1 of 12 | Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who consulted presidents from both U.S. political parties throughout the decades, is pictured in the Oval Office at the White House in 2017. Kissinger died Wednesday at the age of 100. File Photo by Molly Riley/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 29 (UPI) -- Henry Kissinger, a Jewish refugee whose family fled Nazi Germany when he was a teen and later grew up to be one of the most influential diplomats in U.S. history, has died at the age of 100.
"Dr. Henry Kissinger, a respected American scholar and statesman, died today at his home in Connecticut," his consulting firm Kissinger Associates said in a statement Wednesday.
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, and continued to consult presidents from both political parties on foreign affairs for decades.
Reaction to Kissinger's death began pouring in Wednesday night from around the world with former President George W. Bush calling him a "dependable voice."
"America has lost one of the most dependable and distinctive voices on foreign affairs with the passing of Henry Kissinger," Bush said in a statement. "He worked in the administrations of two presidents and counseled many more. I am grateful for that service and advice, but I am most grateful for his friendship. Laura and I will miss his wisdom, his charm and his humor. And we will always be thankful for the contributions of Henry Kissinger."
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Kissinger "a model of service and a great American."
"He left an indelible mark on America's history and the world," Pompeo wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter. "I will always be grateful for his gracious advice and help during my own time as secretary."
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Kissinger "one of the most consequential public figures in American history, more so than many presidents."
"Nobody in our country exercised more influence over global affairs over a longer period of time than Henry Kissinger, and his death is a loss for our country and the world -- and for all of us who were fortunate enough to call him a dear friend and mentor," Bloomberg said Wednesday in a post on X. "His legacy will shape the world for decades and even centuries to come."
"Henry Kissinger was ever present in my late husband's life, while John was a POW and in the later years as a senator and statesman," Cindy McCain, the widow of Arizona Sen. John McCain, wrote in a post Wednesday on X. "The McCain family will miss his wit, charm and intelligence terribly."
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 spent nearly 20-years 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. Kissinger believed in the power of triangulation as a tool for diplomacy.
"The triangular relationship between the U.S., Soviet Union and China was in itself a form of pressure on each of them, and we carefully maneuvered so we would try to be closer to each than they were to each other," Kissinger said.
Kissinger is credited with helping to bring about the end of the Yom Kippur War in the Middle East and negotiating the United States' withdrawal from the Vietnam War, for which he won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
While Kissinger completed his government service in 1977, he continued to consult American presidents, as well as foreign leaders. He founded the international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and served on a number of boards for corporations and nonprofit organizations.
In May, Kissinger celebrated his 100th birthday and continued to remain active, with a new focus on the impact of artificial intelligence. In July, he made a surprise visit to China to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping to ease growing tensions between the United States and China, a relationship which Kissinger helped forge decades ago.
Throughout his life, Kissinger published 21 books and memoirs, including On China, Diplomacy, White House Years and his most recent, World Order. In his 1982 book Years of Upheaval, he described his role as a statesman.
"Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume," Kissinger said. "The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator."
Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy Maginnes Kissinger -- of nearly 50 years -- and his children from a previous marriage -- Elizabeth Kissinger and David Kissinger, as well as five grandchildren.
A memorial to honor Kissinger will be held in New York City at a later date. He will be interred at a private family service.
Other UPI staffers contributed to this story.
U.S. presidential aide Henry Kissinger (R) speaks with South Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky during a meeting on July 5, 1971. Kissinger, who was President Richard Nixon's top security adviser, met with opposition members of the South Vietnamese government. UPI File Photo | License Photo