On this page is a collection of various tidbits that I found out about Schweinfurt, my birthtown.
Die folgenden Kopien wurden mir grosszuegiger Weise vom Stadtarchiv Schweinfurt zugesendet:
Am interessantesten ist wie sich die Zusammensetzung zwischen 1932 and 1936 veraendert hat:
Berufsmaessige Stadtraete: Dr. Ignaz Schoen, Dr. Karl Koeppele, Dr. Kurt Roemer. Dr. Ludwig Pfeiffer, Otto Schermbacher, Dr. Ludwig Schuessler.
Ratsherren (keine Parteien mehr): Walter Erhard, Michael Firsching, Heinrich Fischer, Philipp Guenkel, Georg Kaffer, Heinz Raiser, Ludwig Kehl, Hans Ruhr, Hermann Matz, Karl Mueller, Johann Riedel, Willy Rischler, Georg Schaefer (II), Georg Schenk, Gregor Schneider, Hanns Schoedel, Georg Schumann (Kreiswalter), Fritz Spiess (Adjudant). Wilhelm Ezhozla, Adam Tasch, Martin Wegner, Georg Weidling (Kreisleiter), Fritz Weiss, Karl Wolff.
Interessanterweise war Georg Schaefer (II), spaeter Ehrenbuerger der Stadt Schweinfurt, erst unter den Nazis Stadtrat—und rettete doch seinem juedischen Verkaufsdirektor das Leben. (Angeblich hat GS auch anderen (Halb-) Juden das Leben gerettet.)
SS Standarten Fuehrer: Schweiger, Oberfuehrer Kuhr, Sturmfuehrer Kurt Isser, Bannfuehrer Bernhard Gasch, Jungbannfuehrer Wolf Munter, Untergaufuehrerin Inge Fichtner... . NS Beamtenbund: Wolfgang Egelseer, NS Lehrerbund Dr. Sch Renkel, NS Rechtswahrbund: Dr. Rudi Koch. Amtsgericht: Walz Binstadt, Schloer, Steintraudt Stotzel Boennecke.
(If you happen to know who was working for the Gestapo in SW, please send me an email. Also, I would be curious what happened to Ludwig Poesl and Schweiger after the war. I know Weidling was captured by the Americans.)
I think it is time for someone to write a systematic history of Schweinfurt before, during, and after the war.
On Aug 21, 2010, Yale Richmond sent me an unsolicited email. He had probably stumbled upon my website, and was kind enough to volunteer some more history. He was the Resident Officer in SW around 1951. I did not even know what a resident officer was, so there is some explanation below.
Yale published his memoirs, and generously permitted me to post the SW-relevant parts here:
Increased responsibilities and promotion quickly followed, and next came a more interesting assignment as Resident Officer in Schweinfurt, an industrial city on the Main River in Franconia, northern Bavaria, with a population of some 48,000 in the city and another 56,000 in the county. As the ballbearing manufacturing center of Germany, the city had been heavily bombed by the US Army Air Forces during the war, and although only factories had been targeted, damage to the center of the city was severe. Over half the houses had been left uninhabitable, but recovery was well under way when I arrived in August 1950. The inner city had been rebuilt, and the factories were again humming.
Schweinfurt had been a free imperial city from 1282 to 1803, and it consequently had a long tradition of independence in politics. Its most famous son was the poet Friedrich Rueckert, born there in 1788 and whose statue stands in the town square across from the beautiful Renaissance Rathaus (town hall), built in 1572. And in that Rathaus, visitors will find the Golden Book of the city, in which signatures of prominent visitors have been inscribed over the years. My signature is there for 1950, but a few years back visitors will also find the signatures of Heinrich Himmler, head of Hitler's SS, and other high-ranking Nazis.
The city, however, had not been a Nazi stronghold because its blue-collar electorate generally voted Socialist or Communist. When I arrived all the major political parties were represented and national politics were replicated on the local level. The major parties included the left-of-center Social Democrat, the conservative Christian Social, the liberal (in the European sense) Free Democrat, and the far-left Communist. The city had heavy industry, was historically Protestant, and voted Social Democrat; the county was agricultural, conservative, Catholic, and voted Christian Social. But many of Schweinfurt's industrial workers were also farmers. They pedaled to their workplaces in the city on their bikes in the morning, and returned home in the evening to work their farms. Schweinfurt was a great introduction to European politics, and I learned there more than I ever could have from textbooks. I took advantage of every opportunity to speak at public events--political party meetings, high school graduations, and ``roof raising'' at new housing projects funded by the Marshall Plan. Those events provided experience in Public Diplomacy that I would put to good use in future Foreign Service assignments.
It was in Schweinfurt that I attended my first, and only, Communist Party meeting. The local party organization would hold frequent public meetings to organize protests against US policy in Germany. To keep myself informed, I decided to attend one such meeting, called to protest against the Kartoffelkaefer (potato beetle), which the Communists alleged had been spread by Americans in the Soviet Zone where it was devouring the potato crop.
