Pulling the rug out from under the Amerikahaus

Munich's Amerikahaus

It had appeared that the Amerikahaus had dodged a bullet and would be able to stay in their present location at the prestigious Karolinenplatz in Munich's Maxvorstadt neighbourhood. Built by the Bavarian government specifically for the Amerikahaus in 1957, the structure stands on the location of the former Lotzbeck Palace. What was originally a home for American Government broadcasting eventually became a centre for intellectual discussion. The Amerikahaus has played an integral part in German-American relations in Munich, particularly during the Cold War.

Unfortunately, the funding that it had come to rely on was withdrawn in June 1997 when the USIA (United States Information Agency) ceased all activities relating to the Amerikahaus. Since early 1998, the Bavarian American Center has carried on supporting the work of the Amerikahaus as their website states: '...with the mission of promoting relations and of strengthening scholarly debate between Germany and the North and South American continents.'

Apparently, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture (Kulturinstitut) has decided that the Karolinenplatz location could be better utilised by the engineering academy Acatech. An organisation that has excellent political connections partly due to its founding president and former BMW CEO Joachim Milberg, Acatech has long had their eye on the facilities at Karolinenplatz. According to an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Acatech have indicated they would seriously consider a move to Berlin if they do not get their way.

A spokesman for the Amerikahaus has said that one of the few positive aspects of this whole ordeal has been the quite public outcry upon hearing of the organisation's precarious future. Rather than simply saying, 'Oh, that is too bad,' people are instead outraged at the prospect of the Amerikahaus losing its prominent place in the community.

The Bavarian Minister-President Horst Seehofer has purportedly been both surprised and irritated by the vocal and vehement support that the Amerikahaus has enjoyed from even politicians within his own party.

Despite the political attempts of local politicians such as Schwabing's Ludwig Spaenle (CSU), it appears as if the fate of the Amerikahaus has already been decided. The Science Minister Wolfgang Heubisch (FDP) has indicated that he can see both sides of this issue. Although he would like to see Amerikahaus continue in its present form, the prospect of Acatech moving elsewhere would be unacceptable.

Upon first glance, the Amerikahaus appears to serve only the expatriate community. These are people who are far from home and not necessarily the responsibility of the Bavarian government. Yet if you take a closer look, there is vital outreach and exchange taking place there which the citizens of Munich really cannot afford to go without.

As it stands, the Amerikahaus has been given multiple relocation options, none of which take into account the year round theatre, literature, and art exhibitions currently offered. In a typical year, the Amerikahaus organises roughly two hundred events, while outside organisations are responsible for another hundred. The question begs to be answered: what will happen to those events?

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