The school city of August Hermann Francke, the Francke Foundations, and our university, which is over 500 years old, opened doors to the world early, and this has remained the case to the present. Urbanity and openness to new things are basic conditions for shaping the future. We regard every “new addition” here as a social and cultural enrichment.
Halle is a city with a rich and exciting history. Salt mining made it an important trading centre and a member of the Hanseatic League.
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther preached in the 450-year-old Market Church and won out over Cardinal Albrecht. The liberating early Enlightenment emanated from Halle and changed the face of Europe.
There were also courageous citizens in Halle of all political persuasions who were not prepared to accept the Hitler regime; many of them lost their lives as a result.
After the end of the Second World War, the new beginning started in Halle, which had seen little war damage. This beginning was dulled by the attacks on the burgeoning political life. Courageous Social Democrats rose up against the forced merger with the East German Communist Party (KPD). Courageous Liberals and Christian Democrats stood up to the takeover as a block party. As at the other universities in the Soviet occupation zone, there was student resistance in the early post-war years at the University of Halle as arrests of students. On 17 June 1953 Halle was one of the main centres in which the popular uprising for free trade unions, political freedom and German unity demonstrated the real views of the citizens of Germany. And Halle was one of the important venues of the peaceful freedom revolution in 1989.
Today Halle has about 230,000 residents and is characterized by lively culture, modern sciences and commercial innovation. “Strengthen our strengths” is the task for the coming years.
Halle on the Saale is the birthplace of Georg Friedrich Händel, the great and world-renowned Baroque composer. In 2009 the International Händel Festivals were held with the motto “Händel – the European”. With the Opera House, the Music Island, the State Orchestra and its theatres, Halle offers cultural fans variety and attractiveness.
Today 16,000 young people form all over the world study at the Martin Luther University. In 2007 the 350-year-old German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina was made a National Academy of Sciences, thereby enabling it to communicate at “eye-level” with the Academies in France and Great Britain.
For the residents of Halle, it is axiomatic that “Solutions come from Halle” and that “Halle causes change”. With the infrastructure and social projects of urban change and the development of new technologies, the largest city in the state of Saxony-Anhalt is today part of radical processes of transformation, which can only be overcome through international effort. This can be compared from one point of view at least with the beginning of the 18th century. If the world is becoming “smaller” by discoveries, explorations and journeys, it is also being demystified and hence explainable and capable of change. Knowing more about each other and learning from each other was also an opportunity for development 300 years ago.
When on 29 November 1705 the Halle missionaries Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg and Heinrich Plütschau started out on board the ship “Sophia Hedvig” on their voyage to Tranquebar in India in the name of the Danish king Frederik IV, they had no more idea than anyone else what far-reaching effects this Protestant mission would have.
The men from Halle leant Tamil, preached in this language and dressed in the Indian tradition; there was no evangelizing with fire and sword; instead, there was respect for the other man, the stranger.
In the feast-day sermon on the 300th anniversary of the Danish-Halle Mission in the Copenhagen Cathedral on 29 November 2005, it was rightly said that “There is doubtless much that we can find in other religions that we treasure and what is alien to us. But we must be able to talk about both in such a way that we neither betray our religion nor patronize others.”
Today the people of Tranquebar remember a humane mission with great respect, in which education and welfare played a crucial role.
In the festival year of 2006 on the city’s 1,200th anniversary and beyond, the focus was on both the motive of change and the concept of “international orientation”. The residents of Halle define an international orientation as a process, openness by the city to the new and surprising, a motor for developments and a channel for impulses from all over the world. This is no abstract claim. City partnerships with Linz, Grenoble, Coimbra, Oulu and Jianxing have become lively friendships, and high-quality, international conferences are a natural part of Halle’s calendar of events. Anyone coming to Halle for the first time is fascinated by its special atmosphere and the exciting relationship between tradition and modernity. The Mitteldeutsches Multimediazentrum (Central German Media Centre) and the Market Church are only a few metres away from each other. I believe this has symbolic force!
Networks and an international orientation give rise to synergy effects. Today too, the residents of Halle are curious about the world and open to new and unknown concepts. In doing so, they adhere to the precept of Alphonse de Lamartine, who said that “The world is a book and every step we take on it opens up a new page to us in it.”
The author was born in Reideburg in 1927, joined the LPD in 1946 and studied in law Halle and Leipzig until 1949. He located to West Germany in 1952 and joined the liberal democratic party FDP. He served from 1965 to 1998 as member of the German Parliament; 1969–1974 as minister of the interior, 1974–1992 as foreign minister and vice chancellor as well as federal chairman of the FDP (until 1985).