Henry Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27th, 1923, in Fürth, a city in the Bavaria region of Germany. He grew up in an Orthodox Jewish household, and during his youth he spent two hours each day attentively studying the Bible and the Talmud. As a child, Kissinger encountered anti-Semitism daily.
An avid soccer fan, he defied laws banning Jews from professional sporting events to attend matches, receiving several beatings at the hands of the stadium guards. In 1938, Kissinger’s family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York, and Kissinger’s name was changed to Henry.
Kissinger enrolled at New York’s George Washington High School, where he learned English with remarkable speed and excelled in all of his classes. In 1943, Kissinger became a naturalized American citizen and, soon after, he was drafted into the army to fight in World War II.
He married Ann Fleischer in 1949 and was divorced in 1964. There had two children, Elizabeth and David. In 1974 he married Nancy Maginnes.
He served as Study Director, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, for the Council of Foreign Relations from 1955 to 1956; Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund from 1956 to 1958; Director of the Harvard International Seminar from 1951 to 1971, and Director of the Harvard Defence Studies Program from 1958 to 1971.
Henry Alfred Kissinger was the 56th Secretary of State of the United States from 1973 to 1977, continuing to hold the position of Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs which he first assumed in 1969 until 1975.
He was a famous American political scientist, who, as adviser for national security affairs and secretary of state, was a major influence in the shaping of foreign policy from 1969 to 1976 under Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Gerald R. Ford, in 1973 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace with Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam for their efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement of the Vietnam War.
On January 23, 1973, after months of negotiations with the North Vietnamese government in Paris, he initialled a cease-fire agreement that both provided for the withdrawal of U.S. troops and outlined the machinery for a permanent peace settlement between the two Vietnams.
In 1983 President Ronald W. Reagan appointed him to head a national commission on Central America. In the 1980s he also served on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy.
On August 9, 1974, the Watergate scandal compelled President Nixon to resign, but Kissinger stayed on in his dual roles under President Gerald Ford.
Kissinger helped Ford acclimate to the international scene and both men worked to continue policies implemented by Nixon and Kissinger previously, including détente with the Soviet Union, establishing relations with the People’s Republic of China, and negotiations in the Middle East.
He has also published numerous articles on United States foreign policy, international affairs and diplomatic history. His column, syndicated by Tribune Media Services International, appears in leading newspapers in the U.S. and abroad.