Hermann the German footprint was a false story

Published 9:24 am Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NEW ULM — The tourism chief in New Ulm admitted Monday his office faked a story of finding a mysterious concrete cast footprint that the southern Minnesota city promoted as that of Hermann the German, the statute of a Germanic warrior that stands guard over New Ulm.

Terry Sveine, manager of the New Ulm Convention and Visitors Bureau, had told The Free Press of Mankato and insisted later to The Associated Press that officials found a 4-foot-long, 425 pound cast of a footprint crated up in the office basement, along with a mysterious note suggesting it might have been made in Germany.

But Sveine called the AP back to admit he lied and to apologize. He said the bureau commissioned local artist Jason Jaspersen to make the mold for it and a local decorative concrete company to cast it as part of a “Germans have more fun” marketing campaign, which began last year.

Email newsletter signup

The “cast” was recently hung outside the bureau’s office in downtown New Ulm. Inscribed near the heel are the words “Deutsche haben mehr Spass,” which mean, “Germans have more fun.” A plaque posted next to it says touching it will lead people “to have more fun” in New Ulm.

“I felt I was playing the role I was asked to play, and we’re not going to do that anymore,” he said.

The 102-foot Hermann the German statue is a landmark that draws about 12,000 visitors annually to New Ulm, which celebrates its German heritage.

Hermann was a real figure in history. Known also as Arminius, Hermann led Germanic resistance fighters against the Romans, defeating them in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 A.D. A German-American fraternal order constructed the New Ulm monument, dedicated in 1897. The statue underwent major renovations in 1998 and 2004.

Sveine said the marketing campaign, which includes a website where people can enter a contest by concocting stories about how the “footprint” came to be, has been a huge success. But he said he felt bad about insisting its origins were a mystery and decided to set the record straight on the advice of his marketing company.

“I felt bad all along. You know, I was an altar boy for six years. I feel very un-altar-boyish,” he said.