K KMB ties to Germany 1


(Editor’s note: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kiel Municipal Band’s first trip to Kiel, Germany—a trip which established ties with this city’s namesake. Some of those individual ties were shared in the 1979 Kiel Record story which follows.)


They exchange presents at Christmas and birthdays, they visit each other on important family celebrations, and in one case, they married.

The relationship between families in Kiel, Wisconsin, and Kiel, Germany is a strong one. Like gummed stamps sticking to overseas-bound letters, the families here continually cling to their German friendships.

“Family-wise, I think people in our same generations were probably brought up in the same way. Our parents and their parents probably thought the same way and had the same attitudes,” said Marily Pritzl in explaining the time-tested friendships.

The Pritzls have remained in contact with the Heinz Schnoors and Hans Schmidts, both from Kiel, West Germany, since the two Germans first arrived here along with the band in 1973.

“The band was looking for people to host members of the German band when they visited Kiel for 10 days,” Mrs. Pritzl said. “We decided to host two people that would be about our age. We sure were glad we took those two people, because without that, none of this probably would have happened.”

What has happened for the Pritzls is a friendship not only with the two German band members, but eventually with their families.

“We didn’t understand German, and they didn’t understand English, so we used our hands and feet and a dictionary,” Mrs. Pritzl said. “We were able to communicate pretty well after a day or two.”

“Schnoor’s 25th wedding anniversary was coming up in April of 1975, and they asked us to come over before they left.”

The Pritzls went and were met by their host families at the Hamburg airport, according to Cal. 

“The two fellas hid in the background and sent their wives up to meet us,” he said. “They had never seen us and we had never seen them, but the wives must have seen a picture of us or something, because they recognized us and then brought Marilyn a bouquet of flowers.” 

Both German families made a return trip to America in June 1975, to help celebrate the Pritzl’s 25th wedding anniversary.

“We drove out to New York to pick them up,” Mrs. Pritzl said. “We took them to Washington, D.C. and showed them Niagara Falls because they really wanted to see that.”

The Schnoors and the Schmidts brought the German custom of wreath-placing to the celebration. They called Burgdorf’s Greenhouses from Germany to order a door wreath for the anniversary.

In Germany, the wreath custom denotes a major anniversary celebration, and welcomes all passersby into the homes. 

The Pritzls continue to exchange letters, and are planning a return to Germany either next year, or in 1981, the year of the Schmidts’ 25th wedding anniversary.

Edwin and Joyce Voigt also keep the overseas telephone operators busy. The Voigts met Kurt Hartwigh when he also accompanied the German band to Kiel in 1973.

“We went with the band to Germany in 1971, but as guests didn’t get quite as involved with the people over there as the band members did,” Mrs. Voigt said.

The Voigts did not have room in their apartment to lodge German band members here on their first trip but hosted a family in 1975, when the youth band came to Kiel.

“We couldn’t have gotten along any better than if they have been next door neighbors,” Mrs. Voigt said. “Kurt’s wife even helped with the tomato canning.”

The Voigts took the Hartwigs and their two children to Shawano Lake for a week, and spent some time fishing on Lake Michigan. The Voigts have also visited their friends in Germany.

“They are always after us to come back there,” Ed Voigt said. “That’s always the first thing they ask us when we talk on the phone.”

German relations are already into the second generation at the Robert Voigt home.

Astrid Hildman, daughter of Dr. Henning Hildman, Mrs. Voigt’s AFS brother 22 years ago, recently completed a one month stay with the Voigt family.

“There has been a lot of correspondence between us over the years,” Jane Voigt said. “I told Henning that if any of his children, or those of his brothers and sisters ever wanted to stay with us for a while, they were more than welcome.”

The two trans-oceanic families make repeat visits to each other and keep continual contact.

“You know the relationship is good when he makes an effort to stop in Kiel whenever he is in the United States or Canada,” Mrs. Voigt said.

One Kiel-Kiel relationship went so well a marriage resulted. 

Mary Brunmeier, oldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Brunmeier, came back to Wisconsin in 1973 after a European educational stint that took her to Germany and Hungary.

“Mary came back to Wisconsin the same year the Germans did and took a job in Milwaukee,” her mother Mary Jane said. She came to Kiel at the same time as the Germans did so she could play with the band.

Ernest was a flag carrier with the band. He saw Mary in the park and came over to talk with her. He was amazed when he found out she spoke German.

“After that, he kept following us around. At rehearsal he kept talking to her. At a party after that they kept talking, and after that they were inseparable.”

Mary accepted an invitation from the young printer to visit Germany that Christmas. She also went over the following Easter and returned engaged.

On July 20, 1974, the international romance was capped, as Mary became the wife of Ernest-Gunter Hansend in a ceremony at SS. Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

The young couple now has a 2-year old son, Christian, an example of the growing and maturing relationship between families across the sea.

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