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  • What nationality was Henry Kissinger? Place of birth, ethnicity and Jewish ancestry explored
Henry Kissinger (Image via Surajit Dasgupta/X)

What nationality was Henry Kissinger? Place of birth, ethnicity and Jewish ancestry explored

Henry Kissinger, a former national security adviser and secretary of state under the Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford administrations, expired aged 100 at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday, Nov. 29.

Kissinger, a German-born American diplomat, geopolitical consultant and author, was widely regarded as a controversial and influential man responsible for shaping the US foreign policy during the Cold War under Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.


Kissinger’s realpolitik approach to foreign policy issues led critics to label him a war criminal after he and President Richard Nixon conducted a carpet bombing campaign against Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

However, the accusations did not stymie his influence, as he continued to be feted as a celebrity by generations of leaders. Despite withdrawing from power in 1976, he was consulted by political leaders for years.


Henry Kissinger's early life explored


Henry Kissinger was born in Fuerth, Germany, in 1923 to devout middle-class Jewish parents. Kissinger’s family fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and arrived in New York, where they joined the German-Jewish community.

After becoming a US citizen in 1943, Kissinger, who never lost his native Bavarian accent, was drafted into the army serving three years in military intelligence. Kissinger, who quickly climbed through the ranks, joined Counter Intelligence, where he was given implicit power to hunt down former Gestapo officers.

Shortly after returning to the United States in 1947, he studied political science at Harvard and obtained a master's degree and a PhD. Henry Kissinger taught international relations at Harvard in 1957 before President Richard Nixon appointed him national security adviser in 1969.


In 1957, he also published a book, Nuclear War and Foreign Policy, where he rationalized using missiles to win a war. Kissinger also criticized Americans' anti-war movement and believed that a more pragmatic approach was the way forward.

World reacts as polorazing US diplomat Henry Kissinger dies aged 100

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While global leaders paid tribute to the former US Secretary of State, he also drew sharp criticism from social media, where he was widely called a war criminal who left a trail of bloodshed in his wake.

Kissinger’s death drew divisive reactions from people across the world. George Bush, who often sought Henry Kisisnger’s counsel, in a statement said:

“I have long admired the man who fled the Nazis as a young boy from a Jewish family, then fought them in the United States Army. When he later became Secretary of State, his appointment as a former refugee said as much about his greatness as it did America’s greatness.”
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However, Chile’s Ambassador to the United States, Juan Gabriel Valdes, wrote on X (formerly called Twitter):

“A man has died whose historical brilliance never managed to conceal his profound moral misery.”

Meanwhile, Leaders of Kissinger's native country Germany from where he fled the Nazis as a teen, paid tribute to the former diplomat, praising his commitment as a foreign policy adviser.

Edited by
Anushree Madappa
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