Goethe Institute

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Coordinates: 48 ° 9 ′ 43.7 ″  N , 11 ° 32 ′ 41.7 ″  E

Goethe Institute
legal form registered association
founding 1951
Seat Munich , Germany
precursor German Academy
main emphasis Promotion of knowledge of the German language abroad, cultivation of international cultural cooperation, communication of a comprehensive image of Germany through information about cultural, social and political life
Chair Klaus-Dieter Lehmann
Managing directors Johannes Ebert
Website www.goethe.de

The Goethe-Institut is a non-profit association with headquarters in Munich , which has set itself the task of promoting knowledge of the German language abroad, cultivating international cultural cooperation and conveying a comprehensive, up-to-date image of Germany. It is named after the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe . Over 246,000 people take part in German courses every year.



As of 2018, the institute had branches in twelve cities in Germany as well as 159 institutes and liaison offices in 98 countries. In addition, there are around a thousand other institutions of foreign cooperation partners around the world for which the Goethe-Institut provides financial support and / or measures for advice and quality assurance.


The legal basis of the Goethe-Institut is the statutes of September 21, 2000. These provide for the general assembly, the presidium and the board as organs. The general assembly consists of representatives of the federal and state governments and the Bundestag as well as people from the cultural sector. The Presidium consists of the honorary President, six members elected by the General Assembly, one representative each from the Foreign Office and the Federal Ministry of Finance, and three employee representatives. The general assembly and the presidium mainly perform control tasks and are responsible for decisions on fundamental matters. The board consists of a general secretary (since 2012: Johannes Ebert) and a commercial director (since 2017: Rainer Pollack); he leads the day-to-day business. The head office in Munich (with the capital city office in Berlin) is responsible for overall strategic management, evaluation and quality assurance as well as technical advice for the institutes abroad. It is divided into seven departments (strategy and evaluation (staff department); information; culture; language; human resources; finance; central services) as well as special tasks, communication and marketing and sales. The 159 foreign institutes are in 12 regions, the 12 institutes in Germany are grouped together in the Germany region .

Headquarters in Munich

Framework agreement

The relationship between the Goethe-Institut and the state has been regulated by a framework agreement concluded with the Foreign Office since 1976. "This contract is rightly regarded as a model for the adequate regulation of the relationship between intermediary organizations and state bodies." ( Lit .: SK Schulte). In this contract, the Foreign Office entrusts the Goethe-Institut with a relatively specific catalog of tasks "within the framework of its constitutional responsibility for foreign cultural policy ", on the basis of which it acts independently for the state. In addition to individually listed areas of work, a general clause also enables further participation in cultural exchange with foreign countries after prior consultation with the Foreign Office. Section 2 (1) of the contract can apply as the basic standard for the relationship between the Foreign Office and the Goethe Institute. Afterwards, both partners work “closely together” in the execution of the contractual tasks. Both sides make a “loyal cooperation” an obligation of their servants and employees. In exceptional cases, it is possible to have a direct impact on the ongoing work of the Goethe-Institut. Organizing a branch abroad can be prevented by the veto of the head of the local diplomatic mission. In the event of politically damaging behavior by employees abroad, the Federal Foreign Office can demand their immediate suspension ( Lit .: Schulte p. 121 f.).


Promotion of the German language abroad

Goethe Institute in Prague
Goethe-Institut Philippines in Makati , Metro Manila
Discussion forum with the international school newspaper trait d'union on the Elysée Treaty at the Goethe-Institut in Toulouse (2003)
Easter 2019 at the Goethe Language Learning Center, Shenyang

The largest mediating organization in German foreign cultural policy in terms of personnel has a wide range of offers: One focus is teachingGerman as a Foreign Language ”, which, in addition to conducting language courses and exams, also develops teaching materials and provides advanced training for German teachers (around 1,700 grants annually). It also takes part in scientific research and language policy initiatives in this area.

Every two years the Goethe-Institut organizes the International German Olympiad (IDO), where German learners from all over the world meet and exchange ideas.

The Goethe-Institut is a key partner in the “Schools: Partners for the Future” initiative. The project initiated by the Federal Foreign Office links more than 2000 partner schools in Germany worldwide and thus complements the network of German schools abroad and schools that offer the German language diploma (the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) also oversees selection and funding). As part of the initiative, the Goethe-Institut identifies and supports almost 600 schools worldwide that focus on “German as a foreign language”.

Language tests

The Goethe-Institut offers the following language tests:

Cultural cooperation

Another central task of the institute is the cultural cooperation with other countries in the fields of literature , music , theater , film , dance , exhibitions and translation . To this end, it organizes programs on cultural and social topics in cooperation with partners in the host countries and makes contributions to festivals. Authors, musicians and artists from Germany participate in the projects at the institutes abroad and promote the cultural and social dialogue between the Federal Republic of Germany and the world.

