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FEUCHTWANGEN, Germany — After Amy Gutmann’s father fled the Nazis in 1934, he swore by no means to set foot in Germany once more. For the remainder of his existence, he boycotted German items and best spoke English to his daughter. Germany, he inspired on her when she used to be rising up, used to be “very unhealthy.”

Just about a century later, Ms. Gutmann, a revered democracy pupil, has moved to Germany — as the brand new U.S. ambassador. With antisemitism and far-right ideology as soon as once more resurgent, and with Russia waging struggle on Ukraine shut through, her new position isn’t a role, she says: “It’s a project.”

That project is non-public in addition to geopolitical.

Previous this month, Ms. Gutmann used to be striding up a cobbled alleyway in Feuchtwangen, the sleepy Bavarian the town the place generations of her German ancestors had dwelled ahead of a Nazi mayor burned down the native synagogue and declared his the town “Jew-free.”

When the present mayor got here to greet her, Ms. Gutmann pulled out the small black-and-white {photograph} of her father that she all the time carries along with her.

“You’ll forgive me for talking now not best because the U.S. ambassador to Germany, however as Amy Gutmann, the daughter of Kurt Gutmann,” Ms. Gutmann, 72, instructed a crowd of native dignitaries. “I’d now not be right here as of late have been it now not for my father’s farsightedness and braveness.”

The timing of her authentic arrival as ambassador on Feb. 17, Ms. Gutmann stated in an interview, felt specifically poignant, coming one week ahead of the invasion of Ukraine through a revisionist Russian president who has been accused through her personal boss of committing “genocide” in his quest for empire.

Seventy-seven years after The united states and its allies defeated Hitler’s Germany, the 2 nations are actually united in opposition to Russian aggression. A large a part of Ms. Gutmann’s task might be to stay it that approach.

“Germany and the U.S. as of late are extraordinarily robust allies and so they’re allies in protection of human rights and in protection of the sovereignty of democratic societies,” she stated. “It closes a loop, whilst main us ahead into an technology that my father by no means had the chance to witness.”

When President Biden referred to as her in April 2021, she used to be the longest-serving president of the College of Pennsylvania, a arithmetic main grew to become political thinker who had written greater than a dozen books about democracy.

“Do you wish to have to be my ambassador to Germany?” Mr. Biden requested her.

Ms. Gutmann used to be sworn in at the Hebrew Bible her German grandmother Amalie, for whom she used to be named, had introduced along with her from Germany.

Germany has welcomed Ms. Gutmann now not simply as a consultant of a brand new management however of the American best friend of previous — ahead of it grew to become fickle and abrasive all through the Trump years. Ms. Gutmann’s predecessor, Richard Grenell, threatened to prevent sharing intelligence with Germany and posed for selfies with lawmakers of the far-right Choice for Germany birthday celebration.

Repairing The united states’s alliances used to be one in all President Biden’s primary international coverage targets and Germany used to be central to this effort, making Ms. Gutmann a super candidate, stated Julianne Smith, a longstanding Biden adviser and now the U.S. ambassador to NATO.

“The president believes that Germany is an indispensable spouse for us and he sought after to ship any individual that he knew neatly,” Ms. Smith stated.

(Ahead of Mr. Biden presented her the task, Ms. Gutmann had presented him one in 2017 as a lecturer at her college, an be offering that got here after he misplaced his son Beau and “stored” him, as he as soon as described it.)

“It used to be simply glaring in his thoughts that she used to be the fitting particular person on the appropriate time,” Ms. Smith stated. “She is a confirmed chief and she or he is an highbrow massive.”

When her father died in 1966, Ms. Gutmann used to be best 16 and Germany used to be nonetheless stuffed with former Nazis.

Within the 3 many years since reunification, the rustic has labored arduous to come clean with its historical past — and follow the teachings of that historical past.

However it took the arriving of over one million refugees from the Heart East below former Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 2015-16, for Ms. Gutmann to totally accept as true with Germany’s transformation.

“I used to be deeply moved through Merkel’s welcoming of refugees,” she stated. “It made a robust, in all probability decisive distinction in my sense of Germany’s dedication to human rights.”

She added, “Germany as of late is a type of acknowledging the previous.”

That acknowledgment used to be on show in Feuchtwangen, the place the director of the native museum guided Ms. Gutmann thru an exhibition on 800 years of Jewish existence within the the town that still described in unsparing element the persecution of Jews below the Nazis.

