Kurt Waldheim, former UN Secretary-General and president of Austria, has died. He was 88.

He was Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1972 to 1981, and President of Austria from 1986 to 1992.

Kurt Waldheim was born in a village near Vienna in December 1918, the son of a Catholic school inspector.

Shortly after the German annexation of Austria in 1938, he applied for membership in the National Socialist German Students' League, a division of the Nazi party. Shortly afterwards he became a registered member of the mounted corps of the SA.

In early 1941 he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and sent to the Eastern Front where he served as a squad leader. Later in 1941 he was apparently wounded, and subsequent events became the subject of a major controversy later in his career.

Kurt 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 later became Ambassador to Canada, and Permanent Representative of Austria to the UN.

For two years beginning in 1968, he was the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs in Austria for the Austrian People's Party, before going back to the UN in 1970.

He was defeated in the Austrian presidential elections in 1971, but was then elected to succeed U Thant as UN Secretary-General the same year.

He was re-elected in 1976 despite some opposition. In 1981, his bid for a third term was blocked by a veto by China, and he was succeeded by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar of Peru.

His was elected President of Austria in June 1986.

Later that year, the Austrian weekly news magazine Profil revealed that there had been several omissions in his autobiography.

It was revealed that he had lied about his service as an officer in the mounted corps of the SA, and his time as an ordnance officer in Saloniki in Greece from 1942 to 1943. Eventually, he was accused of being either involved or complicit in war crimes.

Throughout his term as president, Mr Waldheim and his wife Elisabeth were 'personae non gratae' to many countries. In 1987, they were banned from entering the US.

An international committee of historians reported that there was evidence that he had knowledge about preparation for war crimes, but none of any personal involvement in those crimes.

During the controversy, Dr Waldheim was defended by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal, who was severely criticised for this move.