• Sweden edition
 
STOCKHOLM DIPLOMATIC FILES
German ambassador: 'Sweden feels like home'

German ambassador: 'Sweden feels like home'

Published: 23 May 2012 15:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 23 May 2012 15:20 GMT+02:00

Kindermann, 62, arrived in Sweden in July 2011 and has connections to the country stretching back to his university days. He chose to serve his final diplomatic assignment in a country he says is “reminiscent” of his native northern Germany.

While most of his time in Sweden is taken up with discussions about the nuclear phase out in Germany, he took some time out to chat to The Local about himself, his country, and the similarities between Germany and its Scandinavian neighbour to the north.

TL: How did you end up in Sweden?

HK: My scientific research days at university meant that I had ties to universities in Stockholm and Uppsala, and a Swedish professor invited me here to do some research back in the eighties. It was a fruitful time and I got a wonderful impression of the country, the climate, the Swedish style of living, and the society here.

Previously, I’d worked as the German ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria and Israel, 13 years in a row, and when I discussed with my wife where to go for a last posting, the choice was clear.

Also, northern Germany has a certain similarity with the Nordic culture, so I even have the feeling of being at home here.

TL: How does this post in Sweden compare to your other postings?

HK: There is a big difference. We are in Europe here, and here [in Sweden] we don’t have a past like a lot of other countries do with Germany. Sweden was not occupied as were some of its Nordic neighbours. There are a lot of problems with German relations, but Sweden is free from this historic burden, Though it’s not a burden - it’s a fact.

TL: What are the differences between Sweden and Germany?

HK:There is a popular saying in foreign policy that “neighbours are always important” – just like in your personal life. The challenge is to see what we have in common and where the differences are, which are often underestimated.

I was surprised to see so many differences between German thinking and Swedish thinking. But in Europe it’s productive. Sweden is an interesting model.

TL: What do you want to achieve in Sweden?

HK: I’m convinced that culture is extremely important. Foreign policy is a little bit artificial. Necessary but artificial. In a democracy, you need the okay of all the voters to establish good relationships - culture provides this basis, as does science. The basis is non-political, and therefore it’s important to deal with it.

TL: Is the Stasi Exhibition in Stockholm an example of this culture?

HK: Yes. We wanted to show to our identity and the past and this belongs to a lot of our people in the former East Germany. It’s our identity. It’s in our mind, we’ve experienced it, and we have to stand for it. We need to create a dialogue about it.

TL: What’s the importance of the exhibition.

HK: It shows how the Stasi worked. If you, as a Swedish citizen, believe that a file exists about you in our documents, you can apply to see it. If the answer is yes, you’re allowed to see what’s in the files, but you will not see from whom it came – only what they collected about you.

Every day more than 100 Swedes took the opportunity.

TL: There has been a debate in Sweden about whether the state should protect the identities of Swedes who worked for the Stasi. What is your view?

HK: The issue on the German side is very complex. If you’re under pressure from a terrible system and so much information is collected, you want to know about it. The dangerous fact is that the files became like a bible, but it must be remembered that the files were produced undemocratically by a lot of people. This means people were paid for their job, yet they’re people who often got lazy and falsified stories.

Sometimes there were personal interests, or bad relations. I personally saw a lot of files as I was working in the government of East Berlin in the GDR. These were not the files of a democratic country. They were from a repressive system without rules. It’s biased, politically and personally.

You can’t think the files are the truth. By all means, look at the files, but one must be more than a little careful because looking at the files does not give you the truth. People were paid to have a lot of contacts. Stasi members worked to get the okay of their own people. A simple meeting with a Stasi member could make that person a cooperator.

TL: On another subject, - the German school in Stockholm. Explain the importance of this school?

HK: The German school is celebrating its 400th anniversary very soon. There is a wonderful gallery in Stockholm’s Djurgårdern, the Tyska Gallery, and there’s a portrait of the philosopher Nietzsche, and he had a famous saying: “not age, but the act of existing for a long time is a value for itself on earth”. Four hundred years is something special, so we are celebrating that the school survived. Time in itself is a value.

Today, this bilingual school has an important role. Nobody knows the culture of others better than these students. They can make an important contribution to building cultural bridges in Sweden and Germany in a huge variety of respects.

TL: The German language is not as popular as it once was in Swedish schools, with English the most popular second language learnt since the forties. Should more students learn German?

HK: First, English is needed. It’s a world language. German, French, and Spanish come in second.

If I can see it from the point of view of young people – a language must make sense and be nice to the ear – and German is not easy to learn.

However we will hold a huge meeting soon in Gothenburg to talk with Sweden’s German teachers about our strategy. We need to seriously discuss why it is important to learn German, and as industry is screaming for German speaking workers, the time is now.

TL: Lastly, how are things progressing with the nuclear phase-out discussions?

HK: The file I have on the phase out and energy efficiency is certainly my biggest. Sweden and Germany have different opinions on nuclear energy and the interest of Sweden on the German decision is huge.

We have the idea that nuclear energy is dangerous. Swedes are thus different and think that nuclear energy is safe and clean, and are very sensitive to climate issues. We’ve made different decisions, despite having one common idea.

We need a European market for energy, we need grids, but there is a Swedish concern that the German decision will cause energy prices to rise. I hear it all the time.

Two things are certain. As long as the Swedes stay with nuclear energy, they stay. But Germany has left it and won’t come back; there is a a lot of resistance to it among the [German] people.

