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Biden to name Amy Gutmann ambassador to Germany

June 30, 2021

If confirmed by the Senate, Amy Gutmann will be the first woman to serve as US ambassador to Germany. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she is currently president of the University of Pennsylvania.

Amy Gutmann smiling during a discussion
Amy Gutmann would be the first woman US ambassador to the Federal Republic of GermanyImage: Mark Makela/REUTERS

US President Joe Biden will nominate Amy Gutman, currently the president of the University of Pennsylvania, as ambassador to Germany, sources confirmed to DW.

Gutmann, 71, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, would also be the first woman appointed ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, were confirming a report in Der Spiegel magazine. US diplomat Rozanne Ridgway served as the US ambassador to East Germany in the 1980s.

Gutmann's appointment requires confirmation by the US Senate and approval by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier before she can take up the post. If confirmed by the US Senate, Gutmann would replace current Charge d'Affaires Robin Quinville; the US Embassy has been without an official ambassador since June 2020.

Relations on the mend

A change at the top of the US Embassy to Germany comes after several troubled years with former President Donald Trump's ambassador of choice. The previous Berlin envoy, Richard Grenell, stirred controversy with a combative approach to relations and vowed to support right-wingers in Europe.

He had also accused Germany of undermining NATO's nuclear deterrent and criticized Germany's involvement in the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. Grenell returned to the US to become Trump's director of national intelligence before resigning as ambassador in June 2020.

'An experienced bridge builder'

"With Amy Gutmann, Joe Biden is relying on an experienced bridge builder. She is taking on a difficult legacy after Richard Grenell," Johann Wadephul, deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative alliance, told Reuters news agency.

Gutmann has headed the University of Pennsylvania since 2016 and is an expert in democratic processes and ethics. She also served as chair of former President Barack Obama's Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

In a 2013 interview, she told the university's newspaper that her Jewish father's experiences in Nazi Germany had had a "profound influence" on her.

"It's true that his whole family would have disappeared from the face of the earth had it not been for what he did," Gutmann told The Daily Pennsylvanian. Despite ongoing differences, relations between Germany and the United States have improved substantially since Biden took office.

Ines Pohl contributed reporting to this article.

lc/sms (AFP, Reuters)