Waldheim, Kurt Josef, born 21-12-1918 in Sank Andra-Wordern, near Vienna, Austria, the eldest child of Walter Watzlawik, a schoolmaster of Czech origin, and his wife Josefine Petrasch. Watzlawick (original Czech spelling Václavík) changed his name to “Waldheim” that year as the Habsburg monarchy collapsed and eventually rose to become superintendent of schools for the Tulln District, attaining the rank of Regierungsrat (government councillor). Active in the Christian Social Party, he was well regarded as a devoutly Catholic family man. Kurtand his two younger siblings, a brother, Walther, and a sister, Gerlinde, enjoyed a comfortable middle-class upbringing. From his youth, Waldheim was distinguished by his unusual height of 1.92 m (6 ft 4 in). As a gymnasium student in Klosterneuburg, he excelled at languages and was a competent violinist in the school orchestra, also enjoying swimming, boating and tennis. Although his father wanted him to study medicine, Waldheim had an aversion to the sight of blood, and had already decided to enter the foreign service. In March 1936, the Kurt Schuschnigg
government passed a law mandating a period of military service for prospective civil servants. Consequently, following his graduation Waldheim volunteered for a 12-month term of enlistment in the Austrian Army, and was posted to the 1st Dragoon Regiment on his 18th birthday. In the autumn of 1937, now an army reservist, Waldheim entered the prestigious Consular Academy in Vienna on a scholarship, where he began his studies in law and diplomacy. Along with his family, Waldheim opposed the German annexation of Austria in 1938, and while actively campaigning against it in Vienna was attacked and injured by Austrian Nazis. Following the annexation, Waldheim’s father was briefly arrested by the Gestapo and dismissed from his post, while Waldheim’s scholarship was cancelled. He managed to continue his studies by working as a Latin and Greek tutor and borrowing funds from relatives.
Shortly after the German annexation of Austria in 1938, a 20-year old Waldheim applied for membership in the National Socialist German Students’ League (NSDStB), a division of the Nazi Party in Austria. Shortly thereafter he became a registered member of the mounted corps of the SA. 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.
Waldheim (2nd from left), with Italian Army Corps General Ercole Roncaglia (on his right), Wehrmacht Colonel, laterGeneral Siegfried Macholz, commander of the Division Nr. 192 (on his left) and SS General Artur Gustav Martin Phleps (with briefcase) at Podgorica airfield in Montenegro during Case Black, 22-05-1943. This photograph caused much controversy when it was published while Waldheim was running in the 1986 Austrian presidential election. Phleps was missed in action since 22-09-1944, age 62. General Macholz survived the war and died 25-05-1975 (aged 84) in Hanover, Germany
On 19-08-1944, Waldheim had married Elisabeth Ritschel in Vienna; their first daughter, Lieselotte, was born the following year. A son, Gerhard, and another daughter, Christa, followed.
By 1943, Waldheim was serving in the capacity of an aide-de-camp in Army Group E which was headed by General Alexander Löhr,
who would be executed as a war criminal in 1947. In 1986, Waldheim said that he had served only as an interpreter and a clerk and had no knowledge either of reprisals against local Serb civilians 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 centred on Waldheim’s role in Operation Kozara in 1942. According to one post-war investigator, prisoners were routinely shot within only a few hundred metres (yards) of Waldheim’s office, and 35 kilometres (22 mi) 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 Wehrmacht’s “honour 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 President Josip Broz Tito, who had led the Yugoslav Partisans during the war, awarded Waldheim one of the highest Yugoslav orders, not knowing the details of his prior military service. 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, Eli Rosenbaum an American lawyer and the former Director of the United States Department of Justice, Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which was primarily responsible for identifying, denaturalizing, and deporting Nazi war criminals, from 1994 to 2010, when OSI was merged into the new Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section. Eli is now the Director of Human Rights Enforcement Strategy and Policy in that section. He has been termed a “legendary Nazi hunter.”
Waldheim reviewed and approved a packet of antisemitic propaganda leaflets to be dropped behind Soviet lines, one of which ended: “Enough of the Jewish war, kill the Jews, come over.”
In 1945, Waldheim surrendered to British forces in Carinthia, at which point he said he had fled his command post within Army Group E Alexander Löhr, one of three former Austrians who rose the rank of Generaloberst, was executed, age 61, on 26-02-1947, for his role as the commander of the Luftwaffe units involved in the bombing of Belgrade in 1941. The Army Group E participated in anti-partisan operations in Greece and Yugoslavia. During the course of these operations, several atrocities were committed, including the massacres of Kalavryta and Distomo in Greece. In total, nearly 1200 (actual memorial in Kalvrita names every one) civilians were killed during the reprisals of Operation Kalavryta. Twenty-eight communities—towns, villages, monasteries and settlements—were destroyed. In Kalavryta itself about 1,000 houses were looted and burned, and more than 2,000 livestock seized by the Germans. Furthermore, during the disarmament of the Italian army in September 1943, German troops executed over 5,000 Italian prisoners of war in the Cephallonia Massacre. At the same time, the Army Group successfully repelled the British attempt to seize the Italian-occupied Dodecanese Islands. In 1985, in his autobiography, Waldheim 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. In 1945 Waldheim joined the Austrian diplomatic service and served as First Secretary of the Legation in France (1948-1951) and head of the personnel department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (1951-55). This was followed by diplomatic posts in Canada (1956-60) and as head of the Political Department in the Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs (1960-62). In 1964 Waldheim became Austria’s permanent representative to the United Nations. He held this post for over four years and during this period served as chairman of the Committee of the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. Waldheim returned to Austria in 1968 to take up the post of Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was followed by the post as Chairman of the Safeguards Committee of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In 1972 Waldheim became Secretary-General of the United Nations . He held the post for nine years and during this period he made several visits in an attempt to bring an end to military and political conflict. This included South Africa, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Jordan, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Vietnam. Waldheim was elected as president of Austria in 1986. Soon after his victory it was revealled that during the World War II Waldheim was a Nazi intelligence officer who was involved in the transportation of Jews to concentration camps. This information was partly responsible for Waldheim being defeated in 1992. The US Justice Department published a report in 1994 confirmed that Waldheim had been involved in atrocities against Jews, civilians and Allied soldiers during the war.
Death and burial ground of Waldheim, Kurt Josef.
Kurt Waldheim died at the age of 88, of heart failure on 14-06-2007 in Vienna and is buried on the Central cemetery in Vienna.
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