A number of the reveals have been pieces from Ms. Gutmann’s personal circle of relatives. {A photograph} of her grandfather. A postcard written through her grandmother. As a present, Ms. Gutmann used to be passed copies of her father’s file playing cards. “German used to be now not his energy it sort of feels,” she stated, guffawing.

“Everyone will get file playing cards, however to peer one thing through which there have been semi-normal occasions for him used to be a top level,” she stated later. “I best knew my father after he used to be traumatized.”

Her father, an Orthodox Jew who fled Germany as an adolescent and later arranged the break out of his oldsters and 4 siblings, slightly spoke to Ms. Gutmann about his personal previous, however he taught her concerning the Holocaust.

“He obviously didn’t need me as a kid to grasp — let by myself to hold ahead — his emotional trauma, however he no doubt sought after me to hold the teachings of ‘by no means once more’ ahead,” Ms. Gutmann recalled.

Raised within the small the town of Monroe, N.Y., Ms. Gutmann stated she felt like “a unusual child,” as she put it, her Jewishness and highbrow interest making her a double outsider.

Her mom recommended her to do neatly at school. After profitable a scholarship, she become the primary in her circle of relatives to visit faculty and earned a Ph.D. from Harvard ahead of educating at Princeton for almost 30 years and turning into president of the College of Pennsylvania in 2004.

Her guide “Democractic Schooling,” which presentations why democracies desire a powerful public schooling machine, is an ordinary within the box.

“One reason why I wrote about democracy and schooling used to be that this is a trail out of tyranny,” she stated. “The very first thing the Nazis did used to be to near down the clicking and burn books.”

The Gutmann space in Feuchtwangen, the place her father grew up, has turn into a bookstall, which overjoyed her. “Oh my God! If this have been a Hollywood script, it could be a bookstall,” she stated, ahead of buying part a dozen books for her grandchildren.

Her father have been an apprentice with a metallurgist in within reach Nuremberg, house to the largest Nazi Celebration rallying flooring, the place he boarded with a Christian circle of relatives that handled him neatly. But if he watched them flash the Hitler salute at a passing Nazi march, he knew it used to be time to depart.

“He fled when he may as a result of he noticed what used to be going down,” Ms. Gutmann stated. “Certainly one of my missions is that folks wish to know the way essential it’s to talk up early.”

For all Germany’s efforts to use the teachings from its previous, one nice jump stays, she stated: Lengthy reluctant to spend on its army, let by myself deploy it, Germans need to accept as true with themselves to steer on army issues.

“International relations is the primary recourse — nevertheless it regularly does now not paintings in opposition to brutal tyrannies,” Ms. Gutmann stated.

That, too, is a lesson from International Battle II, she stated: “Have been it now not for the army pressure of the allies, Hitler would have gained.”

“And now we’ve got Putin,” she added. “With out army pressure, there’s no approach Ukraine can shield its sovereignty. At this second, as in lots of different moments within the historical past of democracies, we need to have now not best the army may, however the willingness to make use of it.”

In Germany, that realization remains to be sinking in. The federal government has dedicated to a 100-billion euro rearmament program in what Chancellor Olaf Scholz dubbed a “Zeitenwende” — or historical turning level — however Berlin has been criticized for dragging its toes on handing over heavy guns to Kyiv.

“I imagine the Zeitenwende is actual,” Ms. Gutmann stated. “If there’s any one who’s now not disposed to be comfortable on Germany, it’s me. However I do assume we need to acknowledge what a historical second that is, and we will be able to proceed to induce Germany to do extra.”

Ms. Gutmann apprehensive that each Germans and American citizens “hyped up how enduring democracies are — they’re now not, until you combat for them,” she stated, including, “The entirety we do makes a distinction. And the whole thing we don’t do makes a distinction.”

For all her eagerness to talk over with Feuchtwangen, the night time ahead of she traveled there, Ms. Gutmann slightly slept.

“I used to be apprehensive in poor health that I’d cross there and really feel they hadn’t actually come to phrases with the previous,” she recalled, “that I’d be disillusioned and I wouldn’t had been ready to cover it — and it could had been only a horrible second.”

By the point she left the city, she used to be reassured.

Addressing the small {photograph} of her father in her palms, she stated, “You possibly can be so happy with now not best your daughter, however of your nation, america, which become your nation, and the rustic that you just needed to depart — and what they have got turn into: Two of the best allies nonetheless preventing what you could inform me is a combat that might by no means finish.”

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