German police arrive in New Ulm

Bersenbruck, Germany, Police Department members of the German-American Police Program originated by late New Ulm Police Department sergeant and New Ulm mayor Bert Schapekahm give an arm salute at Schapekahm’s grave at New Ulm City Cemetery Monday. Ulrich Heyer, right, places flowers next to Schapekahm’s grave marker.

NEW ULM — German members of the German American Police Program (GAPP) created in 1990 by the now late New Ulm Police sergeant and New Ulm mayor Bert Schapekahm toured New Ulm Monday.

A dozen German police officers met at Turner Hall Friday, attended Hermannfest on Saturday and watched a Special Olympics softball game at Harman Park Sunday. On Monday, they were welcomed at the Brown County Law Enforcement Center (LEC) and visited Schapekahm’s grave at the New Ulm Cemetery. Later in the afternoon, they took shooting practice at the Izaak Walton League range.

Visiting Schapekahm’s grave was a meaningful experience for the Germans and his survivors.

Schapekahm created the program while on a German vacation 28 years ago. He visited a German police station in Bersenbruck, a small city in northwestern Germany, and exchanged names and addresses with police, who liked the exchange idea.

The rest is history. The organization was soon formed after personal letters were exchanged. For the past few decades, the group’s members including New Ulm Police and Brown County Sheriff’s Office personnel alternate visiting each other every two years.

“In 1992, I went to Germany. I’ve made friendships that continue,” said New Ulm Police Department Senior Investigator Jeff Hohensee.

New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman said the police program helped him locate what he believes is the farm of his great grandfather in Germany.

“I don’t think you’ll find a much better town in America than New Ulm,” Beussman told the German police. “If people don’t know about German heritage when they move here, they will pick it up living here. I’m so happy that Bert Schapekahm started this. I’m thrilled you keep it going. It’s like having another Sister Cities program which we already have with Neu Ulm, Germany.”

Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said he was looking forward to socializing with the German officers.

“Welcome and enjoy,” Hoffmann said.

“Good morning and welcome. It’s very nice to see friends from abroad,” said New Ulm Police Chief Myron Wieland.

“Bert meant a lot to us. It’s a wonderful program he began. Now the sons of original officers in the program are in it,” said German police officer Hans Holthaus.

“Bert was a great man,” said German police officer Ulrich Heyer.

Schapekahm’s sisters Judy Schroer and Ruth Bartel, both of New Ulm, were at the cemetery when the German officers visited his grave and placed flowers on it.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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