Germany–United States relations

Germany–United States relations

German-American relations are the transatlantic relations between Germany and the United States and between the German and American people in particular.

Today, the United States is regarded as one of Germany’s closest allies and partners outside the European Union. []

Country Comparison

German immigration to the United States

During over three centuries of immigration history to the United States, immigration from Germany accounts for a large share of the American people. More than 15% of all Americans today, and 25% of white Americans, claim German descent. Unlike Italians, Greeks or Irish, German-Americans are a mostly assimilated group which influences political life in the US as a whole. They are the most common self-reported ethnic group in the northern half of the United States; only in the South are they relatively uncommon.

1683 - 1848

First records of German immigration date back to the 17th century and the foundation of German town near Philadelphia in 1683 (German-American Day). Immigration from Germany to the US reached its first peak between 1749 and 1754 when approximately 37,000 Germans came to North America.

1848 - 1914

In 1848, six million Germans immigrated to the United States. Three of their most favored destinations were the cities of Chicago, Detroit and New York. The failed German Revolutions of 1848 caused an immense wave of emigration from Germany, mainly to the US. Called the (Forty-Eighters), during the following years over one million Germans left for the United States.

When the Germans travelled to the United States, two problems occurred. Firstly, the ships were overcrowded. Secondly, typhus fever: it spread rapidly around the ships due to the cramped conditions on the ships. It took the Germans six months to get to United States due to these hindrances.

By 1890 more than 40 percent of the population of the cities of Cleveland, Milwaukee, Haboken and Cincinnati were of German origin. By the end of the nineteenth century, Germans formed the biggest self-described ethnic group in the United States and their customs became a strong element in American society and culture.

Political participation of German-Americans was focused on involvement in the labor movement more than in government. Germans in America had a strong influence on the labor movement in the United States. Newly founded labor unions enabled German immigrants to improve their working conditions and, on a whole, to integrate into American society.

Since 1914

During World War I and World War II, most German-Americans cut their former ties and assimilated into mainstream American culture. During the time of the Third Reich, Germany had another major emigration wave of mainly German Jews and other political refugees.

Today, German-American form the largest self-reported ancestry group in the United States [ [ U.S. Census Bureau (2000)] ] with California and Pennsylvania having the highest number of German Americans.

Common values in the two countries

Germany and the United States are civil societies.

Germany's philosophical heritage and America's spirit for "freedom" interlock to a central aspect of Western culture and Western civilization. Even though developed under different geographical settings, the Age of Enlightenment is fundamental for the self-esteem and understanding of both nations.

It can also be observed that both countries have experienced the ideology of white supremacy. When the Congress of the Nazi Party met in 1935 to pass their Nuremberg Laws, they were in many ways modelled on the Jim Crow laws which were in place in the USA from 1877 to 1954. [ [ "The Nuremberg Laws" by Ben S. Austin] ]

Both countries value each other's "sleeves up" attitude to work and respect each others sense for "right and order". An ineloquent image of an Ugly American corresponds to the "Ugly German". ["'The Ugly German' and 'The Ugly American': National Stereotypes of the Modern Conformist,", by Todd Hanlin, paper delivered to the American Association of Teachers of German and Modern Language Association of Philadelphia and Vicinity, West Chester, 1979.] A high level of cultural exchange has led to relatively strong views of each other, both positive and negative. Americans tend to view Germans as efficient and orderly, yet routinely mock them for their Nazi past. German views of Americans on the other hand often resemble those of Canadians toward Americans. Nevertheless, both Americans and Germans visit each others' countries routinely, many on extended stays for business or study.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has also changed the perception of the U.S. in Germany significantly. A recent BBC poll shows that 20 % of Germans think the US has a mainly positive influence in the world, while 72 % think it is mainly negative. Both countries differ in many polical key areas, such as energy and military interventions.

