The first American tanks rolled through Franconian cities in the spring of 1945. A new era began for the German citizens. Nazi dictatorship disappeared and the promise of democracy took its place. Freeing Germany had cost the Americans a lot of bloodshed. But many Germans didn’t necessarily see this new occupation as freeing.
Franconians tend to be a reserved folk; traditional, quiet, cautious and guarded. Americans tend to be, well, how should I put this? Loud. My volume control is broken and it’s because I’m American. But, in spite of an anti-fraternization movement (here’s an interesting article–it takes a moment to load), cultural differences and political opinions, the two worlds eventually got used to each other.
American soldiers, gum-chewing, wearing shorts and t-shirts in November, became known in Franconia as ‘Amis.’ They brought a real kick into the economic structures of the communities surrounding the army bases. Friendships were made and families were established when a soldier married his ‘Frollein.’
Slowly, an era comes to its end. In 1995, the Nürnberg Military Community (NBG MIL COM), with bases in Nürnberg, Fürth, Erlangen and Herzogenaurach closed completely. That meant taking some 15,000 soldiers, along with 11,000 family members and 160 million US dollars that flowed yearly into the local economy out of the area for good.
And now, last weekend, another decision has fallen: the two bases at Bamberg and Schweinfurt will be closed, sending over 6000 soldiers back to the States. Grafenwöhr, Europe’s largest American Military training facility, is facing reductions as well as the base at Ansbach.