Kutztown Borough and a German town are now officially sister cities.
At its Feb. 16 virtual meeting Kutztown Borough Council approved a resolution forging a relationship with Altrip, a municipality in Germany, through programming to exchange historical and cultural information in an effort to participate in town twinning.
“A year ago, we started this but because of COVID it fell behind. With the Pen Pal Program that was started at the library, there are a lot of people taking interest,” said Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel. “I look forward to communicating and visiting the folks of Altrip and when they come to visit us.”
“This is something pretty neat so thank you,” he added.
Kutztown Community Library began the International Pen Pal Program with Altrip, Germany, on Dec. 1 anticipating that Kutztown and Altrip would officially become sister cities in early 2021, according to the library announcement.
Residents have been encouraged to get to know each other through this program with hopes of the two communities hosting mutual visits or an exchange program with students.
Open to ages 12 and up, participants can specify preferences for age, gender, and how often they would like to write, as well as choice of language; English, German, and Pennsylvania Dutch which is still very similar to its root language, Palatine German. Participants can drop off letters at the library without postage and the library will mail them, or participants can arrange to write directly or correspond by via email.
“This is one of the really unique things that Kutztown has,” said Council Vice President Derek Mace. “The German government has spent money on a film crew that came to the Folk Festival a couple of years ago… The ambassador to the U.S. from Germany has been in Kutztown at the Heritage Center. I am glad that the mayor is cultivating and keeping this kind of relationship going so thanks to Jim.”
The Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University is an American Affiliate of Deutsch-Pennsylvanischer Arbeitskreis (DPAK), an organization based in the Pfalz region of Germany.
Also of note, in December, the Kutztown Area Historical Society installed bi-lingual signs in Pennsylvania Dutch and English at the 1892 Public School Building and the Centennial Monument.
The signage program was initiated and funded by Elwetrittche-Verein 1982 E.V. Landau and the Deutsch-Pennsylvanischer Arbeitskreis (DPAK), two organizations based in the Pfalz region of Germany that, in various ways, promote German-American associations and recognitions of German heritage in Pennsylvania.
The Kutztown bi-lingual signs foster awareness of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect that many of Kutztown’s ancestors spoke as their primary (and sometimes only) language for almost 300 years, said Brendan Strasser, of the Historical Society, in a Berks-Mont article “Historical Society installs bi-lingual signs” published in December.
More than 90% of Kutztown's population was of German descent, some mingled with Swiss or French Huguenot, said Strasser.