Thursday, February 07, 2008

The US Occupation of Germany

Today I had lunch with an older German American gentleman named Klaus. What a friendly fellow. Klaus met his American wife in American-occupied Germany in the late 60s. I wonder how many people know that the US has occupied Germany since the end of World War II. I have known about the US base Ramstein since my high school days, but I never gave it much thought until recently, until the US invasion of Iraq. Klaus told me that there are three big US bases in Germany, and in a Google search I discovered there are many US air bases in Germany. I asked Klaus how the German people felt about the US presence in his country. He said that at first, many nationalists were very opposed to it, but they didn't do anything extreme, like blow up a marketplace or government building. Nazi members who were known to have committed crimes were prosecuted. Klaus said that many city mayors had no choice but to be a member of the Nazi party, but they did not commit crimes, and therefore they were allowed to keep their jobs after the war. Eventually the German people accepted the US presence and actually came to depend on it economically.

Klaus said that the American sector of Germany was the best part of Germany to live in after the war. The British sector was second, the French a distant third. He said the Soviet-occupied DDR was by far the worst part. I learned from Klaus that DDR stands for Deutsche Demokratische Republik. A communist democratic republic! Imagine that. Klaus and his wife visited his relatives in the DDR in the late 70s - he said his wife was nervous during the entire trip because she had never experienced such political control - she was not comfortable in the DDR, and she was very happy to be back home in the USA. I first heard the term "DDR" in the movie Gotcha! I asked Klaus if he has seen this movie, and he said he's never heard of it, so I hope he and his wife watch it because I think his wife could relate to the main character, especially in the last scenes of the movie.

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