(Washington Post, March 2, 1975)
by Nick Thimmesch
Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger's
Schlesinger: "But, gee, you are a mystic
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
* * *
"Kraemer is a badly used Rolls-Royce.
He never wanted anything for himself. In a
world of pragmatists, you need some
Kraemers. He is a sterling character, a total
idealist. He is like the lighthouse we all
Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.
Many Americans fret over their stock market losses, the energy crises, the doom-crying rhetoric about our economy. Spoiled Americans we are, refusing to feel deep, cleansing sorrow as we lunge for new cure-alls, the plastic solutions for what ails us. But among us there are those who can feel authentic tragedy about society and current world events.
They are people whose lives were uprooted by totalitarianism and war, and whether refugees from Communism or the Nazi rampage or other excesses of state, many of them bear a melancholy sense of historical perspective. In recent years, for example, people who fled Naziism saw symptoms in American society which paralleled some of the debilitating characteristics of the Weimar Republic. One man who holds these perceptions is F. G. (Fritz) Kraemer, Plans Officer for the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.
He is little known but he is an original. For years he lived in relative anonymity, once shunning a lucrative offer from MGM to do a movie of his life. But then Henry A. Kissinger became director of the National Security Council in 1969 and since Kraemer was the first major influence in Kissinger's adult life "the old Spartan" as he calls himself was unwillingly dragged into print.
Since 1948, when he went to work on the old National Resources Boarda predecessor to the National Security Councilin the Executive Office Building, Kraemer has exhorted the officers of the U.S. government, and the military officers who serve it, to standards which are increasingly rare in, and, indeed, are often mocked in, contemporary society. The standards, simply put, are intensely moral: a code of honor, duty and patriotism quite similar to that which Prussian officers lived by. Moreover, Kraemer is a strong Christian in the metaphysical sense that he believes there is a moral order in the universe and that benevolent and satanic forces are at work.
He would curse the moment this article was conceived because one tenent of his code holds that any government servant violates his integrity by allowing personal publicity. Yet Kraemer has worked his will, and profoundly influenced the lives and decisions of many, including Kissinger, the late General Creighton Abrams; General Vernon Walters, now Deputy Director of the C.I.A.; Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger; Former Secretary of the Army Robert Froehlke; Helmut Sonnenfeldt, counselor to Secretary Kissinger; General Alexander Haig Jr., Supreme Allied Commander, Europeto name a few. One could add "Army officers by the hundreds."
Nor did he shrink from his dramatic, direct admonitions, when he sat in the Oval Office of President Richard Nixon in late October, 1972, to discuss the rather touchy phase of Vietnam disengagement.
Kraemer has never trembled before the mighty. When Hitler ascended to power in 1933, Kraemer, a principled Lutheran, exiled himself to protest the rule of "this Bohemian barbarian." Later Kraemer came to America and, with doctorates in the law and political science, labored as a woodcutter in New Hampshire . . . During World War II as a monocled buck private, looking like Erich Von Stroheim, he guided a green infantry recruit named Henry Kissinger in response to an admiring letter Kissinger had written him. Later Kraemer, then occupation officer at Oberammergau, overheard neo-Nazis boasting how they would return to power, seized one by the throat and forced him to discard his symbolic "Edelweiss" boutonniere. After the war, Kraemer continued to counsel Kissinger through his hours of personal and professional travail . . . exhorting him to stand firm against America's enemies . . . thundering recently that "Henry does not come to me for advice, he comes for absolution!"
In his small office at the Pentagon, where he has worked 27 years, Kraemer reads 200-300 cables a day and all the important daily papers, underlining and marking key passages, with variously colored pencils, according to significance. At 67, he remains duty-bound at his desk, never removing his monocle or his jacket. He refuses promotion beyond his GS-15 grade, which, with his seniority, pays $36,000 a year. He delights in lecuring, without notes, on a strategic look at the world, for the benefit of White House and Pentagon specialists alike, displaying an incredibly detailed knowledge of georgraphy and political movement. Though of medium height, his stocky body rises like a giant's when he shouts his impassioned speeches or demandsas he has to assembled prides of generals and admiralsthat his audience answer questions about history and politics. On his 65th birthday, Kraemer's friends presented him with a splended Wilkinson Sword to signify his sense of valor and concern for American security.
The inscription: Strategist, Scholar, Counselor, Patriot.
"Kraemer was one of the most significant and profound influences on me," says Kissinger, who is not known for his idealism. "Kraemer and I are always going to be friends."
Secretary Schlesinger says, "Kraemer is a seminal influence here. He makes people think at a time when many people don't want to."
"The intelligent have listened to him," says a high-ranking official in the intelligence community, as it is euphemistically called. "The stupid haven't. He is unique. He declares what is fundamentally right, and makes it a rule of his life and conduct."
Says former Secretary of the Army Robert Froehlke: "Fritz is fantastic as a global strategist. I utilized him quite a bit because he's a highly intelligent person who gave me an excellent reading on what was going on in the world. He's a showman and he plays it to the hilt. Fritz has pizzazz. In classified meetings, he was great."
