BY CLINT SCHEMMER, Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star, 2011
An Old World lawmaker says he’s intrigued by bits of the past he saw in the New World during a visit to Orange County this weekend. Volkmar Klein, a member of the German parliament, explored the area that emigrants from his district settled nearly 300 years ago.
Traveling with Rüdiger Lentz, executive director of the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, Klein visited Fort Germanna, the log stockade his constituents’ ancestors built in 1714.
The German colonists, skilled in mining and metalworking, provided the brains and brawn for royal Gov. Alexander Spotswood’s iron-making industry in the British colony.
Klein and Lentz took part in a public forum at the Brawdus Martin Germanna Visitor Center next to Germanna Community College’s Locust Grove campus on State Route 3.
Operated by the nonprofit Germanna Foundation, the center interprets the region’s extensive German-American history.
“It’s really exciting to be with you and learn about the people who left my area in Germany, came here and played a role in creating America,” Klein told a standing-room-only audience of about 100 people.
Klein, Lentz and foundation President Marc Wheat held an hourlong round-table discussion, fielding questions from those present. The conversation will be televised on “Germanna Today,” a program of cable Channel 21 in Culpeper.
After touring the foundation’s property, which includes a tract named the Siegen Forest after the woodlands in his district, Klein said he was moved by the experience. “Walking here was like experiencing living German-American history. And looking ahead, it’s up to us to use that shared past to shape the future together,” he said.
Klein, whose four daughters attended American high schools, said he will work to encourage more cultural exchanges between the two countries–including student internships in the Fredericksburg area–and to advance economic cooperation that could benefit Virginia and German companies.
He, Lentz and the foundation envision initiatives to benefit local residents and several of Virginia’s educational institutions as well as local residents, Wheat said yesterday.
Klein serves on the Bundestag’s Budget Committee, and has been a leader in Germany’s efforts to avert a Euro crisis and bolster Ireland and Spain’s troubled economies.
He represents the region of Siegerland in Germany’s state of North Rhine-Westphalia. His Siegen-Wittgenstein district, home to 300,000 people, has the highest ratio–64 percent–of forested land of any such spot in Germany, Klein noted. And yet is a highly productive industrial area as well.
The Germanna colonists were miners and ironworkers from Siegen’s villages. Today, high-tech metalworking makes Siegerland Germany’s biggest export hub.
Now, in an intensely competitive global marketplace, it is even more important to encourage strong trans-Atlantic ties, Klein said.
“We have many shared values. We believe in the dignity and the freedom of any individual,” he said. “And we are friends.”
See original story at http://fredericksburg.com/News/FLS/2011/022011/02072011/605650