Hans-Dietrich Genscher: A powerful display window for Saxony-Anhalt

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.”­­­

80R11_GENSCHER_PORTRAITThe 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).