Embassy Honors German Language Society of Washington

Sep 23, 2010

From left to right: Elisabeth Vondracek (outgoing president), Karen Carstens (new president), and Fred Schroeder (vice president), of the German Language Society. (c) Fred Schroeder/German Language Society Enlarge image From left to right: Elisabeth Vondracek (outgoing president), Karen Carstens (new president), and Fred Schroeder (vice president), of the German Language Society. (© Fred Schroeder/German Language Society) The German Embassy recently hosted a reception honoring the Washington-based German Language Society, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2011.

Founded in 1961 by German-speaking immigrants to the United States, the German Language Society (GLS) provides programs primarily in the form of presentations by distinguished guest lecturers from the worlds of academia, the arts, media, and science.

Honoring a tireless advocate of German-language programs

As the GLS opened a new season of its German-language programs at the Embassy on September 16, Culture Counsellor Bertram von Moltke spoke on behalf of the Embassy in honor of outgoing GLS President Elisabeth Vondracek.

"You have dedicated countless hours of service to the German Language Society, which shone through time and again in the excellent programs you conceived," von Moltke said before members of the GLS and other guests in the Embassy's auditorium.

"This cannot be taken for granted, and is highly commendable," he underscored, citing the fact that Vondracek was honored not once but twice with two different levels of the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz).

Vondracek, a native of the southern German city of Würzburg, has been a resident of Washington since the mid 1960's and is a longtime member of the German Language Society, which she spearheaded as its president for nearly three decades.

Von Moltke also mentioned her late husband, Jon Vondracek, as a strong influence on the German Language Society. As a couple they cultivated many contacts whom they invited to be GLS guest speakers.

Vondracek's successor is Karen Carstens, a DC-born German-American who has worked as a journalist in both the US and Europe and is now a web editor for the German Information Center USA at the German Embassy in Washington, where she produces the electronic newsletter The Week in Germany.

Embassy longtime host of GLS events

From left to right: Karen Carstens (GLS, president), Culture Counsellor Bertram von Moltke of the German Embassy, Professor Alfred Obernberger (Georgetown University), and Elisabeth Vondracek (GLS, honorary head of board).(c) Fred Schroeder/German Language Society Enlarge image From left to right: Karen Carstens (GLS president), Culture Counsellor Bertram von Moltke of the German Embassy, Professor Alfred Obernberger, Georgetown University, and Elisabeth Vondracek, outgoing president, honorary head, board of directors, German Language Society. (© Fred Schroeder/German Language Society) This year's season of GLS events kicked off with a lecture by former Georgetown University Professor Alfred Obernberger on the "Hutterische Brüder" (Hutterites), a group of Protestant immigrants to North America who brought with them unique customs and traditions, thriving in close-knit communities in which they maintained their own special German dialect and spirtual beliefs.

An illustrated lecture on the life and times of Albert Schweitzer will be presented on October 14 at the German Embassy by Pastor Martin Mencke of the German Lutheran Church in Washingon.

The German Embassy has served as the main venue for GLS events over the past several decades. One event annually is also traditionally held at the Embassy of Switzerland.

Future programs will temporarily take place at an alternate venue as the German Embassy will decamp to a new location in Washington for up to three years while its main Chancery building undergoes extensive renovations. The GLS will return to the German Embassy after it relocates back to its original headquarters.

About the German Language Society

The German Language Society operates under the patronage of the German Ambassador, as well as the ambassadors to the United States of both Switzerland and Austria. As a non-profit, non-partisan organization, it is coordinated by dedicated volunteers, including a core leadership team and an advisory board.

Among its several hundred members are residents of Washington, Maryland and Virginia, many with roots in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. Membership is open, however, to anyone interested in attending German-language programs and events.

Students of German are moreover always welcome at GLS events, which provide an excellent opportunity to meet other German speakers in Washington. A wine-and-cheese reception generally follows all GLS presentations.

How to sign up for GLS events

The GLS plans to launch a new website and Facebook presence by early 2011 to flag up its programs and increase its outreach with a view to inviting members past and present to attend.

To sign up for future German Language Society events, call 202-239-0432.

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