Close cultural and societal links
A small girl with two designs painted on her face: on the right, a heart in the German national colours, and on the left a butterfly in the Stars and Stripes
Germany and the United States are linked in a host of different ways. One key area of exchange are the close societal and cultural relations between the two countries. There is a long tradition of exchange programmes for pupils, students, researchers and athletes.
Two interconnected societies
Societal and cultural relations between Germany and the US are particularly wide ranging. We owe much to the US. The United States supported Germany through the Marshall Plan after the Second World War and played a crucial role in Germany’s reunification.
Nowadays, Americans and Germans not only visit each other’s countries as tourists; the many exchange programmes for pupils, students, artists, researchers and athletes give those taking part a good insight into the culture of their host country. Each year, thousands of exchange students experience the other country’s education system. The promotion of the German language in schools and universities in the US is of particular importance.
Employers, too, help to induct people into the culture of their transatlantic partners, with hundreds of thousands of Americans working in German companies’ US offices and vice versa.
US soldiers and their families have been bringing the American way of life to Germany for more than 60 years, and, on their return to the US, almost all take a positive view of their host country with them. Around 17 million US servicemen and women, plus their families, have spent time living in Germany since the end of the Second World War.
US German links are deeply rooted in history. 15.2 per cent of all Americans have German roots (US Census Bureau, 2010). Although German Americans are not a cohesive group influencing US political life in the same way as their Italian, Greek or Irish counterparts, there are countless German American associations devoted to upholding German customs and traditions.
The Federal Government, the Bundestag, political parties and foundations maintain close contacts with Jewish organizations in the US. High level meetings take place regularly, and a close relationship based on mutual trust has developed.
American Jewish organizations’ interest in Germany has increased appreciably in recent years. This interest is also a sign of recognition for Germany’s close relations with Israel. In 2006, Chancellor Angela Merkel was the first German leader to deliver a speech before the highest representatives of the American Jewish Committee in Washington. In December 2011, Foreign Minister Westerwelle gave the speech honouring Anselm Kiefer on his receipt of the Leo Baeck Medal at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. Then in May 2012, he was the guest of honour at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington.
At the private level too, many American Jews have been rediscovering their familial ties to Germany in recent years. They are interested in how Germany is handling the history of the Shoah, and in what is happening in Germany now – an interest demonstrated by the success of German Jewish/American exchange programme Germany Close Up.
Last updated 08.01.2013