The faces, the stories, the shared history – the German-American friendship in pictures.
John D. Rockefeller
The legendary American oil magnate John D. Rockefeller had German roots, which can be traced close to the town known today as Neuwied. His ancestors emigrated as early as 1723. At the age of 38, Rockefeller controlled almost 90% of the country’s oil refinery capacity. In 1879, he was one of the 20 richest men in the United States.
Levi Strauss around 1880.
Who is not familiar with the iconic blue jeans? The German-American industrialist Levi Strauss is regarded, together with his business partner Jacob Davis, as the inventor of jeans. The roots of the company date back to 1853, when Jewish immigrant Löb Strauss from Upper Franconia founded a textiles firm in San Francisco. Löb Strauss later became Levi Strauss – his company remains family-managed to this day.
Henry John Heinz
It is not only thanks to Andy Warhol’s world-famous depiction of the Heinz box that the ketchup is still widely known today. The company founder was Henry John Heinz, one of eight children of German immigrants. His father Johann Heinrich Heinz came from the Palatinate, his mother Anna Margaretha Schmidt from Hessen.
Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch
Budweiser beer is known throughout America. It was in St. Louis in 1870 that German immigrants Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch first founded the brewery that would become the largest in the country. InBev bought the company in 2008. Today, Budweiser is available in over 80 markets worldwide.
On 25 April 1945 American troops and units of the Red Army met for the first time on German soil in Strehla, roughly 30 kilometres south of the town of Torgau on the River Elbe. The Allied forces had effectively divided Germany in two, and in a symbol of friendship an American and a Russian soldier shook hands.
Marlene Dietrich rejected all film roles from the Nazi regime and took American citizenship in 1939. She supported American troops and was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1947, the highest civilian decoration in the USA.
Another name for Thomas Mann’s residence in Los Angeles in the early 1940s was the “White House of Exile”. The Nobel laureate who had emigrated to the USA took American citizenship just a few years after moving in. Today the Thomas Mann House is a meeting place for transatlantic exchange.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (second from left)
Like many of his colleagues, the preeminent figure of German Bauhaus avant-garde architecture emigrated to the United States. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe became an American citizen in 1944. As early as 1947 the Museum of Modern Art in New York showed a retrospective of his work.
Henry Kissinger grew up in Fürth and fled from the Nazis to the United States with his parents. The “German-American” became one of the most important American foreign affairs politicians from the 1960s until the 1980s. He was American Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, who served under the administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
From 17 July until 2 August 1945, the Allies met at Cecilienhof Palace for the Potsdam Conference in order to decide how they should go about administering Germany after its unconditional surrender. It was attended by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States – represented by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General Secretary of the Communist Party Joseph Stalin, and US President Harry S. Truman (from left to right).
In 1949 Konrad Adenauer became the first Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany and shifted the focus from denazification to reconstruction. With close relations to France, the United Kingdom and the United States, he led West Germany to democracy, stability, international respect and economic prosperity.
Gail Seymour Halvorsen
During the Berlin Blockade from June 1948 until May 1949, Western Allied aeroplanes supplied the cut-off city. Gail Seymour Halvorsen is the most famous pilot of what were known in Berlin as “Raisin Bombers”: The airman later became commander of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport.
To help war-ravaged Europe back on its feet, in 1948 the USA introduced the Marshall Plan. Officially called the “European Recovery Program” (ERP), it brought goods and loans with a present-day value of 131 billion dollars to Europe. It bears the name of then US Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who is said to have drawn it up.
During the Soviet blockade of Berlin, the city’s Mayor Ernst Reuter appealed to the “people of the world” on 9 September 1948 in front of 300,000 Berliners: Berlin was a bastion of liberty, he said, that must not be forsaken by the Western Allies. The moving speech made Reuter a symbol of the city’s perseverance and helped establish the airlift in the face of initial reservations.
Group 47 (Gruppe 47)
Group 47 was the name given to the German-language writers who attended meetings organized by Hans Werner Richter between 1947 and 1967. In the early days, Group 47 provided young writers with a platform for renewing German literature after the Second World War. Members of the group would influence the development of German-language literature up until the early 1970s. The best-known members of the group include Heinrich Böll, Martin Walser and Günter Grass.
John F. Kennedy
In 1961 John F. Kennedy became president of the United States – the same year in which the Berlin Wall was built. He gave a speech in Berlin on the 15th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift in which he made it clear that West-Berlin would not be abandoned in the face of the communist threat. The visit was a triumph and his statement “Ich bin ein Berliner” became legendary.
Checkpoint Charlie was the best-known border crossing between East and West Berlin between 1961 and 1990. It connected the Soviet sector with the American sector and linked East Berlin’s Mitte district with the Kreuzberg district in West Berlin.
On 1 October 1958 the “King” arrived in Bremerhaven to do his military service in Germany, where he would stay until March 1960. Stationed in the Frankfurt region, he definitively brought rock and roll and the American youth culture to Germany. It was also here that he met his later wife Priscilla, who lived in Wiesbaden.
“Two Plus Four” conference
The Two Plus Four Agreement paved the way for reunification. The “Two” were the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic (represented by Hans-Dietrich Genscher and Markus Meckel). The “Four” were the Soviet Union (Eduard Schewardnadse), France (Roland Dumas), Great Britain (Douglas Hurd) and the USA (James Baker).
9 November 1989
Walking a few steps from East to West: Something that today, almost 30 years later, is quite normal made people cry tears of joy during the night of 9/10 November 1989. After the Central Committee Secretary for Information, Günter Schabowski, announced that every East German citizen would be entitled to receive a visa to travel to the West from the following morning, thousands of East Berlin residents gathered at the city’s crossing points. Around 11.30 p.m. the officers on duty at the Bornholmer Strasse crossing point in Berlin’s Wedding district yielded to the pressure from the populace and opened the border. The Iron Curtain dividing East and West had fallen.
3 October 1990
On 3 October 1990, after 45 years of division, East and West Germany officially became one nation again. The division had come about after the Second World War: In 1945 Germany was initially divided into four sectors that were administered by the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Owing to the ideological differences among the Allies, the country was later split into West Germany and East Germany. In 1952 the latter closed its borders to the West and in 1961 built a wall through the city of Berlin.
Scorpions – Wind of Change
No other Rock song encapsulates the mood at the end of the Cold War more than “Wind of Change” by the German band Scorpions. It became an anthem of East-West rapprochement and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Angela Merkel and Donald Trump
Adjusting relations: Transatlantic relations have a high standing, even when the partners don’t always agree, as at the G7 summit in Canada, held in June 2018. In addition to Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron (France) and Shinzo Abe (Japan) also attended.
Frankfurt native Hans Zimmer is a living legend in Hollywood. He captivates filmgoers with his soundtracks, having written the music for films such as Gladiator, Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, Interstellar and Dunkirk. He won an Oscar in 1995 for The Lion King. He also plays his film music live with a large orchestra and spectacular show.
It is not just German supermodels who find success across the Atlantic: In the 1998 NBA draft Dirk Nowitzki was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks and was immediately traded to the Mavericks, where he has played ever since. Nowitzki is the highest-scoring player in NBA history who was not born in the United States.
Heidi Klum is arguably Germany’s most beautiful export success. She is a model, presenter, businesswoman and actress. In 1999 she was the first German model to become a Victoria’s Secret angel. Later she presented the successful American reality show Project Runway, for which she won an Emmy.