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How they see us: Back in the heart of Berlin
Will the newly rebuilt U.S. Embassy in Berlin symbolize "a new beginning" in the relationship between Germany and America?
 

“The Americans never gave up their claim to a piece of Berlin,” said Ulrich Paul in the Berliner Zeitung. Before World War II, the U.S. Embassy was located on beautiful Pariser Platz, a square in the center of Berlin right by the Brandenburg Gate. In 1957, at the height of the Cold War, the pro-Soviet authorities in East Germany tore it down, and a few years later, the hideous Berlin Wall passed directly in front of the building’s former site. But the U.S. always maintained that the spot was U.S. soil. “That stubbornness has finally paid off.” The newly rebuilt U.S. Embassy opened there on July 4 with a festival of fireworks visible across the entire city.

Let this embassy symbolize “a new beginning” in the relationship between Germany and America, said Thomas Frankenfeld in the Hamburger Abendblatt. The two countries had a severe falling-out over the Iraq war that is only now beginning to mend. Yet surely our two peoples have “a friendship that is strong enough to withstand differences of opinion.” Next year, said Jochim Stoltenberg in the Berliner Morgenpost, when the U.S. has a new ambassador representing a new president, it will be able to rekindle Germans’ affection. Hopefully, we will put aside our “tendency to act like a know-it-all,” and the Americans will abandon their “arrogance and resistance to advice.”

Unfortunately, the building itself doesn’t exude a friendly feeling, said Claudia Lepping in the Stuttgarter Nachrichten. Instead, it looks like “America has barricaded itself in.” The new embassy is an architectural nightmare of “concrete barriers, steel gates, and any number of fences.” The windows are tiny and nearly opaque. Rumor has it that the Americans have installed video cameras on neighboring buildings and even on the Brandenburg Gate itself. As one critic says, “It looks like the nation transformed itself from world policeman to paranoid hermit.”

The embassy is “a lot like American foreign policy,” said Peter Brinkman in the Berliner Kurier—“clumsy and not very pretty.” But Berliners went dutifully to the grand opening anyway. We well know that during the Cold War, it was American support and American might that “kept West Berlin from falling into Soviet hands.” Nor have we forgotten that, after the wall came down in 1989, it was the U.S. that midwifed the reunification of East and West Germany. “The Americans have earned our everlasting thanks. Even if we don’t care for the new embassy.”

 

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