When a report on the multi-facetted history of “America in Augsburg” is given, a certain sorrowful as well as delicate matter must be mentioned: namely the post WW II evictions. The victorious occupation forces required – as in other U.S. Zone cities – appropriate accommodations not only for the typical GI but also for NCOs and officers with their dependents. While the drafted GIs could usually occupy the almost empty kasernes of the Wehrmacht, the requirements of the officers were on a sophisticated, nevertheless simple level: “single house with garden, attractive location, large rooms, bathroom, central heating and hot-water supply” This was American right.
There were no longer any rights for the defeated German inhabitants. Houses and apartments were simply confiscated on the spot. Preferred quarters were low density, pleasantly built-up villa areas, e.g. Spickel and Göggingen in the South of the city, the communities of Westheim, Steppach and Stadtbergen in the West, and the Antonsviertel in the center. Even the middle-class Bärenkellersiedlung with its double and single houses was defined as pleasing and confiscated for higher ranking soldiers. In Pfersee, attractive town houses in the Lutzstraße along the Wertach, in Göggingen the most prominent estates in the Römerweg area. In the Spickel district, 15 confiscations were intended at first, finally there were, however, 65. By the end of 1946 it was even planned to find accommodations for U.S. Government civilians in the pursuit of German war crimes (the headquarters of the 7708 War Crimes Group were at Arras Kaserne). Multiplexes were avoided as far as possible as the Americans did not like them. It is said that another, not unimportant, aspect for the selection of locations was the, to the greatest possible extent, reduced chance of contacts with local nationals due to the initial fraternization ban.
The vast building complex at Haunstetter Straße, near Rotes Tor, was confiscated by the 9th Infantry Division in 1946. Soldier Clifford Briggs was then billeted there. The big Stars and Stripes flag indicates the occupation of the object, thus being American territory. In 1948, the building was also used to house German entertainers for the U.S. Army. (Photo: Clifford Briggs).
Even nowadays, concerned community archives are partly able to prove reasonable accurate addresses of U.S. confiscated dwelling units (DUs) or their numbers. The post-war statistics of Augsburg alone are listing 4551 “evicted persons”, also counted were 6,800 confiscated living rooms (not houses). As apartments and houses that had been damaged by the air raids, were no longer usable by the LNs and lacking as such, the serious housing shortage developed into drastic misery. Regardless of the appellations of the mayors to the respective Military Governments, an uncompromising confiscation status was the rule at first. Even an early 1947 design of Thomas Wechs, an Augsburg architect, to construct a vast U.S. housing area including welfare institutions in Augsburg’s South-West, was not carried out. Only in 1951, a large-scale housing construction program of the U.S. Army was started in the Federal Republic, and in the South-West of Augsburg the well-known Fryar Circle was constructed, although only for higher- and highest-ranking officers. The Pentagon’s predetermined m2 allowance was between 70 and 120 per DU.
Left: From 1949 until 1952, the little boy at the terrace door was living with his officer parents in a confiscated Spickel villa (right: his mother). We received this rare contemporary document in 2015, when this very same boy came back to Augsburg to search the house of his childhood years. Right: The boy with his mother in front of the house, in the background his father’s limousine (Both photos: Private).
Heinz Strüber of the Amerika in Augsburg Society (right) endeavored to find the house because he also had lived in the Spickel as a kid. Unfortunately, he had no success with the definite identification of the house. On the left side: The wife of the then boy. (Photo: Amerika in Augsburg e.V.).
Evictions were quite abrupt and uncompromising. Tenants had to evacuate the DU at short notice, with only meager personal belongings in their hands. The entire furnishings had to remain for the new users. Stock was taken, rated, stamped, and listed. Eyewitnesses confirm that almost all furniture and objects were rated “old”. The carrying out of these actions was the responsibility of the housing and quartermaster offices with the note “Confiscated for the Military Government”. The cudgel of the lost war came back pitiless. Accommodations had not only to be provided for the soldiers but also for the numerous employees of the Military Government. Contemporaries later describe also almost grotesque conditions of the DU distribution at that time. Evicted persons were e.g. directed into other, also confiscated, DUs whose tenants were compulsorily directed elsewhere. Nobody could understand the sense of such forced rotations.
