Since 1951, Arlington, Texas and Bad Königshofen, Germany have had a relationship. What began as an act of kindness turned into a friendship that still exists 70 years later.
The cities are about 5,000 miles apart with many contrasts. But their friendship is a testament to kindness.
- Arlington, Texas
- Bad Königshofen, Germany
- A visit to Arlington
- A divided country, refugees, and an act of kindness
- Stovall Park in Arlington
- Arlington-Park in Bad Königshofen
- “Friendship – Solid as a Rock” by Hanns Friedrich
Arlington is located in North Texas, between Dallas and Fort Worth. Founded in 1876, it now has a population of nearly 400,0000 people living in 100 square miles. It’s Entertainment District attracts thousands of tourists each year.
Bad Königshofen, Germany
Bad Königshofen is located in Bavaria, Germany, about 80 miles northeast of Frankfurt. The town is over 1,250 years old. It has around 7,000 people living in 26 square miles. Today, it’s mostly known as a spa resort town.
A visit to Arlington
The relationship began in 1951 when Kurt Zühlke, City Manager of Königshofen — later named Bad Königshofen — visited Arlington.
Arlingtontx.gov explains: “Mr. Zühlke was in the U.S. as a participant in an adult education exchange program. Because he was a city official, he was also given opportunities to learn about American municipal government.”
Mr. Zühlke had toured the United States as part of a 3-month, 26-state study tour. One of the final stops of the tour, in Fort Worth, unexpectedly brought Mr. Zühlke and his fellow travelers to Arlington. A member of his entourage, Ms. Irene von Falkenriedm, wanted to meet her pen pal in Arlington. Theda Howell and her family invited Mr. Zühlke and Ms. von Falkenriedm to stay with them for a couple of weeks in Arlington.
A divided country, refugees, and an act of kindness
After World War II, Germany was a divided country. “East” and “West” became more than geographic indicators. The location of Bad Königshofen, near the border of East and West Germany, played a decisive role in how our friendship started.
While visiting Arlington, Mr. Zühlke talked about his hometown of Königshofen. He explained that “hundreds of refugees from the communist East [Germany] had overwhelmed the small town, and there was a real shortage of food and clothing.”
Mr. Zühlke met Mayor Vandergriff and others in the community. Many Arlington residents learned about the situation in Königshofen and wanted to help. A collection began for food, clothing, supplies, and gifts for the people in need.
In February 1952, a railroad boxcar was filled with food and supplies. It was ready to be sent to our new friends in Germany. Initially transported by railroad to New Orleans, it was then sent on a steamship overseas.
In April, the shipment arrived in Germany. Arlington would later send three more shipments in April 1953, January 1954, and January 1955.
The shipments from Arlington were well-received. They were intended and received as a sign of friendship rather than charity. Thus began the relationship between the two cities.
In 1988, the relationship was rekindled when the first official group from Bad Königshofen arrived in Arlington. There was a ceremony at Stovall Park, which had an area dedicated to Bad Königshofen. Festivities ensued, with the exchanging of gifts and the planting of an oak tree. The visitors stayed for two weeks and were introduced to Arlington and U.S. culture. Later that year, guests from Arlington traveled to Germany and enjoyed a similar trip. Subsequent visits since then continue to keep the friendship going.
The relationship still continues today. And it all started with an act of kindness.
Stovall Park in Arlington
Stovall Park in Arlington pays tribute to Bad Königshofen, its people, and the relationship between the two cities. The main outdoor pavilion is modeled after one in Bad Königshofen.
There are informative signs and plaques in the park, and there’s a large rock with the logos of both cities carved into it. The rock is in the motif of “Friendship – Solid as a Rock.” The water park is named Bad Königshofen Family Aquatic Center. Its design features a large clock and buildings in the style of a German village.
Arlington-Park in Bad Königshofen
Bad Königshofen named its city park “Arlington-Park” in honor and gratitude of Arlington. For the friendship’s 50th anniversary, a monument called “The Bridge” was created in the park. It was a collaboration between artists from both countries.
Buried near the monument is a time-capsule with documents and artifacts about the friendship. It will be opened in 2051 for the 100th anniversary. There is a large rock in Bad Königshofen’s Arlington-Park similar to ours at Stovall Park in Arlington.
“Friendship – Solid as a Rock” by Hanns Friedrich
One of the most in-depth resources for this article was the book, “Friendship – Solid as a Rock” by Hanns Friedrich. Mr. Friedrich is a journalist and local historian in Bad Königshofen. He wrote the book to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the friendship.
On the book’s cover are aerial photos of Arlington and Bad Königshofen. The difference between the two cities is immediate.
The book contains information, stories, and memories of friendship over the years. It also includes photos from both cities, including many of the people and events along the way. The book contains German text and English translation.
One observation from the book is how much reciprocity there is between the two cities. There have been many official visits over the years. Visitors often remark on the hospitality of the host city.
Friedrich, Hanns. 2016. 65 Jahre Städtepartnerschaft 1951-2016 Bad Königshofen im Grabfeld und Arlington/Texas: Freundschaft fest wie ein Stein (Friendship solid as a Rock.) Wülfershausen, Germany. Kraus print u. media GmbH & Co. KG.
ArlingtonTX.gov – Our Sister City, accessed January 6, 2021, https://www.arlingtontx.gov/residents/about_arlington/our_sister_city
Informative signs at S.J. Stovall Park (2800 W. Sublett Road, Arlington, Texas 76001)
Post and photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 01-09-21