Thomas Klestil

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Thomas Klestil
Thomas Klestil.jpg
10th President of Austria
In office
8 July 1992 – 6 July 2004
Chancellor Franz Vranitzky
Viktor Klima
Wolfgang Schüssel
Preceded by Kurt Waldheim
Succeeded by Andreas Khol (Acting)
Barbara Prammer (Acting)
Thomas Prinzhorn (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1932-11-04)4 November 1932
Vienna, Austria
Died 6 July 2004(2004-07-06) (aged 71)
Vienna, Austria
Nationality AustriaAustrian
Political party Austrian People's Party (ÖVP)
Spouse(s) Edith Klestil (div.)
Margot Klestil-Löffler
Religion Roman Catholicism
Klestil with Lyudmila Putina, his wife Margot Klestil-Löffler, Vladimir Putin and Koni, whilst on a visit to Russia in 2004.

Thomas Klestil (4 November 1932 – 6 July 2004) was an Austrian diplomat and politician. He was elected the tenth President of Austria (Bundespräsident) in 1992 (on 56.9% of the popular vote) and was re-elected to the position in 1998. His second—and final—term of office was due to end on 8 July 2004, but his death two days prior to his retirement from office cut his term short.

Biography until 1992

Born in Vienna to a working class family—his father worked for the tramway—Klestil went to school in Landstraße where he made friends with Joe Zawinul. He studied at the Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration and received his doctorate in 1957.[1] After entering the civil service he worked in Austria as well as abroad, for example for OECD. In 1969, he established the Austrian consulate-general in Los Angeles, where he befriended Arnold Schwarzenegger.[1] Fluent in English, Klestil was the Austrian Ambassador to the United Nations (1978–1982) and Ambassador to the United States (1982–1987) prior to his election as president.[2]


After being nominated by the conservative Austrian People's Party to run for Federal President, he succeeded Kurt Waldheim on 8 July 1992. However, in the course of his two terms of office, Klestil's alienation from his own party became increasingly obvious, so much so that there was open antagonism between Federal Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Klestil when, in 2000, the latter had to swear in the newly formed coalition government with Jörg Haider's Austrian Freedom Party.[1] Klestil, who during his election campaign had vowed to be an "active" president, repeatedly criticized the Austrian government and, in an interview with a Swiss daily given in 2003, stated that, theoretically speaking, it was in his power to dismiss the government any time he found it necessary to do so.[citation needed] As a matter of fact the Austrian Constitution does give far-reaching powers to the Federal President, but these had never been exercised by any of Klestil's predecessors.

Support of Kiryat Mattersdorf

Klestil gave his support to the development of Kiryat Mattersdorf, a Haredi Jewish neighborhood in northern Jerusalem founded by the Mattersdorfer Rav, Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld, in 1959 in memory of the Siebengemeinden (Seven Communities) of Burgenland that were destroyed in the Holocaust, Mattersdorf being one of them.[3] Ehrenfeld's son, Rabbi Akiva Ehrenfeld, who served as president of the neighborhood, established close ties with the Austrian government to obtain funding for several institutions, including a kindergarten and the Neveh Simcha nursing home. Following Klestil's official state visit to Israel in 1994, which included a side tour of Kiryat Mattersdorf, Klestil hosted Ehrenfeld at an official reception at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna on 24 January 1995.[4][5]


Klestil, who had three grown-up children by his first marriage, divorced his wife of many years shortly after his successful election campaign of 1992 and subsequently, in 1998, married work colleague Margot Löffler, the woman he allegedly was already having an affair with at the time of his election.[citation needed] In 1996 he was taken seriously ill but recovered.

Death and burial

The Austrian flag flying at half-staff before the Austrian Parliament Building, due to the death of President Thomas Klestil, on 7 July 2004.

On 5 July 2004, three days before he was to leave office, he suffered a heart attack or heart failure, probably caused by his long-term lung problems, and was left in critical condition. He died on 6 July at 23:33 local time at the AKH (Allgemeines Krankenhaus - General Hospital) in Vienna from multiple organ failure.[1] On 9 July 2004 he was interred in the presidential crypt at Vienna's Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof). Among the notable dignitaries who attended his funeral were Russian President Vladimir Putin, former Austrian President and UN Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, and the Austrian-born Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.[6] Klestil was the fifth President of Austria to die in office since 1950.

Honours and awards

Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Thomas Klestil, 71, Austrian Who Redeemed the Presidency". The New York Times. 2004-07-07. Retrieved 2009-01-09.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Diplomatic Representation for Republic of Austria". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2009-01-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Destroyed Jewish Community: Mattersdorf (Part 1)". 20 February 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Engel, Reinhard (5 February 1995). "Jerusalem rabbi visits Austria 'to create a bridge' to Vienna". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Retrieved 4 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (subscription required)
  5. Klestil, Thomas (2005). Thomas Klestil--der Verantwortung verpflichtet: Ansprachen und Vorträge 1992–2004 (in German). Verlag Österreich. p. 315. ISBN 3704647578. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Funeral held for Austrian leader". BBC News. 10 July 2004. Retrieved 25 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class received in 1998 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)

External links

Preceded by
Karl Herbert Schober
Austrian Ambassador to the United States
Succeeded by
Friedrich Hoess