Large projects by the Goethe-Institut regularly show how important European cooperation is. In 2017, Herta Müller and Slavoj Žižek , among others, discussed at the international conference European Angst in Brussels ; in London international artists showed their future visions of Europe for Collecting Europe ; A culture symposium on the subject of sharing and exchanging was held in Weimar .

Conveying a current image of Germany

The third main objective is to convey a current image of Germany, among other things through libraries , information centers, discussion forums, diverse publications, CD rental, extensive websites in German or the national language of the host countries and visitor programs. In this way, the international discourse on key issues in an increasingly globalized society is promoted. Large-scale Germany Years and Weeks in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office and other partners convey a comprehensive picture of society, economy, culture and science in Germany.

Regional focus

Goethe Institute in
Khartoum, Sudan

The Goethe-Institut has intensified its activities in recent years, including in Africa. The “Aktion Afrika” initiated by the Federal Foreign Office provides additional funding for new projects, institutes and several liaison offices as well as language learning centers. New institutes and liaison offices have been opened in Dar es Salaam , Luanda , Kano , Ouagadougou , Kigali , Harare and Lilongwe . In India - where 2011/2012 was a great year for Germany - the branches have the additional designation " Max Müller Bhavan" after the well-known German Indologist there.

Germany Years take place regularly around the world. In 2017, the German-Mexican friendship was celebrated in Mexico; A year of Germany is planned for the USA in 2018.

From 2004 to 2009 the institute operated the Goethe Information Center in Pyongyang in the North Korean capital.


The institute was established in 1951 as the successor to the German Academy founded in 1925 . It was originally intended to train foreign German teachers in Germany. In 1952 the first Goethe Institute opened in Athens. The first language courses began in 1953, and in the same year the Goethe-Institut took on tasks to promote German as a foreign language abroad. On the initiative of the then head of the cultural department of the Foreign Office, Dieter Sattler , from 1959–1960 all state West German cultural institutions abroad gradually became part of the Goethe Institute. In 1968 the Goethe-Institut began its cultural program work.

In the course of the beginning of dialogical and collaborative cultural work as the third pillar of German foreign policy under Willy Brandt , the Goethe-Institut experienced a further increase in importance in the early 1970s. In 1976 the framework agreement was signed with the Federal Foreign Office. In 1980 a new location concept came into force in Germany, which provided for greater consideration of large and university cities.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the Goethe-Institut expanded its activities to include Eastern Europe, and numerous new institutes were founded. After the merger with InterNationes (one in 1952 in Bonn by the Federal Press Office founded association for the production and distribution of information material about German culture abroad) on 21 September 2000, the Goethe Institute conducted from January 2001 to July 2003 the name Goethe-Institut Inter Nationes . In 2008 and 2009 institutes in Dar es Salaam , Novosibirsk and Luanda as well as several liaison offices were opened.

Entrance to the headquarters in Munich

The presidents of the Goethe-Institut:

The Managing Director / General Secretaries of the Goethe Institute (until 1973 was the title of chief executive or director of the Goethe Institute):

Financing and allegation of pseudo self-employment of fee teachers in Germany

The institute is mainly financed from the federal budget. As part of a “comprehensive concept to secure the future”, the Goethe-Institut has been receiving higher grants again since 2007 after years of decreasing grants. This was linked to the requirement to restructure the organization and make it more flexible and efficient. This included a restructuring and downsizing of the headquarters and a transfer of competencies and responsibility to the regional institutes.

The annual budget of the Goethe-Institut in 2015 was around 387 million euros, of which around 229 million euros represented grants from the Foreign Office from funds for foreign cultural and educational policy . The income from language course and examination fees at the Goethe Institutes in Germany and abroad, income from donations and sponsoring as well as donations from third parties amounted to around 157 million euros in 2015. The Goethe-Institut uses this to finance around 40 percent of its own costs. Over 80 percent of the funds flowed into operational activities. However, only institutes abroad receive state subsidies; the twelve Goethe Institutes in Germany are financed through the sale of language courses.