Dr. Walter Judd, the implacable and longtime foe of Communism, says: "Kraemer believes in chivalry. He would give his life for his values. He believes a gentleman should only be afraid of hurting other people. He has a realization of Communism's diabolical character, especially in that it denies that man is anything more than an animal. He sees Communism as a cancer, a collection of malignant cells which rejected order, and never fail to move relentlessly, a metastasis."
And Sonnenfeldt, also an exile from Nazi Germany who was befriended by Kraemer, says: "Several generations of officers and civilians have sat at Fritz's feet and received his views, insights and warnings. He's been a fixed point. It's a tribute to our system that an unconventional individual like Fritz has a place in our society. He's declined promotions and awards. He's known by hundreds of people, but he's not a public personality."
The Bitter Past
To understand Kraemer is to have some understanding of German life in Kaiser Wilhelm II's last years; the ruin and gloom Germany suffered from World War I; the turmoil, creative ferment and ultimate self-destruction of the Weimar Republic; and Hitler.
The Germany Kraemer was born to, July, 3, 1908, was a class-structured, orderly society wherein verboten was an essential. Bismark, Germany's great unifier, was gone, and so was the "old" Kaiser, Wilhelm I. The new Kaiser, Wilhelm II, gifted, but erratic, self-conscious about his withered arm, was to blunder his country into a horrible war. He boasted of Germany's "mailed fist" and "shining armor."
When Kraemer was a boy, Germany was prosperous, but authoritarian. Kaiser Wilhelm II was the dominant image. Obedience held over individualism. A son was subservient to the father.
Kraemer's father was a Prussian, a lawyer and civil servant (state prosecutor) who settled in Essen. He was untitled, but maintained an aristocratic lifestyle, and had his two sons tutored. His loyalty to the Kaiser easily led him to serve as a colonel in World War I. Kraemer's mother came from an upper-class family which became wealthy from the manufacture of paraffin and chemical dyes.
An event occurred in Kraemer's otherwise well-ordered boyhood which was unusual in contemporary German society and must have affected a lad of six. His parents divorced. His mother became the dominant influence, especially with his father away at war.
She also was a bit unusual, having schooled in England, and indulged in the luxury of having British friends. As a fraulein and as a frau, she was a dynamic person, and cultured; she had traveled to Iceland, Egypt and Syria. Her friends and acquaintances represented a spectrum, unusual, too, in German society. Later she was to run a children's home on the family estate near Wiesbaden, an estate which even in Nazi times took in Christian and Jewish children alike.
So when Kraemer was 16, he was sent off to England for schooling, and later studied at the London School of Economics. He came back to take a Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Frankfurt. Though Germany had suffered crushing poverty and incredible inflation in the early '20s, young Kraemer had known no want.
Kraemer's father was a stern monarchist; Fritz Kraemer was more moderate in his political notions. He identified with the Deutschnationalen movement, Prussia-Germany's old Conservatives, who strained to keep order in the Republic they regarded as the Reich.
After imperial Germany was crushed in the bitter military defeat which took two million soldiers' lives, a parliamentary democracy emerged. But Spartakus rebels (who became Communists) waged war in the streets against government troops. Kraemer's hometown was occupied by Communists who retreated only after a shelling from pro-government Freikorps artillery.
Torn by the Versailles treaty, horrendous inflation and feckless Weimar government, Germany also suffered the assassinations of government and political leaders. But people still cheered parades of officers resplendent in imperial-style uniforms, showing a yearning for the authoritarian good old days. In Munich, an embittered young corporal joined the Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei in 1920. His name was Adolf Hitler.
Within three years, Hitler's force of 6,000 storm troopers waved swastika banners and demanded vengeance for the Versailles betrayal. But after Hitler's Munich beer hall putsch failed, he was sent to a comfortable prison cell for 264 days.
Kraemer was alternately in British, German and Swiss boarding schools while the Weimar suffered its early agony. From his father, he heard contemptuous remarks about that "miserable Bohemian corporal." Every incident, however minor, concerning the Nazis was blown up in the Berlin press. The Prussians despised Hitlerian disorder. (Thirty years later, in a meeting of U.S. Senators and other dignitaries in a Washington hotel, and angry militant rose in the back of the room and screamed at the speaker. The room half-emptied before Kraemer, then in his late 50s, rushed from the audience to the troublemaker, seized him by the lapels, and shouted in his face, in thunderous voice: "YOU THINK YOU KNOW EVERYTHING, DON'T YOU? YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING, DO YOU?" The agitator backed down, Kraemer said that room was much like the Weimarlacking in courage.)
Weimar avoided responsibilty. Berlin society became incredibly permissive, outdoing even Paris. The government, military, religion, standards and valuesall were ridiculed, Kraemer recalls, by "rich people wearing diamonds in their hair, not knowing they were applauding their ultimate end." Radical chic, long before Leonard Bernstein. Intellectuals, press, artists and opinion makers were nihilistic, unbelieving, profane.
