After I announced last week’s “merger” of the French and German cultural institutes here in Atlanta, I was asked by several people about the significance of this event.
True, it does not strike one as so important that two cultural institutes try to save money by sharing space and resources. In the case of Germany and France however, the event is indicative of a connection between two nations that seemed to be eternal foes, “Erbfeinde” as the 19th-century German term for the French expressed it. From the French-German War of 1870/71 to the two World Wars French and German relations were mostly hostile. Traces of the destruction and the suffering caused by these wars are still visible today in the border regions between Germany and France, territories that sometimes moved from one side to the other and back within a couple of years.
It was after 1945 that things changed eventually, when German chancellor Adenauer and French president Charles de Gaulle established a substantial and ongoing cooperation between the two countries. In that context, I think, it is quite significant that two institutions whose goal it is to promote their respective national cultures amically manage to this in one shared space.
L’amitié Franco-Allemande, the French-German friendship, in someone’s youtube version: