Dueren was at one time, under the direct control of the Emperor, until he sold it off in 1237 to a local prince to help pay his debts. That history is recounted in the following stained glass window in the shape of an official seal, which helped illuminate our visit with Dueren's mayor.
From Mayor Larue we also learned that Dueren's first mention in history was in 747. Well before that (B.C.), Cologne was the capital of this Roman Province, and Dueren also has ruins from that era. A clever act in 1501 involving capturing a relic --of a bone from Anna, Mary's mother -- from Mainz, Germany, put Dueren on the pilgrimage map, which continues to help the town prosper to this day. At the end of July, Dueren still celebrates the Anna Fair, to which there are over a million visitors each year.
Dueren was all but totally destroyed one afternoon at the end of 1944, after the Allied forces had already claimed nearby Aachen. When "our troops" arrived in Dueren in February, 1945, they found only 4 inhabitants. However, because the Rur River water is more conducive to paper production than all other rivers in Germany, that industry reblossomed after the war, helping to rebuild the town into the prime supplier of paper in Germany. While the original building style is still noticeable in a few quarters, the city's architecture is now primarily from the 1950's and '60's. The city's current population rests around 92,000.
Mayor Larue's responses to our questions were thoughtful, often humorous, and sometimes very personal. When Robert asked about his thoughts on the Middle East, for instance, the Mayor mentioned not only the several thousand German troops currently in place in Afghanistan, and the nightly news which hinted at the intentions of U.S. Defense Minister Robert Gates to totally withdraw from the area soon, he also stated his personal regrets that Germany was not involved in helping free Libya of its dictator, since dictatorship was certainly a part of Germany's past. Then, he continued the topic expressing serious doubts about the success of any plan aimed to implant things we tend to like (such as democracy) in regions of the world where most people still live under medieval conditions, with clans and ancient customs, a thought to which there seemed to be several other heads in the audience nodding in approval.
The mayor also did his best to help Mikayla better understand Germany's need for energy obtained from mining coal, at the expense of losing some small villages, as it works to replace all nuclear energy with renewable resources by 2022, without benefit of lots of sun and wind.
As to the largest problem he faces, Larue stated that Dueren's income has been shrinking, while its expenses are growing. In fact, Burgau Gymnasium is asking the town for an investment of $4 million dollars (EURO 2-3 million), earmarked to upgrade its technology, particularly in its science labs, something which, according to Larue, will probably not happen all at once.
Mayor Larue was busy pulling on our Program T-Shirt while we gathered for a photograph, which we expect will appear in one of Dueren's newspapers tomorrow. Meanwhile, the staff photographer thoughtfully offered to capture this photograph of our group.