Germans Look To Obama To Fix Strained U.S. Ties Barack Obama is expected to be received with the kind of religious fervor usually reserved for the Pope when he arrives in Germany on Thursday. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is seen by most Germans as a potential savior of Germany's close relationship with America.
NPR logo

Germans Look To Obama To Fix Strained U.S. Ties

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Germans Look To Obama To Fix Strained U.S. Ties

Germans Look To Obama To Fix Strained U.S. Ties

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


Senator Barack Obama is receiving a skeptical reception in the Middle East today. Our correspondent in Jerusalem tells MORNING EDITION that both Israelis and Palestinians have their reasons to question him. That is apparently not the case in Germany, where Obama shows up tomorrow. A headline in the magazine Der Spiegel says Germany Meets a Superstar. Its Web site describes Obama-mania. And up to one million Germans are expected to greet him. Kyle James reports from Berlin.

KYLE JAMES: If Barack Obama were running for president in Germany, he'd already this election wrapped up, says Berlin resident Sabina Pischin(ph).

Ms. SABINA PISCHIN: (Through translator) He belongs to the right party. He's young. He's black. And he gives great speeches. We all trust a young guy like that more than some old veteran.

JAMES: At this voter registration stand for American expats in central Berlin, Germans often stop to express their presidential preference. Hardly anyone says they support John McCain. And a new survey by Der Spiegel found that 76 percent of Germans think Obama's the better candidate. Only 10 percent are for McCain.

American Robin Hemingway is manning the voter registration stand for the Democratic Party.

Mr. ROBIN HEMINGWAY: The Germans accept him like almost in like rock star category. It's like he made their favorite album and they want to come and see him.

JAMES: They'll have that chance on Thursday evening when Obama gives a speech on the future of transatlantic relations in Central Berlin. But this heavyweight political talk is becoming more like a rock concert. City officials say up to a million people could show up. A plan for Obama to speak at the Brandenburg Gate proved controversial. So now the Democratic candidate will be speaking at the Victory Column in the Tiergarten Park, best known as the place Berliners like to party.

Unidentified Man: Germany, give it up for (unintelligible)

JAMES: For years, a huge techno party, the Love Parade, was held here. Matthias Matussek of Der Spiegel says that's perfect for Obama's Berlin debut.

Mr. MATTHIAS MATUSSEK (Der Spiegel): It certainly says something about the relationship of Berliners and Obama. They want to go on the Love Parade together, and I'm sure they will.

JAMES: Germans are expecting a lot from Obama, and comparisons are being made to another talk given here by a politician 45 years ago.

President JOHN F. KENNEDY: In the world of freedom, the proudest boast is: Ich bin ein Berliner.

(Soundbite of cheering)

JAMES: John F. Kennedy's I Am a Berliner speech from 1963 cemented the close bond between Germany and America. Those ties have been strained under the Bush administration, and even young Germans, like 20-year-old Felix Labon(ph), really want that old relationship back.

Mr. FELIX LABON: I think Obama can be a real - like a new Kennedy, really affect the people and really - it's like a new start for the people and brings a positive image of America across to the Germans.

JAMES: One German is sending a positive image in the other direction in doll form.

(Soundbite of talking doll)

JAMES: In his workshop, doll maker Marcel Offermann shows off some of his creations. Recently, he released a limited edition 14 inch Barack Obama doll, complete with blue tie and, yes, an American flag pin. They've been selling like hotcakes.

Mr. MARCEL OFFERMANN (Doll Maker): (Through translator) Germans and Europeans are yearning for a better relationship with the Americans. And Obama means a change in the relationship with Germany.

JAMES: Offermann has sold about 800 of his Obama dolls, sending about half to the U.S. He says he's not interested in a McCain version. The Republican doesn't have the kind of style he could translate into a doll, he says. And he doesn't care much for McCain's politics either.

For NPR News, I'm Kyle James in Berlin.

(Soundbite of music)

INSKEEP: Spanning the world. You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.