This, on top of disillusionment over the peace treaty, made Hitler possible. The return of massive unemployment and hard times made him a certainty. The aged war hero, President Von Hindenburg, was unable to bring order as bitter street fighting continued between Communists and Nazis. Then came the world depression; 2.5 million Germans were unemployed in the bad winter of 1928-29.
In the 1930 election, Hitler's party captured 107 seats where it had won only 12 in the 1928 Reichstag. When the Brown-shirted Nazi deputies entered the chamber some delegates laughed.
"I could not laugh," Kraemer once screamed at an audience. "Hitler did it legally because nobody was willing to put his life at stake and fight him. I could not bear this, and I had to leave my country."
The once obscure, despised Bohemian corporal now had 6.5 million German votes to show his power. The goose-step, raised-arm salute, swastikas, headshrouding helmuts and vicious, violent anti-Semetism had arrived. In 1932, Hitler, as appointed Councilor of Brunswick, became a German citizen, and thus eligible to become president.
Kraemer was already a bitter witness to the fact that aristocratic conservatives in his German Nationalist Party had lain down with Hitler, the cheap revolutionary. In 1931, Hitler met with that party's leader, Alfred Hugenberg, in a conclave of the Right, which Kraemer regarded as an opportunistic move to crush Bolshevism.
So Kraemer, in 1933, with a Doctor of Laws degree in hand, left for the University of Rome for more study. He would not live in Germany again for 12 years. He put aside his hopes to serve in the upper echelons of the German Civil Service, took his doctorate in political science in 1934, and went to work at the Comparative International Law Institute at the League of Nations.
Happily Kraemer resumed a romance of several years standing with an attractive young student, Britta Bjökander, daughter of a Swedish businessman. Later in 1933, Kraemer and Britta came home to Wiesbaden, but briefly, just for their wedding ceremony.
Back in Rome, they lived frugally because the League of Nations wasn't always able to meet its payroll. But Hitler, rebuilding the Germany military, had also signed the Axis agreement with Mussolini. Again Kraemer felt penned in. He thought of moving to England, perhaps even America. When Britta became pregnant, he sent her to London so theri child would be born a British citizen. A son, Sven, was born, Feb. 3, 1938, in London.
A year later, with Europe in crisis, Kraemer thought it best that his wife, a Swedish citizen, should visit Kraemer's mother at the Wiesbaden estate to say-goodbye before war broke out, and to get funds for their resettlement in England.
Mother and child were in Wiesbaden when Hitler invaded Poland, Sept. 1, 1939. The calamity was compounded: the Germans denied them exit visas because Kraemer's mother was unpopular with the Nazis for taking in Jewish youngsters, as well as Christian, into her children's home.
Hearing of their plight, Kraemer became desperate. His brother, Dr. William Kraemer, had already been interned in London, as visiting Germans were rounded up. The British were now viewing Fritz Kraemer, with his Prussian accent and monocle, with considerable suspicion. Kraemer was forced to make a decision. He could return to Germany, present himself to the military and swear a personal oath to Hitler. He could remain in England and hope the British would develop a more tolerant attitude. He could sail to the U.S. and start a new life.
He had already appealed to the Swedish and British crowns to intervene on behalf of his Swedish-born wife, and British-born son. But the Swedes said Britta's citizenship had been canceled, and the British would have no part of such an extraordinary movetrying to make a deal with a Germany already at war.
"My father and mother were there and my wife and son, also," Kraemer says. "I could have gone back. I knew one day the allies would shell and bomb Germany and my family would be there. BUT NAZIISM WAS ETHICALLY WRONG FOR GERMANY, THE U.S. AND THE WORLD! THIS WAS NOT TO BE A CHARMING TEA PARTY! I HAD TO STAY WITH THE SIDE THAT WAS RIGHT!"
Kraemer scraped together what money he had left, sold some family jewels, and departed for the United States, sailing on a German passport. His knowledge of the U.S. was scant. He knew two of his mother's friends in New York City, but they couldn't help him find a job. Kraemer heard about farm work in New England, and headed to New Hampshire. He alternated as a potato-picker in summer, and as a woodcutter in winter.
At the same time, in the Washington Heights section of upper-Manhattan in New York City, young Heinz Kissinger was an awkward high school student, fearful of other boys; he worked in a shaving brush factory to help support his family. His father, a schoolmaster in Furth, Germany, had fled with his family two years before.
Kraemer, isolated and lonely, was befriended by a gentleman farmer who puzzled over why such a well-educated man should be a farm laborer. He sent Kraemer to Washington to do some research for him at the Library of Congress. Kraemer instantly liked Washington, and was thrilled to get a job at the Library of Congress at $50 a month. Through new contacts, showing unusual tolerance toward this German visitor in a Washington which was in total war with Germany, Kraemer also landed a proctor's job in a dormitory at American University. He was putting his head to work again.
In 1943, at age 34, Kraemer was drafted, as an alien, into the United States Army. On Feb. 26, 1943, an apprehensive lad who was studying bookkeeping at City College of New York, was also drafted into the Army, and after basic training, was lucky enough to be put into Army Special Training School, a kind of college for bright recruits.
