1918 – 14 June 2007

Surrender

In 1945, Waldheim surrendered to British forces in Carinthia, at which point he said he had fled his command post within Army Group E, where he was serving with General Löhr, who was seeking a special deal with the British.

Diplomatic career

Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945, after finishing his studies in law at the University of Vienna. He served as First Secretary of the Legation in Paris from 1948, and in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Vienna from 1951 to 1956. In 1956 he was made Ambassador to Canada, returning to the Ministry in 1960, after which he became the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in 1964. For two years beginning in 1968, he was the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs in Austria serving for the Austrian People’s Party, before going back as Permanent Representative to the U.N. in 1970. Shortly afterwards, he ran and was defeated in the 1971 Austrian presidential elections.

United Nations Secretary-General

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 U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (Santiago, April 1972), the U.N. Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm, June 1972), the third UN Conference on the Law of the Sea (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 overshadowed by the diplomacy of then U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

On 11 September 1972, Ugandan dictator Idi Amin sent a telegram to Waldheim, copies of which went to Yasser Arafat and Golda Meir. In the telegram, Amin "applauded the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich and said Germany was the most appropriate locale for this because it was where Hitler burned more than six million Jews."Israeli-Ugandan Relations in the Time of Idi Amin by Arye Oded, Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006) Amin also called "to expel Israel from the United Nations and to send all the Israelis to Britain, which bore the guilt for creating the Jewish state."http://www.jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DRIT=5&DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=625&PID=1631&IID=1643&TTL=Israeli-Ugandan_Relations_in_the_Time_of_Idi_Amin Among international protest "the UN spokesman said [in his daily press conference] it was not the secretary-general’s practice to comment on telegrams sent him by heads of government. He added that the secretary-general condemned any form of racial discrimination and genocide."

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. He was the first Secretary-General to visit North Korea, in 1979., TIME, 28 May 1979 article. Retrieved 1 December 2008. 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. The People’s Republic of China vetoed Waldheim’s candidature for a third term, and he was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru.