Rumsfeld Family Tie is First Victim of War
The American defense chief Donald Rumsfeld has been disowned
by his anti-war relatives in north Germany
By Tony Paterson
February 9, 2003, the Telegraph/UK
The Rumsfelds of Weyhe-Sudweyhe, an unremarkable red-brick
suburb of Bremen, were once proud of their long-lost cousin,
America's secretary of state for defense - but no longer.
Like many Germans, they are appalled by Donald Rumsfeld's
hawkish attitude to military action against Saddam Hussein.
About 18,000 anti-war demonstrators marched through Munich
yesterday to protest at his presence at an international
security conference - chanting slogans such as "No room for
"We think it is dreadful that Donald Rumsfeld is out there
pushing for a war against Iraq," Karin Cecere (nee
Rumsfeld), 59, said from her two-up, two-down home last
week. "We are embarrassed to be related to him," she told
Margarete Rumsfeld, her 85-year-old mother, was equally
dismissive: "We don't have much to do with him anymore.
Nowadays he's just the American defense secretary to us, but
for God's sake, he'd better not start a war," she added.
They used to feel differently. Twenty-five years ago, the
German Rumsfelds were thrilled to welcome Mr Rumsfeld - then
the United States ambassador to Nato stationed in Brussels -
into their extended family.
Like many Americans keen to trace their European
antecedents, Mr Rumsfeld had made contact with the Weyhe-
Sudweyhe Rumsfelds, a branch of the family with whom his
near relations had lost touch since his great-great-
grandfather, Heinrich, emigrated to America during the 19th
Mr Rumsfeld paid three visits to Dietrich Rumsfeld, a
bricklayer, and his wife Margarete in their small artisan's
cottage. On the last occasion, they greeted him with chicken
soup and roast pork for lunch "It was a really pleasant
family gathering, almost like a wedding," said Mrs Cecere
last week. "Mr Rumsfeld seemed a genuinely nice man. It is
such a shame about his war ambitions."
She had grown up, she said, during the Second World War and
her instincts were to search for a solution to the deadlock
with Saddam that did not involve military action. "I was
born in the war and saw its aftermath, and my mother went
through it," she said. "There must be a peaceful way of
solving the Iraq problem."
This change of heart over their Rumsfeld cousin reflects the
mood in Germany. More than 60 per cent of Germans oppose a
war and the US defense secretary has become a hate figure
for the country's peace movement.
His desire to topple Saddam by force is at odds with the
Social Democrat-led government of Chancellor Gerhard
Schröder, which is directly opposed to war in Iraq.
Even before his arrival in Germany yesterday, Mr Rumsfeld
had faced fierce criticism from senior German government
officials for describing France and Germany as "old Europe".
Last week he caused further outrage when he told the House
Armed Services Committee in Washington that Germany, like
"Libya and Cuba", had indicated that it "did not want to
help in any way" the international efforts to tackle Iraq.
The German government attempted to play down the criticism.
"Mr Rumsfeld is like he is. I can say no more," said Joschka
Fischer, the foreign minister. Other senior politicians were
more explicit. "Rumsfeld has flipped out - his behavior is
impossible," said Klaus Kinkel, a Free Democrat and former
Some Germans have misgivings, however, that their country's
hard line against war with Iraq may backfire - especially
if, as widely predicted, France drops its own objections at
the last minute and joins in military action.
Angela Merkel, the leader of the Christian Democrats,
yesterday became the first opposition figure to call for
Germany to become involved. "If it is impossible to solve
the situation peacefully then Germany has to take part in a
military operation," she said, accusing Mr Schröder's
government of "spreading ill-will and confusion" in Nato.
In Munich Mr Rumsfeld sought to dispel the furore over his
own comments by claiming that he had intended the phrase
"old Europe" as a term of affection, like that of "old
He admitted that he was sometimes inclined to be blunt - but
blamed it on his German roots. "My family originates from
northern Germany. People there are well known for their
direct and clear manner of speaking."
His explanation did not impress most Germans - least of all
his cousins in Weyhe-Sudweyhe. Mrs Cecere said: "We're all
in favor of plain-speaking but our relation goes just too