Henry Kissinger returns to his hometown in Germany

The Kissinger family, back in Fürth, Germany, in 1975.


By DAN SYNOVEC | Stars and Stripes | Published: December 16, 1975

FURTH, Germany (S&S) — Henry Kissinger Monday returned as U.S. secretary of state to the city that he fled with his family in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution. Kissinger received the city's highest award, the Golden Citizen's Medallion, for his efforts to achieve peace in the world.

"I believe that my visit here exemplifies the extraordinary rebirth of friendship between the American people and the German people," Kissinger told nearly 400 guests at the City Theater.

"I am proud to be here as the secretary of state of perhaps the only country in the world where it is possible for an adopted son to have the opportunity for responsibility and service that I have enjoyed. I am happy to share this occasion with my family, particularly my parents, who have never lost their attachment to this city in which they spent the greater part of their lives."

Among the guests at the ceremony were Kissinger's wife, Nancy; his father, 88-year-old Louis Kissinger; his mother, Paula; and his brother, Walter.

West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Bavarian state Minister-President Alfons Goppel also attended the ceremony.

Fürth's Lord Mayor Kurt Scherzer made the presentation. "You are always looking for talks to find a solution on an equal basis to achieve peace," Scherzer said as he presented the medallion to Kissinger. "You have served all of mankind. Receiving the Nobel Peace Prize is proof of this."

Kissinger said, "This is not the first time in the last 35 years that I have paid a sentimental visit to Fürth. I enjoyed a brief but warm stay in 1959. I have often exchanged letters with your distinguished lord mayor and his predecessor, and have been encouraged and strengthened by their good wishes in many periods of my public life When the honor I am now receiving was first offered to me, I accepted with pleasure."

Kissinger's father was a teacher in a high school here. His mother was the daughter of a cattle dealer living at Leutershausen, near Ansbach.

Kissinger, then called. Heinz Alfred, was born five months before Adolf Hitler staged his Buergerbrau uprising in Munich. The ancestors of the Kissinger clan can be traced back to the Thirty Years War. Documents indicate the family moved here from Bad Kissingen, a spa in Lower Franconia.

One legend is that an ancestor of the secretary of state had been an orphan who accepted the name of his hometown as his last name under the pressure of the Edict for Jews of 1813. Another branch of the Kissinger family produced a number of successful tailors, one of whom owned a shop in Bad Kissingen.

The Kissingers were among the 3,000 Jews who lived in Fürth before World War II. Today there are only about 200. By the time Kissinger was in his middle school years his father was forced to quit his job, and the family left Fürth in 1938 and moved to the U.S.

"Our generation has witnessed, and has no excuse ever to forget, the dark force of brutality and raw power at large in the modern world," Kissinger said after receiving the medallion. "As I stand here today, suffering is still dominant in many parts of the globe. Of all the species on this planet, man alone has inflicted on himself the great part of his own anguish.

"Yet our generation more than any other also has the possibility and indeed the imperative of something better," he continued. "We live in a world of some 150 sovereign nations, in an era of both instant communication and ideological competition and in the shadow of nuclear catastrophe. No longer can we afford to submit to an assumed inevitability of history. Our goal must be peace."

Kissinger warned that the world's societies, economies and destinies will either progress together or decline together. He said that the common challenge is to help build an international structure of relationships which keeps continents stable and nations secure, and which ties nations to each other "by bonds of mutual interest, and. which foster the habits of restraint and moderation in international conduct, and which gives free rein to man's striving for freedom and justice."

Kissinger said that peace will not come or be maintained without effort and courage, and that there must be conciliation without weakness. "We must temper strength with wisdom, and seek justice while respecting the sense of justice of others," he said. "Posterity will not forgive either truculence or the failure to act firmly in defense of our interests and principles."

He said that Monday's ceremony honoring him shows to what extent "we have overcome an unhappy past" and that it symbolizes as well "the future for which we must strive."

Kissinger came to Fürth in a motorcade after flying to nearby Nürnberg Airport. After the ceremony he attended a banquet and made a brief tour of the city The secretary came here between meetings in Paris and London. He will attend a world energy conference in London beginning Tuesday. 

Dr. Kissinger talks with one of the people who attended the ceremony.

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