An exhibition in the US Congress points out the contributions of millions of Germans to American society. Congressman Tim Holden, co-chair of the German-American Caucus, promotes stronger transatlantic ties today.
The exhibition honors the German contribution to US society
The German-American Caucus promotes stronger ties between the two countries by highlighting trade and drawing attention to the heritage of German-American immigrants. US Congressman Tim Holden of Pennsylvaina is co-chair of the organization.
Deutsche Welle: What is your personal relationship with Germany?
Tim Holden: Millions of Pennsylvanians claim German as their heritage, so I represent literally thousands of people who are Pennsylvania Dutch, as they affectionately refer to themselves, and [Congressman] Jim Gerlach from Pennsylvania also has the same constituencies. We form the German caucus and we have several members who have signed up, because for literally millions of Americans, their heritage goes back to Germany. It's a very important transatlantic relationship.
How important is the German-American Caucus today?
We are growing in numbers, and it's important obviously to celebrate the heritage. Just as important is the economy and jobs. There are numerous German companies in my congressional district in Pennsylvania that are doing business there. Bayer is an example with hundreds of employers in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. And there are many others, particularly in south-eastern Pennsylvania which Jim Gerlach represents.
Is the economy the most important topic for the German caucus?
Holden thinks a personal relationship is important for trade ties
Yes, it's jobs. I don't care if you're talking about the Irish caucus, the Polish caucus, the German caucus; We all care about this worldwide recession that we're trying to climb out of. My particular interests are Ramstein Airforce Base and the city of Kaiserslautern. They burn anthracite coal from Pennsylvania to heat the American facilities there, so that is an important mission that I work on. I've been to Kaiserslautern many times, working with the Lord Mayor on that one particular issue, and it goes both ways across the Atlantic.
Let's talk about the transatlantic relationship. How important is the German-American Caucus for shaping the transatlantic relationship?
We live in a global economy, whether we like it or not. We have to trade with each other, we have to share technology with each other, and it's very important that you get a one-on-one personal relationship with industry in the States as well as in the European Union.
Where do you see the future of the German-American Caucus? What direction is it heading in?
I can see that within the short year we've been actively working on it, it has grown in interest. [Many] members of Congress [haven't realized] how many constituents they have with German heritage. If they hear about that, and if they hear about businesses from Germany that are in their districts - we are growing in numbers and we're growing in interest, and that's very important.
The exhibition "Helping Shape America - German-Americans in the US Congress from 1789 to the Present" runs until October 7 in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
Interview: Miodrag Soric, Washington / ng
Editor: Nancy Isenson