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Amy Gutman’s Father Fled the Nazis. She’s the New U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

Amy Gutman’s Father Fled the Nazis. She’s the New U.S. Ambassador to Germany.

FEUCHTWANGEN, Germany — After Amy Gutmann’s father fled the Nazis in 1934, he swore never to set foot in Germany again. For the rest of his life, he boycotted German goods and only spoke English to his daughter. Germany, he impressed on her when she was growing up, was “very bad.”

Nearly a century later, Ms. Gutmann, a respected democracy scholar, has moved to Germany — as the new U.S. ambassador. With antisemitism and far-right ideology once again resurgent, and with Russia waging war on Ukraine close by, her new role is not a job, she says: “It’s a mission.”

That mission is personal as well as geopolitical.

Earlier this month, Ms. Gutmann was striding up a cobbled alleyway in Feuchtwangen, the sleepy Bavarian town where generations of her German ancestors had dwelled before a Nazi mayor burned down the local synagogue and declared his town “Jew-free.”

When the current mayor came to greet her, Ms. Gutmann pulled out the small black-and-white photograph of her father that she always carries with her.

“You’ll forgive me for speaking not only as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, but as Amy Gutmann, the daughter of Kurt Gutmann,” Ms. Gutmann, 72, told a crowd of local dignitaries. “I would not be here today were it not for my father’s farsightedness and courage.”

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The timing of her official arrival as ambassador on Feb. 17, Ms. Gutmann said in an interview, felt particularly poignant, coming one week before the invasion of Ukraine by a revisionist Russian president who has been accused by her own boss of committing “genocide” in his quest for empire.

Seventy-seven years after America and its allies defeated Hitler’s Germany, the two countries are now united against Russian aggression. A big part of Ms. Gutmann’s job will be to keep it that…

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