But as the buildup for D-Day, the invasion of Europe, progressed, A.S.T.P. students and older recruits like Kraemer were put into the 84th infantry division, and grouped in the loveliness of Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, where mud was shoveled as freely as coal into a boiler.
The U.S. Army had no trouble handling a recruit like Kissinger, but private Kraemer, with his monocle, was something to behold. One day in camp, Kraemer was assigned to paint the entrance to a lean-to building. An officer came by and noticed that Kraemer had dripped paint all over the floor. "What's wrong here?" the officer demanded. Kraemer saluted, and said: "The brush is not suitable for this job, sir." The officer grabbed the brush and began painting, but soon splattered paint on his own uniform. Flustered, and puzzled by Kraemer's accent, the officer asked, "What did you do before you came into the Army?" Kraemer, deadpan, said: "I worked at the League of Nations, sir." The officer said, "I guess that's why we're here now."
There were times when he was put into a German uniform and called on to bark commands in guttural German to add realism to the simulated battle conditions in an infiltration course. Machine gun bullets whizzed as fiercely as Kraemer's harsh diction. One day, as he was barking out commands in German from a platform, Genaeral Alexander R. Bolling approached him, and asked: "What are you doing, soldier?" Kraemer replied: "Making German battle noises, sir." In the ensuing conversation, Bolling was impressed, and had him reassigned to headquarters company. Later, Kraemer, in no more than a private's best pressed G.I. garb, stood like General George S. Patton before assembled recruits and lectured on the evils of Naziism, and how we would all storm Hitler's fortress and crush this evil monster. One recruit who was especially impressed with Kraemer's tirade was Kissinger.
"I had virtually no education at that time," Kissinger explains, "and was in awe of Kraemer. I wrote him a note, and one day when we were on maneuvers, he arrived in a command car, driven, I believe, by a first lieutenant. We talked and he told me how important it was for me to serve in the infantry this way."
Kraemer and Kissinger met again in an enlisted men's club, conversed intensely in German, with Kraemer probing Kissinger's plans for after the war. Kissinger only wanted to resume his college studies in bookkeeping. Kraemer declared Kissinger was too bright, too imaginative to be a bookkeeper and aroused an interest in Kissinger in politics. A tutorial relationship followed, with Kraemer introducing Kissinger to books by Spengler (Decline of the West), and Dostoevsky, among others. The two men became like father and son, professor and student.
The 84th Division landed in France after D-Day in the pursuit phase of the war. Though trained as riflemen, Kraemer and Kissinger were both in intelligence units. As the fighting got tougher in November, 1944, Kissinger told a friend that the most he could suffer would be the loss of a leg; certainly he could not bear to be blinded.
When the Battle of the Bulge erupted in mid-December both Kissinger and Kraemer were rushed into service interrogating Nazi troops posing as Americans. After the Bulge was broken, Kissinger distinguished himself in Hanover where he helped root out Nazi and Gestapo officers; later, outraged, he secured aid for the inmates of a concentration camp he had been led to.
Kraemer also had some fine hours. Finding himself the only American soldier in a Rhineland city he shrieked at the local officials that they must surrender and theytaking note of his gun as well as the commanding manner so many found persuasive before and afterdid his bidding. For this exploit, Kraemer was awarded the bronze star and a battlefield commission.
The 84th then sat for 10 days waiting on orders for the Russians to take Berlin. But Kraemer had another duty in his ruined homeland: he had to find his wife and child, whom he feared to be dead or missing. As the war ended he sent a message to the Commander of the U.S. Third Army, Gen. George S. Patton, asking that Britta and Sven be sought.
The news came back for the man who had made the most brutal of choices, leaving his family hostage for the sake of high principle.
Within days a loud knock came on the door at the Kraemers' Wiesbaden estate. Sven answered the door and saw an American officer who asked in German, "Where is Frau Kraemer?" (who was quite well and nearby). Sven a bit wary after months of privation and bombing replied, "Who are you?"
The officer said simply, "I am your father."
After returning to his unit, Kraemer was assigned to Counter Intelligence Corps (C.I.C.) School at Oberammergau in Bavaria. There, he and Kissinger worked at first on the de-Nazification program, and then on the chore of identifying and analyzing Soviet and Communist influence in Western Europe, especially in labor unions.
"It was at Oberammergau that the really close relationship between them develped," a friend who was also there recalls. "Henry wasn't fully formed yet. Kraemer was. What Kraemer had begun back in Louisiana with Henry was really intensified that fall in 1945. It was then that he gave Henry the motivation which eventually got him to Harvard.
Kraemer's family was with him at Oberammergau and then came to the U.S. when he was assigned to Fort Riley, Kansas, in Oct., 1947. In a few months, he left the Army to take a job in Washington with the National Resources Board in the same Executive Office Building where Sven, who works for Kissinger on the National Security Council, now has his office. Kraemer was then 40, and about to begin a career at the Pentagon which would take him through his working years.
While Kissinger was settling in at Harvard, and preparing himself for a career which would make him part of the Eastern Establishment (with Nelson Rockefeller) and leagues beyond (with Richard Nixon), Kraemer lived in his chosen role as dutiful civil servant.