In February 2017, as a result of a review of the Goethe Institutes in Germany by the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (DRV), which had been ongoing since 2014, it became known that the majority of the language course lecturers were not employed subject to social security contributions, but merely received fee contracts for the duration of a course. The pension insurance then initiated tests to determine whether the Goethe Institute as an employer had systematically committed social security fraud over the years. She expressed the suspicion that the vast majority of teachers at the Goethe Institutes in Germany may have been employed as bogus self- employed. 400 contracts were then examined. For its part, the Goethe-Institut announced that it did not share the view of the pension insurance. At the same time, according to information from the Education and Science Union (GEW) , the Goethe-Institut ended its cooperation with 80% of its language teachers and a large number of the language courses in Germany were therefore canceled. For the GEW, the business model of the Goethe Institute was therefore in question. - In January 2020, the DRV finally came to the conclusion that the honorary teachers are definitely self-employed and not employees of the Goethe-Institut who are subject to social insurance. The GEW, however, described the DRV's judgment as "a slap in the face of the teachers".

Goethe medal

Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal , an official award from the Federal Republic of Germany. This medal honors personalities who have made a special contribution to teaching the German language and international cultural exchange. The Goethe Medal was donated in 1954 by the board of directors of the Goethe Institute and recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany as an official decoration in 1975. Since 2009, the award has been held annually on August 28th, Goethe's birthday, in Weimar. Since the first award in 1955, a total of 341 personalities from 63 countries have been honored. The winners include:

Residency programs

Together with its cultural partners abroad, the Goethe-Institut organizes almost 130 artist residencies in around 50 programs worldwide. The Goethe-Institut's residency programs allow artists and cultural workers from all disciplines to stay for longer periods of at least four weeks, as well as translators and scholars in another country or cultural area. They offer the opportunity to cross borders, to live and work in other cultural contexts and thus to come into close contact and exchange with the host country and its art and culture scene. At the same time, they serve for reflection, the development of new projects, but also for basic work on new projects that will only be completed at a later point in time - be it in Germany or in the host country.

Own houses of the Goethe-Institut

Salvador de Bahia, Brazil

The Vila Sul officially opened in November 2016. The residence house in the Goethe-Institut Salvador offers German and international residents work and residence opportunities for two to three months each. The main topic is the “global south”.

Kyoto, Japan

In the Villa Kamogawa , the Goethe-Institut offers artists and cultural workers from Germany the opportunity to live and work in Japan as part of a three-month scholarship.

All branches are represented among the residents: architecture, fine arts, performing arts, design, literature, music, film, cultural theory, cultural criticism.

Residency program in cooperation with the Federal Foreign Office

Istanbul, Turkey

The Tarabya Culture Academy is run by the German Embassy in Ankara and is part of the embassy’s cultural work in Turkey. The curatorial responsibility was transferred to the Goethe-Institut.

Well-known participants in German courses at the Goethe-Institut


In 2005 the Goethe-Institut received the Spanish Prince of Asturias Prize, along with other cultural institutes . In 2007 it was awarded the Konrad Duden Special Prize for its “services to worldwide teaching and dissemination of the German language” .

On April 29, 2005, the Goethe Institute in Lomé , Togo, was devastated and set on fire by young people. After shooting at the building, they stormed the cultural institute. Due to the anti-German campaign by the Togolese government, it does not seem impossible that it was a political act. In the opinion of the then government of Togo, Germany stood on the side of the Togolese opposition. After this attack, all German citizens who were in Togo were called to leave the country.

In November 2008, the institute came under criticism for expressing its intention to send the Berlin rapper Massiv , who had often attracted attention through violence-glorifying and Islamist texts, to the Palestinian territories as an “ambassador for peace”.

Henrike Grohs , the director of the Goethe-Institut in Abidjan , was murdered by Muslim terrorists on March 13, 2016 in a terrorist attack in Grand-Bassam . 13 other civilians died with her. In memory of Henrike Grohs, the Goethe-Institut and the Grohs family created a prize that is dedicated to artists who live and work in Africa.


  • Goethe-Institut (ed.): Murnau, Manila, Minsk. 50 years of the Goethe-Institut. CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-47534-4 .
  • Steffen R. Kathe: cultural policy at any price. The history of the Goethe-Institut from 1951 to 1990. Munich, 2005
  • Klaus-Dieter Lehmann and Olaf Zimmermann (eds.): Making the world more readable. Portrait of the Goethe Institute. DZA printing works in Altenburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-939670-92-6 .
  • Eckard Michels : From the German Academy to the Goethe Institute. Language and foreign cultural policy 1923–1960. Munich 2005
  • Gerald Schneider, Julia Schiller: Goethe is not everywhere: An empirical analysis of location decisions in foreign cultural policy. In: Journal for International Relations , 1/7/2000
  • Martin Mumme: Strategies for Foreign Consciousness Politics - On the Power of Ideas in Politics. A critical analysis of the conception of the Goethe-Institut and German foreign cultural policy, Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, 2006
  • Karl Sebastian Schulte: Foreign cultural policy in the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany: conceptual content, organizational principles and structural neuralgia of an atypical policy field at the end of the 13th legislative period. Publishing house for science and research, Berlin, 2000
  • Bernard Wittek: And that in Goethe's name: The Goethe Institute from 1951 to 1976. Vistas, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89158-424-5 .
  • Victoria Znined-Brand: German and French Foreign Cultural Policy: A Comparative Analysis. The example of the Goethe Institutes in France and the Instituts and Centers Culturels Français in Germany since 1945. Frankfurt am Main 1997

