Wishing to set an example to symbolize peace and the ending of a horrific war, the City of Hagerstown and Wesel, Germany, formally joined hands as sister cities by public proclamation on March 10, 1952. These cities have continued to share this affiliation for the past sixty years.
Devastated by the bombings from the U.S. Air Force in World War II, Wesel suffered 98% destruction of its town and the deaths of 600 of its citizens in a three-day period of time in 1945. Despite this suffering, the people of Wesel lived up to their honorary name of “hospitable Wesel” and reached out the olive branch to their former enemy — an enemy who ultimately brought peace and freedom to their country.
The process began in 1951 when Dr. Karl Heinz Reuber contacted Operation Democracy in New York to seek assistance in finding an American town that was suitable and willing to initiate a friendly relationship with Wesel. County Manager of Rees County, Dr. von Bonninghausen, also made personal contacts with Hagerstown while he was touring the United States. Mayor Mills of Hagerstown seized this gesture of friendship and responded positively to the official offer of the Mayor of Wesel, Nr. Ewald Fournell. By 1952 the pact was signed by both cities.
Since that time much has transpired and contacts between the two cities have expanded. To foster and promote the partnership, each city has exchanged activities and ideas such as the traditional “key to the city,” exhibitions to encourage an appreciation of each city’s people and culture, tours of the Fusternberg Men’s Choir, student exchange programs for high schools and even marriages — Sally Burhans, Mayor Burhans’ daughter, to Karl Heinz Buschmann.
Today, both cities continue to promote programs such as the Augustoberfest to celebrate the partnership of Hagerstown and Wesel. They realize the importance of friendship and understanding in achieving world peace.