Largely because of the commerce, trade and industrial activity in Saxony, the United States has had a long history of diplomatic engagement with this region. Since the late 18th century, Americans first identified Leipzig as a strategic location to establish a consulate. As a “Messestadt,” Leipzig was the commercial hub for Saxony, which offered Americans commercial contact with a thriving economic region in the heart of Europe. Even before an American consulate was opened in Leipzig, there were already trade agreements and treaties with the region that dated back to shortly after the end of the American Revolutionary War.
The first U.S. consul in Leipzig was appointed on May 22, 1826, to negotiate commercial trade between the United States and the Kingdom of Saxony. The first consul, Christian Friedrich Goehring, assisted commercial enterprises such as “Davis and Brooks” and the “Elbe-American Company” where he also was a company director. Goehring’s rank as consul was an important element in the development of U.S. contacts with other cities of the region. A few years after Goehring’s death in 1834, another U.S. consul was named in Dresden on August 23, 1837. All together, fourteen American government representatives (consul, consular agents, and commercial agents) operated in this region before the end of the century. In addition to Leipzig and Dresden, representatives were accredited in the cities of Annaberg, Chemnitz, Eibenstock, Erfurt, Glauchau, Gera, Magdeburg, Markneukirchen, Plauen, Sonneberg, Weimar and Zittau. The number of consular appointments in this region reflected the increasing interest on the part of U.S. Government and American companies throughout the 19th century in this part of Germany.
The continuation of American engagement in Germany in the early 20thcentury was short-lived due to the entry of the U.S. into World War I. On February 7, 1917, Consul William P. Kent received instructions from the American Embassy in Berlin to close down the consulate in Leipzig. For four years the consulate building became a temporary residence for Americans and allied refugees from Serbia, Romania and Japan. The consulate reopened its doors on December 10, 1921 with Hernando de Soto as consul. At this time it also became responsible for U.S. official ties with the German states of Anhalt and Thuringia, as well as Saxony.
Good cooperation between the consulate and Leipzig city authorities provided the basis for a successful long-term U.S. relationship with Saxony, current-day Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Much of the success was tied to efforts by de Soto who worked especially well with the local governments. After de Soto’s death, the local newspaperLeipziger Neuesten Nachrichtenstated that he was a “warm-hearted and honorable friend of Germany and that he helped to hold together the stressed relationship between Germany and the United States.” On September 10, 1935, the Leipzig consulate was elevated to the status of a consulate general. However, as U.S.-German relations deteriorated in the late 1930s and World War II spread across globe, the Nazi authorities ordered the closure of the Leipzig consulate general, which shut down on July 10, 1941.
The consulate general remained closed after the war and during the entire period of the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR) as all U.S. contact with the region was tightly controlled and discouraged. Only with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the reunification of Germany was the way made clear to reopen the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig. American diplomats were accredited in Leipzig in 1991, and on June 30, 1992, the Consulate General formally reopened after a 50-year hiatus in its current site on the Wilhelm-Seyfferth-Strasse in Leipzig’s famous “music quarter.” Today the U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig is responsible for official American relations in the states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia.
In May 2011, U.S. Consulate General in Leipzig celebrates its 185th birthday with a public event and with an updated publication (PDF 2.6 MB).