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Chicago To Show Off German Roots During NATO Summit

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Chicago Brauhaus, a German-American restaurant in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, which is considered the heart of Chicago's German community. (Credit: CBS)

Chicago Brauhaus, a German-American restaurant in the Lincoln Square neighborhood, which is considered the heart of Chicago’s German community. (Credit: CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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CHICAGO (CBS) – German delegates who visit Chicago for the NATO summit this weekend will feel very much at home in the city.

Chicago hosts one of the largest Christkindlmarkets every Christmas. There are also several Oktoberfest celebrations throughout the city every fall, especially in Lincoln Square. Both are longstanding German traditions brought over from Europe.

So, while the delegates might be traveling thousands of miles to get to Chicago, as CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker reports, they will be surrounded by familiar sights.

“We have a bunch of gift shops for German gifts,” said Nicholle Dombrowski, executive director of the DANK Haus German American Cultural Center, as she gave a tour of the Lincoln Square neighborhood.

Lincoln Square is considered the epicenter of the city’s German-American community; home to German immigrants like Werner Herrig, who’s been here 40 years.

“I love it here. It’s a good neighborhood,” he said. “It’s a lot of Germans still around here.”

It’s a neighborhood with many of the comforts of their native land; including German symbols, restaurants, grocers, and a significant piece of German history.

A large portion of the Berlin Wall is located at the Lawrence stop on the CTA Brown line.

One side of it, which was on the west side of the wall, is still covered in graffiti.

“So you’re talking about the free side, the side that the Americans were able to release at the end of (World War II). That’s why we have all this graffiti on it, because they were free, they were allowed to do things, and express themselves,” Dombrowski said. “The east side is traditionally clean, because they were under a communist government at that time, and they were not allowed to express themselves, whatsoever.”

Chicago’s strong ties to Germany go beyond the Lincoln Square community. In fact, there are 160 German-owned businesses across the Chicago area, and a German influence that spans Chicago’s skyline.

“There have been many German architects here in Chicago: [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe, Dirk Lohan, Helmut Jahn; just to name a few,” said German Consul General Onno Hueckmann.

Van der Rohe designed or influenced the design of many Chicago skyscrapers, including IBM Plaza, the Daley Center, the federal buildings in the Loop, and the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.

Lohan, van der Rohe’s grandson, is the architect responsible for the renovated Soldier Field. He also helped design the prototypes for many of the newest libraries in Chicago, and worked on the construction of the federal buildings and the U of C’s social service building.

Jahn designed the CTA ‘L’ station and the United Terminal at O’Hare International Airport, the James R. Thompson Center downtown, and the student housing along the CTA Green Line at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“Chicago has one of the most beautiful skylines of America, and so, indeed, we are very glad that we could contribute to this magnificent skyline,” Hueckmann said.

An architectural tour of Chicago is at the top of the list for the German delegates, and they might want to take the Brown line to Lincoln Square.

The DANK House center is hosting a viewing party on Saturday, when the German soccer team FC Bayern Munich plays Chelsea FC in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be leading the German delegation in Chicago. She has been the chancellor since 2005. She’s the first woman to hold that position. She also studied physics in college, and became a researcher and published papers.

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