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Atlantik-Brücke's Beginnings

Atlantik-Brücke was founded as a non-partisan association in 1952 by Eric M. Warburg (banker), Erik Blumfeld (entrepreneur and politician), Dr. Marion Gräfin Dönhoff (journalist and publisher), Ernst Friedlaender (journalist), Dr. Hans Karl von Borries (entrepreneur) and Dr. Gotthard Freiherr von Falkenhausen (banker). The goal of the association’s founders was to regain Americans’ trust in the Germans after the Second World War, and, in doing so, to lay a new foundation for a strong transatlantic relationship. At the same time, the American Council on Germany was founded in the US as Atlantik-Brücke’s sister organization. At the beginning, Atlantik-Brücke (which until 1956 held the name Transatlantik-Brücke) had its office in Hamburg, moved to Bonn in 1983 for more direct contact with politics, and has been in Berlin since 1999.

A Meeting Place for German and American Leaders

Since its inception, Atlantik-Brücke’s main focus has been to promote personal contact between German and American executive leaders. Atlantik-Brücke offers high ranking decision makers from business, politics and academia a platform for meeting and networking with their counterparts on both sides of the Atlantic. In order to maintain the exclusivity of the association, its total number of members is limited. However, this number has grown over the years from 60 to 500, reflecting, for one, the growth of the German elite since the war’s end. At small-scale events, Atlantik-Brücke’s members and guests have always found a protected space for confidential talks on transatlantic topics. An example of one of these kinds of gatherings was the German-American Conference which began in 1959. Organized in close cooperation with the American Council on Germany (ACG), these conferences were hosted alternating between Germany and the US. In 1973, the Young Leaders Program was added to Atlantik-Brücke’s repertoire; with it, Atlantik-Brücke promotes interaction between rising young German and American professional leaders. In 1986 Atlantik-Brücke expanded its scope to include Canada with annual German-Canadian Conferences.

Atlantik-Brücke as a Think Tank

During its earlier years, Atlantik-Brücke also functioned as a kind of think tank, working to influence public and political opinions by means of suggesting solutions to current or long-term issues. For example, its German-American conference statements were published regularly as the periodical  “East-West Issues".

Public Diplomacy in the US

From its very beginning, another key aspect of Atlantik-Brücke’s work has been to inform the American public about Germany and in doing so, to spur an interest in the country and its people. For example, Articles and letters to the editor were published in American media to explain German standpoints. Also, German seminars for American teachers were first organized in 1965, and they still continue to reach and influence – directly and indirectly – a broad audience today.

Joint Work with American Forces

Cooperation with American forces stationed in Germany was also a great concern for Atlantik-Brücke: from 1957-1970, the association published an English-language information leaflet for American soldiers stationed in Germany. In 1963 it expanded its efforts by establishing seminars for American officers, a program which continues today. Besides this, annual expert talks with the U.S. European Command, during which German and American Generals are joined by representatives from politics, business and the media, have taken place at Magnus-Haus since 1990.

Atlantik-Brücke after the Cold War

The transatlantic relationship fundamentally changed with the end of the cold war. Europe and America are now confronted with other economic, ecologic and political challenges and are tightly bound in a global network of actors. The transatlantic dialogue faces new tasks and will be determined by many new topics. This also affects Atlantik-Brücke’s work. Although it is true that many of the traditional program formats (such as conferences and working groups) have remained, their content has greatly changed. Today, Atlantik-Brücke strives to emphasize increased member involvement and a renewed focus on solution-oriented and content-based work.