Embassy of Germany, Washington, D.C.
|German Embassy in Washington, D.C.|
chancery of the German embassy in Washington, D.C.
|Address||4645 Reservoir Road NW|
The German Embassy in Washington, D.C. is the Federal Republic of Germany's diplomatic mission to the United States. Its chancery, designed by Egon Eiermann and opened in 1964, is located in northwest Washington, D.C. As of 2016, the German ambassador to the United States is Peter Wittig.
In 1894 the German embassy occupied a new chancery at 1435 Massachusetts Avenue. That building, constructed in 1873 as a private residence on a design by Adolf Cluss, was subsequently expanded to include 70 rooms, and would be occupied by Germany – with wartime interruptions – for nearly 50 years. The opening of the embassy was marked by a formal ball attended by 500 members of the Washington diplomatic corps, along with several members of the United States Congress and Chief Justice of the United States Melville Fuller. Music was provided by a detachment of the United States Marine Band. In this early period the embassy also hosted the return visit of President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt to Prince Henry of Prussia during the prince's official visit to the United States in 1902.
During the years prior to American entry into World War I, Franz von Papen was posted at the embassy as a military attache, though was ultimately declared persona non grata by the U.S. government as a result of suspected espionage. In February 1917 the United States terminated diplomatic relations with Germany. Staff of the embassy were returned their passports by the U.S. government and departed for Germany shortly thereafter.
A serious diplomatic incident
A serious diplomatic incident occurred in January 1941 when U.S. Navy sailors Edward Lackey and Harold Sturtevant, both on leave from the psychiatric ward of the Navy's Mare Island Hospital where they had been treated for sleep walking, scaled a fire escape, tore-down the flag from the German consulate in San Francisco, California and destroyed it. According to the sailors, they were unaware the building at which the flag was being flown was the German consulate. In his memoirs, consul Fritz Wiedemann, who witnessed the incident, recalled it as "both surreal and comical". The United States government issued an apology to Germany. The two sailors were briefly jailed and dismissed from military service, though following the United States declaration of war on Germany they were pardoned and allowed to reenlist.
World War II
On December 12, 1941 – following Germany's declaration of war against the United States – Switzerland assumed the role of protecting power of Germany in the United States and took custody of the chancery of the German embassy; staff were, meanwhile, interned at the Greenbrier until an exchange of diplomats was arranged the following year. During World War II, Switzerland used parts of the chancery to house its own staff, thereby alleviating a housing shortage for Swiss diplomatic personnel in the United States. Following the German military surrender in May 1945, Switzerland acknowledged the extinction of the German state and declared itself absolved of protecting responsibilities. The chancery of the embassy was surrendered, by Switzerland, to the United States government as trustee of the Allied Control Council that month. Upon receiving custody of the building, the United States government removed all documents and files that had been left behind by the German delegation and held them until 1950, at which point they were returned to the reconstituted German government.
The furnishings of the former German chancery were sold at auction by the U.S. government in 1948, fetching slightly less than $50,000. The chancery was auctioned by the U.S. government in 1951. Morris Cafritz was the high bidder, however, the government subsequently rejected his bid as too low. It was thereafter sold by the U.S. government to James S. Kerwin for $165,000. United States Senator William Langer opposed the sale, saying the site should be held in trust by the U.S. government for the future use of Germany. Four years later, the property was razed and turned into a parking garage. In 1955 the United States reestablished diplomatic relations with Germany. The United States awarded the Federal Republic of Germany $300,000 from the earlier sale of the chancery and its furnishings, and a new chancery was occupied in Foxhall that year. The facility was constructed in a modern style and featured modern interior decor as, according to German diplomats at the time, the country "has no antiques now".
East German representation
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) and the United States began full diplomatic relations in 1974. The GDR maintained an embassy on Massachusetts Avenue near Dupont Circle in a leased property. In 1990 the facility was abandoned mid-lease on the reunification of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the GDR and, though the FRG agreed to assume all debts and obligations of the former East Germany, an attorney for the landlord would later write that "without disclosing any confidences, I can say that our client did not necessarily find the Federal Republic and its embassy entirely consistent in its public and private positions".
West Germany, along with Denmark and Switzerland, was a trailblazer in the use of modern architecture for diplomatic facilities in Washington. In 1964 it opened its new and current chancery, designed by Egon Eiermann. The building's design evoked the Bauhaus school and "was meant as a disavowal" of the Nazi architecture of Albert Speer.
The chancery building and consular building underwent a $46.5 million renovation that was completed in 2014.
The residence is located on the grounds of the chancery. It was constructed in 1994 from a design by O.M. Ungers, who aimed to "find an architectonic expression for the residence of the German ambassador that would be associative of the characteristics" of Germany.
The Washington Post has called the residence "one of the most conspicuous diplomatic pads in town" and, in 2015, described it as "a Bauhaus-inspired take on classical Washington" that did not appear dated, even more than two decades after it was built.
The entrance hall contains two paintings by Gerhard Merz as well as a series of woodcuts on canvas by Markus Lüpertz. The dining room contains paintings by Bernard Schultze and a red lacquered partition/folding screen by Simon Ungers. The ladies' sitting room has an olive green- and brown-colored carpet by Rosemarie Trockel, while the gentlemen's sitting room contains paintings by Christa Näher of the four classical elements.
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