Elite Hamburg British club angers expats with men-only policy

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Elite Hamburg British club angers expats with men-only policy

Hamburg Mayor Olaf Scholz speaks at the Anglo-German club during celebrations of the Queen's birthday. Photo: DPA

Set up after the Second World War, the Anglo-German Club in Hamburg claims to act as a bridge across the North Sea. But its male-only membership policy has led Brits in the port city to call it a “dinosaur”.

A group of around 20 young Brits and Anglophiles resident in Hamburg wrote an open letter to the Anglo-German Club in July in an effort to push it into changing its policy.

“An organisation that, by virtue of its name and public perception, aspires to represent us and the values of our two great nations cannot justify excluding women from its membership.”

While praising the club for its support for student exchanges and its charity work, the signatories argue that “if women can represent our states at the highest level… ... then surely excluding them from your number is neither ‘Anglo’ nor 'German'.”

The letter goes on to appeal to the club to adapt its policy so that it can remain a relevant voice in the uncertain times created by Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

“We believe the Anglo-German Club has the connections, experience, and plain old British common sense to represent the interests of all Anglophile Germans and Germanophile Brits in circles that can make a really positive impact on our lives post-Brexit," the letter states.

"Our media-savvy, internationally minded generation is well equipped to help you reach a broader cross-section of society and the economy. Those of us with first-hand experience of British clubs’ initiatives to widen their membership base would be only too happy to offer advice and support."

Founded by Sir John Dunlop, the High Commissioner of the British Military Government, in 1948, the Anglo-German Club in Hamburg has for the past seven decades seen its mission as fostering good relations between Britain and Germany.

In June this year it hosted a garden party on the Queen’s birthday with her daughter Princess Anne in attendance. The British Ambassador and the Mayor of Hamburg, who are honorary presidents of the club, both attended the birthday bash.

When Dunlop set it up, he based the club on the all-male clubs of London upper class society.

“At the time the club was founded there was no wish from any women to become members,” club President Claus-G. Budelmann told The Local on Wednesday.

And, according to Budelmann, women are just as disinterested in joining the club seven decades later.

“We have discussed this issue regularly in the board, but no women have ever made requests to become members.”

He also rebuffed claims that the men-only policy is discriminatory.

“Ladies can take part in any events which we have. The only difference is that they cannot become members.”

But there is evidence that the club could be reconsidering its position.

The Local contacted the British Embassy for a statement from the ambassador, Sir Sebastian Wood, on his position on the club's policy.

“We have been able to establish that there have already been discussions inside the Anglo-German Club, and apparently there are soon going to be changes there that bring it in line with the values of modern British society,” the embassy stated in response.