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German Bashing : Give Germany a Break

German Bashing : Give Germany a Break

The issue of Anti-Americanism in Europe, that it be in France, Belgium or Germany definitely deserves a more balanced approach than the ones presented with too many articles in some leading American newspapers during the last two years. And more specially when they are supposed to deal with the period starting before World War I, like a recent article written by Michael Werz, "Transatlantic Fellow, German Marshall Fund of the United States" and published in a "U.S.-Europe Analysis Series" by the Brookings Institution in January 2005 under the title Anti-Americanism and Ambivalence in the New Germany. As we put it last year (1): "Too much is too much, this following the gutter anti-French, German, Belgian, and Canadian websites that have flourished ("Fuck the French.com" is one of them that has finally shut down) – beyond a degree of obsession, there is decidedly a persistent American subculture – following André Flahaut, the Belgian Defense Minister, Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United States, decided in turn to react and recall some first truths by exclaiming: "Give France a break", in a definitely non-diplomatic language. The caption "Today Baghdad, Tomorrow Paris" chalked on the turret of an American tank during the invasion of Iraq was already foreboding hard times…" This time, one of the most moderate and respected German career diplomat and former Ambassador to Tehran, Moscow, to NATO and India after having spent five years as President of the Federal German Intelligence Service (BND), Ambassador Hans-Georg Wieck, decided to react and recall some first truths after he "read on March 22, 2005, this essay with great interest" before he wrote the following to the Editor of the Brookings Institution. Berlin, March 27, 2005.

Ambassador Hans-Georg Wieck in Wildbad Kreuth, (Bavaria) © Archive E/S Photo, taken on March 13, 2003, during an international seminar on Intelligence and Terrorism.

Ambassador Wieck in Wildbad Kreuth, (Bavaria) © E/S Photo

Dear Editor:

... I was surprised, however to learn from this essay that there were signs of Anti-Americanism in Germany in the pre-1914 period, which allegedly were linked with a possible German world power status and the potential conflict of such power with the United States, which by 1900 had become the world's biggest economic entity.

According to the author of the article under consideration "there was a real sense of imperial competition that emanated from a thoroughly anti-modern and anti-socialist bourgeoisie. Anti-Americanism then migrated into the core of German elite self perception and became an integral part of German nationalistic folklore".

  • In my judgement the above assessment of German pre-War 1914 perception of America, is not based in any convincing way on facts:

There was very little knowledge available among the German publicore even the so-called elites about America. May be, it is correct to say that the United States constituted the world's biggest economy in the decade before the outbreak of World War I. But this was not known in Germany, and America was not perceived in such a way on the continent. The emigration from Germany to the United States during the 19th century was still a very broadly known development with many family contacts maintained throughout the 19th and and the early 20th century. The German Ambassador in Washington, Speck von Sternberg and President Teddy Roosevelt maintained close and friendly relations. Many times they undertook together excursions on horseback.

It is wrong to perceive Germany's foreign policy at the time as a drive for world power and rivalry with the upcoming world power on the other side of the Atlantic. By the way, not even the United States perceived themselves at that juncture of history as a world power.

Undoubtedly there was - unfortunately - power rivalry among the major states in Europe, which led to World War I, but this rivalry had nothing to do with developments in the United States or the perception of the USA at the time.

The issue of Anti-Americanism in Germany deserves a more balanced approach than presented with the article in question - certainly for the period before World War I.


Hans-Georg Wieck

Dr. Wieck's Website:

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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).