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Joachim Fischer | Chair in European Cultural Studies & Senior Lecturer in German, Limerick

60 years Goethe Institut! 
Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag 
The Goethe Institut Irland has played a significant role in my professional life ever since I arrived in Ireland from a then much smaller Federal Republic of Germany in 1984. Perhaps not as much as for my more fortunate colleagues in Dublin who have it on their doorstep, but also for those who live beyond the Pale the GI has been a presence rather than an absence. It has always endeavoured to do as much for us as it can.   
More importantly perhaps, for German ‘ex-pats’ like myself the Goethe Institut has been a piece of home away from home on my frequent trips to the capital: more than the language it may have been the smell of the plastic covering the books in the library, the understated functional office furniture, the efficient yet friendly atmosphere created by the German staff working there that made it Heimat, all appearing strangely misplaced in the Georgian interiors of the building in 62 Merrion Square – as misplaced as we may often feel ourselves: zuhause und nicht zuhause. Whenever I opened its door, however, I not only entered the organized and efficient Germany but also the country I am proud of, the best of Germany, its vibrant culture, critique and intellect, its seriousness, perhaps especially appreciated, at least occasionally, by us who live in a country whose attraction lies in its ability to let go and move on – which we also enjoy. The feeling of home was more important in the early years when close to £400 for a flight to Frankfurt and salaries a fraction of what they are today often limited physical contact to Germany to only once a year.  
I have seen many Directors come and go, watching the twists and turns in their presentations of Germany as a result of changes in the Auswärtige Kulturpolitik devised in Bonn, Berlin and Munich; also the funding that regularly went slightly up or substantially down and remained a constant point of discussion (or rather complaint) for all directors. It was precisely the variety of their approaches and emphases that via collaborative projects has made such a valuable contribution to Irish cultural life. The Institut’s teachers added to it: perhaps the best known among them was the late Peter Jankowsky due to being regularly cast as ‘the German’ in RTÉ tv series, be it as the alternative, environmentalist photographer Helmut Blau in Glenroe or the Nazi spy Hermann Goertz in Caught in a Free State – though I never thought there was anything quintessentially German about cosmopolitan Peter; or the award-winning translator and author Hans-Christian Oeser who almost single-handedly established translation as a profession in Ireland. This is not to diminish, of course, the very successful work of the many others in Goethe German classrooms over the years. I have tried to capture some of all this in the book mentioned below. 
I have been lecturing in German Studies at Irish third level institutions ever since I arrived. German departments all over Ireland have benefitted especially from what the Goethe Institut offered. Their students working on projects appreciate the help they receive from the tireless assistance of the librarians; the ever helpful Monika Schlenger I got to know best. Our students have also attended the film shows or exhibitions the GI sent around the country before the arrival of the internet made the world and its cultures accessible by the press of a button. The website of the Goethe Institut Irland responded immediately and creatively to the digital revolution with an attractive web-based offering, e.g. the German Traces in Ireland project I recommend to all my students of German and use in my classes. Among the beneficiaries of the GI’s work are also the teachers of German. The Goethe Institut always knew what overburdened Irish secondary school teachers wanted: much as us arrogant newcomers in the 1980s may have sniffed at the methodological quirkiness of some didactic seminars that occasionally did not go much beyond the distribution of hundreds of photocopies for immediate use in the classroom, the teachers of German were always profoundly grateful precisely for the tailor-made assistance the GI language section in Fitzwilliam Square provided.  
10 years ago, I collaborated with the then Director of the Goethe Institut, my friend Rolf Stehle, in the organisation of a conference marking the first fifty years of the Goethe Institut Irland. This led to the volume Contemporary German-Irish Cultural Relations in a European Perspective (Trier 2012). It was no coincidence that the Goethe Institut opened its doors on 25 October 1961 less than three months after Ireland had submitted its first (unsuccessful) application to join what was then the European Economic Community – a diplomatic (and deeply symbolic) coup made the application arrive before that of the UK. The language needs of Irish civil servants provided the Goethe Institut with many of its students in the early years; more importantly, these contemporaneous events place the Goethe Institut into a broader European context. While its prime function has always been, and will continue to be, to explain and showcase Germany and its culture abroad, the Goethe Institut has also seen itself as a window towards Europe, increasingly so in the last two decades. Rather than competition, collaboration characterizes its relationship with the other cultural institutes in Dublin of fellow European Union member states France, Italy and Spain. As an EU citizen, European and teacher of European Studies I am grateful to the Goethe Institut for enriching the Irish debate about the future of Europe with the cultural factor, thereby making Ireland’s membership of the EU so much more attractive and exciting. The European Book Club during the covid-19 isolation is just one example from this jubilee year.  
No doubt, the Institut will continue to bring its own part of the rich multi-lingual heritage of the European Union to anybody who cares to listen, read, see and experience. I would like to congratulate the Goethe Institut Dublin for sixty years of a job well done – for Irish-German understanding and for European integration in diversity. Ad multos annos!