Two interconnected societies
Societal and cultural relations between Germany and the United States are particularly wide-ranging. We owe much to the United States. It supported Germany and Europe 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. In 2014/15 alone, more than 10,000 German students were enrolled at US universities, while 11,000 American students studied in Germany on a long or short-term basis.
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 70 years, and, on their return to the United States, almost all take a positive view of their host country with them. More than 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. Around 15 percent of all Americans claim to have German roots. Although German-Americans are not a cohesive group influencing US political life, there are countless German-American associations devoted to upholding German customs and traditions.
The German Government, the Bundestag, political parties and foundations maintain close contacts with Jewish organisations in the US. High-level meetings take place regularly.
#American Jewish organisations’ 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. In March 2014, Chancellor Merkel received the Anti-Defamation League’s Joseph Prize for Human Rights and in April 2017 the Elie Wiesel Award of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. At the start of his term of office, Foreign Minister Gabriel met representatives of the Jewish organisations in the United States in February 2017.
At a private level too, many American Jews have been rediscovering their family 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 successful exchange programme Germany Close Up, the aim of which is to invite young Jewish Americans to Germany.