A survey conducted on behalf of the Germany embassy in 2007 showed that Americans continued to regard Germany's failure to support the war in Iraq as the main irritant in relations between the two nations. However, the issue was of declining importance and Americans still considered Germany to be their fourth most important international partner behind the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan, although with only a minor influence on U.S. politics, especially as compared with the United Kingdom. Americans considered economic cooperation to be by far the most positive aspect of U.S.-German relations. [ [ Perceptions Of Germany & The Germans Among The U.S. Population (17 April 2007).] ]

Political relations


In 1785 the United States concluded a trade agreement with Prussia.

German Empire and two World wars

During the First World War German diplomats actively supported various movements such as the Ghadar Party to overthrow the British Raj. This involved using the American ship SS Maverick to smuggle arms and inflammatory publications to India. Although British intelligence was able to thwart the plans, the United States judiciary organised the Hindu German Conspiracy Trial following American involvement in the war against Germany. [ * [ The Hindu-German Conspiracy] by Karla K. Gower]

Post war

Following the defeat of the Third Reich American forces were one of the occupation powers in postwar partition of Germany. In parallel to denazification and "industrial disarmament" (see JCS 1067 and Industrial plans for Germany), American Forces and Americans for the first time fraternized with Germans (see War children and Eisenhower and German POWs) which was setting the foundation for a very close friendship; the Berlin Airlift from 1948 - 1949 and the Marshall Plan (1948 - 1952) further deepened German-American relations. See for example The President's Economic Mission to Germany and Austria for a motive for U.S. partial change of policies.Further reading:
* [ U.S. Economic Policy Towards defeated countries] April, 1946.
* [,10987,887417,00.html "Pas de Pagaille!"] , Time magazine July 28, 1947

Cold War

The emergence of the Cold War made the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) the frontier of a democratic Western Europe and American military presence became an integral part in West German society.

During the following decades West Germany developed as Europe's biggest economy and West German-U.S. relations further grew together in a new transatlantic partnership. Germany and the U.S. shared a large portion of their culture, established intensive global trade environment and continued to co-operate on new high technologies. However, German-American co-operation wasn't always free of tensions between differing approaches on both sides of the Atlantic.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of Germany marked a new era in German-American relations.

Post 1990

During the early 1990s the reunified Germany was called for a "partnership in leadership" at a high of German-American relations, with the U.S. emerging as the world's sole superpower.

Germany's effort to incorporate any major military actions into the slowly progressing European Security and Defence Policy did not meet the expectations of the U.S. during Gulf War. After the September 11 attacks, the German-American political relations were strengthened in an effort to combat terrorism, and Germany sent troops to Afghanistan as part of the NATO force. Yet, discord continued over the Iraq War, when Germany refused to join the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq.

Military relations

German-American military relations date to the time of the American War of Independence when German troops fought on both sides. Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a former Lieutenant General in the Prussian Army, was appointed Inspector General of the Continental Army and helped form the rag-tag militia into a proper military force during the winter of 1777–1778 at Valley Forge. To this day he is considered to be one of the founding fathers of the United States Army.

Another German that served during the American Revolution was Major General Johann de Kalb, who served under Horatio Gates at the Battle of Camden and died as a result of several wounds he sustained during the fighting.

About 30,000 German mercenaries fought for the British, with 17,000 coming from Hesse, amounting to about one in four of the adult male population of the principality. Generally referred to as Hessians, these German auxiliaries swore allegiance to the British Crown, but without renouncing their allegiance to their own rulers. Leopold Philipp von Heister, Wilhelm von Knyphausen, and Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Lossberg were the principal generals who commanded these troops with Frederick Christian Arnold, Freiherr von Jungkenn as the senior German officer. [ [ Freiherr von Jungkenn Papers ] ]

German Americans have been very influential in the United States military. Some notable figures include Brigadier General August Kautz, Major General Franz Sigel, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz, and General Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr.

