Seventy years ago, many of the 8,000 residents that made up the city’s population at the time did something that almost anyone looking on would see as quite remarkable.
The year was 1951, and our country was just six years removed from the German surrender that ended World War II in Europe. Communities throughout the war-torn country needed help to begin restoring their daily lives.
One such Bavarian town there, about the size of Arlington, was Bad Konigshofen, where the citizens were among those in need of things like shoes, clothing, essential household items, and almost everything else to support their recovery.
The people of Arlington learned of the plight of people across the Atlantic they had never met, nor did they even share a common language. Despite such barriers of time, distance, and culture and setting aside any reservations of helping fellow human beings so recently regarded as adversaries, Arlingtonites stepped up.
They went to work rounding up not just a few things they thought would be needed to help, but across the next few years, they sent freight train boxcars and ships loaded with supplies to the people of Bad Konigshofen that had become Arlington’s sister city.
After those initial years of getting the relationship established, contact between the two towns began to fade. Arlington’s growth had exploded while Bad Konigshofen remained and today still is about the same size it was when the relationship began.
Early in my tenure as the city’s mayor that began in 1987, my assistant Lynda Freeman-Weekley insisted that I consider the importance of responding to the interest she was aware of from our German friends who wished to restore contact with us.
After learning more about the origins, mission, and purpose of the partnership between the two towns, we put together a delegation of a couple dozen folks, including fellow city council members, who were prepared to fund their own way to Germany to visit our sister city. In 1988, I was privileged to lead that group as Arlington’s first mayor to visit there during the 37-year relationship.
That trip was a remarkable experience for us all. To say we were welcomed by the community we had helped those years ago is a wholly inadequate way to describe our experience of being treated as royalty in a foreign land.
The heartwarming reception and accommodations we received were far more than a courtesy; it was an outpouring of gratefulness for what the people of Arlington had done for them in their time of need. It was a major celebration led by their elected officials that included not only those in the community who had received the relief supplies initially, but their children, who were very much aware of who we were, where we had come from and what our fellow citizens had done for them and their families.
Another trip there took place in 1993 to commemorate Bad Konigshofen’s 1,250th anniversary and we returned 25 years later in 2018 to celebrate their 1,275th as well. Now, three generations of my family have made the journey to visit our German friends, as they in turn have visited here on numerous occasions, and the experience is always the same, reflecting the remarkable bond Arlington shares with them.
So here we are in the fall of 2021 marking 70 years of the partnership that ranks Arlington’s place among sister city relationships across the country as one of the oldest and longest lasting of them all.