Kurt Waldheim (born December 21, 1918) is an Austrian diplomat and politician. He was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981 and Federal President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.
Born at St. Andrä-Wördern near Vienna and educated at the University of Vienna, Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service in 1945, serving as First Secretary of the Legation in Paris from 1948, and in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Vienna from 1951. In 1956 he was made Ambassador to Canada, until going back to the Ministry in 1960, after which he became the Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in 1964. From 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 UN in 1970. He was defeated in the Austrian presidential elections in 1971, but successfully negotiated the election to succeed U Thant as United Nations Secretary-General, in 1972, and was re-elected in 1976 despite some opposition. In 1981 his attempt for a third term was blocked by a veto by China, and he was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar.
Unsuccessfully Waldheim had sought to be elected President of Austria in 1971, but a second attempt on June 8, 1986 proved successful despite revelations that he had served as an officer in the SA, a German party unit before the war, but probably serving as Translator for a unit that had committed war atrocities in Yugoslavia, during World War II 1943. An investigation cleared him from allegations of having been a war criminal, but nonetheless he would not seek re-election in 1992.
For the length of his term (1986-1992), he was deemed persona non grata by many countries (e.g., he was put on the "US-Watchlist" of people barred from entering the United States) so that during the 6 years he made almost no state visits. A notable exception was Vatican City, which he visited twice during his term.
In 1945, he surrendered to the English in Carinthia, at which point he said he had fled his command (Heeresgruppe D) where he was serving with General Löhr, which was seeking a special deal with the British.
In 1947, he joind the Austrian foreign office of the government, which later became the Austrian Foreign Service.
No allegations of involvement in war crimes were publicly known prior to and during his terms as United Nations Secretary-General. Media reports in 1983 revealed that the Soviet Union implicated him through captured German archives at the beginning of his first term. They used this information to blackmail him. His second term as Secretary General was heavily anti-American as per the Soviet Union's prodding.
His memoirs, mainly about his time as head of the UN Secretariat, was published in 1985 under the title In the Eye of the Storm.