The historic city hall of Frankfurt, the Römer, still lay in rubble in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. Yet that was the very year Germany’s oldest German-American Friendship Association was founded. Fast forward 70 years to March 23 and the crowning hall of Holy Roman Emperors in the same historic building served as the setting for the commemoration of the 70th birthday of the Steuben-Schurz-Gesellschaft (German-American friendship association).
The organization, today boasting nearly 500 German and American members, promotes German-American relations and international understanding and has a most apropos motto, “Providing stability and friendship in a challenging environment.”
The association takes its name from Gen. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, who immigrated to America, trained Washington’s troops and enabled them to win the Revolutionary War against a seemingly overwhelming enemy, and from Carl Schurz, a democratic revolutionary who also immigrated to the United States, served as major general in the Union Army during the Civil War, and became the first German-born U.S. Senator.
I joined Brig. Gen. Kate Leahy, U.S. Army Europe deputy commanding general for Mobilization and Reserve Affairs, in representing USAREUR for the occasion. Also present was David Elmo, the deputy consul general at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt. The event was hosted by Frankfurt’s Bürgermeister, Uwe Becker, and the keynote address was provided by Hessen’s Minister of Culture, Professor Dr. Ralph Lorz, representing Hessen’s Minister President Volker Bouffier.
The Frankfurt mayor commented how it was appropriate that the oldest German-American friendship association had its home in Frankfurt. After all, he noted, Frankfurt is the most American of German cities, once home to Eisenhower’s headquarters and later to the U.S. Army V Corps. Today it hosts America’s largest consulate, is the largest financial center in Europe, welcomes many American businesses, is the historic site of the coronations of Holy Roman Emperors, and is the birthplace of Germany’s favorite son, Goethe.
The city boasts a liberal and democratic tradition that makes it attractive to a very diverse citizenry stemming from different cultures. One-third of all Frankfurters, to include many American businesspeople, trace their origins to somewhere outside Germany.
Leahy’s concluding remark, “Weiter so!” delivered in German, aptly summarized the mood of the evening and the sentiment of U.S. Army Europe, that the Steuben-Schurz German-American friendship association “Continue on!” in the bridge-building that has been so successful the past 70 years.
Mike Anderson is the director of host nation relations for the U.S. Army Europe.