He was born in Fürth, Germany on 27th May, 1923 to Jewish parents, Louis Kissinger (1887-1982), a schoolteacher, and Paula Stern (1901-1998), homemaker. His family fled to London to escape from the Nazis 1938. From London, they went to New York in September, the same year. He was neutralized as an American citizen on 19th June, 1943. He completed his schooling from the George Washington High School, which was a night school. During the day, he worked in a shaving-brush factory. He was shy during childhood, due to which he was hesitant to speak. This might have been the reason he never lost his German accent. He was a student of the City College, New York. During this time, in 1943, he got a call to serve in the army. He received his training at the Clemson University in South Carolina. He became a German interpreter for the 970th Counter Intelligence Corps. Gradually, he rose up to the rank of a sergeant. After the war, he remained in Europe as a civilian instructor at the European Command Intelligence School, Camp King.
He attended the Harvard College, where he received a BA degree, Summa Cum Laude, in 1950. In 1952 and 1954, the Harvard University presented him with MA and Ph.D. degrees. "Peace, Legitimacy, and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich)" was his dissertation title for Ph.D.
Kissinger was a member of the Harvard faculty from 1954-1971. He was involved both, in the department of Government and the Center for International Affairs. In 1955-1956, he served as the Study Director, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, for the Council of Foreign Relations. He was also the Director of the Special Studies Project for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, from 1956 to 1958. He then, held the post of Associate Director of the Center from 1957 to 1960.
With an ambition to influence the US foreign policy, he entered politics and became an advisor to the Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller. When Richard Nixon came to power, he appointed Kissinger as the National Security Advisor in 1968, and later as the Secretary of State in 1973.
During the Nixon administration, Kissinger was directly involved in matters related to China, Soviet Union, Vietnam, and the Middle East. The United States supported Pakistan during the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971, under the guidance of Kissinger. He played a vital role in establishing an agreement between the two warring nations. Kissinger and North Vietnamese Politburo member, Le Duc Tho, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for playing a key role in settling the Vietnam Conflict. Although, Tho declined the honor, stating that peace had still not been restored in Vietnam, Kissinger accepted the award "with humility".
Kissinger then served under President Gerald Ford. He was offered a chair at Columbia University in 1977, shortly after he retired from office. As soon as this news leaked out, a human rights group made war crime accusations on Kissinger for his role in the Cambodian Bombings, Vietnam, illegal ordering of domestic wiretaps of the National Security Council staff, and for supporting the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. Due to immense pressure both, the University and Kissinger decided against the proposed appointment, and Kissinger took up a less prestigious, teaching and researching assignment in the Georgetown University.
He married Ann Fleischer in 1949, and they have two children Elizabeth and David. Kissinger and Ann divorced in 1964. He later remarried Nancy Maginnes in 1974. He was also linked to a number of high-profile women, like Babara Walters, Gina Lollobrigida, Joanna Barnes, Marlo Thomas, Persis Khambatta, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Candice Bergen, Samantha Eggar and Jill St. John, between 1964 and 1973.
Few Quotes by Henry Kissinger
- (Soldiers are) dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns for foreign policy.
- I watched myself on German television, so that I could finally speak without an accent. And I heard myself speaking with a Swedish accent!
- Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.
- The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.