Now we have a huge industry and a big demand for energy, and we are neighbours. We need a shared policy, a new approach to what we have with water, windmills and bioenergy.

The whole Swedish society is in a constant dialogue about this. This is what it means to be neighbours, and gives us a chance for cooperation. On the other hand, there are concerns.

"Why are they doing this?" Germans ask.

"Are the Swedish nuclear power plants a risk for us if there’s an accident?"

It’s important to know what your neighbours are up to, especially when they’re as close as Sweden and Germany.

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

20:00 May 27, 2012 by johan rebel
Sweden feels like home?

Poor guy!
Today's headlines
Stockholm 'thief' turns out to be trainee ninja

Stockholm 'thief' turns out to be trainee ninja

Stockholm police rushed to the scene when a worried Swede reported that their neighbours were the victim of a break-in - but when officers arrived, they found nothing but a ninja in the middle of practice. READ  

Elections 2014
Liberals hint at bringing back conscription
Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Liberals hint at bringing back conscription

With Russia becoming "all the more aggressive", the Liberal Party leader and education minister, Jan Björklund, has suggested that Sweden may have to reintroduce conscription. READ  

Swede mauled in bear hunt gone wrong

Swede mauled in bear hunt gone wrong

Roles were reversed in a bear hunt on Thursday night, when a Swedish hunter was attacked by his prey, leaving the man in hospital in a serious condition. READ  

How immigration became a key election issue
Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT

How immigration became a key election issue

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt sparked a furore with recent comments that put rising refugee costs in focus before the elections. But why did he bring it up, and will it affect the outcome? READ  

 Saab carmaker fails in bid for receivership
Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

Saab carmaker fails in bid for receivership

A Swedish court has rejected a request from the Chinese-owned automaker NEVS, which owns the financially-troubled Swedish brand Saab, to be placed in receivership until it could attract new financing. READ  

Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year
The view of Kebnekaise's southern peak, soon to be the second highest peak in the country. Photo: Stockholm University

Sweden's highest peak to lose title next year

Mount Kebnekaise's southern peak will no longer be the highest point in Sweden by 2015, researchers predicted on Thursday, adding that the change will spell a major blow for tourism in the region. READ  

Gothenburg preschools end school photography
Moments like these are a thing of the past for Gothenburg preschoolers. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

Gothenburg preschools end school photography

Preschool managers in Gothenburg have decided to ban class photos at preschools in their municipality, citing the different financial situations of families as one reason for the change. READ  

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm
This is Stockholm. Don’t worry - be happy. File photo: ASIFE/iStockphoto

Introducing… Insurance in Stockholm

Many consider Sweden a pretty safe place to live, but what if an icicle pierces your little toe or a ray of midnight sun sets fire to your kettle? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered when it comes to sorting out insurance in Sweden. READ  

Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show
The cast of The Cold Swedish Winter.

Brit's life in Sweden becomes BBC radio show

The Local chats to UK funnyman Danny Robins about his new radio show The Cold Swedish Winter, which is making waves on BBC radio. He talks elk, moose, and what it means to be a Swedophile. READ  

Allergic Swedes demand separate metro carriages
Peanut photo Shutterstock

Allergic Swedes demand separate metro carriages

A Swedish allergies association has asked Stockholm public transport officials to set aside certain carriages on the metro for those with allergies - banning nuts, animals, and strong fragrances in transit. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
People-watching August 27
Gallery
Top ten false friends in Swedish
National
Roma advocate scoops Wallenberg prize
Society
Meet the man who made a Swedish store recall its high heels for kids
Business & Money
'How I came to run my own business in Sweden'
Blog updates

25 August

Hit och dit, här och där (The Swedish Teacher) »

" Hej igen! A common challenge for Swedish language students are the location adverbs hit/här, dit/där, hem/hemma etc. Some of the location adverbs come in two versions. We should use one type of location adverb when we use a verb describes where we are, and we should use the other type of location adverb when we the verb..." READ »

 

25 August

The Dollar Store (Blogweiser) »

"A dollar store in Sweden. Blog post: http://t.co/tNuuvcP1q0 #USD #greenbacks #sweden #sverige pic.twitter.com/RHFAYf7U1k — Joel Sherwood (@joeldsherwood) August 23, 2014 There’s a chain here in Sweden called The DollarStore. This name always stood out to me in a country where they don’t use dollars. I went there for the first time this weekend. They actually accepted greenbacks..." READ »

 
 
 
Politics
Expert explains why Sweden's election oozes uncertainty
National
City plays Schindler's List theme at Nazi rally
Society
For Stockholm Fashion Week, here's the A-Z of Swedish fashion
National
'Amnesiac' man avoids deportation for ten years
Gallery
Princess Estelle through the years
Business & Money
Swedish city all set for six-hour workday trial
Business & Money
Five golden rules for the Swedish job hunt
Sponsored Article
Graduates: Insure your income in Sweden with AEA
Gallery
People-watching August 22-24
National
Armed royal guards caught (very) drunk on the job
National
Sweden orders textbook on Roma discrimination
Gallery
Violent anti-Nazi demonstrations in Malmö
Society
A closer look at Sweden's five official minority languages
Gallery
See the destruction from the southern Sweden floods
Politics
'Sweden Democrats hold the key to elections'
Society
Swedes celebrate first day of smelly fish season
Politics
Sweden elections: How do they work?
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching August 20th
Society
Did you know the Bronx in NYC was named after a Swede?
Sponsored Article
Find out what gives this Swedish school executive appeal
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing...Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

746
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se