Hamburg and Chicago celebrate 30 years of twinning

14 May 2024
Cities share common sporting, cultural and climate protection goals and Hamburg Ambassadors

“The twinned cities of Hamburg and Chicago have been a shining example of interpersonal diplomacy for 30 years,” according to Jason Chue, Consul General of the United States of America, during the senate’s reception in Hamburg City Hall Monday (April 29, 2024). The long-standing relationship is strengthened by a lively exchange between companies and authorities, schools and universities as well as athletes and artists. Chue emphasised the importance of the transatlantic relationship, particularly in light of the conflicts with Russia and in the Mideast. “As two leading cities that advance business, culture and innovation, Hamburg and Chicago continue to be models of co-operation and friendship.”

Twinning based on succesful trade relations 

Jason Chue, U.-S. General Consul
Jason Chue, U.S. Consul General

This friendship dates back to the 17th century and is based on successful trade relations. The partnership was officially sealed following a a joint declaration by former mayors of the respective cities Henning Voscherau and Richard M. Daley on July 20, 1994. Commenting during the reception, Dr Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, said: “Chicago and Hamburg have plenty in common. A maritime tradition, ambitious climate targets and a strong economy.” In 2018, Tschentscher signed the Chicago Climate Charter during a visit to Chicago. The climate charter is a commitment to ambitious climate protection policies and has been signed by cities such as Los Angeles, Mexico City, Paris and Tokyo. The interchange between the cities of Hamburg and Chicago, both of which are on the waterfront and are major economic centres, should make it easier to surmount challenges such as affordable housing and the demands of transport. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S. while Hamburg ranks second in Germany.

Learning from each other, running together

Historical photo from 20 July 1994
20 July 1994: start of twinning

The reception was also attended by guests of honour including 20 police officers and firefighters from Chicago, who came to meet their German counterparts for talks on a "marathon" run in both cities. The City of Hamburg hosts its marathon in spring, while Chicago hosts the run in the autumn. The delegations can run in the respective race, if they wish. Plans are now being laid for the next trip. "Forty-five people from Hamburg, including representatives of the police force, the fire brigade, the Federal Agency for Technical Relief and the German Armed Forces Command, will travel to Chicago in October," said Dietrich Stegert of the Hamburg-Chicago Support Group. The Hamburg Committee in Chicago and the Hamburg-Chicago Friendship Circle will organise activities and (private) accommodation for the greatest possible immersion in each culture. This leads to extensive contacts and friendships. It's real people-to-people diplomacy," Stegert stressed.

Hamburg Ambassadors in Chicago

HamburgAmbassadors Professor Rolf Achilles and Christoph Lichtenfeld at Christkindlmarket in Chicago
Hamburg Ambassadors Professor Rolf Achilles and Christoph Lichtenfeld at Christkindlmarket in Chicago

During the Chicago Marathon in October, temperatures will be around 17 degrees, which can drop quickly as winter approaches and there is a good chance of snow. Such climes are perfect for a Christmas market. The Christkindlmarket on Daley Plaza was launched in 1996 thanks to the German-American Chamber of Commerce and officials in Chicago. Last year, Hamburg Marketing hosted a booth at the Christkindlmarket to highlight the upcoming 30th anniversary of the twinned cities backed by Hamburg Ambassadors Christoph Lichtenfeld and Professor Rolf Achilles. Hamburg Ambassadors are people with close ties to Hamburg, but who live abroad permanently and hold outstanding positions in business, culture or society. Achilles is an independent art historian who has written and taught extensively on the culture and architecture of Chicago and is the founding curator of the Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows. Born in Hamburg, Germany, Lichtenfeld is an engineer who emigrated to Chicago at the age of 20, where he served as a paratrooper in the U.S. Army before embarking on a civilian career with the Electro Motive Division (EMD) of General Motors Corporation.

Art, culture and history in anniversary year 

Hamburger Delegation in Chicago auf einer Schiffstour
Hamburg's delegation in Chicago

Both cities are organizing several joint projects to mark the 30th anniversary. The "Amerika Zentrum" in Hamburg is producing the 30-episode podcast series “Chicago Hamburg 30”on aspects of Chicago's history, art, literature and music as well as the transatlantic relationship between the twin cities. In mid-May, the NDR Big Band will perform in Chicago’s Chopin Theatre, and three young pianists and winners of the traditional “Jugend Musiziert” contest will travel to Chicago for the “Young Musician Exchange” in late May. Organised by the Hamburg Committee of Chicago Sister Cities International (CSCI) and managed by Lichtenfeld, this will enable the 15, 17 and 19-year-old musicians to give several concerts. The last concert on May 31 marks the anniversary of the twinning.

Sources and further information

Hamburg Ambassadors

Launched in 2011, the international Hamburg Ambassadors network is unique in Germany in terms of structure. The ambassadors hold honorary positions to which they are appointed by the Mayor of Hamburg. The threads of the network come together at Hamburg Marketing GmbH, which organizes and co-ordinates the scheme.

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