The stable foundation of Vietnam – Germany relations

Update: 08:02 | 13/08/2018
The relations between countries, peoples have always been built upon and preserved on the basis of similarities in the past, the present and the future. The relationship between Vietnam and Germany is no exception.
the stable foundation of vietnam germany relations 18 antiques returned to Vietnam
the stable foundation of vietnam germany relations Association of war veterans in Germany established

For me, the thing that impressed me the most through my many meetings was how Germans always mentioned the similarities between the two peoples and considered that to be the stable foundation of the relations between Vietnam and Germany. It was upon this that I have listened and experienced to draw further knowledge on improving the bilateral relations.

In the heart of Germany lies Vietnamese marks

Vietnam and Germany are similar in size and population. Vietnam’s area is 310.060 km2, with a population of 96.537.779, while Germany’s territory spans across 348.520 km2, with a population of 82.300.703 (according to United Nations’ statistic by July 19th, 2018).

Regarding history, Germans have always mentioned the similarity on how both countries are divided against their own peoples. In their modern histories, both Germans and Vietnameses’ foremost desires have always been the unifications of their respective countries. In spite of different situations, the heavy casualties caused by the divisions have made both sides symphathizing with each other.

the stable foundation of vietnam germany relations
The introduction of the book written by Vietnamese-French writer Isabelle Müller at the Vietnamese – Germans Society (DVG) and the Vietnamese Community at Berlin Brandenburg. (Photo: NHT)

The Germans highly appreciated the positive changes in economic and social structure of Vietnam after “Doi Moi” in 1986. They often related such event to their country’s situation after 1945. At that time, Germans, with unrelented wills and determinations, have risen from the ashes and step-by-step, they have rebuilt the economy, brought their nation to its golden era, which was later called “the miracle of the German’s economy (Wirtschaftswunder) during 60s and 70s. They see how Vietnameses, at this moment, are possessing the same determinations. 

The historic “fates” have also brought the countries a precious treasure, the German-speaking Vietnamese community that is closely associated with Germany, with its people and its culture. More than 100,000 Vietnamese in Vietnam and nearly 200.000 Vietnameses in Germany have been the most important bridges to promote the bilateral relations between the two countries. Vietnameses have learned from Germans on disciplinary, professionality, being serious and meticulous at work. Meanwhile, Germans have highly anticipated Vietnamese’ refined qualities such as being diligent and skillful, actively engaging in personal study and research…

The Vietnamese community in Germany has been highly anticipated as the most successfully integrated community. It was for such reason that many Germans regarded to be the “Prussian of the East” (“Preussen im Osten”). The Prussians in Germany were famous for being disciplinary and professionality. This comparison is rarely seen in Germany’s view of their relations with non-European countries. 

the stable foundation of vietnam germany relations
An outdoor event of the Vietnamese Community in the city of Stuttgart, Germany. (Photo: NHT)

The immeasurable

Due to their divisions, prior to its unification in 1975, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam mainly developed on its relations with the Democratic Republic of Germany (GDR). At that moment, the GDR, similar to other countries in the Eastern Bloc, had provided Vietnam with material and emotional support in Vietnam’s struggles for independence.

During the heightened era of the Vietnam War, hundreds of Vietnamese students have been sent to Germany to study so they can later comeback to rebuild their country. While working in Berlin during the 1990s, I had the occasion to visit the family of teacher Hans Haubenschild, who was enjoying his old age. Teacher Haubenschild was not only the Principle of the school of Moritzburg, but he was also the “father” of many Vietnamese students. Many other Germans have closely associated with Vietnam since that day in activities such as the movement of supporting Vietnam in the Committee of Solidarity (Solidaritätskomitee) and later the “SODI”, who participated in mine clearance in Quang Tri province. We should have never forgotten the slogan of “Standing with Vietnam had become more necessary than ever” under the leadership of Mr. Erich Honnecker during the outbreak of Sino – Vietnamese conflicts in 1979.

Recently, in Berlin, I had the pleasures of meeting with the wholehearted Germans, whose dear loves for Vietnam have not changed over the years. Professor Horst Klinkmann (84 years old), former Chairman of GDR’s Academy of Social Sciences or Professor Dieamr Enderlein (75 years old), former Director of Greifswald Military Medical Academy…  had not only trained many doctors and military doctors for Vietnam during the War, but also wanted to contribute further for the friendship between the two countries, in spite of their ages.

Coffee growers in Tay Nguyen and Vietnamese coffee exporters in Vietnam could never forget Mr. Siegfried Kaulfuß (86 years old), who has arrived in Tay Nguyen right after the end of the Vietnam War to teach them on building coffee plantations. By now, Vietnam has become the largest coffee exporters to Germany.

In 2015, Mr. Kaulfuß had returned to Tay Nguyen to witness the changes that he had brought to the land. The documentary of his trip on MDR Channel has received warm welcome from many Germans. Mr. Kaulfuß stated that he would continue to return to Vietnam or anywhere to promote for Vietnamese coffees.

Borderless love

Meanwhile, in spite of their country not having an official diplomatic relations with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the West Germans remained very supportive of Vietnamese. Anti-war movement among West Germany students, noticably the campaign of “Assissting Vietnam” (Hilfsaktion Vietnam), have received numerous supports from the people. For such reason, the campaigns were truly humane and meaningful, with numerous and consistent trips of clothes, medicines, medical equipments and bicycles coming to Vietnam.

Big friends of Vietnam such as Mr. Weber. Professor Gieselfeld – Chairman of the Vietnamese – Germans Society (DVG), along with many living witnesses for their assisstances of Vietnam from the Western Germany have now reached their old ages. For me, I felt lucky to be able to meet and talk to them during my four decades of closely associating with Germany.

The person impressed me the most was a Bundestag congressman, who once lived at Frankfurt am Main. He was among those who came down the road on Frankfurt during the “68 Movement” in Western Germany. A son of a financial oligarchy in Frankfurt with personal bank, he inherited millions of DM (Mark – the currency of Western Germany). However, instead of continuing in his father’s business, he had spent most of his money in supporting the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam and the Chile Leftist Government of President Salvador Allende.

During one of his trips to Eastern Germany, he has quietly brought a big sum of money to the Ambassador of ‘Vietcong” in the DDR, receiving the latter’s gratitude and a certification. Yet, he did not talk about it with anyone until we were having a conversation. Upon hearing this, I did ask if his children ever complaint to him about giving away the inheritance of the family without consenting them. He replied that they did not mind, as they were living their own lives. His son drove a cab in Frankfurt, earning several thousand Euros per month and were living sufficiently on his own.

At the moment, relations between countries are often measured based on political and economical interests along the principle of achieving a “win – win” situation. It is necessary, but is insufficient for relations to stably develop as we are witnessing around the globe. All relations are created to serve in the interests of human beings, yet without the close associations between people of different countries, would those relations remain long-lasting, steadfast and unchanged in spite of many challenges?

Recently, many German businesses operating in Vietnam have talked to me about their “new philosophies” on promoting activities of building bonds with Vietnamese workers outside of their jobs. Perhaps, have there been a change in their minds, who were famous for being “rational” and “principled”?

I have always believed that Germany – Vietnam relations, overcoming the ups and downs in history, would further develop, as Vietnamese and Germans continue to sympathize, respect and learn from each other. This is the foundation of all kind of relations.

Nguyen Huu Trang*

(from Berlin, Germany)

(*) The author is a member of the 4th Standing Committee of the Vietnam - Germany Friendship Association.

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