Why is Henry Kissinger so Famous in Germany?

Over at Altantic Review, Joerg Wolf has a good post quoting a recent interview with Henry Kissinger and a Foreign Policy piece arguing that Americans no longer have the will to see through long-term commitments of troops to combat operations abroad.  Neither do Europeans, for that matter.  Difference is, American voters can still be persuaded to let their leaders start military conflicts.  European voters are much more skeptical of military force as a tool for international problem-solving.

That’s an interesting debate in itself, but I refer you to the Atlantic Review post for more.  The question I want to ask is: why is Henry Kissinger such a presence in Germany?  He’s interviewed on German television and media frequently, and his views are usually treated with solemn respect.  I suppose the easiest explanation is that he still speaks his native language, and any prominent figure who can speak German (Peter Ustinov, for instance), will draw disproportionate attention in Germany.  Further, the people who run German media grew up seeing Kissinger on television every day (many probably protested his policies every weekend).  In the U.S., Kissinger receives much less media attention than he does here.  He still has some influence, but the last time he made the news in any serious way was when he resigned from a government commission convened to investigate 9/11 because of potential conflicts of interest stemming from the client list of his international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates.

This firm, by the way, has contracts with many multinational corporations.  We don’t know which ones they are, because the firm refuses to reveal its client list and, reportedly, requires clients to keep their relationship with the firm secret as well.  You’d think basic journalistic practice would require this fact to be at least mentioned whenever Kissinger airs his views on foreign policy.  In Germany, however, it never is.  None of the people I have ever discussed Kissinger with here in Germany were aware that he runs a consulting firm whose clients have an interest in steering American foreign policy in particular directions.  Nor, for that matter, do German interviewers ever ask him questions about the matters discussed in Christopher Hitchens steaming little 2002 book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger.  (Large excerpts of which can be found online here and here.)  Whether or not you agree with every one of the many items in Hitchens’ indictment, the book makes serious allegations that, to my knowledge, have yet to be refuted.

4 thoughts on “Why is Henry Kissinger so Famous in Germany?

  1. I´m sure you got to the point. Why is he so popular? The answer is, he speaks German and that is what counts. He could be the devil himself and he would be interviewed any other day because he speaks German. Television-Mokels (that being a German word for somewhat stupid clerk), it makes perfect sense. They don´t have to pay an expensive translator and it makes him more understandable for the German audience, many of which not able to speak more than a few words of english.

  2. Well is this really so unusual? Why is Arnold Schwarzenegger so popular in Austria? Why is Teresa Heinz Kerry so popular in Portugal? Anyone who has earned world fame is particularly famous in their respective home countries, all the more so if they still speak the language.

  3. One more reason might be his age. Despite all the Jugendwahn (youth cult?), TV folks seem to think that age and experience means wisdom. That’s why Scholl-Latour is so much on TV as well. And Helmut Schmidt too, who apparently recently claimed that the US is more dangerous than Russia…

    Thanks for the link.

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