Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Headquarters and Headquarters Company, explored both a historic German city and a special friendship between two nations during a trip to Augsburg Dec. 10.
The Soldiers were guests of the “Amerika in Augsburg Verein” (America in Augsburg society).
“We [America in Augsburg] would like to reflect on the American way of life and its influence on Augsburg, its residents and the post-World War II society,” Feurer said.
American troops invaded the city on April 28, 1945.
Sixty years later to the day, Georg Feuerer founded the society, with support from city administration, in order to educate Augsburg’s residents and youth on the American heritage.
At one time, approximately 30,000 Americans called Augsburg home, living and working on three military installations: Flak, Reese and Sheridan Kasernes.
“In the beginning, the Americans came to Augsburg as part of the Allied forces to fight against Nazi Germany and as the occupying force,” said Feuerer, president of the America in Augsburg society. “However, due to the constant effort of the American government, the Soldiers received a political mission: the re-education of German society. Therefore, throughout their 50-year tenure, they became partners and friends of the residents in Augsburg.”
The society owns historical documents from post-World War II through the late 1990s, a significant era during which the U.S. Forces had a presence in Augsburg.
“Augsburg remembers the Americans in a positive way. Many of our residents still have this nostalgic feeling when they talk about the American era in Augsburg,” Feuerer said. “The American forces supported our achievements and made us what we are today.”
The Stuttgart Soldiers’ trip began in the heart of Augsburg’s downtown area.
Feuerer took the group on a visual journey of Augsburg’s past, including the Renaissance mansion of the Fugger family and the Basilica St. Ulrich and Afra. After, the group enjoyed a hearty Bavarian “Brotzeit” (lunch).
The tour continued with a visit to Augsburg’s golden hall, located in city hall. The golden hall is a ceremonial room and one of the most popular landmarks of the late Renaissance era in Germany. The monumental room features rich golden decorations and several murals which illustrate “Sapienta” (wisdom) and portraits of German emperors, artists and master builders of Augsburg’s town hall.
In the afternoon, the Soldiers strolled through Augsburg’s quaint Christmas Market.
While touring the city, Joe Ittner, chairman of the America in Augsburg society, talked to the Soldiers about Augsburg’s post-World War II history and his personal experiences with the U.S. forces.
Back in 1947, Ittner started working for the American forces in Hohenbrunn (Munich district). He was part of the so-called “Industriepolizei” (industrial police), a unit composed of German civilians who were appointed to safeguard and patrol military installations of the U.S. forces in Germany, including officer housing areas, military warehouses and commissaries.
“We received three hot meals a day, and we were treated very well. We had it so much better than millions of other people during this time,” Ittner said.
Ittner recalled the German/American fests and warm contacts he had with the Americans.
“The Americans were part of our everyday life here in Augsburg; we talked, laughed and celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas together,” he said. “The Americans mean a lot to me; they will always be close to my heart.”
Pfc. Savira Hinn, a military policeman assigned to HHC, was surprised to hear Ittner talk about a positive relationship between Germans and Americans immediately following World War II.
“Augsburg was one of the first German cities I’ve toured during my assignment overseas. It was interesting to see that there was not one-sided hatred between Germans and Americans after World War II,” he said. “A friendship grew between two nations and formed a strong bond.”
HHC Commander Cpt. Timothy Mitchell presented Ittner with a certificate of appreciation and a commander’s coin to thank him for the outing.
“It was an extraordinary experience to relive the past and explore what post-World War II life was like in Augsburg,” Mitchell said. “The America in Augsburg society is compassionate in taking the time to restore and preserve history in order to show the interaction between the U.S. Forces and Augsburg’s residents.”
Later that day, the group visited Sheridan Kaserne and a former warehouse, which holds the America in Augsburg historical collection, including coins, photos, military vehicles, old post signs, books, furniture, uniforms, military patches and insignias.
“There are so many children and grandchildren of U.S. citizens who have been stationed in Augsburg. Since most of the military installations are closed, we are not able to show them the buildings or barracks where their parents or grandparents used to work. Therefore, we would like to found a museum to display at least some memorabilia,” Feuerer said.
Currently, the historical society is working with the city administration to officially open an America in Augsburg museum to showcase the collection.
The HHC Soldiers enjoyed learning how Germans aim to preserve American history.
“This was a really inspiring visit. It’s impressive to see all the bonds that were carried over for so long during a historical friendship,” said Staff Sgt. Ronald White, who works for the USAG Stuttgart Provost Marshall Office. “Personally, I felt honored and touched.”
To reciprocate the society’s hospitality, USAG Stuttgart is planning to invite members of the America in Augsburg society to Stuttgart this year.
“These outreach programs with host nation organizations are essential for the garrison. The America in Augsburg society does so much to honor the American history in Germany, and we have to actively support that,” Mitchell said.