Address of Dr. Paul Wengert, Lord Mayor of the City of Augsburg on the occasion of the foundation of the “Amerika in Augsburg Society” (Enlisted Society) on April, 28, 2005 at the Cultural Center Abraxas (formerly known as Recreation Center, Bldg 33, Reese Barracks):
My dear Sir,
My dear Professor Weber,
My dear Chairman Feuerer,
My dear Mrs Linder,
My dear members of the “Amerika in Augsburg Society”,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thanks a lot for the invitation to your foundation ceremony. Together with the colleagues of the City´s Council which are present, I would like to congratulate you to the foundation of the “Amerika in Augsburg Society” (AiA) – in a notable location and on a memorable day.
April 28, 1945 is an important day in the history of our City of Augsburg, that, as almost no other day in the more than 2000 year old history of our city, has an ambivalent character. Because on one hand it means the end of bombing war and misery, desired by most of Augsburg’s citizens, on the other hand the dreaded end of the war.
Also, this date was a day of liberation from the criminal system National Socialism for our city, the beginning of a democratic development and the beginning of a 50 year long presence of the Americans.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Consul-general Rooney and I have just attended the public reminder ceremony of the City Concil of Augsburg in the Town Hall. When the Town Hall, the symbol of Augsburg, the proud city of citizens, burned out as a result of the war, the glamour of the Golden Hall was ruined. It took 40 years to give the Town Hall its splendour back for the 2000th Anniversary festivities in 1985.
Today, 60 years after these events, only few contemporaries, who are able to report authenticallly about them, are alive. Therefore, I am especially glad that Mr Hubert Rauch, who was a witness of these remarkable events in our city’s history, is present during today’s foundation ceremonies of the “AiA Society”.
The military order of the Americans was followed by a political one that was called “Reeducation”. This political and social reeducation intended to bring Germans up to democracy. During decades, reeducation became an alliance between the citizens of Augsburg and the Americans.
Occupants became friends. Soon, the original inhibition of fraternization was suspended and in 1947 the local newspaper reported the first German-American wedding ceremony at Augsburg’s registry office in the post-war era.
The Amerikahaus in Augsburg, furnished in the Prinzregentenstraße in 1948, as well as a GYA in the Remboldstraße, were instrumental in the stabilization of the situation.
Today – after the Augsburg base closure in 1998 – the vast military aereas are vacant. They have to be utilized in a different way. Therefore, the City has a huge proposition. In the Sheridan Kaserne area, the City wants the construction of an open housing area. However, three of the former kaserne facilities shall remain: The Officers Club (Bldg 180), Maintenance Bldg 116, which formerly had been a KZ (Concentration Camp) Outpost, and the Chapel.
I am glad that 60 years after the war and seven years after the American base closure our city succeeded in finding engaged Augsburgers and Non-Augsburgers to found the “AiA Society”.
The goals of the society are also important for the City of Augsburg, as the relations of American troops have left a noticeable gap after their withdrawal in 1998.The “AiA Society” intents to take care of the grown cultural contacts across the Atlantic. Besides, documents and testimonials shall be collected and evaluated in order to deepen the knowledge of the 50-year presence of U.S. forces in Augsburg. This shall make the post-war as well as the peace history of this city evident.
The American presence was far more than a mere military and political one. Even nowadays, many citizens of Augsburg are missing the music of AFN, who made it possible to listen to a programme that could not be received through German radio stations.
The numerous German-American Volksfeste in the area near BA-Street are unforgotten. This is why I am glad to say hello to longterm host Charly Held, who gave Augsburgers and Americans a good time in his tent.
I would like to thank all artists, interpreters, actors and helpers who will take part in the cultural week “Amerika in Augsburg”. All branches of art, e.g. music, dancing, theatre and literature, will be represented.
Until May 7, the vast variety of the program will feature a rich range of cultural and entertainment performances that came to us with the soldiers and their dependents and are still cultivated in Germany.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the foundation members of the “AiA Society”. The society took initiative in safeguarding recollection pieces. I beg all Augsburgers and all guests to support the goals of the society. Thus, it shall be a common trial to keep alive half a century of American presence in Augsburg. Offer your reminiscence as well as your keepsakes to the society.
The beginning is made. It is desirable that we succeed - with the help of “AiA Society” - in establishing a permanent exhibition in Augsburg, so that the ever changing, nevertheless altogether good development of the German-American relationship could be highlighted by the example of Augburg.
As Lord Mayor of the City of Augsburg, I wish the “AiA Society” a lot of success and further prosperity, and all the visitors of the German-American Culture Week a good time!