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Sister Cities: Nittenau, Bavaria and Lake Zurich, Illinois

Marktplatz mit Storchenturm und Stadtpfarrkirche

Marktplatz mit Storchenturm und Stadtpfarrkirche, © H.Helmlechner / CC-BY-SA-4.0

04.04.2019 - Article

Original German-language text provided by the City of Nittenau. Written by Rudolf Höfler, June 1999.

The Path to Sister Cities

On June 19, 1999, the mayor of Nittenau, Rudolf Heininger, and the mayor of Lake Zurich, James Krischke, signed a town twinning agreement. In the following report, we would like to introduce the twin city to you and outline the path that led to the partnership.

Location of the twin city

The city of Lake Zurich is located approximately 50 km west of Chicago in the US state of Illinois.

The state, also known as “Prairie State,” has a population of 11,895,849. The topography is characterized by grasslands and fertile plains as well as hilly country in the southern part of the state. The capital is Springfield. But by far, the most famous city is Chicago. Approximately 4 million people live in the catchment area of this cosmopolitan city.

Among the outstanding personalities who come from Illinois are the famous 1954 writer and Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemmingway and the 40th President of the United States of America Ronald Reagan.

Lake Zurich itself is still a very young city that celebrated it centennial in 1996. Today, about 18,000 people live in the city. A population of over 20,000 is expected by 2010. The city is situated at an altitude of 260 mNN and has an area of approx. 11 sq. km. Lake Zurich is known for its more than 101 hectares of lake, considered one of the cleanest lakes in the state of Illinois.

The Impetus for Partnership

Since 1983, there have been closer contacts to Mr. Norbert Ellmann, a resident of Lake Zurich. These contacts came about because Mr. Ellmann, during his holidays in “Old Germany” in the town hall of Nittenau, paid a visit to Mayor Julius Schmatz and his successor Rudolf Heininger, as well as the managing civil servant Mr. Rudolf Höfler. The reason for his visit was a property he owns in Nittenau. He became the owner of this property, together with his brother, through an inheritance. Mr. Norbert Ellmann is of German descent and emigrated with his parents, who lived in Bodenwöhr, after the First World War to the USA.

Back in Lake Zurich, he wrote to express his thanks on September 5, 1996 for the warm meeting in the town hall. He was always impressed by the beautiful landscape and the homely atmosphere of Nittenau.

For the first time, he mentioned the idea of a city partnership with the following words: “I have been speaking to the people of my town, Lake Zurich, about the idea of forming a sister city relationship with Nittenau. It would give me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction if this were to happen.” 

First Contacts

Although it still took a year until the first official contacts were made, the partners in Lake Zurich did not remain idle.

During his stay in Germany in the summer of 1998, Mr. Ellmann came to the Nittenau town hall and told Managing Director Rudolf Höfler that interested persons had come together to make contact with Nittenau. When Ellmann mentioned that a delegation from Lake Zurich, headed by Mayor James Krischke, would come to Germany in June 1999, Höfler suggested that they should also come to Nittenau. The dates of the Nittenau Volksfest, 19-21 June 1999, were chosen.

For the first time on August 7, 1998, documents about the city of Nittenau were sent to the mayor of Lake Zurich. A few days later, an answer came from the States: along with informational material and a T-shirt from Lake Zurich, the visit to Nittenau in mid-June 1999 was confirmed. Since 20 students from a local high school were also to take part in the delegation, the suggestion of a school partnership was addressed.
The City of Nittenau communicated this suggestion to the Regental-Gymnasium Nittenau. The headmaster of the grammar school, Mr. Klaus Kopp, was very open to this idea.

Sister City International

On November 11, 1998, Ellmann proposed that the two cities should become members of Sister City International. This American organization has set the goal of supporting town twinning with financial support and program assistance. The contribution is paid exclusively by the American city. The foreign partner is then automatically accepted into the organization with all rights and obligations.The most important goal is to promote cultural exchange worldwide. The existence of a town twinning is a mandatory prerequisite for admission to Sister City International.

On January 26, 1999, the Nittenau city council announced its intention to enter into a city partnership with Lake Zurich through Resolution No. 1068.

The Preparations

On January 19, 1999, Mayor James Krischke announced that 36 people from Lake Zurich would come to Nittenau from June 18 to 20, 1999. Since there were also 20 students among them, the request was made that these “kids” should be partnered with local students. Arthur Ladenburger was named as the contact person. The city of Nittenau passed this wish on to the leadership of the Regental-Gymnasium. Klaus Kopp informed that he had contacted the German teacher of the Middle School North of Lake Zurich, Ladenburger and his wife Olga, by email on February 19, 1999. He suggested that the American students be placed with host parents. The teachers accompanying them were to live with teachers from the Regental-Gymnasium during their stay. The city of Nittenau and the Regental-Gymnasium worked closely together on the program.

On May 4, 1999, the main committee of the city council approved the visit program.
Ellmann, who was already in Nittenau, handed over the partnership contracts to Mayor Heininger on June 14, 1999. The next day, on June 15, 1999, the city council decided to “enter into a town twinning with the City of Lake Zurich, Illinois, USA” through Resolution No. 1290.

The Reception

All preparations had been completed and the participants were eagerly awaiting the first meeting. On Friday, June 19, 1999 at about 10:00 a.m., the guests arrived. In the auditorium of the Regental-Gymnasium, they were warmly welcomed by Mayor Heininger and Mr. Kopp. The school choir left an unforgettable welcome with the American song “Moonriver.” The pupils of the Regental-Gymnasium waited with excitement to meet with their “guests.”

