The foundations of the Amerika Haus as an institution were the small American libraries – some of them assembled with books donated by departing troops – that emerged in cities across Germany’s American sector in the months after the end of World War II. In 1945, a modest American reading room moved from nearby Bad Homburg to a corner of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The small library was so well attended that, just a few months later, in March 1946, the reading room was moved to larger quarters at Taunusanlage 11. At the same time, as one of the first new cultural and information centers in Germany, it received a new name, the “Amerika Haus.”
The new Amerika Haus in Frankfurt and those established in other German cities were the foundation of what some later called the “Marshall Plan of Ideas” – a U.S. public diplomacy initiative that set a standard for later programs around the globe.
The Amerika Haus moved twice (to Taunusanlage 12 in 1948, and then to the former U.S. consulate building at Bockenheimer Anlage 11 in 1954) before moving into its last location in May 1957. The building in the Staufenstraße was designed by the well-known American architectural firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, in cooperation with German architect Otto Appel.
From the start, the Amerika Haus programs struck a chord with the people of Frankfurt. “We were the only real community center in Frankfurt”,recalled Hans N. Tuch, who directed the Amerika Haus there from 1949-55. We had 23 staff librarians, we showed thousands of films, we had programs for children – an outstanding program.” Frankfurt’s Amerika Haus also presented a parade of famous Americans – including composer Paul Hindemith, actor Gary Cooper, writer Thornton Wilder and the Juilliard String Quartet. When the house celebrated its 20th anniversary in 1966, Frankfurt Mayor Willy Brundert said the center had satisfied the “spiritual hunger” of post- war Germans, and become “an essential element in the beginning of a new cultural life in Germany.”
Until its relocation to the new consulate building on Gießener Straße in Frankfurt-Eckenheim on September 29, 2005, the Amerika Haus Frankfurt served as the Press and Cultural Affairs section of the U.S. Consulate General in Frankfurt. Responsible for U.S. government public affairs in the states of Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland, the nine former Amerika Haus staff members facilitate dialogue on political, economic and social issues. All programs and activities formerly conducted at Amerika Haus are continuing uninterrupted. The Press and Cultural Affairs section co-sponsors seminars, lectures and other programs in cooperation with German partner organizations. The traditional library has evolved into a state-of-the-art Information Resource Center, which provides electronic access to a range of background materials on the United States.
Returning the Amerika Haus building on Staufenstraße to the city by August 31, 2006, concludes the consolidation of U.S. government facilities in Frankfurt. We thank the city of Frankfurt for the excellent cooperation and working relationship we have enjoyed throughout the years of our tenancy. We look forward to numerous joint activities in the future.
Archival material from the Amerika Haus was donated to the “Institut für Stadtgeschichte” Frankfurt in 2006. An overview of the collection is provided in the “Newsletter des Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt”