G8 and NATO Summits: In Lincoln Square, German Roots Run Deep

NATO LogoBy Jamie Kogler
The Red Line Project

Posted: Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Erin Suss has lived in Chicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood for five years. her grandparents moved to America after World War II. Her family is of Jewish-German decent and her grandparents are both survivors of the Holocaust.

Suss is among many in the city's neighborhood, known for its strong German roots, who are keeping a close eye on the key role the country will play in the upcoming G8 and NATO summits. The nation's input on important issues such as security and the economy is going to have a major influence on how things play out around the world.

Germany has taken a strong stance on nuclear weapons, and the country will address its aversion for the use of nuclear weapons at the NATO summit, scheduled for May 20-21 at McCormick Place. 

Suss was surprised to hear Germany’s stance on nuclear weapons stating that, “Germany has the right idea, but it might be too idealistic.”

According to the website, Arms Control Now, “In 2010, the German Parliament had called upon the government to urge the nuclear weapon states to adopt a sole purpose posture and not to threaten the use or use nuclear weapons against nuclear as well as non-nuclear weapon states.”

Suss’ surprise also stems from her own personal opinion of Germany; obviously having family members that were subjected to the tortures of the Holocaust does not make for high approvals of the nation.

The United States and the UK are on board with Germany’s stance, but France does not agree. France states that if it has the nuclear weapons, it should use them if necessary. Germany is determined to find a resolution to this problem at the NATO summit this year, and hopefully France will stop being obstinate so all nations can come to an agreement.

Suss said, “I would have thought Germany would be the nation fighting for nuclear weapons, not France.”

She said she was shocked to think that she could agree with a stance the German’s are taking.

Chicago is widely known for its large German population. Since the early 1920s, Germans have been migrating to the city in search of a new town to call home.

One of the largest German populated areas is the Lincoln Square neighborhood. This neighborhood is located only a few miles north of downtown on the corner of Leland and Western Avenue, Ravenswood is on the east, Montrose Avenue on the south and the Chicago River runs to the west of the neighborhood. It is home to numerous German businesses, including the Chicago Brauhaus, Huttenbar, Merz Apothecary and many more.

Lincoln Square Photo by Jamie KoglerChicago's Lincoln Square neighborhood. (Photo by Jamie Kogler)

Germany, as well as every other nation that will be at the G8 and NATO summits, has a few major concerns that it will address and try to resolve within the summit.

With the recent news that Iran is building nuclear weapons illegally, the NATO nations are going to have to make the decision on what they want to do about this.

Susie San-Roman, who has lived and worked in Lincoln Square for more than 15 years and is of German descent, said, “If they’re (Iran) building weapons, I think we should be involved and we should stop them.”

San-Roman, also agreed with Germany’s position on nuclear weapons, adding that, “I think we should get rid of all nuclear weapons so my children can grow up and live their lives.”

Allowing a country to build weapons of mass destruction for no particular reason is cause for concern. Stopping Iran from constructing these weapons is going to be a huge issue.

San-Roman said she feels “great pride” for both of her countries, Germany and the US, and she feels that it is both nations’ responsibility to stop something so unjust. The cost of stopping Iran might be too much for any nation to handle at this time.

With an economy that is drowning in debt is it really smart to spend more money on what might turn into another war? Especially when such a main concern is how to get soldiers out of one nation, and return them home, not to send them somewhere else to fight.

One of the most talked about issues at this years NATO summit is going to be the occupation of Afghanistan. According to, Welcome to Germany.info, since 2001 more than 100,000 German soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan. 

Germany along with the rest of NATO agree that it is time to pull soldiers out of Afghanistan and leave the country in the hands of the Afghan people. This transition will not happen until 2014, but the plans will be laid out at this year’s summit.

Suss said she agreed with Germany’s decision stating, “I think yes (to leaving Afghanistan), I think it’s time to try at least. We’ve done plenty and it’s all we can pretty much do I think. It’s time to get out for both Americans and Germans.”

According to Welcome to Germany.info, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière stressed this during his recent visit to Washington. "It will be a responsible transition,” de Maizière  said.

The plan to get soldiers out of Afghanistan is not going to be easy, and in order to make the transition as smooth as possible all of NATO is going to have to work together.

Like the US, most European countries are also experiencing budget concerns, and the military budget is no exception. Having soldiers in a country for almost 12 years is only costing money, with nothing in return.

NATO nations are really going to have to buckle down and figure out the most cost effective way to get the soldiers home without leaving the country in total despair. “Smart defense,” is going to be a big term at this year’s summit, and Germany fully supports this approach.

Although, most German’s living in Chicago are now third and fourth generation Germans, the pride they feel for their German heritage is as strong as ever. Even if their ties to the German nation are not as strong as they used to be, that does not mean they don’t care about the nations position on key topics.

Germany’s opinion and stance will be a major concern at this year’s G8 and NATO summits, and German Chicagoans are standing strong supporting both of their nations.

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