"A Window to America"
Amerika Haus Cologne was opened in 1955 as a cultural and information center of the United States on a historic site, the former grounds of the Apostelgymnasium in Cologne. Konrad Adenauer, the first German Chancellor, an early promoter of transatlantic relations, was a student at said school. Until its closure in 2007, Amerika Haus Cologne was an important part of the American presence in North Rhine-Westphalia and served to foster German-American relations.
For over 50 years, the Amerika Haus represented, for many in and around Cologne, a "window to America": it provided insight into the culture, politics and economic landscape of the United States. Amerika Haus Cologne played host to many prominent guests including numerous German and American politicians and ambassadors, and bastions of American culture such as pop art artist Roy Lichtenstein, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, and operatic soprano Jessye Norman, just to name a few.
During its first years, Amerika Haus Cologne filled a cultural gap in city life. It offered an extensive program with concerts, lectures, exhibitions, as well as film and theatre performances. Its library offered access to American literature and they operated an "info-mobile" bus which was driven through NRW. The Amerika Haus played an important role in and contributed substantially to the reconstruction of democratic education in Germany after the Second World War.
Towards the end of the 60s, Amerika Haus Cologne was repeatedly confronted with public protests against US political decisions, for example their role in the War in Vietnam. Social and political changes of this time, such as the Women's Movement and Civil Rights Movement, were central themes of the Amerika Haus programming of the time.
With the end of the Cold War the center of their programming shifted toward a focus on the trials of a newly forming modernity, addressing such questions as those of immigration and integration, the reform of the welfare state, environmental concerns, and the consequences of globalization.
In response to the September 11th attacks in 2001, the fight against international terrorism became the most important topic of the Amerika Haus’ work.
From 1955, Amerika Haus Cologne was part of the independent "U.S. Information Service". After the integration of the "U.S. Information Service" into the U.S. Department of State in 1999, Amerika Haus Cologne served as the public relations department of the U.S. Consulate General in North Rhine-Westphalia.
In September 2007, the public relations department was integrated into the U.S. Consulate General's Office in Düsseldorf and Amerika Haus Cologne was closed. This was the last remaining Amerika Haus run by the American administration in Germany. Today, the listed building designed by architect Rudolf Schickmann houses the Fritz Thyssen Foundation.
AmerikaHaus NRW e. V.
In 2007 the AmerikaHaus NRW e. V. was founded on the initiative of Jeane Freifrau von Oppenheim, the former Mayor of Cologne Fritz Schramma, and the former U.S. Consul General Matthew G. Boyse, as the successor to Amerika Haus Cologne. This ensured a contact point for transatlantic dialogue within NRW. An initiative group consisting of corporate and personal partners who assisted in the founding of the new AmerikaHaus continue, to this day, to support the organization through both intellectual and financial support. With a new focus on event planning, AmerikaHaus NRW e. V. opened its new office on Apostelnstraße in 2008. With approximately 40 events per year focused on the transatlantic dialogue, we have reach over 4000 guests in the state of NRW.