Is This Why Henry Kissinger's Name Was Changed?

While scholar, statesman, and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was involved with American politics for three decades, he was not born in America; he was born in Germany. Being born in Germany might not seem like a big deal these days, but it was a different story when the country was falling under harsh Nazi rule. The future diplomat was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, to Jewish parents Paula and Louis, according to the American Academy of Achievement.

Life was not easy for young Heinz. He was a victim of anti-Semitism every day, and he and his friends were often abused by Nazi youth gangs, according to Biography. Laws were put in place prohibiting Jews from attending sports events, but those did not stop young Kissenger from sneaking in (and getting caught). However, this act of defiance subsequently led to him being beaten by guards. His dreams of attending the state-run high school were dashed when it suddenly stopped admitting Jews.

The Kissinger family left Germany for a new beginning

The Kissingers decided to flee Germany for America in 1938, after Henry's father, Louis, was fired from his job and the family lost its German citizenship, per the Academy of Achievement. The U.S. allowed the family entry into the country via London when Heinz was just 15 years old. With a new life came a new name, and shortly after that move, Heinz became known as Henry, according to the Office of the Historian

Would a simple name change make life easier for Henry? Nobody knows for sure, but Henry went on to have a successful life. He attended college, became an American citizen, joined the military, and fought for the U.S. in World War II. After the war, he went back to school at Harvard where he later became a professor and was eventually tapped to be a consultant for several high-ranking U.S. agencies, later becoming a prominent figure in American politics in the 1950s. In 1968, President Richard Nixon appointed him to be his national security advisor, and in 1973, he became Nixon's secretary of state. Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for his effort to negotiate a cease-fire during the Vietnam War, per the Nobel Foundation. He died on November 29, 2023, at 100 years old.