Secy Henry Kissinger and Pres. Richard Nixon
Secy Henry Kissinger and Pres. Richard NixonIsrael news photo montage

White House adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger once told President Richard Nixon, "And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern,” according to newly-released tapes from the Nixon library.

The shocking statement from Kissinger, a Jew, was followed up by an agreement from Nixon, who said,  "I know. We can't blow up the world because of it."

Kissinger also advised Nixon when he was president during the campaign to free the Jews from the Soviet Union, “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy.

The shocking statements contradict an image among some American Jews that Nixon was a friend of Israel and the Jews.

Nixon also is quoted as saying an anti-Semitic generalization, “What it is, it's the insecurity. It’s the latent insecurity. Most Jewish people are insecure. And that's why they have to prove things."

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, a usually constant critic of Israel, responded on his blog, "I suppose he [Nixon] is right, at least on the narrow subject of Henry Kissinger.”

The conversations that were recorded on secret tapes followed a March 1973 meeting between Nixon and Kissinger with former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, who pleaded with the United States to help open the barred gates for millions of oppressed Soviet Jews, denied religious freedom,  wanting to flee the Communist regime. Eventually, the freedom for Soviet Jews campaign broke the ban in later administrations and allowed massive immigration of Jews to Israel as well as to the United States.

Nixon’s disgust with minorities was not restricted to Jews. He labeled Irishmen as drinkers and Italians as “wonderful” people but who “don't have their heads screwed on tight.”

The American Jewish Committee stated that the revealed conversations displayed a shocking level of bigotry in the Nixon White House from the President downwards… the AJC was also dismayed by the remark made to the President by his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, in which the latter stated, ‘[I]f they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.’

"The Nixon Oval Office was clearly a place where bigotry and prejudice were normalized," said AJC Executive Director David Harris. "It is deeply saddening to observe that the person elected to our nation's highest office employed such crude, vicious stereotypes in referring to a range of groups.

"That a German Jew [Kissinger] who fled the Nazis could speak of a genocidal outcome in such callous tones is truly chilling. Perhaps Kissinger felt that, as a Jew, he had to go the extra mile to prove to the President that there was no question as to where his loyalties lay. That he used such graphic language in doing so speaks volumes about the degree of prejudice inside Nixon's Administration. It's hard to find the right words to express the degree of our shock and revulsion at Kissinger's remarks."

Nixon and Kissinger were seen as heroes in 1973 for staging a military airlift to help Israel fight Egypt and Syria in the Yom Kippur War, which inflicted heavy casualties on the IDF. However, the airlift did not begin until the second week of the war, while the Soviet Union was resupplying Egypt and Syria with weapons throughout. More cynical observers said that the United States could not let the Soviet Union's allies win the war. 

The New York Times reported three years afterwards that Kissinger delayed the airlift because he wanted to see Israel “bleed just enough to soften it up for the post-war diplomacy he was planning.”