chapter  1
34 Pages

The Impact of Waldheim

In Austria’s 1986 presidential election campaign, the diplomat and former secretary general of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim was running as the Conservative Party (ÖVP) candidate. Hoping to boost the fortunes of their own candidate, who was trailing in the polls, the Socialists (SPÖ) passed information about Waldheim’s membership in the German Wehrmacht to the media. This triggered an international media campaign in which Waldheim was accused of concealing his wartime past. The somewhat ill-advised engagement of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) in the debate only served to heat up countercriticism in Austria. Although the fi rst ballot did not yield a clear winner, Waldheim was elected in a runoff (see e.g., Gehler 1996).