This first meeting had already shown that friends had found each other.

The Program

While the American students took part with the teachers in the lessons of the Regental-Gymnasium, Mayor James Krischke and his companions had a standing reception in the town hall with a guided tour through the offices. After being accommodated in the Pirzer Hotel, the Regental-Gymnasium invited the guests to an afternoon barbecue. In the late afternoon, all guests attended the opening concert of the Volksfest and took part in the following parade through the city. The American guests had a special surprise in their luggage. A banner with the inscription: “I like Nittenau! Lake Zurich begrüßt seine neuen Freunde” (“Lake Zurich welcomes its new friends”) was carried in the procession. Together with the guests from our Czech sister city Prestice, headed by Mayor Vladimir Benda and his wife, and the Mayor of the town Biblis, Alfred Kappel and his wife, the festive marquee was the venue for a merry evening.

On Saturday, June 19, 1999, Mayor Rudolf Heinminger and Managing Director Rudolf Höfler accompanied the guests on a tour of the city. The elementary school was introduced by teacher Margot Seidl and a tour of the fire station on Bodensteinerstraße was led by Chief Jürgen Kuprat. Riding on fire engines, we then went to the woodcarver Franz Diewald. The morning program ended with a guided tour of the parish church of Nittenau. Parish priest Josef Schiedermeier and Mr. Horst Rieder explained the history of the church and the interior of the church.

After lunch in the Jakob restaurant, where the guests were also presented with beer mugs to commemorate their visit to Nittenau, they went on an afternoon tour of the city. The American students, who had spent the morning with their German host parents in order to learn the “German way of life,” rejoined the group. The residential areas in Nittenau-Süd and the industrial area “Hirschenbleschen” were visited. The tour continued at Fischbach, “Frater Barnabas” welcomed the guests in humorous words and invited them to enjoy a strong beer.

This refreshment was necessary because the group afterwards continued on foot to the castle ruins of Stockenfels, where they were received by the castle’s wardens, Mr. Franz-Joseph Vohburger and Mr. Alois Gillitzer. The castle’s history and a witch and ghost hike inspired the guests. They then set off for Marienthal by boat. The pleasure of taking a boat in the rain was enjoyed by all participants.

Having arrived safe and sound at the other shore, the group boarded waiting buses to continue on to Stefling. The American guests were very happy when they were received by Mrs. Carola Gräfin von der Mühle-Eckart in the Burghof. To replenish their strength, mountain farmers offered their own products. The short visit to the castle complex was completed with a performance of a scene of the theatre and festival association from the witch and ghost hike. By bus, the group drove via Weinting (from there one could enjoy a marvelous view into the Regental) to the last station, specifically the castle Hof am Rain. There the torturers (Mr. Heinrich Meyer and Mr. Hubert Süß) waited for their victims. Everyone wanted to be “stretched” on the torture rack at least once. After this medieval spectacle, they went back to Nittenau. After getting a short break, it was time to prepare for the reception.

Festive Reception

Mayor Heininger once again warmly welcomed the American guests. His special welcome was to the city councilors, the Regental-Gymnasium represented by Klaus Kopp, and the German host families. Mayor Heininger was delighted by the presence of Antonia Heigl, Cultural Advisor at the American Consulate General in Munich. The celebration was musically framed by the Diewald brothers and sisters from Nittenau.

Mayor Rudolf Heininger reminisced on his youth in the post-war period. The American gift packages (“care helps”) had imprinted a lifelong “American friendliness” in him. Even though there were some people who doubted the possibility of a sister city relationship, the great spatial distance with today’s possibilities of communication technology or air traffic was no longer a hindrance. He explained that Nittenau was ready for partnership. Finally he thanked Norbert Ellmann, who had established the contact between the two cities. His special thanks also went to Rudolf Höfler who acted as liaison on the Nittenau side and had worked out the visit program to the complete satisfaction of all participants.

Mayor James Krischke said that he had accepted the invitation to the partnership on behalf of the citizens of Lake Zurich with great pleasure. He hopes for a relationship without frontiers. At the end of his speech, he quoted a modified form of the famous saying of President John F. Kennedy: “I am a Nittenauer!”

As a representative of the American Consul General, Antonia Heigl, Cultural Advisor, said that both cities have a lot in common. She was sure that the partnership would lead to a lively exchange between the two cities.

Mr. Klaus Kopp said that these first contacts were only a small step on the whole, but big steps for the partnership. The cordial cooperation of the students from Lake Zurich and Nittenau makes it especially easy for the adults to follow this example. 

Arthur Ladenburger, the German teacher at Lake Zurich Middle School, explained that he had learned the Nittenau meaning of friendliness. If all people had experienced this friendliness and warmth, the war in Kosovo would not have been possible.
Following these greetings, the mayors signed the partnership documents and exchanged souvenirs. At the cozy get-together that followed, the contacts were further developed and the first dates for the return visit to Lake Zurich were arranged.

The Farewell

On Sunday morning, the bus was already waiting at the parking lot of the Regental-Gymnasium to continue its journey. Around 9.30 a.m., the American students arrived with their German friends and host parents. Addresses, telephone numbers, and souvenirs were quickly exchanged before Mr. Ladenburger, albeit with some melancholy, pushed for departure. With the wish that they could receive their German hosts in Lake Zurich next year, the bus left for Berlin to visit the new German capital.

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