Kraemer's roars and memos reverberated from the ceilings and walls of military confines. Kissinger's performance was for both academic and military audiences. Quiet and cool, Kissinger was writing and lecturing, and was exposed to new important influences. Ourtwardly, he seemed contained, but when the going got tough, Kissinger needed Kraemer to talk to and to listen to. He was ambitious and occupied with achieving academic promotion as well as scholarly excellence. Kissinger was also concerned with affairs of the heart, including his long relationship with Ann Fleischer, like himself, a refugee from Germany. Even after they were married in 1949, Kissinger still went to Kraemer with his most personal problems.
The strong, first impact on Kissinger's unformed mind had been Kraemer's. And Kissinger never got over the remarkable truth that while he had been forced to leave Nazi Germany because he was Jewish, Kraemer, a conservative Protestant, had elected to do so on high principle.
So he poured out his feelings and troubles to Kraemer, and then listened as Kraemer made him consider alternatives before thundering his admonitions to him. ("He comes for absolution!")
The visits in Kraemer's home in Northwest Washington were almost tutorial. Always, Kraemer urged Kissinger to be strong, to be vanquished by no tyranny of the moment and by no mortal being, including a woman. What Kraemer pronounced then would likely be translated today as "hawkish" (on military-political affairs) and "chauvinistic," when it came to women. The conversations were in German.
Kraemer was detached and conservative. Kissinger, especially after he published and became consultant to Rockefeller, was involved and ostensibly conservative. Eventually, Kissinger was to help make, and actually make, decisions of critical importance to the U.S. and the world. But Kraemer never gave way to Kissinger. Both men shared a sense of tragedy, and without saying it, knew the consequences of bad leadership.
Kissinger had kept his ties to the military, of course. He was a recognized hard-liner in the Cold War, and as early as 1951 became a consultant to the Army's Operations Research Office in Washington. A year later, he was performing the same chore for the Psychological Strategy Board of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also lectured at military schools, and kept his reserve commission as a lieutenant colonel in Military Intelligence.
Kraemer, came down on the side of the punishing reaction to any audacity by the Communists. He favored a military response when the Hungarian Freedom Fighters were fighting the tanks in the streets of Budapest. He urged that the Berlin Wall be torn down before the last brick was in place. Always, in Indochina, Kraemer believed the U.S. must carry the fight to the Communists in the interest of freedom. Kraemer was later upset with the temerity shown by the U.S. when the North Koreans captured the Pueblo.
As Kissinger's world broadened, he relied less and less on Kraemer for directive doses, though he was always impressed by what Kraemer declared. Kraemer's hold was still secure, however, when it came to major decisions by Kissinger, and these included his marital problems, his eventual divorce, and signing on with the Nixon administration in 1968.
Nixon had offered Kissinger the National Security Council job, despite Kissinger's almost cruel utterances about Nixon and his fitness to be President. Kissinger was overjoyed with the offer, but wanted to make sure. Rockefeller and a dozen of Kissinger's Harvard colleagues, most of whom voted against Noxon, strongly urged him to take the post. Finally, Kissinger went to Kraemer.
I once asked Kraemer what he told Kissinger, and the reconstruction went this way: "I told him that in his personal interest, he should not take the job. It was too hard, too thankless, and he would be worn to pieces. Then I told him that he must put his personal interest aside, and take it for the country because he was the most qualified man for it. It was his duty."
Barnard Collier, in a New York Times article, reported a different kind of advice for Kraemer on this question. "You are not going to be able to make foreign policy," Collier reported Kraemer as telling Kissinger. "You will not be the engineer, but at best, the brakeman on the train. The right will call you the Jew who lost us Southeast Asia; the left will call you a traitor to the cause. Don't take the job."
For a congenital pessimist, Kraemer was actually pleased with Kissinger's performance in the opening years of the Nixon administration. He shared Kissinger's performance in the opening years of the Nixon administration. He shared Kissinger's view that North Korea should be punished with an air strike for shooting down a U. S. Navy reconnaisance (EC-121) over the Sea of Japan in April, 1969 a recommendation not followed by Nixon. He approved Kissinger's hard-line agreement on the use of U. S. troops in the Cambodian invasion, 1970, and the mining and bombing of Haiphong in the spring of 1972. Kraemer disapproved of the new approaches to Communist China and the Soviet Union, and let Kissinger know this. He warned Kissinger on the limits of personal diplomacy, and of the deviousness of Communist diplomacy through history.
Dr. Kraemer's Recommended Reading List
According to Dr. Kraemer, the only way to obtain from reading an image of the corrosiveness of society is to read comparative history. He also feels one must also observe and experience this corrosiveness, say, as Eric Hoffer has. Says Kraemer: "There is extraordinary danger in reading, alone, because any list is incredibly superficial. But, with great hesitancy, I submit this miserable menu."
History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century, by Benedetto Croce (anti-Fascist philosopher).
Revolt of the Masses, by Ortega Y'Gasset.
