U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, the envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, died on Monday, Dec. 13 as the result of a torn aorta. He was 69 and lived in New York.
Appointed as ambassador to Germany by President Clinton in 1993 and then as assistant secretary of state for Europe in 1994, Holbrooke is credited for forging the peace deal that ended the Bosnian war.
Holbrooke’s parents were assimilated Jews who considered themselves atheists. His father, Dan, was born in Warsaw of Russian-Jewish parents and in the 1930s came to the U.S. His mother was a German refugee who lived in Argentina before moving to the U.S.
Holbrooke’s own interest in Judaism was spawned when his third wife, author and journalist Kati Marton discovered that her parents were Hungarian Jews who had hidden their identity. Marton was raised a Roman Catholic.
In May 2008, on the occasion of Israel’s 60th anniversary, Holbrooke wrote in a column that appeared in the Washington Post: “Israel was going to come into existence whether or not Washington recognized it. But without American support from the very beginning, Israel’s survival would have been at even greater risk. Even if European Jewry had not just emerged from the horrors of World War II, it would have been an unthinkable act of abandonment by the United States. Truman’s decision, although opposed by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, was the right one – and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire.”