The Schweinfurt Communist leaders were on the dais, and they recognized me in the audience. When they called for a vote in support of a resolution condemning the Ami-kaefer, the term they used for the ``American'' potato beetle, everyone in the hall raised his hand except me. When they next asked for votes opposed to the resolution, no one raised a hand, including me. And then, in an obvious attempt to embarrass me, the party chairman announced he would have to assume that everyone in the hall supported the resolution. Fortunately for me the incident was not reported in the local press, and I was spared embarrassment. But I had learned a lesson–to be cautious about attending political meetings.
The Soviet threat was more evident in Schweinfurt than in my previous assignments. Soviet aggressive intentions in Europe may have been exaggerated at the time, but the Korean War had just started, and for the US military in Germany the Soviet threat was real. US forces in Germany had been largely demobilized after the war, and all that remained was the equivalent of two divisions. Facing them on the other side of a divided Germany were twenty-five forward-deployed Soviet divisions, backed up by many more divisions and aircraft based in the Soviet Union, only a few hundred miles to the east. And when Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, who could blame the West for fearing a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, starting in occupied Germany? Military plans are based on the capabilities of adversaries, not their intentions. In the immediate postwar years, the main mission of US forces in Germany had been occupation and control, but by 1950, in response to Soviet military deployments, that mission had changed to the defense of Western Europe.
Stationed in Schweinfurt was a squadron of the US Constabulary, a lightly-armed mechanized-cavalry unit, equivalent to a battalion but equipped only with jeeps and armored cars. Its mission was to patrol and show the flag along Bavaria's border with the Soviet Zone of Germany, a mere twenty miles to the northeast as the crow flies. But when a general from the US European Command visited Schweinfurt after the Korean War had broken out and learned how long it would take the squadron to get to the border, he ordered a unit to immediately take up a position closer to the border, where they could act as a tripwire for invading Soviet forces.
Germany and Korea had both been divided in the aftermath of World War II, and West German fears over a possible invasion from the East were understandable. To reassure the Germans, the United States increased its military forces in Germany and staged a flight of B-29 bombers from their base in Britain. I happened to be in Munich at the time, and when the big bombers, which had not been seen in Germany during World War II, passed over at low altitude, their presence was very reassuring to the Germans. And that too was an act of Public Diplomacy.
Civil affairs--relations between the US military and the Schweinfurt authorities--was one of my responsibilities. Fortunately, incidents were few and limited mostly to vehicle accidents, traffic violations, drunks, and other minor incidents. But there was one event that was more serious and involved the Schweinfurt Oberbuergermeister (mayor). Our Constabulary squadron was scheduled to play a football game with another US military team, and the city administration had given its permission to use the Schweinfurt municipal stadium. As a courtesy the mayor was invited to attend the game. The mayor thought he would be attending a Fussball (soccer) game, and was appalled when he witnessed his beautiful soccer field being torn up by rampaging American football players. It took a lot of turf mending before cordial relations with the mayor were restored.
As Resident Officer I also had to deal with the big split in German politics between the two major political parties, the left-of-center Social Democrat and the right-of-center Christian Democrat (Christian Social in Bavaria). The Social Democrats, under the leadership of Kurt Schumacher, supported us on German domestic reform but generally opposed us on foreign policy. The Christian Democrats, led by Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, supported us on foreign policy but opposed many of our domestic reforms. It required some fancy footwork to stay on good terms with both parties at the local level.
All was not work in Schweinfurt, and one of its attractions was the wine. The city was located in a large wine-growing region along the Main River, and it was there that I acquired a taste for the Franken (Franconia) wines in their distinctive green Bocksbeutel bottles. As the Franconians told me, their wine is not exported because so much of it is consumed at home that there is little left to export. During my time in Schweinfurt, I helped to validate that claim.
I entertained often in my big house on the Kiliansberg, so named after the Irish bishop who brought Christianity to Franconia in the seventh century. Over food and wine I made the acquaintance of many of the city's political and social activists, and practiced Public Diplomacy at the dining room table. When I invited the heads of the major Schweinfurt trade unions to dinner and a discussion of their concerns and mine, they told me that I was the first American to pay any attention to them.
Many friends were made in Schweinfurt, several of whom I would like to mention here. Chief Judge Carl Friedrich Wolfgang Behl (known in literary circles as C.F.W. Behl) was a distinguished writer and critic as well as jurist. He had been a lawyer in Berlin and secretary to the renowned German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, 1912 Nobel Laureate in Literature.17 Theo Brock, a physician with whom I talked politics on many an evening, was a local leader of the Free Democratic Party. Georg Schaefer was the head of Kugelfischer, the big family-owned ball and roller bearing plant. On a tour of the plant he once gave me, the paternalist Schaefer greeted many of his workers by their first names, and pointed out those whose fathers had also worked at the plant. And Oskar Serrand, Kugelfischer's financial director, and his charming wife Meta, who organized wild boar hunts to which I was invited--with my guns of course.
