Kissinger Mentor Fritz Gustav Anton Kraemer’s Obituary (2003)
Also see: Fritz Kraemer – The Iron Mentor of the Pentagon – Mae Brussell: “Schlesinger: ‘But, gee, you are a mystic aren’t you?’ Kraemer: ‘Of course, Mr. Secretary, you do not use that term in a perjorative sense! I must have my inner visions. I live with my inner visions.'”
Fritz Kraemer: Brilliant geopolitical strategist who launched Henry Kissinger’s rise to power
Tuesday 11 November 2003
One hot Louisiana day in the summer of 1944, General Alexander Bolling, commanding officer of the US 84th infantry division, was inspecting a training exercise when he spotted a small man, wearing a monocle, perched on a platform, shouting military commands in impeccable upper-class German. “What are you doing, soldier?” asked the general. “Making German battle noises, sir,” said Private Fritz Kraemer. The general, impressed by this unusual recruit, attached him to his headquarters.
Not long afterwards, Kraemer – still sporting his monocle and walking stick – approached a company of the 84th, resting after a 10-mile hike. “Who’s in command here?” he barked. A lieutenant colonel admitted that he was. “Sir,” said Kraemer, “I’ve been sent by the general, and I’m going to speak to your company about why we are in this war.”
One of the soldiers who heard his eloquent denunciation of the Nazis that day was a certain Private Henry Kissinger, then a recent US immigrant and accountancy student. For the first – and only time – in his life, Kissinger was moved to send a speaker a note, saying how good Kraemer’s talk had been. It was the beginning of a friendship that was to change both their lives.
Kraemer, who has died aged 95 of kidney failure in Washington DC, became Kissinger’s mentor, interesting him in political philosophy and history. He himself went on to have a 27-year-long career as a Pentagon adviser on geopolitics and strategy; he counselled a succession of US army chiefs of staff and defence secretaries, and served on the White House national security staff under 10 presidents. As recently as last year, he was photographed, still with his trademark, silver-topped stick, jokingly saying “No provocative weakness, please!” to Donald Rumsfeld.
After winning a battlefield commission and a bronze star in the US army in 1945, Kraemer rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel in the reserve. Subsequently, he taught at the Johns Hopkins University school of advanced international studies in Washington, and was much in demand as a consultant on strategy and military affairs.
He was also a legendary political and military talent scout. As well as Kissinger, his proteges included General Alexander Haig, General Creighton Abrams, Lieutenant General Vernon Walters, the polyglot intelligence expert, and Major General Edward Lansdale, reputedly the model for Graham Greene’s Quiet American.
Kraemer was born in Essen, in the Rhineland, then technically part of Prussia. His father was a state prosecutor, and his mother was the daughter of a prominent industrialist.
He had a brilliant academic career. He was educated at the Arndt gymnasium in Berlin, then at the London School of Economics and the universities of Geneva and Berlin. He subsequently earned doctorates both from the Goethe University in Frankfurt and from the University of Rome.
He was always flamboyant and eccentric. He was to be seen canoeing on the river Main, with the pennant of the German imperial navy flying from his craft, and he more than once got stuck into street fights with Nazi and communist thugs; as a Lutheran Christian and a patriotic German, he despised fascism and communism alike.
He left Germany in 1933 to work for the League of Nations in Rome, where he wrote a number of works on international law. In 1939, he moved to the US, leaving behind his Swedish wife, Britta, and their son, Sven, who were interned by the Nazis when the second world war broke out.
When the US 84th division, the “Railsplitters”, arrived in Germany in early 1945, after the battle of the Ardennes, Kraemer was able to arrange for the young Kissinger to become General Bolling’s German-speaking driver. The appointment launched Kissinger into the counter- intelligence corps, and a series of responsible jobs in the postwar US military government of Germany that were to be the making of his career.
During the war itself, Kraemer became an American citizen. Once the conflict was over, he was able to return home and rescue his wife and son, who were living quietly in a village; soon afterwards, their daughter was born. Kraemer stayed on in Germany for two years, analysing documents in preparation for the Nuremberg trials.
Kissinger has said that Kraemer was “the greatest single influence of my formative years”. His patron’s values, he added, were “absolute”. “Like the ancient prophets, he made no concessions to human frailty or to historic evolution; he treated intermediate solutions as derogation from eternal principle.”
In truth, the two men’s relationship was not without its disagreements. In the years of Richard Nixon’s presidency, when Kissinger was at his most powerful, the inflexible Kraemer could not accept his former protege’s policy of detente, and they did not speak for 28 years. Last year, however, Kissinger telephoned Kraemer to make it up. He went on to give the address at Kraemer’s funeral, and has written that Kraemer “will remain to me a beacon”.
Kraemer’s wife died in 1998, after 65 years of marriage. His daughter survives him.
· Fritz Gustav Anton Kraemer, geopolitical strategist and public servant, born July 3 1908; died September 8 2003