Evi Kurz is a longtime on-air journalist with Bavarian Broadcasting in Germany and the founder of TimeLineFilm. She is the author of The Kissinger Saga, which is the story of Henry Kissinger's family and his birthplace of Fuerth, Germany; The Kissinger Saga originated as a documentary film.
Q: Why do you think it took a long time for Henry Kissinger to agree to be interviewed for your project?
A: Henry Kissinger has been one of the most influential politicians in the world. His voice is still heard even today at the age of 90, after having left office almost 40 years ago! As secretary of state at the height of the Cold War and at the end of the Vietnam War, journalists were turning to him for statements. This media demand influenced him. He managed to deal with the media perfectly, but at the same time he tried to avoid anything being published about his private life. He had a general distrust towards all journalists which can be clearly understood.
I managed to get into good contact with his brother Walter, who is very close to Henry and who has always been extremely loyal towards his famous brother. Henry felt that trusting a journalist with private matters might be dangerous. Years later, Henry asked me: “Do you know what journalists in the USA would have done with all the material you received from us?”
Q: Why do you think Walter Kissinger was more willing than his brother to spend time talking to you?
A: Walter Kissinger and his wonderful wife, Genie, tried to find out who I am and how honest my approach was. Finally, I could convince them that I had no interest in any sensational journalism or in revealing private matters but that my goal was to tell the family story of the Kissingers. Nobody had done that before.
I was fascinated by the fact that famous Henry had a very successful, very smart and very humble brother who made his way in life trying to avoid to take any advantage of being Henry Kissinger`s brother. And I was very touched by the family history, which started in Fuerth, the same town where I was born and brought up. So Walter Kissinger gave me a chance. He spent time with me, learned to trust me and later on convinced Henry to participate in the project.
Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Henry Kissinger in the course of your research?
A: The most surprising thing was to find out that he is actually very sensitive and that he can be very warmhearted.
Q: How important do you think his home town of Fuerth is to him?
A: I think that Fuerth is as important for him as our home town is for all of us. It is the place where he was born, where he was brought up, went to school and enjoyed a warm family life. He experienced his father as a proud and admired school teacher. The Kissinger family had to leave the town and the country in 1938 under the horrifying circumstances of the Hitler regime but still it remained his hometown and he kept contact through all these years. For example by getting regularly informed about the results of his favorite soccer team “SpVGG Fuerth.” He later on accepted the honorary citizenship and honored his soccer team by recently visiting again one of their matches.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My last film also features Henry Kissinger, but also the historian Fritz Stern and the editor Lord George Weidenfeld. The title is: "The Bridgebuilders Henry Kissinger, Fritz Stern and Lord Weidenfeld: Jewish emigrants and German reunification" Then I also did a film portrait of the German–Jewish writer Robert Schopflocher who emigrated to Argentina in 1938.
Another thing that touched me very much and opened new field of work and a new bond between the Kissingers and me was a particular gesture of friendship of Henry and Walter. They had received a small amount of money from the life insurance of their father Louis Kissinger. They entrusted me with this money to use it for a social project in their old home town.
With their consent, I founded an award for outstanding school teachers in honor of their father and his dedication as a teacher. The Louis-Kissinger-Award was awarded for the first time in 2012 and Walter`s daughter, Dana Kissinger, came to Fuerth for the first time in her life to give a speech and to read letters from Henry and Walter who could unfortunately not attend. Dana Kissinger will also be present this year.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: I have been working to build up a documentary centre in Fuerth for the father of the German “Wirtschaftswunder,” the former chancellor Ludwig Erhard who was the founder of the German social market economy. Henry Kissinger also joined our initiative. You can find out more about it at: www.ludwig-erhard-initiative.de
--Interview with Deborah Kalb