From Exile to Washington: A Memoir of Leadership in the Twentieth Century

From Exile to Washington: A Memoir of Leadership in the Twentieth Century

  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781468307290
  • 384  Pages
  • Adult


In a life that has spanned nearly nine decades and has taken him across the world and back, W. Michael Blumenthal has borne witness to the world’s convulsions and transformations during the twentieth century. Born in Germany between the two world wars, Blumenthal narrowly escaped the Nazi horror, when, in 1939, he and his family fled to Shanghai’s chaotic Jewish ghetto, where they spent the entirety of the Second World War.

From these fraught and humble beginnings, Blumenthal would emerge as a major leader in American business and politics. In the second half of the century, Blumenthal headed two major American corporations—Bendix and Burroughs (later Unisys); served as a United States trade ambassador in the State Department and the White House, advising John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson; and served under Jimmy Carter as the Secretary of the Treasury. After his retirement from business and politics, he began an entirely new chapter in his career, when he conceived and served as the director of Europe’s largest Jewish museum—the Jewish Museum of Berlin—a position he still holds today.

An essential autobiography by one of America’s great political figures, From Exile to Washington is an engaging chronicle of the twentieth century’s greatest upheavals, and a tribute to a lifetime of courage, leadership and decisiveness.


“An astounding life, splendidly recorded: A Jewish boy in Nazi Germany; a last minute escapee to Shanghai, a city of harrowing horror; in 1947 an immigrant to the US; thirteen years later a senior post in Kennedy’s New Frontier; thereafter alternating between executive positions in American corporate life and government service, including Carter’s Secretary of the Treasury. Now the head of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, himself an exemplar of courage and ambition. A felicitous interweaving of autobiography and history, instructive and impressive, also reflections on a world changed by new technology and microchips. Glimpses of great events and leaders from close up; riveting and highly readable, with the pleasing touch of incredulity about his own success.” —Fritz Stern, author of Five Germanys I Have Known

“[A] perceptive man who would watch and report the changes of the 20th century…Blumenthal’s astute understanding of history allows him to ably demonstrate the significance of good leadership.” —Kirkus Reviews
Praise for The Invisible Wall:

“Blumenthal brings Jewish history in Germany alive by telling about his ancestors’ lives.” –Library Journal

“An utterly absorbing account of German Jewry from the early 18th century to the Holocaust . . . a crisply written, personal, anecdotally rich history of a glorious and ultimately tragic community.” –Kirkus Reviews
“W. Michael Blumenthal is one of the great Americans of the past century: a truly triple-threat leader in government, business, and the intellectual world. He has been near the center of the enormous historical transformations in each of those domains over the past eight decades, and his personal account of them is both deeply insightful and truly inspiring.”—C. Fred Bergsten, Founding Director and Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics

“Michael Blumenthal’s remarkable life has traced the 20th century’s major upheavals—from a harrowing escape from Nazi Germany, to resettlement in a Shanghai refugee ghetto, to a rise to the top ranks of corporate life and government service in an America redefining its world role.  Now, the former Treasury Secretary has shared his story in a memoir that is both an engrossing personal narrative and a thoughtful reflection on leadership.” —Henry A. Kissinger, author of On China

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