Strangers in the Wild Place
Refugees, Americans, and a German Town, 1945-1952
Publication Year: 2013
In 1936, the Nazi state created a massive military training site near Wildflecken, a tiny community in rural Bavaria. During the war, this base housed an industrial facility that drew forced laborers from all over conquered Europe. At war's end, the base became Europe's largest Displaced Persons camp, housing thousands of Polish refugees and German civilians fleeing Eastern Europe. As the Cold War intensified, the US Army occupied the base, removed the remaining refugees, and stayed until 1994. Strangers in the Wild Place tells the story of these tumultuous years through the eyes of these very different groups, who were forced to find ways to live together and form a functional society out of the ruins of Hitler's Reich.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
This book is an international history of a very small place. Over the course of less than two decades, Wildflecken, a tiny town in northern Bavaria, went through a series of extraordinary and wrenching transformations that mirrored the profound shattering and reformation of political, social, and economic life in mid-twentieth century Germany. An obscure farm town in 1935, Wildflecken became a base community for the rapidly growing German military machine of the late 1930s. In the aftermath of Hitler’s disastrous war, American-occupied Wildflecken...
1. The Wild Place, 1933–1945
On a summer day in 1937, a hunter pauses at the edge of a meadow halfway up to the summit of the Löserhag and looks behind him into the valley of the Sinn River. Yellow and blue flowers dapple the clearing in the bright sun. A few feet away, a narrow footpath plunges into the gloomy darkness of the great beech forests of the Franconian Rhön. The hunter looks down the slope to the valley floor toward the village of Wildflecken. With its tidy red roofs, the town of a few hundred souls nests in between two ranges of hills along a single railroad track that connects it to the world beyond...
2. The Seigneurs of Wildflecken, 1945–1947
On the morning of May 16, 1945, news reached Wildflecken that a villager had been injured in a fight at the camp. Mayor Bruno Kleinhenz grabbed local physician Erich L., Wehrmacht civil administrator Peter M., and the town’s sole law enforcement officer, the young Wilhelm Henties. Together they jumped in a car and headed up the hill. Henties knew the camp’s erstwhile commander, a Russian major named Pavlov, and hoped to find him. By American orders, none of the Germans were armed, and Henties did not have the right to wear a uniform. In the...
3. Keeping Refugees Occupied, 1945–1948
Armin G. did not like Americans very much. He also had little love for his erstwhile German protectors or their local government. Armin and his family arrived in Brückenau from Yugoslavia in 1945, ethnic Germans who found themselves on the wrong side of the postwar order in the Balkans. Armin was a consummate troublemaker and a political chameleon, capable of adjusting his entire persona when the need arose. Along with his large family, he lived in temporary quarters in one of Brückenau’s resort casinos, from which he occasionally emerged in traditional Bavarian...
4. These People, 1947–1949
In May 1948, a high-level meeting took place in Frankfurt between representatives of the International Refugee Organization (IRO), UNRRA’s successor organization, and officials of the American Military Government. More than a year after the disastrous DP camp riots, the situation in Germany looked very different. As rebuilding continued apace, IRO officials faced an increasingly difficult task in convincing anyone that they needed more time and supplies for DPs in their care. When an IRO administrator pressed the Americans for more food aid, a clearly frustrated American official named Hatch worried that such a gesture...
5. A Victory for Democracy, 1949–1952
For the second time in fifteen years, the hill above Wildflecken swarmed with workers and construction crews. In the snows of January 1951, a tent city grew in the Franconian uplands. Where a shrinking but sizable DP population still hung on in the IRO camp, they were joined by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, specialists, and German contractors. There was a lot of work to be done, repairing buildings, paving roads, and installing the necessary accoutrements of a military installation. Years later, Brigadier General Carl McIntosh recalled his arrival at Wildflecken with the 4th Infantry Division. “The best I can remember of Wildflecken was there...
“The deserted village of Reussendorf is starting to disappear,” wrote the Commanding Officer of the Wildflecken Detachment in 1953. Civilian trucks doing business on the post left loaded with hidden building material destined for resale on the outside. In the future, gate guards were to search trucks for “any parts resembling a building” and report offenders to headquarters.1 For the second time in twenty years, the grasses of the Rhön began to reclaim the streets of the small farming village. Once again, Reussendorfer abandoned their homes in the face of confiscation...
About the Author
Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 4 b&w illus., 1 map
Publication Year: 2013
OCLC Number: 828743769
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