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181 For the second time in fifteen years, the hill above Wildflecken swarmed withworkers and construction crews.Inthe snows of January 1951, a tent city grew in the Franconian uplands. Where a shrinking but sizable DP populationstillhungonintheIRO camp,theywerejoinedbyU.S.Army CorpsofEngineers,specialists,andGermancontractors.Therewasalot 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 had been displaced persons housed there . . . they had burnt down about half of the post and cut down all the trees around there just trying to stay warm . . . they nearly froze to death up there because there wasn’t any heat, and nothing was supplied to them. So, we were building a road, setting up rock crushers and building ammunition pads . . . for the future needs of a post, camp or station there.” With more than six hundred German workers on the site, living space ran short. Many lived in tents until summer, no doubt a miserable existence in the cold of the Rhön. Therewasalsofuntobehad,withcontractorsbuildingcanteens“staffed by husky, friendly German girls” who worked to keep laborers fed. As a Corps of Engineers inspector later wrote, “Naturally wherever troops were stationed near construction work these canteens became a favorite of the troops and caused both Commanding Officers and the Construction Engineers considerable headaches.”1 Forresidentsofthetowns,particularlyReussendorfandWerbergon the grounds of the old base, the construction project must have looked A Victory for Democracy, 1949–1952 five 182 Strangers in the Wild Place ominous. What would happen next and what would that mean for a region already in flux? Between 1950 and 1953, Wildflecken took on an important role in the evolving Cold War order in Central Europe. In doing so, residents once more found themselves playing an unintended but critical part in debates going on far from its borders. There was a tremendous disjuncture between the weight given to the refugee problem by the Americans and the West Germans. For the Americans, refugees were a peripheral issue, largely because they were by 1950 almost completely the responsibility of the West German state. For the Germans, refugees were a central plank of negotiations over the future of the American military presence in the country. The status and future of expellees and DPs merged with questions of sovereignty, national security, and the future of the Bonn Republic. For the expellee population and their native neighbors, the ensuing debates had a profound effect on the process of integration, giving these sometimes polarized groups common cause and forcing them to confront a new challenge as uneasy partners. The stories of the end of the DP camp system, the creation of the American military presence, and the expellee problem in postwar Germany were functionally and symbolically intertwined. These linkages appeared most clearly in questions of space allocation. In Wildflecken and places like it across West Germany, the American presence shifted toward a long-term commitment after the outbreak of war in Korea. This policy shift added a decisive element to the zero-sum game over land. Previously, the contest was between DPs, locals, and expellees. One contender, the DPs, exerted influence far greater than their numbers because of the protection, albeit progressively more disinterested, of the United States. Now the United States entered the disputes over the Wildflecken facility as an active participant. In doing so, the Americans reminded locals and expellees of their enormous power in postwar Germany, a gesture many felt as deeply humiliating as West Germany assumed limited sovereignty in 1949. For many locals and expellees, the experiencing of resisting, however futilely, encroachment by “foreign” DPs and Americans enhanced and catalyzed the integration of expellee populations. If the expellee inhabitants of Reussendorf and Werberg did not become “German,” expellees in the Rhön became “Werberger” and “Reussendorfer” just as those towns faced extinction. A Victory for Democracy, 1949–1952 183 The second crucial point here is that the Americans and the West Germans saw the debates over the building of a permanent American military presence in starkly different terms. The Americans were willing and able to negotiate exclusively through the federal government in Bonn. The West German government, on the other hand, was subject to a variety of pressures from its own constituent parts. Particularly in Bavaria , where regional particularism ran very high and doubts remained about the post-1949 political settlement, the government was...


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