Evolution of a Friendship

Germans and Americans share a common past and a common purpose dating back to 1608, when the first Germans arrived at the English settlement of Jamestown.

German and American flags in Washington near the White House on June 6, 2011. Enlarge image German and American flags in Washington near the White House on June 6, 2011. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

How Germans helped forge a fledgling nation

The United States has always thrived on immigration, including continuous large-scale German migration from the late eighteenth century until the 1920s. Today, some 50 million Americans claim German heritage - the country's largest self-reported ancestral group.

German-Americans established the first kindergartens (Margarethe Meyer Schurz) in the United States, introduced the Christmas tree tradition, were among the earliest colonial-era printing press operators and publishers, invented blue jeans (Levi Strauss), and originated popular American foods such as hot dogs and hamburgers.

A Jazz Age love affair with all things American

The 1920's, in turn, mark a first wave of Americanization in Germany. American culture - notably jazz music - began at this time to influence Germans in Berlin and beyond at the dawn of what was aptly entitled the "Jazz Age." Germany's first "boy group," the legendary Comedian Harmonists, were moreover inspired by The Revelers, an American quintet comprised of four close harmony singers and a pianist.

The emergence of a thriving parliamentary democracy in Weimar Republic era Germany also owed much to strong US support for the self-determination of nations all over the world. Yet amid the economic decline spawned by the Great Depression, Germany fell prey in 1933 to the Nazi dictatorship which unleashed the Second World War.

Warm friendship during a Cold War

Children in Berlin cheer on a transport plane during the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. (c) picture-alliance/dpa Enlarge image Children in Berlin cheer on a transport plane during the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49. (© picture-alliance/dpa) Germany and the German people will never forget the support and friendship they received from the United States after the Second World War ended in 1945. The European Recovery Program (ERP), or Marshall Plan, helped Germany and Europe rebuild and recover from the ravages of war.

Care packages sent from the United States to Germany during these lean years that included food shortages helped many families literally survive. So did the Berlin Airlift of 1948/49, during which the United States and her allies supplied more than 2 million people with desperately needed food and fuel until a Soviet Blockade of the city was lifted. This marked the dawn of the Cold War era.

German-American relations today

US and German troops work together in Afghanistan in 2011 Enlarge image U.S. Army 1st Lt. Eric Madison, 190th Engineer Company, Task Force (TF) Roughneck, TF Sword, 2nd platoon leader from Baton Rouge, La., is greeted by a German Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician with TF Kunduz before leaving on a joint coalition route clearance training outside Forward Operating Base Kunduz in 2011. (© dvids - Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System)

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, German unification in 1990, and the end of the Cold War era with the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991, German and American relations remain as crucial as ever in today's globalized world.

Problems ranging from financial instabilities to international terrorism to climate change know no boundaries, and multilateral solutions are often the best - if not the only - way to address such complex issues.

Germany and the United States, which are inextricably interlinked through deep economic, political and cultural ties, can meet these new challenges together.

Prominent Americans of German Extraction - A Sampler

Many German-Americans became famous politicians (Carl Schurz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Henry Kissinger, John Boehner) or industrialists (John D. Rockefeller, William Boeing, Walter Chrysler, Henry Engelhard Steinway, Henry J. Heinz, Milton Hershey, James L. Kraft, Charles Pfizer, Conrad Hilton, Donald Trump).

They also dominated the business of beer brewing (Eberhard Anheuser, Adolphus Busch, Adolph Coors, Frederick Miller, Frederick Pabst, Bernhard Stroh, Joseph Schlitz).

Others meanwhile made their mark on intellectual life, including science (Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Wernher von Braun, Joseph Weizenbaum, Thomas Eugene Kurtz), literature (John Steinbeck, Gertrude Stein, Henry Miller, Kurt Vonnegut, Irma S. Rombauer) and philosophy (Hannah Arendt).

Still others became prominent athletes (Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mark Spitz), actors (Clark Gable, Mae West, Grace Kelly, Christopher Walken, Uma Thurman, John Malkovich, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jeremy Renner, Ben Affleck, Katherine Heigl, Jon Hamm) or directors (Carl Laemmle, Ernst Lubitsch, Billy Wilder, George Lucas, Wolfgang Peterson).

And some became acclaimed architects (Adolf Cluss, John A. Roebling, Albert Kahn, Walter Gropius); artists (Albert Bierstadt, Lyonel Feininger, Josef Albers); humorists (Matt Groening, David Letterman, Daniel Tosh); musicians and singers (John Philip Sousa, Elvis Presley, Les Paul, Cyndi Lauper, Eddie Vedder); photographers (Alfred Stieglitz, Andreas Feininger, Alfred Eisenstadt) or journalists (Theodore Dreiser, H.L. Mencken, Keith Olbermann).

  • Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (Prussian-born Major General of Continental Army during American Revolutionary War)
  • Conrad Weiser (early Pennsylvania German pioneer, interpreter, farmer, soldier, and judge)
  • Frederick Muhlenberg (first speaker of US House of Representatives, son of Lutheran leader Henry Muhlenberg)
  • Franz (Francis) Lieber (German-born US political philosopher and jurist, best known for formulating the "laws of war")
  • John Jacob Astor (German-American business magnate, merchant and investor; first multi-millionaire in the US)
  • Carl Schurz (first German-born American elected to the US Senate; newspaper editor, Civil War general)
  • John Pershing (led American Expeditionary Forces in World War I; promoted to General of the Armies)
  • Babe Ruth (b. George Herman Ruth, Jr., legendary athlete who spent 22 seasons in Major League Baseball)
  • John Steinbeck (beloved American novelist who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962)
  • Marlene Dietrich (Berlin-born actress and singer, one of greatest film stars of all time)
  • Albert Einstein (German theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity)
  • Dr. Seuss (b. Theodor Seuss Geisel, writer, poet and cartoonist famous for children's books such as The Lorax)
  • Doris Day (b. Doris Mary Ann Kappelhoff, legendary American actress, singer and animal rights activist)
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the United States from 1953 to 1961, five-star U.S. Army general during WWII)
  • Henry Kissinger (56th Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977, Chairman of Kissinger Associates, Inc.)
  • Eric Braeden (b. Hans Jörg Gudegast, actor best known as Victor Newman on "The Young and the Restless")
  • Ruth Westheimer (aka "Dr. Ruth", sex therapist, media personality and author; cultural icon of 1980s)
  • Norman Schwarzkopf (ret. US Army general, served as commander of Coalition Forces in Gulf War of 1991)
  • Meryl Streep (acclaimed American actress; nominated for 17 Academy Awards, winner of three)
  • Bruce Willis (German-born American actor, producer and musician; has appeared in over 60 films)
  • Sandra Bullock (Oscar-winning, German-American actress and producer)
  • Richard Lugar (longest-serving United States Senator in Indiana history, from 1976 to 2012)
  • Kirsten Dunst (dual German-American citizen and actress who obtained her German citizenship in 2011)
  • Leonardo Di Caprio (American actor, film producer and environmental activist)
  • Carlos D (former bassist of indie darling, New York based post-punk band Interpol)
  • Heidi Klum (international supermodel and media personality from Germany, host of "Project Runway")

Transatlantic Ties

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