Germany and the United States are joint NATO members. The U.S. currently has approximately 150,000 American troops stationed within southern Germany. During the Cold War the number of U.S. troops based in West Germany was significantly higher. Both nations have closely cooperated in the War on Terror, with Germany providing more troops than any other nation. However, the two nations have opposing public policy positions in the War in Iraq. While Germany may have blocked US efforts to secure UN Resolutions in the buildup to war, they continued to quietly militarily support U.S. interests in southwest Asia. German soldiers operated military Biological and Chemical cleanup equipment at Camp Doha in Kuwait; German Navy ships secured sea lanes to deter attacks by Al Qaeda on US Forces and equipment in the Persian Gulf; and soldiers from Germany's Bundeswehr deployed all across southern Germany to US Military Bases to conduct Force Protection duties in place of Germany based US Soldiers who were deploying to Operation Iraqi Freedom. The latter mission lasted from 2002 until 2006. Today, nearly all the Bundeswehr have been de-mobilized. [Gordon, Michael and Trainor, Bernard "Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq" New York: 2006 ISBN 0-375-42262-5]

Economic relations

The two economies are mutually important to each other both as places of investment and trade: 50% of German foreign direct investment goes to the United States. German investment in the United States amounts to over 100 billion euros. The United States is the largest investor in the European Union with almost 50% of all investments and in Germany with total investments amounting to 100 billion dollars, of which about 10% are in the new Federal Länder (former East Germany), making the U.S. the largest foreign investor there.

German companies employ over 800,000 people in subsidies in the United States and US companies have the same number of employees in Germany. This makes Germans the third largest group of foreign employers (after Canada and the United Kingdom) and the US the largest inter-continental foreign employer in Germany.

Cultural relations

Karl May was a prolific German writer who specialized in writing Westerns. Although he only visited America once towards the end of his life, May provided Germany with a series of frontier novels, which provided Germans with an imaginary view of America.

Famous German-American architects, artist, musicians and writers:
*Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
*Paul Hindemith
*Philip Johnson

German takes third place after Spanish and French among the foreign languages taught at American secondary schools, colleges and universities. Conversely, nearly half of the German population can speak English well.

Research and academic exchange

The contributions of German and American scientists to various fields of science are countless, as are the co-operations between academics from both countries. German scientists have provided invaluable contributions to American technological advancement, especially in the mid-20th century. For example, Werner von Braun was important in helping to start the American space exploration program.

Research at German and American universities run various exchange programs and projects, and focus among others on space exploration and the ISS, environmental technology and medical science. Import cooperations are also in the fields of biochemistry, engineering, information and communication technologies and life sciences (networks through: Bacatec, DAAD).

American Cultural Institutions in Germany

In the post-war era, a number of institutions, devoted to bring the characteristic aspects of American culture and society into the awareness of Germans, were established and are in existence today, especially in the south of Germany, the area of the former U.S. Occupied Zone. Today, they offer English courses as well as cultural programs. These institutions include the so-called "d.a.i.'s" ("Deutsch-Amerikanische Institute", German-American Institutes) in Tübingen [] , Heidelberg, Nuremberg and Saarbrücken and the James F. Byrnes Institute in Stuttgart [] (for the history of the establishment of these institutions see d.a.i.).

Diplomatic missions

*Embassy of the United States in Berlin
*Embassy of Germany in Washington

See also

* List of famous German Americans
* German in the United States


External links

* [ American Academy in Berlin]
* [ American Chamber of Commerce in Germany]
* [ AICGS American Institute for Contemporary German Studies in Washington, DC]
* [ American Council on Germany]
* [ Amerikahaus in Munich]
* [ Aspen Institute Berlin]
* [ Atlantik Brücke Berlin]
* [ Atlantic Review]
* [ DAAD New York]
* [ German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington, DC]
* [ Germany-USA Career Center for German American Trade]
* [ Munich Conference on Security Policy]
* [ German-American Institute Tübingen]
* [ German-American Center (James F. Byrnes Institute) Stuttgart (German)]
* [ German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA in Washington, DC]

* [ German Embassy in Washington, DC]
* [ United States Embassy in Berlin]

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