Lehmann – the last cultural diplomat

Published on November 15, 2020 by

Cultural diplomacy is the softer power game between nations. Few people from the cultural sector have seen as much of it as Klaus-Dieter Lehmann. Lehmann has a long list of accolades. 2020 is his final year as President of the Goethe-Institut.

Klaus-Dieter Lehmann was Director-General of the German Library in Frankfurt when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Not long after, he landed his first coup when he managed to unite the Frankfurt Library in western Germany and the German Library in the eastern German city of Leipzig. Together they would become the German National Library. It was a great achievement in diplomacy within the newly reunited nation, and one of many Lehmann can look back on. He moved on to become President of the Prussian Cultural Heritage foundation in Berlin, a role in which he was tantamount in shaping the new face of Berlin. He managed to push through the restoration of Berlin’s Museum Island and reinvented key culture centers in the German capital. It was therefore no surprise when in 2008 Lehmann was made President of the Goethe-Institut, the cultural arm of the German government, which is active worldwide. This November, his term of office as President will be ending.

Lehmann has often been described as ‘pragmatic visionary’. He has repeatedly proven his belief in and skill at cultural diplomacy. This documentary accompanies Lehmann during the final chapter of his fifty-year career. We see him on business trips in Africa and Asia, in Frankfurt where his career started, and in Berlin, his chosen home. 2020 was a year that didn’t go according to plan – including for Lehmann. But even in such tumultuous times Lehmann maintains his knack for being in the right place at the right time. The film features interviews with people who have worked closely with Lehmann. Through their eyes, it tells the story of German cultural diplomacy over the past decades, and of Klaus-Dieter Lehmann’s impressive career.

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