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Promoting US-German relations

By Martina Law
October 2005 

In October 2005,  shortly after taking on his new position as Consul General, Rolf Schütte paid a visit to Seattle. Since the Emerald City, along with Portland has a considerable number of German companies, these two cities are major destinations for the Consul General.   

Helping to celebrate the German-American Day on October 6 in Seattle’s German House was just one of the many obligations, the Consul General had to follow on his three-day-stay. Among other visits paid was the University of Washington, where the Consul General met with German professors and German scientists. In addition, he addressed a group of political science students on questions of the European Union’s Eastern dimensions. One of the great interests to Schütte is to establish a thriving relationship between the academic and scientific community and the German Consulate General.  

Despite his busy schedule, Consul General Schütte took the time to talk to the European Weekly about several issues that are of importance in his current position.  

One issue of relevance, for instance, is the American -Jewish community and its relation to Germany and its Jewish community. Schütte explains: “The dialogue with the American- Jewish community is very important to the German government, and has always been since the war.” He states that it is vital to inform American -Jews about modern-day Germany, “because in some parts of the community there is still that kind of concept or idea about modern-day Germany which is not correct.”  

He goes on, “It is very important to show how Germany dealt with the Holocaust and the lessons it has drawn, and how we live there today.” But Schütte makes it clear that it is not about “[painting] an idealistic picture, but an objective picture [of today’s Germany].” 

When speaking of dialogue, Schütte refers to a number of exchange programs, organized, for instance, by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation or the Bundeswehr, that bring many Jewish groups to Germany.  

To further  promote knowledge and understanding, the German Consulate General, together with the Goethe Institut and the Jewish Community Center, recently organized a Conference on ‘New Jewish life in Berlin.’ The conference was held in San Francisco, and it turned out to be very successful. “We expected like 50 people to come and there were more than 150.” Schütte goes on to explain: “That subject [is] of great interest to not only the Jewish community in America but also to a wider audience.”   

One more aspect Schütte would like to make the American -Jewish community aware of is Germany’s relation to Israel. “German-Israeli relations are not very (much) well-known here in America. […] Germany is the second most important partner for Israel.” In regard to this topic, he stresses: “I think most American -Jewish organizations and also most American -Jews recognize that Germany has changed. But there is still a lot of room to really inform people about the subject of German-Israeli relations.” 

Later in the conversation, Schütte emphasizes  his role as a representative of the German government, helping to  further German-American relations in general.  When looking at the situation on the West Coast,, he states that “a lot of attention is given to Asia.” He goes on to compare it to the, as he calls it, “Japan craze” some 15 years ago. “Everybody was looking at Japan and Japan was the model of the future. […] And, of course, Japan is very important and it is the second largest economy in the world. But the Japan craze has gone away.” Referring to China again, he says, “I’m not sure whether this China craze, if I can call it like that, is going to last forever or not.” And he adds in a slightly amused tone, “As you say in German, Bäume wachsen nirgends in den Himmel [ There are no trees that can grow into the sky indefinitely]. They probably also don’t do it in China.” 

Coming back to the issue of promoting better understanding between Germany and the US, Schütte tells the European Weekly that, in fact, both societies are not as far apart as commonly thought. “When I look at  what is discussed here in the press of the American West Coast and what is discussed, for example in Germany, there are so many issues that we have in common as highly developed modern societies. […] All the topics that are discussed here are also discussed in Europe.” Topics, such as the scarcity of energy and the question of how to develop alternative energy sources; how to protect the environment; how to integrate minorities into our societies; how to deal with legal and illegal migration; what are the (moral) limits of cloning; are there any moral limits; how to deal with the rights of gay and lesbians and gay marriage; how to deal with the impact of globalization on our economies, just to name a few.  

According to the Consul General, developing a better understanding and better relations may not be  difficult after all, or as Schütte himself states, “Bring people together that do deal with similar questions and have them exchange their views and exchange their opinions and maybe come up with solutions and have a dialogue. And I think that’s very worthwhile.”

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