Henry Kissinger became the most reviled and admired statesman of his time. Whatever his secret weapon might have been, it wasn't loyaltyby Ferdinand Mount / October 15, 2015 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Fürth is a small, sooty industrial town in Franconia, next to Nuremberg. Its Jewish population had been as high as 20 per cent in the late 19th century, but by May 1923 when Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born, the Jews of Fürth were a smaller, closeknit community, fiercely patriotic and loyal to the Weimar Republic which was struggling with hyperinflation. The Kissingers were Orthodox and Heinz was a devout boy. A cousin remembers going for a stroll with him outside their “eruv,” the real or symbolic boundary encircling the Jewish community beyond which, on the Sabbath, they were not allowed to carry anything in their hands or pockets, and Heinz reminding him of this and the two boys taking their handkerchiefs out of their pockets and tieing them to their wrists.
Only a few miles from this peaceful, cloistered world were the searchlights of the monstrous rallies. By 1932, unemployment in Fürth had reached 50 per cent. A year later, Hitler came to power, and the communists in Fürth were all rounded up and taken to Dachau. In 1934, Julius Streicher was made an honorary citizen of Fürth; in his acceptance speech, he promised that “if another war comes, all the Jews in Franconia will be shot, because the Jews were responsible for the last war.” Yet it was not until August 1938, justbefore the unmistakable crash of Kristallnacht, that the four Kissingers fled to New York. Dozens of their wider family stayed behind to be murdered.
Only six years later, Heinz, now Henry, Kissinger was back on German soil as a sergeant in the US 84th Division, and newly enrolled as an American citizen after enlisting. He briefly endured some of the worst fighting on the Siegfried Line, as did another New Yorker, JD Salinger. But with his native German, Henry was soon plucked out of combat to sift the unregenerate Nazis from those potential collaborators who might help in the rebuilding work.