US picks Gutmann as first woman ambassador to Germany: sources

US President Joe Biden has nominated University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann as ambassador to Germany, German government sources said Wednesday, after tumultuous years with Donald Trump’s envoy.

Gutmann, 71, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, would be the first woman appointed to the post.

The German officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed a report in Der Spiegel magazine.

Gutmann’s appointment must be confirmed by the US Senate and approved by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. The sources said no date had yet been set for her accreditation.

The United States had previously been represented in Berlin by Trump ally Richard Grenell, who raised hackles in Germany with a combative approach, including vowing to empower anti-establishment right-wingers in Europe.

He regularly angered his host country with outspoken criticism of everything from the Iran nuclear deal to Berlin’s defence spending and relations with Chinese tech firm Huawei.

Grenell returned to Washington to become Trump’s director of national intelligence before resigning as ambassador in June 2020.

Chargee d’Affaires Robin Quinville had served as acting ambassador since then.

Gutmann has led the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution, since 2004 and is an expert in democratic processes.

She served as chair of Barack Obama’s Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues.

Gutmann told The Daily Pennsylvanian, the university newspaper, in 2013 that her Jewish father Kurt’s experiences in Nazi Germany had had a “profound influence” on her.

As a college student in 1934, he realised he, his four siblings and his parents would not be safe in the country under Adolf Hitler and convinced them to flee to India.

He later settled in New York, where Gutmann was born. 

“It’s true that his whole family would have disappeared from the face of the earth had it not been for what he did,” Gutmann told the paper.

Despite lingering differences over issues including the nearly complete Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline linking Russia and Germany, relations between Berlin and Washington have grown markedly warmer since Biden took office. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken came to Germany for a two-day visit last week complete with a convivial stop at a Berlin beer garden with his counterpart Heiko Maas. 

Chancellor Angela Merkel has accepted an invitation to visit Biden at the White House on July 15.  

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