Henry Kissinger is 87 years old but he remains a figure of considerable controversy. This Christmas, he has been battling to prevent his reputation being permanently tarnished over a 1973 remark he made to President Richard Nixon that was published on 11th December, buried deep in a New York Times article: The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern. Nixon replied:I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it. Kissinger (a Jew who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938) was excoriated. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg described the words as “among the most vile ever spoken by a Jew about his own people”. Kissinger’s nemesis Christopher Hitchens may be likely to go to his grave before the former US Secretary of State but he was not about to let what might be a final opportunity to blast the man he “tried” in book form nearly a decade ago, writing: In the past, Kissinger has defended his role as enabler to Nixon’s psychopathic bigotry, saying that he acted as a restraining influence on his boss by playing along and making soothing remarks. This can now go straight into the lavatory pan, along with his other hysterical lies. Obsessed as he was with the Jews, Nixon never came close to saying that he’d be indifferent to a replay of Auschwitz. For this, Kissinger deserves sole recognition.It’s hard to know how to classify this observation in the taxonomy of obscenity. Should it be counted as tactical Holocaust pre-denial? That would be too mild. It’s actually a bit more like advance permission for another Holocaust.After initially resisting an apology (in a statement, he referred to “quotations ascribed to me in the transcript of the conversation”, as if casting doubt on what he had said) , Kissinger burst into print on Christmas eve in the Washington Post with a grudging apology accompanied by an exhortation to view the comments in historical context: For someone who lost in the Holocaust many members of my immediate family and a large proportion of those with whom I grew up, it is hurtful to see an out-of-context remark being taken so contrary to its intentions and to my convictions, which were profoundly shaped by these events.