See also

Web links

Commons : Goethe-Institut  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Goethe-Institut  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c On the history of the Goethe Institute. In: goethe.de. Retrieved October 24, 2018 .
  2. About us. In: Website of the Goethe Institute. Retrieved February 15, 2018 .
  3. Yearbook 2012/2013. (PDF) Goethe-Institut, p. 177 , archived from the original on November 11, 2013 ; Retrieved November 11, 2013 .
  4. locations. In: goethe.de. Archived from the original on November 2, 2018 ; Retrieved on November 6, 2018 (The original page will be updated accordingly if the locations change. The information in the article is based on the archived version.).
  5. ^ President and Board of Directors. In: goethe.de. Retrieved October 16, 2019 .
  6. ^ Anja Nehls: International German Olympiad - Biggest German Competition in the World. In: deutschlandfunk.de. July 26, 2016, accessed November 27, 2018 .
  7. ^ Belgium: Conference “European Fear”. In: goethe.de. Retrieved September 1, 2017 .
  8. ^ Collecting Europe - artist commissions. In: vam.ac.uk. Retrieved December 13, 2018 .
  9. Silke Bartlick: Why we share and swap - cultural symposium of the Goethe Institute in Weimar. In: dw.com. June 9, 2016, accessed September 1, 2017 .
  10. ^ Foreign Minister Gabriel on the Germany Year in Mexico. Press release. In: Auswaertiges-amt.de. June 7, 2017, accessed July 16, 2020 .
  11. For the term of office from November 19, 2020, Carola Lentz was elected President in September 2019 ( Carola Lentz was elected as the new President of the Goethe-Institut. In: goethe.de . September 30, 2019, accessed on April 4, 2020.)
  12. Johannes Ebert is the new General Secretary of the Goethe-Institut , RP online from May 21, 2011, accessed on May 23, 2011.
  13. Yearbook 2015/2016. (PDF; 18.3 MB) In: goethe.de. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017 ; accessed on September 1, 2017 .
  14. Christian Füller: Accusation of pseudo self-employment - 400 German teachers suffer from Goethe chaos. In: spiegel.de . February 7, 2017, accessed May 1, 2020 .
  15. Possible bogus self-employed: Goethe-Institut faces massive problems. In: faz.net. January 27, 2017. Retrieved September 10, 2017 .
  16. ^ Christian Gehrke: Suspected fraud: Pension insurance checks contracts with the Goethe Institute. In: berliner-zeitung.de. February 15, 2017. Retrieved September 11, 2017 .
  17. Discussions about the status of fee teachers with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung: Measures to secure the range of courses in Germany. In: goethe.de. February 2017. Retrieved September 13, 2017 .
  18. Freelance workers employed as bogus self-employed? - A huge problem for the Goethe-Institut. In: n-tv.de. January 27, 2017. Retrieved October 19, 2019 .
  19. DRV Bayern Süd classifies honorary teachers at Goethe Institutes in Germany as self-employed. Retrieved April 2, 2020 .
  20. GEW-Die Bildungsgewerkschaft: "A slap in the face of teachers". April 2, 2020, accessed April 2, 2020 .
  21. Goethe Medal - Goethe Institute. Retrieved February 6, 2017 .
  22. Katrin Baumer: Tarabya Culture Academy - The sound of the wind on the Bosporus. Interview with Mark Andre. In: goethe.de. January 21, 2016, accessed October 25, 2019 .
  23. About Bridges - Avi Primor on Israeli-German relations and his language course at the Goethe Institute. In: goethe.de. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016 ; accessed on May 24, 2019 .
  24. Anna Patazcek: 60 years of language courses at the Goethe Institute - learn German with schnapps. In: tagesspiegel.de. July 25, 2013, accessed October 6, 2019 .
  25. Louisa Löwenstein: "Massive" in the Middle East - Berlin violent rapper tours as an ambassador for peace. In: morgenpost.de. November 13, 2008. Retrieved November 29, 2018 .
  26. ^ Ivory Coast: Head of the Goethe Institute killed. In: dw.com. March 14, 2016, accessed March 14, 2016 .
  27. ^ Henrike Grohs Prize for African Artists - Goethe-Institut Tansania. In: goethe.de. Retrieved September 24, 2019 .