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Ten years of the friendship bridge from Dortmund to Buffalo

A translation by Bernie Gerland of an article written by the late founder of the Dortmund Sister City connection with Buffalo. Herbert Morgenroth published this in a German newspaper in 1983, 10 years after he started the Sister City connection between Buffalo and Dortmund.

Morgenroth died in Germany about 15 years ago from injuries after a tragic cycling accident that took place while he was riding home one night. He fell into a coma and was in a nursing home for the severely handicapped, said Hartmut Peinemann, a Dortmund resident, retired high school principal and former student exchange coordinator.

“He pushed local politicians into the establishment of the Dortmund-Buffalo link in 1977,” wrote Peinemann in an email. In the years that followed, the relationship between the cities thrived, he said, because of the friendship between the late mayors, including Jimmy Griffin.

“… [A]s far as I know, he never returned to Buffalo,” Peinemann said of Morgenroth.

“My Viewpoint,” published in the newspaper Westfaelische Rundschau, on Dec. 3, 1983:

By Herbert Morgenroth

This year it will have been 10 years since the beginnings of Dortmund’s U.S. partnership with Buffalo, near the Niagara Falls, were created. At that time I began a study sojourn in Buffalo in an academic program under the auspices of the Carl-Duisburg Society.

I moved to try for a small, practical contribution to better understanding and peace among people, after voluntary participation in an international youth camp for the restoration of a German military cemetery in northern France in 1961, and in the ensuing years through active work in German-French youth groups, as well as visiting the site of the concentration camp Auschwitz during a 1966 student trip to Poland. I used my stay in America in addition to business studies and teaching German at the University at Buffalo to lobby for a student exchange between Dortmund and Buffalo.

Despite great difficulties, among them the wave of anti-American sentiment engendered by the Vietnam War, I was able to spend four weeks in Dortmund in 1973 with two Buffalo students and in 1974 with six, though the auspices of the Rhine-Westphalia Exchange Society. Thanks to the Society’s program (here one must mention Herr Janthur), the year 1975 saw 35 students from Dortmund staying with Buffalo families and 55 Buffalo students staying in Dortmund. In ensuing years, this program could develop into an ever-expanding exchange of students, teachers, athletes, orchestras and choruses, as well as municipal officials.

Some high points would be the 1976 Buffalo culture celebration in Dortmund in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the U.S. and the 1978 Dortmund culture celebration in Buffalo with a festive, triumphant celebration of the cities’ friendship. After long-term effort by me, a partnership has this year (1983) been established between the Saint Mary’s parish in Dortmund and St. Benedict’s in Eggertsville, with the successfully conclusion of the first group of Dortmund adult parishioners’ visiting Buffalo. A Buffalo to Dortmund visit is planned for the coming year.

When I came to the USA and Buffalo in 1972 and questioned an American-German teacher about life in America, she said: “If you wish to understand our way of life, you must first take off your German eye glasses and put on American ones.” By that she meant how it was possible to see Americans as they see themselves. Indeed, this is the key to understanding of any culture. Ordinarily, people learn as tourists and private visitors beyond their borders, and see only the clichés of other cultures. Only the longer participation in everyday life makes for understanding and empathy.

What struck me most from my early American sojourn, in contrast to we Germans, was the tolerance, respect and friendliness in private relations among themselves. Despite the highly competitive American way of life, I prize this the most, as it guarantees freedom of the individual. The American way of life is, in my estimation, marked by four sacred principles, namely by individuality in personal opinion, enthusiasm for world competition, friendliness and tolerance in lifestyle.

The race problem so often pointed to by us Germans, is seen by the Americans after the movements of the ’60s much differently, since they live with it and seek long-term resolutions. Those of us who enjoy the great American hospitality, but still point out the discrimination against Native and African Americans, still not to be denied, should encounter the question, “And how do you treat your foreign-born fellow citizens?”

Despite the Second World War and various anti-American sentiments, the Americans see us as their best allies for our dependability and sense of order. After their bitter Vietnam experience with its departure from the mission of “The American Way of Life,” they are more open to foreign critique, provided it is constructive and balanced.

I’ve set down here a few of my thoughts. In conclusion, I wish to say that in the human relations between Germans and Americans that we experience in democracies with common legal freedoms and way of life, it is better to learn from one another than to lecture one another.