German visitors strengthen ties to Hagerstown's sister city
Former Wesel Burgemeister Bernard Gründken leads group on a 10-day tour through the Northeast
Caroline Hufe of Wesel, Germany, smiles after shooting a clay pigeon Friday at the North American Rod & Gun Club near Hagerstown. Wesel is Hagerstown's sister city in Germany. (By Colleen McGrath, Staff Photographer)
Eins, zwei, drei ... zwölf.
"Sign her up," said one of the club members.
By the time the 20-year-old had finished her rotation, she had gotten the hang of the 12-gauge shotgun and blasted a dozen pigeons. Marcus Moshövel, 24, shattered 16 of the targets during his turn on the range.
Fifty-nine years ago Wesel, Germany, and Hagerstown established a sister city affiliation, said Connie Lenhart of Hagerstown. So 32 visitors from Germany, led by former Wesel Burgemeister Bernard Gründken, stopped in Hagerstown Friday on a 10-day swing through the Northeast.
"It's the oldest established sister city affiliation in the country that is still up and running," said Lenhart, who is co-president with Gann Breichner of the Hagerstown-Wesel Sister City Affiliation.
A teacher, Lenhart has been participating in a student exchange between the cities since 1987, which includes students from North Hagerstown and Williamsport high schools on this side of the Atlantic and Konrad Duden Gymnasium in Wesel, she said.
"It's a special twinning," Gründken said of the sister city relationship. Seven years after the end of World War II, when 98 percent of the city was destroyed by the allies, the cities established the affiliation, he said.
"We said we had the same desires. Friendship, peace," said Gründken, who was burgemeister from 1994 to 1999. He was able to touch base again with Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II, whom he first met when Bruchey visited Wesel in 1997.
"We found that all people are the same .... War and other things happen because of the politics," said Gulam Puthawala of Hagerstown, a past president of the sister city affiliation who has been active in it for more than 40 years.
Lenhart said the 60th anniversary of the affiliation in 2012 will likely include a group of Washington County students visiting Wesel in June, followed by Konrad Duden students visiting here in the fall.