(1923 - )
Henry Alfred Kissinger, who served as Secretary of State
under Presidents Nixon and Ford, seemed to be the invisible president
during those eight years. Foreign and domestic leaders sought him for
guidance and advice or blamed him for the American policy failures.
Born on May 27, 1923, in the Bavarian city of Fuerth, he
was the second son of Paula (Stern) and Louis Kissinger. The elder
Kissinger was a school teacher and after Hitler's rise to power, the family
immigrated to London in 1938. After a short stay, they moved to Washington
Heights in New York City. Kissinger attended high school at night and he
worked in a shaving brush factory during the day. While attending City
College of New York, in 1943, he was drafted into the Army and became a
German interpreter for the 970th Counter-intelligence Corps. When Germany
surrendered in May 1945, Kissinger held various positions in the military
After his discharge, he went to Harvard, where he earned
his B.A. Degree SUMMA CUM LAUDE in 1950. He then went on to earn his M.A.
and his Ph.D. by 1954. He used his doctoral thesis as a basis for his first
book, A World Restored: Castlereagh, Metternich and the Problems of
Peace (Boston, 1957), where he saw history as a struggle between
revolutionary and conservative forces.
By 1962, he became a professor at Harvard University and
he associated himself with the Council on Foreign Relations and with
Governor Nelson Rockerfeller. He wrote a book, Nuclear Weapons and
Foreign Policy (New York, 1957), in which he took the position that
America's survival and victory depended not only on its strength, but also
on its ability to recognize and fight aggression In all of its forms. The
publication of this book established his reputation.
When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968,
Kissinger was brought into the administration, later to become Secretary of
State. During the presidencies of Nixon and Ford, he emerged as a very
powerful man. Kissinger initiated shuttle diplomacy, played a major role in
negotiating the Middle East peace treaty,
and in negotiating a Vietnam peace treaty after many ups and downs in the
fighting. He initiated detente with the Russians and established relations
Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1973.
He shared this award with Le Duc Tho, a North Vietnamese peace negotiator.
Henry Alfred Kissinger has always been the target of political criticism
for he had the courage to follow-up on what he thought was the best course
to take at the given time. Time will place Henry Alfred Kissinger in his
proper place in American history.
In 1977, President Gerald Ford awarded Kissinger the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the U.S.'s highest civilian honor.
Sources: This is one of the 150 illustrated true stories of American heroism included in Jewish Heroes & Heroines of America : 150 True Stories of American Jewish Heroism, © 1996, written by Seymour "Sy" Brody of Delray Beach, Florida, illustrated by Art Seiden of Woodmere, New York, and published by Lifetime Books, Inc., Hollywood, FL.