These are not easy times for transatlantic relations. At a time of “America first” policies, Twitter diplomacy and misunderstandings on both sides, the German Government expressly wants to counteract these trends and to strengthen the foundations of German-US friendship. The Deutschlandjahr USA is the largest cultural and public diplomacy campaign ever organised by the Federal Foreign Office. The aim was to make clear to people on both sides of the Atlantic that “the United States remains Europe’s most important ally,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said. To mark the end of the campaign, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the patron of the year, travelled to Boston for the re-opening of the Goethe-Institut.
Under the motto “wunderbar together”, over 2000 events have taken place in every US state since October 2018. The Federal Foreign Office and the Goethe-Institut have received help with these events from 368 partner organisations. Pop-up Goethe-Institut offices in Seattle, Kansas City, Houston and Minneapolis and a “wanderbUS” that visited 48 states combined entertainment and information and brought German culture and language to a wide audience. Some 1.6 million visitors explored the highly diverse academic, cultural, business and political ties between Germany and the US – and felt “wunderbar together”! The list of events is long and diverse:
- Climate Kids from a Berlin school class and a high school in New Orleans drew up local climate action plans for their communities together.
- The Anthropocene project by Haus der Kulturen der Welt and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science developed into a network project with over 80 partners that carried out a 100-day Mississippi trip with a large number of field stations.
- With his multi-city exhibition of portraits of Holocaust survivors, the photographer Luigi Toscano encouraged a discussion on the importance of the culture of remembrance.
A great success
Even if the individual events seem like small steps at first, together they have the power to expand the foundation of relations between Germany and the US. The Deutschlandjahr USA achieved the following: a sixth of all US residents have heard of “Wunderbar together”; over 600 reports in the press and TV reached an audience beyond the 1.6 million visitors to the events; and almost ten million users interacted in social media. The Deutschlandjahr USA proved very popular with people in rural areas in particular, and not only in the larger cities. The anniversaries celebrated during the year, especially the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall next week, show how close, lasting and essential the transatlantic relationship is.