Helmut Sonnenfeldt (September 13, 1926 – November 18, 2012), also known as Hal Sonnenfeldt, was an American foreign policy expert. He was known as Kissinger’s Kissinger for his philosophical affinity with and influence on Henry A. Kissinger, the architect of American foreign policy in the Nixon and Ford administrations.
He was a veteran staff member of the National Security Council, and held several advisory posts in the U.S. government and the private sector. Later in life he was a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Guest Scholar at The Brookings Institution.
Sonnenfeldt was born in 1926 in Berlin, Germany, to Drs. Walther and Gertrud (Liebenthal) Sonnenfeldt. His family was Jewish. He spent his childhood in Gardelegen, Germany, where his parents had a family medical practice. In 1938, Sonnenfeldt was sent to Anna Essinger's Bunce Court School in England, as was his brother, Richard Sonnenfeldt. Helmut Sonnenfeldt remained in England until 1944, when he immigrated to the United States and rejoined his parents, who had resettled in Baltimore, Maryland. He entered the U.S. Army in 1944, became a naturalized American citizen and served in both the Philippines and in the U.S. occupation forces in Germany.
Sonnenfeldt entered service in the U.S. Department of State in 1952 as a member of the staff of the Office of Research on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and served as the Director of that Office from 1963–1969.
Within days of the 1968 Nixon election, Henry Kissinger picked him to serve on the National Security Council staff. He was a senior staff member of the National Security Council from 1969–1974. In 1974, he was appointed Counselor of the U.S. Department of State, where he served from 1974, continuing after Nixon's resignation for the duration of the Ford administration.
During his time in the National Security Council and in the State Department, he was a close assistant and adviser of Kissinger and became known as "Kissinger's Kissinger".
After leaving government service, he was a visiting scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. Since 1978, he had been a Guest Scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C..
In 1953, he married Marjorie Hecht. They had three children: Babette Hecht, Walter Herman and Stewart Hecht.
Sonnenfeldt died on Sunday, November 18, 2012 after a long illness, leaving behind his wife and their three children. The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease. As a veteran, he was interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
He is author of the following books and articles:
- Soviet Style in International Politics. Washington, DC: Washington Institute for Values in Public Policy (1985) ISBN 978-0-88702-010-0
- Soviet Politics in the 1980s. Boulder: Westview Press (1985) ISBN 978-0-86531-863-2
- Soviet Perspectives on Security. Adelphi papers, no. 150. London: International Institute for Strategic Studies (1979) ISBN 978-0-86079-027-3 – with William G. Hyland
- 1997 Leo-Baeck-Medal
- Johns Hopkins University
- U.S. Department of State
- U.S. Navy Superior Public Service Award
He has also been honored by the governments of France, Germany, Luxembourg and Sweden.
- "Helmut Sonnenfeldt, top adviser to Kissinger, dies at 86". stljewishlight.com. 2012-11-21. Retrieved 2012-11-21.
- Martin, Douglas (21 November 2012). "Helmut Sonnenfeldt, Expert on Soviet and European Affairs, Is Dead at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Langer, Emily (21 November 2012). "Helmut Sonnenfeldt, aide to Henry Kissinger, dies at 86". The Washington Post. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Polner, Murray (1982). American Jewish biographies. Facts on File, inc. ISBN 9780871964625.
- Anthea Gerrie, "Revealed: the wartime school that saved lives" The Jewish Chronicle (August 11, 2011). Retrieved September 29, 2011
- Daniel Möckli, European Foreign Policy during the Cold War. Heath, Brandt, Pompidou and the Dream of Political Unity, London 2009, p. 179.
- Kalb, Marvin. "The Ever-Expanding Definition of an "American": A Tribute to Helmut Sonnenfeldt". Brookings Institution. Retrieved 22 November 2012.
- Helmut Sonnenfeldt at Find a Grave