Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist (1922-2013)

The seventh annual Henry A. Kissinger Prize was held on the evening of June 10, 2013, in posthumous celebration of the life of Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist (July 10, 1922 – March 8, 2013), founder of the Munich Security Conference and the longest surviving member of the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler.

The life of Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist was marked by extraordinary courage, moral clarity, and independence of thought. In 1944, as a 22-year-old Wehrmacht lieutenant in Infantry Regiment 9, he twice volunteered to risk his life in the assassination of Adolf Hitler. The first attempt never materialized, but von Kleist went on to assume an important role in the plot of July 20, 1944, and would become the last surviving member in the circle around Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. After the war, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist, indelibly impressed by the experience of combat, founded a publishing house devoted to public education on security issues and transatlantic relations. In 1952, he established the independent Defense Affairs Association, known as the Society for Military Studies, and, in 1954, the European Military Studies magazine.

In 1962, von Kleist founded the Wehrkundetagung (today the Munich Security Conference), which aimed to address security concerns between the United States and Europe. The conference flourished under his leadership (1962-1998), and developed into the preeminent independent forum for dialogue on global security policy and NATO concerns worldwide.

Laudations were delivered by Senator John McCain, of Arizona, and German Minister of Defense Thomas de Maizière. The prize was accepted by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist’s daughter, Comtesse Vera de Lesseps, on behalf of her late father.