Located in the western part of the Cheb district, the city of Aš lies just inside the Czech Republic’s state border with Germany and is surrounded by its western neighbor on three sides. Aš has highly convenient access to the nearest German city, Selb, with which it also has well-established, mutually beneficial ties.
In 2002, Aš became one of the charter members of the union Friends in the Heart of Europe, an alliance of five Czech and nine German cities and municipalities. This alliance served as a commitment to a dependable partnership and was signed in Aš. More cities have since joined. The union’s primary goals are constantly improving the roads, highways and transport infrastructure at and around the border, as well as strengthening economic, social and cultural relations between the nations. Aš has numerous German-Czech associations of firefighters, rock climbers and children choirs, which support these relations.
Apart from picturesque greenery and a multitude of striking forests and parks, Aš – a formerly industrial city – has two massive textile factories and Petainer, a world leader in plastics packaging innovation that specializes in sustainable material. Though it is a small city with a population of about 13,000, Aš has actively invested in renovations and improvements in the past decade: the construction of many new, modern polyfunctional houses, a series of traffic-smoothing roundabouts in the center of the city, and the Aš city bypass, to name a few.
In the 18th century, Aš became an industrial hub with a flourishing textile industry; by the 20th century, the city had over 120 textile factories, 52 knitting factories and 129 hosiery factories. Although this industry was greatly weakened by World War II, Aš retained its appeal of a well-organized city. Much of what exists today can be attributed to 20th century German industrialist, Gustav Geipel. At that time, the city’s population was about 21,000 – the majority being German – and Geipel played a key role in the construction of primary schools, a large park and many homes. But the history of Germans and Czechs living side-by-side goes much further back.
About 1,500 years ago, the Czechs had already been occupying Bohemia and Moravia when German settlers arrived. The beginnings were not hostile. However, with years passing–with wars, dynasties, and rulers coming and going—tolerance at times turned into resentment.
Following centuries of arduous changes came stability and peace, and the two nations looked back at how they’d grown, how their cultures had taken shape side-by-side. They rediscovered mutual respect. In 1992, after the end of the Cold War, the newly-unified Federal Republic of Germany and the newly-democratic Czech Republic signed a treaty of friendship. Five years later, the countries signed a document widely seen as a true guarantee of long-term partnership between the nations: the German-Czech Declaration on Mutual Relations and their Future Development. They would help Europe reach its full potential by forming an unyielding cooperation.