Kissinger, Henry (Heinz) Alfred

(b. 1923)
   US Secretary of State. As President Nixon’s assistant for national security affairs, Kissinger achieved world fame by negotiating the Vietnam War settlement concluded in 1973 and by paving the way for Nixon’s historic visits to Peking and Moscow in 1972. This was followed by his dramatic role in arranging a ceasefire in the Israel-Arab war of October 1973 and promoting negotiations. This professor with thick glasses who was appointed in 1973 the first Jewish or foreign-born US Secretary of State rose from unlikely beginnings. His boyhood in the Bavarian town of Fuerth was spent in the shadow of the Nazi regime. As Jews, he and his brother were thrown out of a state school and their father dismissed from his teaching post. In 1938, when Henry was fifteen, the family left Germany and settled in New York. He worked as a delivery boy in a shaving brush factory, learned English and went to night classes. He graduated from high school with straight As.
   Henry was drafted in 1943 and served in Germany as an interpreter, then as administrator of a civilian district with the rank of sergeant. After the war he was at Harvard as a student and then a faculty member, climbing the academic ladder to a professorship of government in 1962. He became a respected ‘defence intellectual’ and his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (1957) had a marked impact. It was followed by such other analytical studies as The Necessity of Choice (1961) and The Troubled Partnership (1965), a reappraisal of the Atlantic Alliance.
   Kissinger had served as a consultant to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson before accepting the full-time White House job in 1968. His working relations with Nixon were remarkably close. He had complete access to the president and spent daily periods with him. He described his basic function as defining the range of options on different issues, and projecting the probable consequences of each, bringing to bear on this task a broad and perceptive grasp of world affairs, the ‘unearthly clarity of his thinking’ (as one commentator put it), and a relentless devotion to work. His prolonged contacts with North Vietnam representatives, his secret trips to China and Russia before the official Nixon visits, and the rapid shuttling between Washington, Paris, Moscow, Peking, Hanoi and Saigon that preceded the Vietnam agreement constituted an exercise in personal diplomacy on a global scale.
   He was also an important agent in the negotiation of a peace settlement in the Middle East after the Yom Kippur War. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Medal of Liberty in 1986. Among his later publications, his memoirs, entitled White House Years, For the Record and Years of Upheaval appeared in 1979, 1981 and 1982. Kissinger was divorced from his German-Jewish wife, who kept custody of their two children.

Who’s Who in Jewish History after the period of the Old Testament. . 2012.

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