How are Argentina’s relations with Chile?

German-Chilean relations

The first German immigrants came in 1850

When Chile won the War of Independence against the Spaniards in 1826, the north and center of Chile were already quite well developed. What interested the Chilean government now was the area that geographers now call the "little south". It was the land of Chilean indigenous people, the Mapuche. They were the only indigenous people who could not subdue the Spanish colonial rulers despite constant brutal attacks.

The Chilean government did not want to leave this land to the Mapuche alone and was looking for settlers who should also settle there: people with military experience, perseverance and hard work. The choice fell quickly on Germans, whose reputation as ambitious soldiers had spread as far as Chile.

Chilean government envoys traveled specifically to Germany and advertised. They easily found enthusiastic resettlers. Between 1850 and 1870 around 6000 Germans came to their new homeland Chile, mainly in the area around Puerto Montt in the south, halfway between the capital Santiago and Cape Horn.

German schools, fire brigade and bratwurst

The Mapuche did not seek contact with the newcomers and so the Germans stayed to themselves for a long time. They built settlements based on the German model and founded German schools to teach their own children.

To this day there are churches, houses and schools from the first few years. For example the school in Osorno, which was founded in 1854 as the first German school. Today there are still more than 20 German schools in all of Chile, which are attended by 15,000 students and whose education is considered to be of particularly high quality.

The first voluntary fire brigades were founded by Germans and still exist today. In the cities of the small south such as Puerto Montt, German beer and German bratwurst are common foods. If you want a cake there, simply order with the German word "Kuchen".

Political refugees came into exile

After 1930, German Jews and Communists fled the Hitler regime to Chile. They knew about the well-developed infrastructure that the German immigrants had built there and promised a new beginning far from home. After 1945, Chile served as a refuge for the Nazis. Even during Hitler's National Socialist rule, the two countries cultivated political, economic and scientific ties.

At that time, Germany became Chile's most important trading partner. In 1931 a foreign organization of the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP-AO) was founded in Chile. The elite of Chilean doctors continued their education in Nazi Germany. There are reports of German doctors who carried out race experiments on behalf of Hitler in collaboration with Chilean scientists at Chilean universities.

This dark chapter in the relationship between the two countries continues to be explored and processed. In 2018, the Chilean National Police published documents from the secret department of Departamento 50. They prove that the investigators disbanded several German spy rings in Chile at the time of World War II. These are said to have bugged Chilean military ships in the port city of Valparaíso and on the Strait of Magellan in the south of the country.

Pinochet and the Consequences

On September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet led a brutal military coup in which the incumbent and democratically elected President of Chile, Salvador Allende, was killed. After the coup, a 17-year-old dictatorship began under Pinochet. Tens of thousands of Chileans were ill-treated and killed by torture in concentration camps. To this day there are thousands of people missing without a trace.

During Pinochet's dictatorship, around 22,000 Chileans fled into exile in Germany. Many had German roots or contact with so-called German Chileans and therefore felt closer to Germany than other countries.

Economic relations are going well

Chile is rich in natural resources. In the 20th century, saltpetre from the Atacama desert was still the most important raw material. Saltpetre was needed primarily for the production of artificial fertilizers.

Today copper and lithium have become the most valuable raw materials. Chile has the largest copper and lithium deposits in the world. Both raw materials are in high global demand. Because the steadily growing electrical and computer technology requires more and more copper and lithium for their products.

Germany imports both raw materials, but also food such as wine, salmon and fruit from Chile. Conversely, Germany exports chemical and technological products as well as cars to Chile. Germany is Chile's most important trading partner within the European Union. A quarter of EU imports come from Germany. On the list of Chile's most important importing countries, Germany ranks fifth after China, the USA, Brazil and Argentina.

German and Chilean researchers have been working together for many years. The focus is on the areas of environmental protection, renewable energies, astronomy, biotechnology, health care, digitization and dual vocational training.

There is growing cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the field of solar and wind energy. Chile plans to become one of the world's leading producers of so-called green hydrogen by 2030. This is obtained from renewable energies and is therefore considered an environmentally friendly energy source. Chile is in contact with German investors and companies in this regard.