The Blowing up of the Parthenon, by Salvador de Madariaga.
Federalist Papers No. 9, by Alexander Hamilton.
Federalist Papers No. 10, by James Madison.
Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke.
Democracy in America, by Alexis de Toqueville.
The "Great Inquisitor" chapter from The Brothers Karamazov, by Dostoevsky, and the author's political writings.
The Revolution of Nihilism, by Hermann Rauschning, and The Redemption of Democracy, by the same author.
Politics, Ethics, by Aristotle.
The Image: Or What Happened to the American Dream?, by Daniel Boorstin.
Conservatism from John Adams to Churchill, by Peter Vierick, and Metapolitics, From the Romantics to Hitler, by the same author.
The True Believer, and Working and Thinking at the Waterfront, by Eric Hoffer.
As for diversionary reading, Kraemer says, "it's boring."
In early October, 1972, I wrote a newspaper column about the Kraemer-Kissinger relationship. President Nixon read it in the Baltimore Sun and summoned Kraemer to the White House. According to a third person in that Oval Office meeting, within five minutes, Kraemer was sitting erect in his chair, lecturing the President on the need to be firm with the Communists in the final negotiations on Vietnam. Kissinger had urged Kraemer to speak in a low voice to the President. Kraemer had replied that he could always speak in a low voice, if he chose, and still get his point across.
"Kraemer is abstractly idealistic," Kissinger once told me. "He leaves little room for options. There are times when we see more of each other, and that is usually when he is convinced I have been acting less than perfect. I listen to him, knowing that if I can only accomplish 20 per cent of what should be done, I am fortunate."
The closing months of the U. S. involvement in Vietnam were so nerve-wracking to Kissinger that he felt the need to seek out Kraemer again. That period was a physical and mental ordeal to Kissinger who negotiated tirelessly for four years with North Vietnam's Le Duc Tho. Kissinger was suffering from severe jet fatigue when he awoke at 2 a.m. on Oct. 26th, 1972, with the news that Le Duc Tho had broken his word and revealed certain details of the Nixon administration's cease-fire proposals.
Shortly before this dismaying development, Kraemer had been worried about Kissinger caving in before the charming North Vietnamese emissary. But an American official, who had helped arrange 15 secret meetings between Kissinger and Le Duc Tho, assured Kraemer that Kissinger had indeed been tough. In fact, when Le Duc Tho talked approvingly of Democratic candidate George McGovern's promises, as spelled out in a pee-wee try at negotiating by Pierre Salinger, Kissinger fumed at Le Duc Tho. He produced polls predicting the Nixon landslide, and acidly remarked that it was too bad that a totalitarian regime couldn't understand American elections.
This bit of intelligence lifted Kraemer. When Kissinger came to see him several days later, he was low and depressed but Kraemer was ready to help. Kissinger had complained that if he couldn't secure the agreements, he would fall into the same fate as Walter Rostow, his predecessor, when the Johnson administration failed on Vietnam. Rostow was exiled from the Eastern Establishment, and banished to a teaching post in Texas.
Kraemer bucked him up, quoting Talleyrand's advice to a young diplomat: "Pas de zèle!" (Don't be too eager!)
In mid-December, 1972, the agreement was ashes, and the Nixon administration was about to unleash the awful bombing of Hanoi, a move Kissinger urged, though Nixon got the blame for it. Kissinger and Kraemer lunched, and Henry lamented the way matters had turned out. Kraemer told him to feel no guilt, it was Hanoi that had sinned. "Now you and Le Duc Tho can bargain realistically," Kraemer declared. "You have the measure of each other. You are no longer charmed by him!"
Just as Kissinger sometimes pours his heart out ot Kraemer, so Kraemer sometimes must vent his feelings about Kissinger. By 1973, Kraemer became disturbed with Kissinger's ambivalence, his telling one person what he wanted to hear and another just the opposite, with what he sensed was Kissinger on a giant ego trip. Moreover, he thought Kissinger was increasingly taking a soft line on the Communists. According to Dr. Walter Judd, Kraemer now feels Kissinger "fails to understand the capability of Communists to play dirty tricks in diplomacy, and this makes Fritz terribly disappointed in Kissinger."
Judd says that at one point, Kraemer was so disillusioned with the man he nourished intellectually that he resolved not to go to his swearing-in ceremony as Secretary of State. But Kraemer and his whole family were there, nonetheless.
"Kraemer is a patriot and a tough Prussian," says Judd. "He knows that Kissinger is still psychologically under the spell of the Nazi Gestapo, and this makes him insecure. Kissinger still looks over his shoulder to make sure he isn't being followed, or isn't being criticized."
Though doubting the strength of Kissinger's character these days, Kraemer feels compassion for him, explaining that Kissinger suffered so much as a child in Germany. Another friend of Kraemer assesses their present relationship this way:
"Kraemer is a patriot who believes in God. Kissinger is an opportunist who is an agnostic, maybe an atheist. Kraemer knows Kissinger is out of control now, but because Kraemer believes in metaphysics, a moral order, he still has hopes for Kissinger. It's a fascinating situation."
