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55 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 midstofthousandsofangryformerforcedlaborers,thiswasadangerous situation. Things went wrong quickly. The crowd turned on the delegation , dragging them from the truck and beating and stabbing all four. A FrenchmanamongthelaborersrantotheAmericanmilitarypostnearby and summoned help, which arrived and dispersed the mob. The bodies of Kleinhenz, L., and M. lay in the street, while Henties, grievously wounded, survived to recover in the hospital in Brückenau.1 Thischapterbeginsandendswithriots.Inbetweencanbefoundthe story of a curious hybrid society that grew up inside, and outside, of the perimeter ofthe giant DP camp at Wildflecken. The postwarrelationship between Wildflecken and the camp on the hill began with a multiple homicide. This single tragedy, when merged with the chronic instability and violence of the place and time, quickly vanished from view. Yet it colored relations between the town and the camp dwellers for years to come, setting a pattern of mistrust and anxiety that hardened as time went on. The multiple murders of May 16 were never solved or even investigated . Withinweeks,those responsible likely left Wildflecken asthe The Seigneurs of Wildflecken, 1945–1947 two 56 Strangers in the Wild Place army began the process of sorting DPs into national groups to prepare them for repatriation. This made little difference to the people in Wildflecken , who understandably did not and often could not distinguish between the incoming and outgoing camp populations. The Wildflecken DP camp and its relationship with the surrounding community between 1945 and 1947 reflected the uncertainties of that fluid era. Locals, administrators, and governments far from the Sinn Valley shared the fundamental belief that the camp, and hundreds like it across Central Europe, was a temporary housing facility that would be closedassoonasitsresidentswenthome.Observersbasedtheseplanson the idea that camp residents badly wanted to go back to Eastern Europe. By the time it became clear that this was not the case, it was too late. The DP camp in its early years was both an integral part of and a world apart from the surrounding community. The needs of the camp, combined with the remote location of the facility, meant that its administration had to compete with other local interests for scarce resources. This had the effect of integrating the economic affairs of local communities , the DP camp, and the occupation authorities. These relationships were further complicated by two factors. First, power relations between these groups were manifestly unequal. Foreign laborers, who had lived in the Sinn Valley through the war years, now held economic power and had the support of the occupation authorities. Second, local communities were themselves dealing with an influx of refugees who were largely their responsibility. This will be discussed in more detail in the next chapter. The DP camp was the center of the local economy during the first years after the war. Because of the sheer amount of goods moving through the camp, and because many of these goods came directly from the occupation authority, the camp served as a clearing house for both scarce luxury and staple items. Economic activity in and around the camp included both black market (trade in illegal goods like controlled food and clothing) and gray market (the unauthorized distribution of legal goods) elements.2 In occupied Germany, where currency had little if any worth, the barter economy clustered around those with access to rationed or otherwise unobtainable commodities. Some DPs used their ambiguous legal status to develop far-reaching and sophisticated trade networks that entangled DPs, locals, and even UNRRA staffers and The Seigneurs of Wildflecken, 1945–1947 57 American troops. While only shadowy traces of these networks remain, they were obviously a critical nexus point of economic life in the region andconnectedthecampwithotherpartsoftheDP archipelagoandwith the surrounding community. At the same time, the camp had its own public and subterranean identity that marked it as separate from local communities. It was a legally incorporated Polish town with its own government that paralleled the apparatus of UNRRA. Relief workers, both by design and because they...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780253007070
Related ISBN
9780253006776
MARC Record
OCLC
828743769
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-20
Language
English
Open Access
No
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