Friendship in tumultuous times? Steinmeier opens Thomas Mann House in US

At the inauguration of a memorial at Thomas Mann’s former home in California on Monday, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was present and spoke of similarities between Germany and America despite current tensions.

Friendship in tumultuous times? Steinmeier opens Thomas Mann House in US
President Steinmeier at the Thomas Mann House in LA on Monday. Photo: DPA

“The struggle for democracy, the struggle for a free and open society is what will continue to unite us, the United States and Germany,” Steinmeier said on his first trip to the States since he became German President last year.

Inaugurating the former home of the Nobel Prize laureate in Los Angeles during “these tumultuous times also marks a wonderful moment for friendship between our two countries,” the ceremonial head of state added.

SEE ALSO: President Steinmeier sees 'substantial change' in trans-Atlantic ties

The Thomas Mann House should become a place of cultural and social exchange “in times when many things divide us across the Atlantic,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement on Tuesday.  

“The United States is our most important partner outside Europe. Only together can we tackle global problems,” Maas said, adding that “an intensive dialogue on the issues that concern us is so important.”

READ ALSO: Why Trump is wrong (again) on migrants and crime in Germany

With plans of turning it into a transatlantic meeting location and memorial site, the German government saved the Californian villa from demolition and acquired it in 2016 at costs of nearly €11 million. In his role as Germany’s foreign minister at the time, Steinmeier supported the idea of the building being bought by the state.

When novelist and short story writer Thomas Mann resided in the home from 1942 to 1952, it became a meeting place for famous artists and intellectuals through its residency programme.

Some of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s works include The Magic Mountain, Buddenbrooks and Joseph and his Brothers. The Lübeck native fled from Germany to Switzerland when the Nazis came to power in 1933 and moved across the pond to the US in 1938.

He went on to become a leading figure of exiled German intellectuals. “Germany is wherever I am,” he told his supporters.

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‘Significant fanbase’: How popular is the NFL in Germany?

For the second year in a row the US's National Football League (NFL) will be playing games in Germany. The Local asked an expert how popular American football is in the soccer-obsessed Bundesrepublik.

'Significant fanbase': How popular is the NFL in Germany?

The Super Bowl, arguably the largest annual sports event in the US, is coming up this Sunday.

Many in Germany will be tuning in, even if that means staying up until 4:30 am to catch the game, famous halftime show and running commentary. 

READ ALSO: Where to watch the Super Bowl in Germany

In fact, US’s National Football League (NFL) has garnered such a following in the Bundesrepublik that US teams will even be crossing the Atlantic twice this year to play in front of live audiences in Frankfurt and Munich.

“I think it’s fair to say that it’s [The NFL] becoming more popular even though we don’t know exactly how much the figures or the interest is rising,” Sebastian Uhrich, a professor of sports management at the University of Cologne, told The Local’s Germany in Focus podcast this week.

“If we have a look at the numbers of the last five years, in for example, the TV audience of the Super Bowl, there’s more of a sidwards trend of these figures, it’s not really rising. But I would assume there’s more people getting interested.” 

Uhrich estimated that the NFL has between two and three million supporters in Germany.

“In Germany obviously there’s a significant fanbase of American football,” he said, adding that it’s the “largest market in Europe”.

That could explain why star player Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers faced the Seattle Seahawks at Munich’s Allianz Arena in November.

It marked the first NFL Game in Germany and tickets quickly sold out.

READ ALSO: Munich and Frankfurt to host regular season NFL games

Seizing on the success, the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots will make their debuts as designated teams in two additional games in Germany later this year.

American Football: Pro League NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Seattle Seahawks, at the Munich Allianz Arena in November 2022.

American Football: Pro League NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Seattle Seahawks, at the Munich Allianz Arena in November 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Uhrich sees the games as a big bonus for existing NFL fans in Germany.

“Playing games in Germany provides German consumers, supporters and fans an additional offering, besides all the media offerings,” he said.

“Up until last year they were only able to watch NFL games on TV or on social media. If they wanted to see a game they had to travel to the US, so this is obviously a significant addition to what they can consume.”

But he added that the NFL’s nod to Germany isn’t guaranteed to drum up a significant amount of new support.

“It’s only two games per year so I wouldn’t over estimate the significance,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect this to be the driver of a huge number of additional supporters in the future.”

Could (American) football compete with soccer?

In Germany, the NFL faces tough competition with the by-far most popular sport: soccer, or simply football as non-Americans refer to it.

“I would never expect that they’re able to replace soccer as the most popular sport,” said Ulrich. “So many other sports have been trying to do this for years and they’re not even close.”

Yet Ulrich was optimistic that the NFL could “become part of that second tier of sports,” in Germany which includes hockey, volleyball and basketball.

“Soccer is so traditional and has such a huge fan base in Germany. It might be something that happens in 15 or 20 years but not in the near future. It’s pretty unlikely.”

READ ALSO: American football touches down in Germany