German Baron Forged Strong Bond of Trans-Atlantic Security Relations

By Sieff, Martin | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 15, 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

German Baron Forged Strong Bond of Trans-Atlantic Security Relations


Sieff, Martin, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


MUNICH - Half a century after World War II, German aristocrats are still often caricatured as militarists and Nazis. Baron Ewald Heinrich von Kleist is the living disproof of such myths.

The son of a Third Reich field marshal, he was a brave Wehrmacht officer wounded on the Eastern Front against the Red Army. He hoped to plant a bomb to assassinate Hitler in 1944. His family traces its noble line back to 1175 and has produced more diplomats, generals and field marshals than any other in German history.

When the bomb plot failed, Baron von Kleist's father, who had led panzer divisions surging into France and the Soviet Union, was hanged by Hitler with piano wire. The young Baron von Kleist himself was sent to Nazi concentration camps.

For the past half-century, Baron von Kleist, now 75, has been a leading champion of Christianity, democracy and human rights in Germany and Central Europe, a friend and adviser to Chancellor Helmut Kohl and one of America's best friends in the region.

An era ended in Munich last weekend when he retired after chairing the annual influential Wehrkunde, or Security Policy Conferences, since he founded them in the early 1960s.

Through the stormiest era of the Cold War, the Wehrkunde conferences were a major force in linking and coordinating the leaders of the United States and Western Europe.

At a time when the qualities of the old Prussian aristocracy were rejected in his native Germany as well as in the United States, Baron von Kleist exemplified the very best of them.

The Wehrkunde conference was run in the spare, unassuming, understated style of the man.

"In the past, it was said that our meetings were a little simple. That's true," Baron von Kleist said in his closing remarks this year. "We always believed that every mark that is spent has to be earned before it is spent. We always felt one should spend as little money as possible and bring about something reasonable nevertheless." "I have been coming here for five years and that is the very first time I heard him joke - if it was a joke," a German journalist covering this year's conference said.

In the opinion of many of America's and Germany's top decision-makers, he did a lot more than that.

"The life of the founder of this conference is a very exemplary one," said Rudolph Scharping, chief foreign-affairs spokesman of Germany's opposition Social Democrats.

"He has made this conference into what it is today: a unique forum on trans-Atlantic security relations," said NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana de Madariaga.

"Ewald von Kleist has created much more than a widely acclaimed international conference: He has created a trans-Atlantic family, held together not only by shared interest but also by personal friendships," Mr. Solana said. "This achievement cannot be overestimated."

Baron von Kleist's life reads like an epic. He was originally an architecture student who served with distinction as an army lieutenant on the Eastern Front. But he was disgusted by Nazi atrocities and ideology.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

German Baron Forged Strong Bond of Trans-Atlantic Security Relations
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?