Nov. 29 (UPI) — Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee whose family fled Nazi Germany when he was teen and later grew up to be one of the most influential diplomats in U.S. history, has died at the age of 100.
Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut, according to a statement by his consulting firm.
Kissinger is perhaps best known for serving as U.S. secretary of state from 1973 to 1977 under the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. He was also the leaders’ national security adviser.
Born Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923, in the Bavarian city of Fürth, he spent the first 15 years of his life growing up in Germany, much of that under Nazi rule. Facing growing racial segregation in their home country, the Jewish Kissinger family fled Germany in 1938, eventually settling in New York City.
Once in the United States, his name was changed to Henry, and he worked at a factory during the day while attending high school at night. He attended City College of New York to study accounting, but his education was interrupted by World War II.
Kissinger was drafted in 1943 into the U.S. Army, where he achieved the rank of sergeant. Because of his proficiency in German, he served in intelligence in the 84th Infantry Division and saw action in the Battle of the Bulge in Europe.
Kissinger left the Army in 1946 with a Bronze Star and a naturalized citizen. Back in the United States, he attended Harvard University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in political science, as well as a master’s and a doctorate.
He began his career as part of the faculty in Harvard’s government department, specializing in national security, foreign policy and nuclear weapons. He entered politics in the 1960s, serving as a foreign policy adviser to Nelson Rockefeller in his multiple presidential bids.
Nixon made Kissinger his national security adviser in 1969 and his secretary of state in 1973. Kissinger served in both capacities under Nixon and Ford, playing prominent roles in opening up relations with China and the Soviet Union.
He also helped bring about the end of the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East and negotiated the United States’ withdrawal from the Vietnam War, for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
Kissinger published 21 books and memoirs throughout his life, including On China, Diplomacy, White House Years and his most recent, World Order.
Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger, and his children from a previous marriage — Elizabeth Kissinger and David Kissinger, and five grandchildren.
A memorial service to honor Kissinger will be held in New York City at a later date. He will be interred at a private family service.