The Netherlands / Story
Nijmegen was hit hard by the violence of war: the American bombardment of 22 February 1944 left much of the inner city in ruins, and after Operation Market Garden the liberated Nijmegen became a front city, again causing much destruction and civilian suffering. After the war, there was great support for the people of Nijmegen, including from the USA.
In July 1947, barges brought 300 tonnes of humanitarian aid and building materials to Nijmegen. The shipment came from Albany, the capital of New York State, USA. In Albany, a broad relief campaign had been set up for Nijmegen: there were 'Nijmegen-corners' in stores, a film about Nijmegen was shown in cinemas, and posters with the appeal 'Adopt a family in Nijmegen' were hung throughout Albany. The shipment contained canned goods, clothing, medical supplies, soap, window glass, lumber, cement et cetera. Mayor Hustinx took receipt of the goods on behalf of Nijmegen, and the Dutch Polygoon Journal made a short film entitled ‘Albany adopts Nijmegen’. The relief aid from Albany gave a strong boost to the moral of the citizens and to the reconstruction of Nijmegen.
Major General James M. Gavin, commander of the American 82nd Airborne Division, had taken the lead in the relief campaign. Gavin had played an important role in the liberation of Nijmegen and wanted to do as much as possible to alleviate the consequences of the war. On 25 March 1947, Gavin was appointed honourary citizen of Nijmegen.
The relief operation created a warm friendship between Albany and Nijmegen. In 1948 Queen Wilhelmina sent 2,000 tulip bulbs to Albany as a thank you. As a result of the first bloom of the tulips in 1949, the Tulip Festival in Washington Park was born. Albany and Nijmegen became ‘sister-cities’, a friendship is symbolised by orange tulips.
Today, the Friendship Albany NY-Nijmegen Foundation maintains friendships between Albany and Nijmegen. During the commemorations of 75 years of liberation, the foundation created an information panel at the Waalkade in Nijmegen. In September 2019 the plaque was unveiled by Mayor Bruls, in the presence of many guests, among them General Gavin’s daughter, the US ambassador to the Netherlands and the US 82nd Airborne Division. Since then, orange tulips have bloomed on the roundabout near the plaque every spring.