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Exchange begins today

October 17, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

About 50 Wesel, Germany, residents are scheduled to arrive today to take part in events celebrating the 50th anniversary of Wesel's sister city relationship with Hagerstown.

Among those in attendance will be the brgermeister, or mayor, of Wesel and three council members, event organizer Gann Breichner said.

Breichner, former Hagerstown city clerk, is married to Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner. The Breichners led a group of 21 on a trip to Wesel in June.

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Plans for the five-day visit to Hagerstown include a formal dinner, a Maryland Symphony Orchestra performance, museum tours and a visit to Prime Outlets at Hagerstown.

The Germans will dine on a variety of American foods, ranging from BBQ to crab cakes, Breichner said.

Jane Burhans, 90, went to Wesel two years ago to help plan the 50th anniversary events. Burhans is the widow of Winslow F. Burhans, who was the first mayor of Hagerstown to visit the sister city.

The Germans told her they wanted to visit in October because that is when the city's leaves are red and yellow and their students are on break, she said.

Burhans and her late husband helped strengthen the international friendship with Wesel that started under Mayor Herman L. Mills in 1952. Burhans was mayor from 1953 to 1965.

Burhans said she is not surprised the sister city relationship has continued for 50 years.

"I thought it would keep going forever," she said. "People who support peace will support it."

Burhans says relationships between the citizens of the two nations will help prevent future wars.

The sister city relationship also helps citizens of the two cities learn about other cultures and realize they are not as different as one might think, Gann Breichner said.

"Their horizons have been greatly broadened by understanding other cultures," Breichner said.

Since 1987 there have been student exchanges between the two cities during which high school students from one country visit the other for about one month.

The relationship between the cities was demonstrated last year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when Wesel residents called and e-mailed Hagerstown residents to check on their safety and express condolences, said Frances Young, who is helping organize the weekend visit. A book filled with condolences also was sent to Hagerstown City Hall, Young said.

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