Episode 85: Addressing Germany’s Colonial Legacy

Eric Langenbacher

Senior Fellow; Director, Society, Culture & Politics Program

Dr. Eric Langenbacher is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Society, Culture & Politics Program at AICGS.

Dr. Langenbacher studied in Canada before completing his PhD in Georgetown University’s Government Department in 2002. His research interests include collective memory, political culture, and electoral politics in Germany and Europe. Recent publications include the edited volumes Twilight of the Merkel Era: Power and Politics in Germany after the 2017 Bundestag Election (2019), The Merkel Republic: The 2013 Bundestag Election and its Consequences (2015), Dynamics of Memory and Identity in Contemporary Europe (co-edited with Ruth Wittlinger and Bill Niven, 2013), Power and the Past: Collective Memory and International Relations (co-edited with Yossi Shain, 2010), and From the Bonn to the Berlin Republic: Germany at the Twentieth Anniversary of Unification (co-edited with Jeffrey J. Anderson, 2010). With David Conradt, he is also the author of The German Polity, 10th and 11th edition (2013, 2017).

Dr. Langenbacher remains affiliated with Georgetown University as Teaching Professor and Director of the Honors Program in the Department of Government. He has also taught at George Washington University, Washington College, The University of Navarre, and the Universidad Nacional de General San Martin in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has given talks across the world. He was selected Faculty Member of the Year by the School of Foreign Service in 2009 and was awarded a Fulbright grant in 1999-2000 and the Hopper Memorial Fellowship at Georgetown in 2000-2001. Since 2005, he has also been Managing Editor of German Politics and Society, which is housed in Georgetown’s BMW Center for German and European Studies. Dr. Langenbacher has also planned and run dozens of short programs for groups from abroad, as well as for the U.S. Departments of State and Defense on a variety of topics pertaining to American and comparative politics, business, culture, and public policy.



Jeffrey Rathke

Jeff Rathke

President of AGI

Jeffrey Rathke is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining AICGS, Jeff was a senior fellow and deputy director of the Europe Program at CSIS, where his work focused on transatlantic relations and U.S. security and defense policy. Jeff joined CSIS in 2015 from the State Department, after a 24-year career as a Foreign Service Officer, dedicated primarily to U.S. relations with Europe. He was director of the State Department Press Office from 2014 to 2015, briefing the State Department press corps and managing the Department's engagement with U.S. print and electronic media. Jeff led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur from 2011 to 2014. Prior to that, he was deputy chief of staff to the NATO Secretary General in Brussels. He also served in Berlin as minister-counselor for political affairs (2006–2009), his second tour of duty in Germany. His Washington assignments have included deputy director of the Office of European Security and Political Affairs and duty officer in the White House Situation Room and State Department Operations Center.

Mr. Rathke was a Weinberg Fellow at Princeton University (2003–2004), winning the Master’s in Public Policy Prize. He also served at U.S. Embassies in Dublin, Moscow, and Riga, which he helped open after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Rathke has been awarded national honors by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, as well as several State Department awards. He holds an M.P.P. degree from Princeton University and B.A. and B.S. degrees from Cornell University. He speaks German, Russian, and Latvian.



Katja Keul

Minister of State, German Federal Foreign Office

Katja Keul has been Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office since December 8, 2021. She has been a Member of the German Bundestag representing the Nienburg (Lower Saxony) constituency since 2009. After studying law in Heidelberg and completing her practical legal training in Land Brandenburg, she began work in the district of the Verden Regional Court in 1997. Having been appointed as a specialist family lawyer, she ran her own legal practice from 2000 to 2009.

In the seventeenth legislative term, Ms. Keul was Parliamentary Secretary of Alliance 90/The Greens. In the eighteenth and nineteenth legislative terms, she was the legal spokesperson for her parliamentary group and from 2017 to 2021 also its disarmament spokesperson.

Ms. Keul is a member of the board of RechtGrün (Verein grüner und grünnaher JuristInnen e.V.), an association of Green and Green-minded lawyers, and of the United Nations Association of Germany, Europa-Union Deutschland, IALANA Germany, and the German section of Women in International Security.

Germany is well-known for its robust memory culture that deals with the crimes of National Socialism and the Holocaust; however, it has only recently begun to address legacy of its colonial past. Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office Katja Keul joins AGI President Jeff Rathke and Senior Fellow and Society, Culture & Politics Program Director Eric Langenbacher to discuss the German government’s approach to reconciliation with former colonies. How do policies differ from country to country? How do Germany’s reconciliation and restitution fit in its broader foreign policy, both in former colonies and with European partners? Is there a broad consensus in Germany among policymakers, cultural institutions, and society about how to repatriate stolen cultural objects?


Jeff Rathke, President, AGI


Katja Keul, Minister of State, German Federal Foreign Office
Eric Langenbacher, Senior Fellow and Director of AGI’s Society, Culture & Politics Program

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American-German Institute.