Who Put the German in German Marshall Fund?

May 20, 2022
3 min read
Guido Goldman and Alex Möller
Though it was established with German funds, Guido Goldman did not aim to build an organization that would focus solely on German concerns.

In his mind, the new US institution would promote European issues and comparative work on transatlantic challenges. “Societies on both sides of the Atlantic are confronted with major challenges,” Goldman told Möller. “What is needed is a new initiative to make the course of European development more comprehensible in the United States.” Germany’s finance minister agreed.

So, if the focus of the new initiative was to be transatlantic, how did “German” end up as the first word in GMF’s name?

Möller was on board with Goldman’s plan, but others in the Federal Republic were not, particularly in the corridors of Germany’s foreign ministry. There, some felt this foundation should primarily address German-US topics and concerns. During Goldman’s conversations with the ministry, an undersecretary made a further demand: at least two Germans should have a seat—and a vote—on the foundation’s board.

Goldman vehemently disagreed, pointing out that a conditional gift is no gift at all. He feared that once German politicians had a say over how the money was spent, they would always be tempted to further their own interests. He could imagine party rivalries bogging down the foundation. Despite the tense mood, Möller put his foot down, coming out in clear support of Goldman that the foundation should be an all-American institution. Brandt agreed.

Goldman and the other Americans on the planning team already knew what they aimed for: Germany should be included, but not prominently.

But not much later, it was Möller who drew a red line. Sometime in late 1971 or early 1972, as Goldman remembered, the issue of the foundation’s name arose. Goldman and the other Americans on the planning team already knew what they aimed for: Germany should be included, but not prominently. They proposed “The Marshall Fund: A Memorial from Germany.”

Möller threw a fit. “No, that doesn’t work at all,” he said. If Germany was donating the capital and if the foundation was to be purely American, Germany should, of course, be the first term in the name—“Otherwise you can forget the whole idea!”

Goldman saw that his plan was on the razor’s edge. He also felt that Möller had a point, and so he gave in. “Let’s just call it the German Marshall Fund of the United States,” Goldman suggested spontaneously. Möller was happy, everyone else agreed, and the matter of the name was settled.

Next | Acid Rain: Lessons from Germany’s Black Forest

As prosperity rose, so did pollution. British, German, and Swedish, scientists were among the first to warn that increasing levels of sulfur dioxide emissions from factories led to trees dying. In Germany, a country of old woods, beautiful rivers, and historic monuments, acid rain took a heavy toll on the natural environment.

Previous | Creating a Transatlantic Bridge Builder

History records that June 5, 1947, was a beautiful day when US Secretary of State George C. Marshall visited Harvard University to announce a generous gesture from the United States to a Europe in ruins.

This year the German Marshall Fund marks its 50th anniversary and the 75th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. These historic moments serve as an opportunity to highlight the achievements of one of the most important American diplomatic initiatives of the 20th century and how its legacy lives on today through GMF and its mission. Learn more about GMF at 50.