The only thing I left in Schweinfurt was an American reading room, which I opened at a ceremony attended by US Land Commissioner for Bavaria George N. Schuster and Oberbuergermeister Ignaz Schoen.18 But I took with me much more--pleasant memories, mementos from many well wishers, more experience in communicating with the public, and a good introduction to European politics.
17: Behl's son, Wolfgang, emigrated to the United States where he became a distinguished sculptor. 18; Schuster, a prominent Catholic layman, had been president of New York City's Hunter College.
Published by Yale Richmond, Practicing Public Diplomacy: A Cold War Odyssey (New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008).
In response to my inquiry what a resident officer was, Yale explained it as follows:
When the FRG was esdtablished in 1959, US Military Government was replaced by the U.S. High Commission for Germany (HICOG), a unit of the State Department. Military Government Officers in large cities and counties were replaced by US Resident Officers. We had no authority over the Germans but served as the eyes and ears of the US Government in Germany, as well as liaison between the US military and local Gereman authorities at the grass roots level. Yet, we had considerable prestige and were still addressed as Herr Gouverneur.and longer
The Resident Officer has been described as "the HICOG ambassador in the field and the jack-of-all-trades in the local administration of the occupation of Germany."7 As McCloy described them, they were "probably the most important element in our relations with the German population."8 In the US Zone, there were 157 such Resident Officers, serving as US representatives in cities and counties. Many were young Foreign Service Officers on their first assignment who later went on to successful careers as diplomats.
"Resident" had been the term used by the British for their colonial officers, and it was adopted by the Americans although the Germans were now mostly running the government, and the occupiers were no longer fully in charge, at least in the three Western zones. In Bavaria, however, the Germans called us Residenz Offizier, which must have sounded strange because a Residenz in German is the seat of a court or capital, and Offizier is a military officer.
The term Public Diplomacy had not yet been coined, but Resident Officers were tasked with encouraging support for Germany’s transition to democracy and its reentry into a Europe that was making a start in the long process of unification. The first step was the creation, in 1952, of the European Coal and Steel Community, which formed a common steel and coal market with freely set market prices and without import/export duties or subsidies. The economic aim was a common program of production and consumption of coal and steel, formerly the tools of war. The political objective was to demonstrate cooperation and reconciliation between France and Germany in the aftermath of the war, and a first step in the formation of a European union. The move had the strong support of the United States, and Resident Officers were tasked with selling it to the Germans at the grassroots level, which we did with our films and public speaking.
In our cities and counties Resident Officers were the eyes and ears of the US government, and often the mouth as well. In public meetings I was often called upon to explain, in my by that time fluent German, the reforms the United States was urging the new German government to adopt. Among them were: in economics, to establish freedom of trade to end the closed guild system, encourage economic growth, and provide business opportunities for German refugees from the East; in education reform, to end the two-track system in public schools and open higher education to everyone;9 and in agriculture, to end “strip farming” and consolidate the inherited small strips of land into more efficient units of farmland.
7 Kreis Resident Officer: Classification Standards Report, a publication of the Office of the US High Commissioner for Germany, Bonn, Germany, July 1950, 1.
8 Robert Shaplen, “Democracy’s Best Salesmen in Germany,” Colliers (9 February, 1952), 27.
9Under the two-track system, Germans had to decide, at an early age, whether to attend schools that prepared them for worker or clerical jobs, or schools that led to universities and higher education study.
Please forgive my German. It is rather rusty. Also, my keyboard lacks German keys.
My background is that my family from my mother's side is German and from Schweinfurt, which is also the city in which I grew up. My Jewish father survived the death camps and eventually settled in Schweinfurt after the war.
I am very fond of Germany and my time in Schweinfurt. I am also proud of much of what the German nation has done after World War II with respect to recognizing its actions during the war—something that the Japanese, the Italians, the collaborating French, the Polish, or the Baltics, etc., have never done. I am however appalled by the fact that some old hardcore Nazis, like Hellmuth, were not treated more harshly by the German Justice, and ostracized by all Germans after the war.
I do not believe in collective guilt, only in the guilt of individuals. Anyone who is younger than 80 years of age (in 2010), German or non-German, cannot possibly be faulted for anything that the Nazis did. Neither can ordinary Germans, or even most German army members. (PS: An SS guard by the name of Oras saved many Jews, including my own father, repeatedly in a camp called "Waldlager." Unfortunately, we never found out exactly who this SS guard was.)
(And, fwiw, I do consider the intentional bombing of purely civilian areas by the Allies during the War a crime. The bombing of Schweinfurt with its factories, however, as sad as I am about it today, was a reasonable military operation at the time, targeting war production, and thus it was not a war crime.) The bombing of Wuerzburg may well have been unnecessary. The bombing of Dresden was a war crime.
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