Henry Kissinger, the Holocaust survivor who became the US’s most influential – and divisive – diplomat, has died at the age of 100.
Kissinger leaves behind a complex legacy, remembered as a master of global politics by some and an alleged war criminal by others.
Born in Bavaria, his family fled to New York City to escape the Holocaust – an experience that would go on to shape his future foreign policy work.
As President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, Kissinger was responsible for negotiating the US’s exit from the unpopular Vietnam War. He won a Nobel Peach Prize for his diplomatic work – but his legacy was then tainted when it emerged he had authorised the secret carpet-bombing of neutral Cambodia, which killed at least 150,000 civilians.
Beyond his diplomacy work, Kissinger briefly enjoyed a reputation as an unlikely ladies’ man and social butterfly in Washington DC, dating several stars of the time before marrying his second wife Nancy – who survives him.
Reaction began pouring in from political and diplomatic allies and foes after his death on Wednesday, with former president George W Bush remembering “his wisdom, his charm, and his humour”.
WATCH: Henry Kissinger, America’s most famous diplomat, dies aged 100
Henry Kissinger, America’s most famous diplomat, dies aged 100
Rachel Sharp30 November 2023 10:50
Richard Nixon’s children pay tribute to his former security adviser
Richard Nixon’s children have paid tribute to his former national security adviser after his death on Wednesday.
“Dr. Kissinger played an important role in the historic opening to the People’s Republic of China and in advancing détente with the Soviet Union, bold initiatives which initiated the beginning of the end of the Cold War,” the Nixon daughters said in a statement.
“His ‘shuttle diplomacy’ to the Middle East helped to advance the relaxation of tensions in that troubled region of the world.”
Rachel Sharp30 November 2023 10:30
How Kissinger’s escape from the Holocaust as a child shaped his future foreign policy
Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born on 27 May 1923 in Furth, Bavaria to a Jewish school teacher, Louis Kissinger, and his wife, Paula.
Growing up in the Weimar Republic, his childhood was spent living under Nazi rule.
Then, in August 1938 – shortly before Kristallnacht – a teenage Kissinger and his family fled to New York City.
While the escape saved him from the Holocaust, at least 13 of his close relatives were unable to join them and were eventually killed in the Third Reich’s concentration camps.
This experience stayed with him and he often recalled the antisemitic abuse he and his family faced during their time living in Nazi-occupied Europe.
But, there was another personal experience of the Holocaust that Kissinger rarely spoke about during his decades of public service.
Back in April 1945, while serving in the US Army, the then 22-year-old Army Sergeant was part of the American 84th Infantry Division which helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp in Ahlem.
In rare comments about that day, Kissinger went on to write: “I see the huts, I observe the empty faces, the dead eyes.
“You are free now. I, with my pressed uniform, I have lived in filth and squalor, I haven’t been beaten and kicked. What kind of freedom can I offer?
“I see my friend enter one of the huts and come out with tears in his eyes. ‘Don’t go in there. We had to kick them to tell the dead from the living.’”
Kissinger described what he saw as an embodiment of “humanity in the 20th century”
Kissinger was acutely aware that – had they not fled a few years earlier – he and his family could have been among the victims.
He would later call that day “one of the most horrifying experiences of my life”.
Rachel Sharp30 November 2023 10:13
VOICES: The death of Henry Kissinger – and why we will never see his America again
It seems highly fitting, almost poetic, that Henry Kissinger, the man who for so long embodied US foreign policy, should have died at the age of 100 in the midst of a conflict that testifies in many ways to the waning of US diplomatic power.
The arc of Henry Kissinger’s life – starting from service in the US army as a refugee from Nazi Germany, through his key role as US Secretary of State in President Nixon’s opening to China, his contribution to the Paris talks that ended the Vietnam War, and his part in negotiating the resolution of the 1973 Yom Kippur war that established the first lasting peace between Israel and the surrounding Arab countries – tracked the rise of the United States as it became the dominant, and then the sole, superpower, against the background of the Cold War.
So dominant a figure did Kissinger become, through his speaking and writing, through the advice that presidents continued to solicit, and his sheer longevity, that it is hard to believe that his formal government career actually began after the Cuban missile crisis and ended in 1977, long before the fall of the Berlin and the Soviet Union’s collapse. If he was not active in frontline diplomacy, however, his voice was still heard and his influence endured.
Rachel Sharp30 November 2023 09:48
Henry Kissinger: Polarising architect of Cold War era American foreign policy
Influential US secretary of state to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford and Nobel Peace Prize winner remembered as arch practitioner of ‘realpolitik’ who was revered and reviled in equal measure, write Ariana Baio and Joe Sommerlad:
Maroosha Muzaffar30 November 2023 08:00
ICYMI: Henry Kissinger death: Influential US diplomat, dead at 100
Henry Kissinger, the influential US diplomat who served under presidents Nixon and Ford, died on Wednesday, 29 November, according to his consulting firm.
Kissinger, who lived to be 100, died at home in Connecticut of unspecified causes, the firm said.
The diplomat, who served as Secretary of State in multiple administrations, “was a respected American scholar and statesman,” according to Kissinger Associates, Inc.
Maroosha Muzaffar30 November 2023 07:45
From our archives: Nobel Peace Prize given to Kissinger despite full knowledge Vietnam War was unlikely to end, archives show
Top US diplomat Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 despite the officials involved fully aware that the Vietnam war was unlikely to end any time in the near future.
This has come to light after newly released papers of nominations for the Peace Prize which remained a secret for 50 years. The documents were awarded on 1 January to the chief negotiator who represented Kissinger and Hanoi after a request was placed for them.
Read the full piece here:
Maroosha Muzaffar30 November 2023 07:15
Chinese state media pays tribute to Kissinger: ‘The old friend of the Chinese people’
“Today, this ‘old friend of the Chinese people,’ who had a sharp vision and a thorough understanding of world affairs, has completed his legendary life,” China News said in an obituary.
On Weibo, the hashtag “Kissinger just came to China this year” went viral. Henry Kissinger visited China more than 100 times in his lifetime and more recently in July this year.
CCTV, the state broadcaster, called Kissinger a “legendary diplomat” and a “living fossil” who had been a witness to the development of China-US relationship.
Maroosha Muzaffar30 November 2023 06:45
Anthony Bourdain’s savaging of Kissinger lights up X
“Once you’ve been to Cambodia, you’ll never stop wanting to beat Henry Kissinger to death with your bare hands,” wrote the late chef and TV travel personality.
Graeme Massie30 November 2023 06:00
Henry Kissinger ‘left an indelible mark on America’s history’
Mike Pompeo, former secretary of state, said Henry Kissinger “was a model of service and a great American” and “left an indelible mark on America’s history”.
In his tribute, Mr Pompeo added: “From the day he came to the United States as a teenager fleeing Nazi Germany, Dr Kissinger dedicated his life to serving this great country and keeping America safe. He left an indelible mark on America’s history and the world.
“I will always be grateful for his gracious advice and help during my own time as Secretary. Always supportive and always informed, his wisdom made me better and more prepared after every one of our conversations,” he wrote on X.
Maroosha Muzaffar30 November 2023 05:45