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97 Armin G. did not like Americans very much. He also had little love for his erstwhile German protectors or their local government. Armin and hisfamilyarrivedinBrückenaufromYugoslaviain1945,ethnicGermans who found themselves on the wrong side of the postwar order in the Balkans .Arminwasaconsummatetroublemakerandapoliticalchameleon, 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 resortcasinos ,fromwhichheoccasionallyemergedintraditionalBavarian dress carrying an axe and intimidating refugees and townspeople alike. Problemsbeganin1946,whenArmintoldauthoritiesabizarrestory thatAmericansoldiersheldhisfamilyatgunpointanddemandedliquor. When his interlocutors pressed him for specifics, he withdrew his complaint .AfterthemanageroftheresortwenttospeakwithArmin,thetwo foughtandbothlaterwenttotheAmericanstocomplainabouttheother. “TheGermans,”wroteoneMilitaryGovernmentofficialtoanotherafter hearing both sides, “should be encouraged to ‘clean their own house.’” When the Americans visited Armin, along with his seven children and variousotherrelatives,theyfoundhimresolutelyuncooperative,unwillingtomovetonewquarters ,andenthusiasticallydisplayingCommunist symbols and a banner reading “Workers of the World, Unite.” The Americans and their German interlocutors in Brückenau struggled to find a solution to the problem. This included efforts to ship G. to the French Zone under the tenuous pretext that someone with a similar name was wanted there for violent crimes during the war. Armin knew howtooperateinthefluidworldofpostwarGermany.TotheAmericans, Keeping Refugees Occupied, 1945–1948 three 98 Strangers in the Wild Place he claimed to be an ethnic German expellee from Yugoslavia. To the Germans, he just as emphatically claimed to be a citizen of Yugoslavia and therefore eligible for DP status. Armin, in his various guises as a German,Yugoslav,nationalist,Communist,orvictimofwar,outmaneuvered American and German refugee officials with equal stubbornness and skill. In a postwar Germany overrun with the uprooted and occupied by an army with little experience in refugee affairs, individuals like Armincouldanddidcarveoutaspaceforthemselvestooperatebetween bureaucracies just learning to deal with the problems of administering a displaced population. This chapter examines the experience of Wildflecken under American occupation. The face of the Military Government was Company A, 3rd Military Government Regiment.1 This small unit was joined by varioustacticalunitsresponsibleforprovidingsecurity ,maintaininglawand order, and protecting and disposing of vast amount of munitions found at the Muna. The Americanoccupiers eagerly soughtlocal partners, who gradually re-formed the institutions of local government. This chapter also presents the story of the large mass of German refugees, most of them expellees from points to the east, who shared space with the Americans, local Germans, and the DPs in postwar Franconia .These intertwined stories also connect inmanywaysto the events taking place in and around the DP camp, presenting a mosaic of life in a district profoundly challenged by the refugee crisis. Refugee management and refugee affairs were central in the reconstruction of local political, economic, and social life in the district around Wildflecken. American and German officials, themselves bound by orders from superior authorities, had to manage a large and diverse population of expellees, while at the same time contending with the presence of the DP camp just up the hill from town. The solution was to innovate. Local elites, who advocated rural development before the war,now saw anopportunity to do the sameinthe postwar crisisperiod. Usinglocallyavailableresources,occupiersandoccupiedsoughttomitigate the worst of the refugee crisis by seeking long-term solutions rather thanquickfixes.Whilemuchofthisplanninglatercametonaught,there was unquestionably a renewed optimism in the region not long after Keeping Refugees Occupied, 1945–1948 99 the end of the war. The push for innovation emerged from the terrible demographiccrisisofthepostwaryears.Expelleesmadeupaboutfifteen percent of Lower Franconia’s population, but at one point more than thirty percent of the population of Landkreis Brückenau.2 In districts near the border, more refugees from the East arrived every day, further burdening the fragile support system. The presence of the DP camp had threecriticaleffectsonthelivesoftheresidents,bothlong-timeandnew, in the surrounding district under American occupation. First, the Polish camp continued to serve as the nexus point for a vast regional underground economy. The creation and establishment of illegal and quasi-legal commerce sat at the center of everyday life in occupied rural Bavaria. Because of its pervasiveness and the changing social and legal context of such commerce, engaging in it was also an implicitly political act that challenged authority while creating a space to air grievances toward occupation and German bureaucracies that many regarded as inefficient or unfeeling.3 This was particularly true for expellees. Illegal trade linked DPs, expellees, locals, and Americans in a web of complicity and potential conflict. For Germans living on the degraded domestic economy, the black market offered not only a means of acquiring sustenance, but a hedge against currency inflation. Expellees, living in refugee camps or private housing, had widely varied access to food through...

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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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