The MAN director’s villa is said to have been confiscated by an U.S. general after the war, at least this is what was reported by a contemporary. The building, located in a dense park, was definitely adequate for a general. However, no evidence of a confiscation could be found in the MAN archives; it seems that this was neither of military nor of industrial documentary interest. (Photo: Bing Maps).
The invasion of Haunstetten by the U.S. forces was also not exactly prim in regard to the evictions. As many soldiers camped in tents, they took suitable furnishings (e.g. chairs etc.) for their camp-fires out of apartments. The Fliegertechnische Vorschule in Marconistraße was also occupied. A very special variant of confiscation happened to the “Messerschmitt-Siedlung” in Haunstetten, which was an independent community at that time. Their double house units and several multiplex buildings belonged to the Heimbau Bayern Gemeinnützige Baugesellschaft m.b.H. as well as to the Messerschmitt-AG and were confiscated for the accommodation of Displaced Persons from the Baltic Countries (“Colony of Baltic Nations”).
The DP camps Haunstetten (left) and Hochfeld (right) in 1947. Access was off limits to Germans as well as to Americans. The Military Government was obliged to accommodate a huge number of Displaced Persons, the losers of the war had to accept their subordinate position.
A total of 320 DUs of the Heimbau Bayern and 70 DUs of the Messerschmitt-AG were no longer a part of the anyways meager Haunstetten housing market. This had anyhow been drastically reduced due to the air raids vs the Messerschmitt plant. With the help of the IRO refugee organization, all DPs could reach Canada, the USA, Israel and Australia by the beginning of 1950. After the vacation of the DUs, an inventory of the situation took place. In a Jan 16, 1947 memo of the Heimbau Bayern GmbH to the Landratsamt Augsburg. The construction company listed the furnishings that had been stolen from confiscated DP apartments up to this date. This listing included, besides damages, 13 full machine written pages. Electrical cooking plates were predominant.
Fronts of the Messerschmitt-Siedlung, still in their post-war state. The houses hardly met American standards. (Photo: Amerika in Augsburg e.V.).
If the citizens of Haunstetten now had thought to be able to return into their former homes, they had not taken the Americans into account. Those now declared as of February10, 1950 the complete Heimbausiedlung as American territory. It became U.S. Camp Haunstetten. On March 3, the Besatzungskostenamt announced to the Wohnbaugesellschaft Heimbau Bayern that the settlement would no longer be confiscated for IRO purposes but for the purposes of the occupation forces.
In order to meet American requirements and needs, two each DUs on the same floor were combined to a large one. This was done until the mid 1950s. Even a heating plant was constructed to provide central heating for the housing area. The area, as U.S. property off limits, was heavily guarded at the beginning. It was officially prohibited to rummage through the garbage cans and take out trash. At any rate, the U.S. soldiers (alleged NCOs only) cherished a life in an - here after the war - unimaginable luxury.
But already in 1954, the U.S. Army indicated that the area which had been constructed in the 1930s, no longer met American requirements. In the meanwhile, the American housing construction program in Centerville and Cramerton in Augsburg’s West was in full bloom. On July1, 1957, the U.S. Army deallocated the DUs of the U.S. Camp Haunstetten, as the soldiers and their dependents could be relocated to Sullivan Heights. This was the final exchange of confiscated DUs. As there still was a huge accommodation shortage in Haunstetten, the Bundesvermögensverwaltung decided to reduce the big apartments to the former small apartments. At the same time, the U.S. central heating was dismantled.
Karl Wahl, the local historian, later wrote the following about this subject:
“Even later, no objection to this alteration can be made. But that the central heating was dismantled at the same time was no necessity but an “unequalled foolishness”.
