Shortly before 1986, Waldheim published an autobiography. During his campaign to become president in 1986, it became public that some statements in that biography were not true. These were about his past. Waldheim was an officer for Germany in the Second World War. He rose to be an oberleutnant in the Wehrmacht. 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 meters (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".
There was a commission of several historians who looked at the issue. They did find that Waldheim had behaved as he should have done. He did not commit any war crimes. However, in his role of an officer, he must have known about the deportation of about 40.000 Jews into concentration camps. These transports, as well as the shooting of soldiers were a clear breach of law.
Because of this, he was not allowed to travel to the United States any more.
In 1990, he had a success: Saddam Hussein held several foreigners as hostages at the start of the Second Gulf War. When Waldheim heard this, he personally went to Baghdad. Through talks he could get Saddam to release the Austrian and the Swiss hostages. (both countries are neutral)
On June 14, 2007, Waldheim died of heart failure. At the time of his death he was the oldest living former Secretary-General of the United Nations and the oldest living former President of Austria.
- Kandell, Jonathan (15 June 2007). "Kurt Waldheim". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
Waldheim took part in, and was decorated for, Operation Kozara, a large-scale antipartisan operation involving mass reprisals – at the rate of 100 executions for every German killed – and mass deportations of Serb women and children to concentration camps.
- Casey, Dennis (1 May 2005). "Kurt Waldheim: man of mystery". Spokesman Magazine. Archived from the original on 19 November 2011. https://web.archive.org/web/20111119100320/http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0QUY/is_2005_May/ai_n15387360/pg_2/?tag=content%3Bcol1.
- Reports: Ex-UN Chief Waldheim Dead at 88