Kraemer's day begins at 8 a.m. when he arrives at the Pentagon in the used Cadillac convertible he bought for $900, saying, "It will last until I die." His breakfast has been sparse. If he eats lunch at his desk, as is likely, it will be an apple or one sandwich. His small office is lined with filing cabinets and stacks of newspapers. The lights above glare down on his simple desk and the bare floor. He won't have a rug or carpeting. Very spartan. A scriptural passage is fixed on his "In" basket so that if his eyes wander, he will be admonished.
From Matthew: Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest."
He has no aides or staff, just a secretary. Kraemer wants to be independent, but not alone. He frequently confers with Army officers, and receives younger officers who want the Kraemer treatment of advice.
Kraemer is an institution unto himself at the Pentagon. Though he reports to the Director of Army Staff, he doesn't have to. Kraemer sees his long days and tedious work as duty, though he doesn't really have a duty. He is a man whose work is sought after, whether it be in written reports or personally delivered analysis. Ask him about any spot in the world, and you get an instant rundown of the political, historical, economic and military situation, with a bit of lecture on what should be done tossed in.
Some senior officers call him, "Fritz," to his face, a shortcoming he dismisses because of his hierarchical sense that there are levels of intelligence. Thus he is not offended by such gross familiarity. The intelligent others address him as "Dr. Kraemer." His fear is to be portrayed merely as an eccentric, and thus not to be believed.
But he is both eccentric and highly credible. He knows he communicates well. He is marvelous at capsuling, and can quote political, military and literary figures at will and has knowledge of 12 languages.
He is dramatic, but not a show-off or one who pushes for recognition or advancement. Kraemer calls himself an "elitist" in the sense that he has a code, and isn't surprised or bothered if others don't. He is a terribly strong man, and the strength comes through when he talks to you and the eyes meet.
His greatest sorrows at the Pentagon were to see officers "sell out" during the Vietnam period. When and where he could, Kraemer tried to influence officers for a firm policy in Vietnam, and elsewhere.
His own preferences in leadership led him to encourage and help a young colonel named Alexander Haig Jr., because he perceived in Haig a man who also believed in values. Conversely, Kraemer's private estimate, in charity, was to proclaim former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara a fool.
The work continues when he gets home. His wife, Britta, keeps a good Italian kitchen from the days in Rome and Geneva. But Kraemer eats sparingly. Soon he is at work reading or searching through his basement office, another cave of books, magazines and newspapers, but an orderly place.
There is no viewing of TV in Kraemer's modest houseverboten. Nor does he attend theater, movies or concerts, though once he had a liking for detective and comedy films. For recreation Kraemer likes to take walks with his wife, following a charted course, and using a swagger stick as a pointer and warner to feisty dogs.
When friends come to dinner, the evening quickly turns to intense conversation. Kraemer's mind never rests, indeed, ideas ricochet through his head day and night, sometimes spoiling his sleep. He suffers some from hypertension, though his family and friends say he remarkably robust. A visitor recalls how Kraemer, to show how a man past 65 could remain vital, removed his shirt at the dinner table, revealing a manly torso, and then flexed his muscles like a prizefighter. Mrs. Kraemer was nonplussed. The meal continued and Kraemer put his shirt back on. He insists on doing deep knee-bends, though the "cracks" can easily be heard after the 14th bend.
He sometimes stops at a friend's house on the way home from work for a straight bourbon and conversation, with the best intentions to be home for dinner. But the visit can run to well into the night. His friends claim that no matter how intense the conversation becomes, he is almost too discreet about revealing information he regards as confidential. When he allows the talk to become personal, he remains gruff but betrays sentimentality, even tenderness.
His wife is a Lutheran churchwoman, and though Kraemer is deeply religious, he doesn't attend regularly. His own speeches in churches, synagogues and at Pentagon prayer meetings usually turn into lectures. The moral code, honor, the absolute necessity for valueshe hammers at them time and again.
For vacation, he and his wife like to travel to Europe, not just to relax or watch scenery, but also to engage in even more discussion with like-minded friends, always in search of the truth, but often only achieving verisimilitude. The Kraemers refuse to visit Sweden, Britta's home country, because of the secular values there.
The party Kraemer's closest friends gave for him July 3, 1973, the occasion of his 65th birthday, was a fait accompli, or else he would have stopped it. Several generals and senior officers invited some 35 men and women who were and are deeply involved in Kraemer's life. Kissinger and Haig were in San Clemente, and could only send telegrams of greetings. The officers who knew about the party in advance were all too frightened to tell Kraemer about it.
It was held at Ft. McNair, with Mrs. Kraemer, their daughter Madeleine and Sven present. So were Herman Kahn, and other global strategists, ambassadors, generals and secretaries who came to love Kraemer, authoritarianism and all.
After the introductions and a few short speeches, the change of pace was provided by Lt. Gen. Ed Rowney, senior military officer at the SALT talks, who played Kraemer's favorite songs on the harmonica. Then, one by one, a book of tributes to Kraemer were read aloud. Kraemer listened to them stoically, his head bowing formally after each was read.