The confiscation of DUs for DPs led to an unimaginable dimension of local living space loss in the Hochfeld district. There, the U.S. Military Government seized more than 700 DUs, predominantly owned by the WBG (Wohnungsbaugesellschaft der Stadt Augsburg GmbH), in order to make them available to the International Relief Organization (I.R.O.) for the accommodation of Russians, Ukrainians, Poles and Latvians: “After the eviction nobody was allowed to return to the apartments. Hundreds of inhabitants of the Hochfeld had to be moved into makeshift accommodations outside of the city or eked out a miserable existencein sheds or even in the city’s Rabenbad collective lodging.” (Quotation from: 75 Jahre Kommunales Bauen, WBG Augsburg).
Only in December of 1951, the Americans released the Hochfeld. The DUs were redeveloped at an expense of 1 Million DM and returned to the former tenants. As in Haunstetten, no more U.S. soldiers moved in. Photos of that time proof the expressive home country culture of the DPs that lived there. Conflicts with the local nationals, however, were inevitable. Contemporary witnesses report active trade with the belongings of the owners and steep misbehaving.
Scenes from the Baltic Camp at the Hochfeld in 1948. The original tenants no longer did have any access and were recognized as occupation-affected.
As here in Haunstetten, there was a special “DP Police” in all DP Camps to ensure the observance of the camp regulations. Jurisdiction was martial law however.
Besides the DU confiscations, dozens of buildings for the numerous Military Government organizations in and around Augsburg were confiscated. For a more detailed account a separate survey is however required. Two remarkable examples in the West of Augsburg are the Leyherr-Villa and the Café Heider, both in Westheim.
The local history chronicle states verbatim in 2015: “The highest ranking American General moved in the villa of physician Dr. Ernst Leyherr. There was a skittle alley, which was deeply appreciated by the American officers. Even an officers’ club was established in the Café Heider. On special celebrations, they let off impressive fireworks displays which were admired wide-eyed by Westheim’s citizens. Then the surrounding streets were obstructed by up to 100 ”Amischlitten” (limousines), as the streamlined cars of the Americans were called.” (End of quotation).
Westheim was a preferred place of residence because Augsburg’s businessmen had once settled down there in splendid villas in a wooded area. 38 objects were occupied by the Americans even in 1949. In 1957, the construction of the officers-quarter Fryar Circle South of Sheridan Kaserne provided a habitat befitting the status of the resident generals, American, and close to the kasernes.
The Leyherr villa in Westheim, a suitable accommodation for American generals and officers. (Photo: Google Earth).
The stylish Café Heider in Westheim made the American officers feel at ease and was without further ado turned into an officers’ club. (Photo: Contemporary postcard).
In Augsburg, the last confiscated houses and apartments were returned during 1957. Outstanding was the turn-over of Haunstetten’s U.S. Camp “Messerschmitt-Siedlung” on July 1, 1957, by the Deputy Commander of the Haunstetten Army Airfield, COL Eugene Stevens. In spring of the same year, the alleged last house in Augsburg’s municipal area was returned: the Gesswein-Parkvilla - under historic preservation order - at the corner Frölich- Sieglindenstraße. After year-long efforts, the owner, daughter of the construction contractor Gesswein, could finally move in her old home. The Westheim local chronicles list the last returns even in 1959.
The return of the Haunstetter-Heimbau apartments in 1957 was a big step with regard to the normalization of the post-war relations. Mayor Karl Rieger (left) with COL Eugene Stevens during the turn-over. (Photo: Stadtarchiv Augsburg).
The parallel lives of confiscators and local nationals wer not only bitter and grievous in their course. With the lifting of the fraternization ban in the autumn of 1945, personal as well as practically orientated contacts developed quickly. Children were something like a social lubricant of coexistence, as well as romances - with consequential effects - were inevitable. Finally, the coexistence of Germans and Americans contributed to the transatlantic exchange of the Western way of life, therefore the hateful evictions also helped indirectly to communicate the American way of life. A whole generation of Augsburgers was formed by this era in a manifold way. But this is another story.
Architekturmuseum Schwaben, Augsburger Allgemeine, Geschichtswerkstatt Augsburg, Kulturkreis Haunstetten e.V., Ortschroniken von Westheim, Stadtbergen und Haunstetten, Stadtarchiv Augsburg, WBG Augsburg; AiA archives.