Offenburg is a town in the German state of Baden-Württemberg with about 60,000 inhabitants. It is located just near the French border, in the picturesque land of Schwarzwald.
The first record of the town dates back to 1148. Since 1240, Offenburg has been a Free City of the Reich for 600 years. Across the centuries, the town has had to be completely rebuilt – i.a. also after the damages caused by carpet bombing during the First and the Second World War.
Over a "bridge of help" to partnership
Offenburg is a local centre of industry and business. And it was a local entrepreneur who decisively contributed to establishing a friendly relationship between this town and Olsztyn. It was the owner of a shipping agency, Georg Dietrich (1922-2013).
In 1981, the City Council of Offenburg organized humanitarian aid for the residents of Olsztyn as a part of the project called Polenhilfe. In this year, Georg Dietrich visited Olsztyn six times with the gifts gathered during the action – food, medicines and clothes.
Humanitarian activities had been continued by the German-Polish-Russian Association of Friends that he founded. It organized the so-called Christmas Bridges, which also reached Kaliningrad. Since 2007, the idea of such help has been developed by the Foundation of Maria and Georg Dietrich.
Cooperation within various levels
During subsequent years, the entrepreneur and community worker from Offenburg also supported in Olsztyn actions such as i.a. Caritas of the Warmian Diocese, activities of the hospital for children and the centre for deaf people, the renovation of the co-cathedral of Saint Jacob, the construction of the Catholic Secondary School, and the development of higher education, e.g. constructing the new building of the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Warmia and Masuria.
In 1998, he was given honorary citizenship as recognition for his achievements, and in 2006 he was awarded, together with his wife, the Saint Jacob's Statuette. One of the lecture halls in the Faculty of Humanities, UWM, is given its name after the married couple, and Mr. Dietrich himself was given the title of honoris causa doctorate by the university (2002).
The partnership agreement between Olsztyn and Offenburg was not established formally until 1999. It has been executed also on the artistic and cultural level through the cooperation of universities and schools, visits of the youth and seniors, and the organizing of sports events.