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“Histoires croisés”: The Goethe-Institut Paris Celebrates Its 50th Birthday

Copyright: Alexandra Clamart
During the ceremonies foreign minister Westerwelle underscored the importance of culture for European unity (Photo: Alexandra Clamart)

6 July 2012

Franco-German reconciliation has a number of fathers and mothers and the Goethe-Institut Paris is among them. The celebration of its 50th birthday brought politics, culture and industry together.

For decades, encounters with France have been among the first steps towards European acculturation. These encounters also made their mark on the lives of Foreign Minister Westerwelle and Johannes Ebert, Secretary-General of the Goethe-Institut. While Guido Westerwelle came upon the wounds of the war generation in the Bretagne during his first journey to France as a teenager, the friendships made by Johannes Ebert during his pupils’ exchange in France have lasted until today.

During the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Goethe-Institut Paris the speakers drew on their own early experiences with our neighbours across the Rhine to remind the 300 guests of the import of neighbourly encounters. The foreign minister warned insistently against allowing economic problems to lessen the importance of the European Project in any way. Guido Westerwelle underscored the importance of culture for the success of European unity. The minister thanked the staff of the Goethe-Institut Paris for the contribution they have made to reconciliation with France. Europe needs “interpreters who help us better understand one another,” said Westerwelle. The Goethe-Institut is one of these interpreters. Johannes Ebert also emphasized the significance of culture for our mutual European home, saying, “Europe is a cultural project of mutual values, a long-term project in which we must create confidence and enthusiasm.”

In his tour d'horizon of the history of the Paris institute, its director Joachim Umlauf pointed out that the façade of the Goethe-Institut – the only modernistic one in the renowned 16th arrondissement – also represented a clear commitment by the young Federal Republic to dare a new start. Many of those who helped to shape this departure were among the guests, foremost Alfred Grosser, Beate Klarsfeld and Jack Lang. Soon, the next 50th birthday will be celebrated, when on 22 January the signing of the Elysée Treaty will be marked – an occasion that the Goethe-Institut Paris will celebrate with a multifaceted cultural programme.


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