Sister Cities: Wittenberg and Springfield, Ohio
Cranach Yard Schlossstr.1 in Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, © A.Savin, Wikimedia Commons
Original German text provided by Lutherstadt Wittenberg
Sister city partnerships are not as old as the towns themselves, but their importance for coexistence remains significant. The devastation of World War II has given rise to the resolve that peace and understanding should concern us all. This resolve was the initial spark for the sister city connections. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the municipalities of the former GDR were also given the opportunity to help shape German foreign policy. Today, thousands of town twinnings across the globe form a stable and robust network of citizens. The best example of this is the connection Lutherstadt Wittenberg has established with its American partner in Springfield, Ohio. The partnership, which has existed since 1995, is based on the legacy of the Reformation. Lutheran roots form the foundation of Wittenberg University and the associated cultivation of tradition to its German place of origin. Many settlers from Germany have settled in in Ohio and nearby Michigan, helping to bring transatlantic exchange to life.
As part of the International Building Exhibition IBA 2010, Lutherstadt Wittenberg has reframed its infrastructure under the project title “Campus Wittenberg.” In this context, buildings were repurposed for educational reasons. Among them is the Colleg Wittenberg. Since then, the college has been filled with academic life through American universities, in particular Wittenberg University, which offers an exchange semester at the Reformation’s birthplace. Interdisciplinary lectures, seminars and subsequent internships in schools, companies and administrations testify to the breadth of cooperation in terms of content. The diverse history of Central Germany, which the students explore at numerous locations as part of a program of visits, is also not neglected.
The past reminds us of good and bad. Contemporary witnesses bring history to life. Thus the Reformation heritage of Lutherstadt Wittenberg is not the only opportunity to challenge the way things are. The more recent history of the Third Reich and the resulting responsibility for the present must also be reflected upon publicly and critically. Richard Wiener, honorary citizen of Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Holocaust survivor, and current resident of Rockville, keeps the darkest chapter of German history “awake” with his experiences. In a transatlantic context, he is a bridge-builder for forgiveness and reconciliation. At the University of Kentucky, he is a valued lecturer and speaker. His insight gives people the chance to approach each other, opens hearts and brings them together.