Henry Alfred Kissinger (//; German: ; born Heinz Alfred Kissinger, May 27, 1923) is an American statesman, political scientist, diplomat and geopolitical consultant who served as the United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. A Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938, he became National Security Advisor in 1969 and United States Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest. Kissinger later sought, unsuccessfully, to return the prize after the ceasefire failed.
A practitioner of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with the People's Republic of China, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger has also been associated with such controversial policies as U.S. involvement in a military coup in Chile and U.S. support for Pakistan during the Bangladesh War despite a genocide. After leaving government, he formed Kissinger Associates, an international geopolitical consulting firm. Kissinger has been a prolific author of books on diplomatic history and international relations with over one dozen books authored.
He remains a controversial figure in recent American history. Some journalists, activists, and human rights lawyers have condemned Kissinger as a war criminal. In a 2014 survey, many scholars and foreign policy experts ranked Henry Kissinger as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State since 1965.
Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, in 1923 during the Weimar Republic, to a family of German Jews. His father, Louis Kissinger (1887–1982), was a schoolteacher. His mother, Paula (Stern) Kissinger (1901–1998), from Leutershausen, was a homemaker. Kissinger has a younger brother, Walter Kissinger (born 1924). The surname Kissinger was adopted in 1817 by his great-great-grandfather Meyer Löb, after the Bavarian spa town of Bad Kissingen. In youth, Heinz enjoyed playing soccer, and played for the youth wing of his favorite club, SpVgg Fürth, which was one of the nation's best clubs at the time. In 1938, when Kissinger was 15 years old, fleeing Nazi persecution, his family briefly emigrated to London, England, before arriving in New York on September 5.
Kissinger spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan as part of the German Jewish immigrant community that resided there at the time. Although Kissinger assimilated quickly into American culture, he never lost his pronounced German accent, due to childhood shyness that made him hesitant to speak. Following his first year at George Washington High School, he began attending school at night and worked in a shaving brush factory during the day.
Following high school, Kissinger enrolled in the City College of New York, studying accounting. He excelled academically as a part-time student, continuing to work while enrolled. His studies were interrupted in early 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.
Kissinger underwent basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina. On June 19, 1943, while stationed in South Carolina, at the age of 20 years, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. The army sent him to study engineering at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, but the program was canceled, and Kissinger was reassigned to the 84th Infantry Division. There, he made the acquaintance of Fritz Kraemer, a fellow Jewish immigrant from Germany who noted Kissinger's fluency in German and his intellect, and arranged for him to be assigned to the military intelligence section of the division. Kissinger saw combat with the division, and volunteered for hazardous intelligence duties during the Battle of the Bulge.