Sister Cities: Ratingen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Vermillion, South Dakota

Ratingen Marktplatz

Ratingen Marktplatz, © Stadt Ratingen

12.04.2019 - Article

Vermillion, South Dakota, USA

Linear distance: 7249 km (4504 mi), sister cities since 1969

The city of Vermillion is located in southwestern South Dakota in the American Midwest. It has around 10,000 inhabitants, many of whom have German ancestors.

History and Development of our Twin City

Our twin town Vermillion was founded in 1859 and raised to city status in 1877. It is located in the state with the second highest percentage of Native Americans in the United States. The word “Dakota” comes from the native tribes who lived in this area before white settlement.

The Lakota Sioux had risen over centuries to become one of the most powerful Native American tribes in the region. They continued to expand their tribal territory at the expense of their neighbors. Around 1765, they conquered the Black Hills, which became their sacred mountains. In 1805, the Lakota signed a treaty with the federal government to guarantee their sovereignty. With the increasing influx of settlers into the land of the Lakota, however, conflicts and loss of life increased. On 29 December 1890, the Seventh US Cavalry at Wounded Knee killed over 300 Lakota Sioux men, women, and children. This massacre broke the last resistance of the Indians against the whites. Today there are several Sioux Indian reserves in the Vermillion area.

The city is characterized by a special mixture of agriculture, retail, light industry, and communication technology. Vermillion is the seat of the University of South Dakota (USD), founded in 1882. It is the city’s most important employer. The university’s approximately 8,000 students can take advantage of more than 6,000 course offerings, earn a master’s degree in over 50 subject areas, and a doctorate in 12.

Culture, Leisure, and Tourism

Vermillion is situated in a beautiful landscape. The university makes a significant contribution to the sporting and cultural life of Vermillion’s citizens. The “Dakota Dome” sports center offers opportunities for many sporting activities. There are four museums, including the W.H. Over State Museum of Ethnology and National History and the Shrine to Music Museum, whose collection of musical instruments is renowned the world over.

Vermillion is the smallest city in South Dakota, one of the northwestern prairie states of the United States. The largest city is Sioux Falls, the capital is Pierre. When visiting South Dakota the following sights should be on the list: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Black Hills Caves and the Badlands National Park.

Development and Importance of the Twin City

The first contacts between Ratingen and Vermillion were established at the end of 1970. The great distance was no obstacle for Professor Benno Wymar, who had lived in Ratingen before emigrating to the USA, to bring a group of students to Ratingen as part of a trip to Europe. The second group in the winter of 1971 was also accompanied by the then Dean, Dr. Dale Clement, who strongly supported the promotion of partnership relations. In 1976, Ratingen celebrated its 700th anniversary and on this occasion also welcomed Governor Richard F. Kneip, who also very much welcomed and promoted a partnership between the two cities. However, it was not until 1983 that an official twin city declaration was signed.

In Ratingen, the Vermillionring and the South Dakota Bridge are reminders of the town twinning. In Vermillion, a Ratingen Square was inaugurated in 2010.

In autumn 2015, Prof. Werner Kitzler and Prof. Benno Wymar, who had headed the town twinning in Vermillon for decades, passed away.


USD students regularly visited the Dumeklemmerstadt under the direction of Professors Wymar and Kitzler. Conversely, youth groups from Ratingen traveled to South Dakota. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the city of Vermillion in 2009, the Youth Wind Orchestra of the Ratingen Music School performed. In 2010, two jazz ensembles from the University of South Dakota visited their German twin city.

Since 2014, there has been an annual student exchange between the Vermillion High School and the Dietrich Bonhoeffer High School.

Original German-language text provided by the City of Ratingen

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