The time came for Kraemer's response. The audience was hushed, as he extended his deepest gratitude, and then he cut loose with a strong Kraemer speech, again, as though even his friends had to be reminded and convinced. But this evening had touched him deeply. "A man doesn't cry on a night like this," Kraemer shouted, swallowing all his tears.
Meanwhile in San Clemente, the great tutor's great pupil Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger employed the high art of ambiguity, pleasing his President of the moment.
The Vigilant Voice of Dr. Kraemer
Kraemer is in great demand as a speaker, but does it for free. He insists that he is introduced only as "Dr. Kraemer," and quickly tells his audience:
"If what I say makes sense, you will agree. If not, do not be bamboozled by titles of doctorates or a lengthy description of my carrer. A taxi driver can tell if a man is making sense or not!"
No notes, but the speech is formal, direct and loud, punctuated with fierce gestures and thundering admonitions.
Though Kraemer blasts away with emphatic declarations; privately, he is a moderate man, not given to impetuosity, Politically, he is Centrist. He believes, almost as an article of faith, that a strong, courageous Center can thwart extremists, Left and Right. He despises the soft bourgeoisie Center as mindlessly self-indulgent.
* * *
"Remember, radicals, whether Fascist or Communist, will drive out the less radical! The wild-eyed ones win! Listen to what Eric Hoffer says: 'Where freedom destroys order, the YEARNING for order will DESTROY freedom!'
* * *
"Permissiveness is the road to totalitarianism! The bourgeoisie demanded order in the Weimar, and I see those signs here. The educated classes are permissive. The intellectuals are almost all on the left here, and constantly talk down values. If someone shoots and the policeman shoots back and becomes the victim, it is his fault. If intellectuals believe this, who will stop murderers?"
* * *
"The Chinese are old, and consider their interpretation of the Communist gospel as superior to that of the Russian louts. If I were a CommunistGod forbid!I would be a Maoist because it is more logical and brilliant. Mao took the countryside because he knew the city workers were the elite, and he would have no solid base."
* * *
"This problem of everybody doing what he wants is totally out of hand. Look at Ethiopia: absolute anarchy. If there is a power vacuum in the world, there will be world anarchy! If we will not play the role of world Policeman, fires will break out everywhere, and we will have world anarchy."
* * *
"Man is not logical, but psychological. A man will fight for a woman's honor in a non-logical way. It is the same with nationalism. Arab nationalism grows out of them being violated by successive rule by the Turks, the British and French. Now they have rising expectations. The Arabs expected we would do more for them than we can possibly do with regard to Israel."
You must understand the metaphysical and the Love of the Lord. When everything was desperate, when Europe was in the hands of the barbarians, and when England seemed to be crushed, THE LORD WILLED IT DIFFERENTLY! ENGLAND WAS SAVED!
"But God also makes us free and we must will our own destiny. We do not believe with Islam that we must surrender to the Will of God. We believe we should choose between GOOD AND EVIL, AND MUST! God will only save those who will save themselves. There are tanks and planes and the spirit, but the spirit will be STRONGER THAN ALL!"
* * *
To a group of officers: "When was NATO established gentlemen, and why? NATO was organized because of the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia and the Berlin Blockade! NATO was an answer, not a cause! We acted defensively.
"Did we win the Berlin BLOCKADE? I WANT A LOUD VOICE FROM YOU! No, we did not. What territory did we lose? We lost EAST BERLIN! It had a four-power government before the blockade!"
* * *
"I am an old-fashioned man. I believe the civil servant must not be opportunistic or seek publicity. If he does, it is the beginning of corruption. It is my duty to work here in the Pentagon. I do things for the cause and for no other reason.
"Today, many in government are forced to choose between getting ahead by going with the times, or holding to their principles. There is only one course: go like a battleship, cut the waves, be a symbol of non-corruption.
"In the Weimar Republic, there was oversophistication, relativism, and a lack of commitment to personal and religious values. It was totally free and permissive. I think permissiveness is horrible, every individual thinking he can do what he wants to.
"We are a bland society, easily swayed by the communications axis between Washinton and New York. If you want to read of decadence, look to the arts and leisure section of the Sunday New York Times. It was the same with the Weimar. And that man with the Cadillac, the secretaries and the wall-to-wall carpeting, he is insulated from the reality. He is the affluent bourgeoisie. In Germany, the consequence was Hitler.
"I sit in this fortress of exalted broodingand that is Churchill's phrase, not minecalled the Pentagon, and do what I can. I withdraw more and more because I can't stand predictable conversations.
"We are a healthier society than Weimer Germany. Our younger people are far less cynical and are an extraordinary treasure. We have not lost a great war or suffered economically the way the Weimar people did. But there is a dangerous corrosion of values in America, and that causes vacuum.
"The people will soon look for a man of absolute values, one who is not boring. What qualities will this saviour have? Strength, oratorical talents, perhaps a pseudo-inspirational articulation. We must be careful about this man. The bourgeoisie is desparate for leadership."
Nick Thimmesch is a columnist
with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.