Henry Kissinger is a Jew

Admired and hated : Henry Kissinger celebrates his 90th birthday

With age, his thoughts wander back more and more often to childhood. Then his eyes shine. And the deep bass voice becomes livelier, for example when he talks about Fürth, where he was born in May 1923. In the years before the Nazis came to power, his parents' house was culturally and politically more oriented towards Vienna than Berlin, he recalls. The family saw themselves as "Bavarian Francs". The father was a teacher, he "would never have crossed the Maing border northwards. We went to Karlsbad, Munich and Vienna". It sounds as if the Kissingers perceived the Prussian capital as a hostile foreign country.

This world has long gone under. In 1934, at the age of 46, his father was retired because he was Jewish. Four years later the family emigrated to the USA, to the German-Jewish district of Washington Heights in New York. That saved their lives. Eleven relatives who stayed in Germany later fell victim to the persecution of the Jews. At the age of 15, Heinz Alfred became "Henry" and later one of the most admired but also most hated statesmen of his generation. To this day everyone knows who is meant when "Henry" is mentioned in foreign policy, there is no need to give a surname.

Outwardly, too, he is now approaching childhood days again. His body seems to be shrinking, the prominent head with the strict horn-rimmed glasses sinks between the shoulder blades. When he stands slightly hunched next to his wife Nancy in a tuxedo at the numerous receptions around his 90th birthday, she looks a whole head taller. It used to be only a half.

His love for Fürth stayed with him for a lifetime, as did his passion for the Greuther Fürth game association. He likes to tell how as a rascal he searched the picket fence for gaps in order to smuggle himself into the stadium - always in the hope that his club would win the German championship, as in 1926 and 1929.

A good 80 years later, he traveled after the dream again. He had promised himself and the club management that. If the game association is promoted to the Bundesliga after many unsuccessful attempts, he will be at the first home game. It didn't work until the second game at the Ronhof. At the age of 89, your health forces you to adjust your plans. This is not unusual for a man who was considered the personification of Realpolitik all his life. The hoped-for win against Schalke, which, according to Henry's forecast back then, in September 2012, should put Fürth on course for the championship, unfortunately did not materialize. He swallowed the grief over it with a sausage roll and - rather atypical of the stadium - with a glass of champagne. The down-to-earth soccer fan has long since become a VIP. Now, on his 90th birthday, it is unfortunately certain that Fürth will be relegating again. Not a nice present.

Henry Kissinger saw many life plans fail and dreams burst. When he talks about the political and personal decisions of his life at the various galas in honor of his milestone birthday, then it stands out: He does not fall into nostalgia, melancholy or cynicism. He achieved great things and was the first American born outside the United States to become Secretary of State. The political elite is now celebrating him - and their country too, because Henry's life is the top politician's variant of the career from rags to riches.

Life was tough when the Kissingers arrived in New York in 1938. The father retrained in bookbinding, the mother worked in catering. Henry and his younger brother made a living by doing jobs in a shaving brush factory and as a bakery courier. In 1943 they were drafted into the army. Henry fought against the Wehrmacht in the Ardennes and after the war headed a counter-espionage department in Germany. In 1947 he returned to the USA and studied at Harvard on a scholarship.

May 2013 was a series of honors for Kissinger. At the Atlantic Council dinner, Hillary Clinton agreed a "Happy Birthday" for him. On such occasions Henry uses a slight irony in a cheerful tone. Hillary Clinton, who handed over the State Department to John F. Kerry a few weeks earlier, he assures: "There is hope for a fulfilled life after the office." He commented on the speculation about her renewed presidential candidacy in 2016: "Four foreign ministers have become presidents." He himself was denied that, as the constitution stipulates that only people who were born in the United States can become president. "I've come up with all sorts of tricks to overcome the obstacle."

Now new: We give you 4 weeks of Tagesspiegel Plus! To home page