- Henry Kissinger died at his Connecticut home. He was 100.
- The controversial and polarizing statesman made choices in foreign policy that impact the US today.
- He started his life in Nazi Germany before his family fled to the United States.
Dr. Henry Kissinger, scholar and former US secretary of state, died at 100 at his home in Connecticut, Kissinger Associates, Inc. said in a statement Wednesday.
The statement did not provide a cause of death.
Kissinger was born in Germany in 1923, and his family fled the Nazi regime to America in 1938.
In his time as a US Secretary of State, he dramatically shifted US relations in the Cold War, in Vietnam, and in China, though his foreign policy approaches were just as heavily critiqued as they were lauded.
In 1973, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping to broker the Paris Peace Accords, under which the US military agreed to withdraw from South Vietnam. But fighting went on for another two years, to devastating effect. In 1975, a day after the fall of Saigon, Kissinger attempted to return his prize, saying the “peace we sought through negotiations has been overturned by force,” according to recently-released nomination papers reported on by Reuters. The committee declined to take back the prize.
He is survived by his wife Nancy Kissinger, his two children, David and Elizabeth, and five grandchildren.
He rose to prominence in politics while teaching at Harvard.
John Duricka/AP Images
After studying political history and getting a Ph.D. in government studies, he began working for Harvard’s government department in the mid-1950s.
While still teaching there, Kissinger worked advising then-presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson on foreign policy decisions, per Fox5.
He was national security advisor from 1969 to 1975.
American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Right) stands next to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir (Left)
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After catching Nixon’s attention, he was appointed security advisor, and subsequently nominated for the secretary of state position in 1973, per Fox5.
For a time, he served in both roles.
He served as secretary of state from 1973 to 1977.
Henry Kissinger circa 1976 in New York City.
Getty Images / Photo by PL Gould/Images/Getty Images
For eight restless years — first as national security adviser, later as secretary of state, and for a time in the middle holding both titles — Kissinger ranged across the breadth of major foreign policy issues. He conducted the first “shuttle diplomacy” in the quest for Middle East peace. He used secret channels to pursue ties between the United States and China, ending decades of isolation and mutual hostility.
He initiated the Paris negotiations that ultimately provided a face-saving means — a “decent interval,” he called it — to get the United States out of a costly war in Vietnam. Two years later, Saigon fell to the communists.
And he pursued a policy of detente with the Soviet Union that led to arms control agreements and raised the possibility that the tensions of the Cold War and its nuclear threat did not have to last forever.
He has also been harshly criticized and called a “war criminal” for his actions.
Xi Jinping and Henry Kissinger
Kissinger was a practitioner of realpolitik — using diplomacy to achieve practical objectives rather than advance lofty ideals. Supporters said his pragmatic bent served U.S. interests; critics saw a Machiavellian approach that ran counter to democratic ideals.
He was castigated for authorizing telephone wiretaps of reporters and his own National Security Council staff to plug news leaks in Nixon’s White House. He was denounced on college campuses for the bombing and allied invasion of Cambodia in April 1970, intended to destroy North Vietnamese supply lines to communist forces in South Vietnam.
That “incursion,” as Nixon and Kissinger called it, was blamed by some for contributing to Cambodia’s fall into the hands of Khmer Rouge insurgents who later slaughtered some 2 million Cambodians.
In his later years, he continued doing business trips and book deals.
Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger speaking in October 2023, in an interview about the Gaza attack on Israel.
In 2022, when he was 99, Kissinger was still touring for his book about leadership.
ABC asked him in July of that year if he wished he could change any decisions he made previously, per AP.
“I’ve been thinking about these problems all my life. It’s my hobby as well as my occupation,” Kissinger told ABC. “And so the recommendations I made were the best of which I was then capable.”
He similarly dismissed claims of war crimes in a CBS interview shortly before his 100th birthday, according to AP. During the interview, he was asked about people who think his conduct was akin to criminal behavior or reprehensible.
“That’s a reflection of their ignorance,” Kissinger said to CBS. “It wasn’t conceived that way. It wasn’t conducted that way.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.