• town twinnings

    'I grew up knowing a lot of Germans, and I always felt that war is nonsense. If you could only get people together, like in twinnings, you wouldn't have any war.'

    This was said to me by an elderly British soldier, more than half a century after he had served in WW2. His father had served in WW1. There were many people in the second half of the twentieth century who agreed with him, and who worked hard to make twinnings work.

    One young German officer who had been a prisoner at Featherstone Park camp was eventually repatriated in 1948 to become a teacher. He was utterly committed to establishing links between English and German people, and organised groups of his students to travel to England, stay in people's homes, and begin to understand each other.

    'I was involved with twinnings as early as 1952, when some people thought it was much too early for such things.'

    Certainly the early partnerships required a great deal of goodwill, enthusiasm, understanding and tolerance – in a prevailing atmosphere that could be suspicious and wary, if not hostile. It is notable that many of the early arrangements after WW2 were instigated by ex-soldiers who had recognised the value of ordinary human contact and personal friendship with local people during their time of service.

    In Britain the German Embassy in London was often involved in the setting up of twinnings, especially in the early stages. They knew which places were hoping to establish a partnership relationship in Britain or Germany, and also advised with administration and organisation. In 1978 Herbert Sulzbach wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph,

    'During the past 27 years I have witnessed the growing trust between our two countries, the hundreds of twinnings between towns and cities in the UK and Germany - and again and again my confidence has been confirmed.'

    Although the nature of twinning has changed, in many places these healing partnerships still flourish as people continue to want to create trust, friendship and reconciliation between their communities.

    (photo: Herbert Sulzbach in his office at the Embassy in December 1978)


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On my blog I write about biography, Anglo-German reconciliation, and the life of Herbert Sulzbach.


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