Reflections of my Childhood Spent near Fliegerhorst, Langendiebach, in Germany

A friend of mine, David K., shared his childhood experience of living in Langendiebach, Germany, in the early 1960s.

When we first came to Germany, I think it was December, 1959, the Army had no place to house us.  We were taken by Army truck far out in the country to a little apartment on a German farm.  It was a working farm that raised mostly chickens. 

We lived in the part of the farmhouse that was built in the 15th century.  It was made of stone with two foot thick walls and uneven stone floors.  It was heated by coal and it had minimal electricity. We were there six months through the winter and my father was gone most of the time.   

My mother would put the two younger kids on a sled and we would walk into town for groceries – the butcher shop, the baker etc.  Finally, we were able to move to a larger town – Langendiebach – which was next to the air base where my father worked.  The air base was called Fliegerhorst and it was originally a  Wehrmacht airfield. 

In Langendiebach we lived in an apartment that was originally a small factory.  My friend Helge and his family lived down the street.  His mother, Rosemary, was the propane dealer for the town and she would hand deliver large bottles of gas that we used for cooking. His father, Wilhelm (Willy) was a carpenter and they lived in a very old stone house that had no plumbing.  Their house had the barn area under their living area.   

We became friends with several families in town.  After all, we were probably one of only a very few Americans living there.  Almost all of the older men had served in the Wehrmacht and they did not easily warm up to Americans.  Despite that, we made a lot of friends and my parents and Helge’s parents became pretty good friends.  Willy once told my dad that he always wanted to ride in a helicopter, so my father gave Willy one of his flight suits and took him for a ride.  Helge, and his brother Rudiger were close to my age and we often played together.  Most of the people in town had little garden houses nearby and we would often spend weekend days at the my friend’s garden house. 

Just up the street from us (all roads in town were dirt roads) lived Katie and Herr Bach.  They were a little older than my folks and they never had kids.  Herr Bach was a successful insurance agent and a master hunter (Jägermeister).  Their house was full of stuffed animals.  Herr Bach served in Norway in WWII but he was not really a military person.  The Norwegians where he served invited him back to Norway after the war for hunting expeditions.  The Bachs were truly nice people.  They loved me and my brother and sister.  My parents would leave us with them when they wanted to go away on a short vacation.

As a side note, President Kennedy came to Fliegerhorst in June of 1963 and I saw him there from about twenty feet away.

Hanau Elementary School 1961

The storyteller sits for his first grade photo at Hanau Elementary School. The map on the left, now a relic from the Cold War, shows the divided Germany.

That was all during our first tour to Germany.  We went back to the USA in late 1963 and my father went immediately to Vietnam.  Three years later we returned to Germany for our second tour and that is when we went to Camp King and then to Edwards Housing area. 

Oberursel Pub Street in 1962

This photo, taken by a U.S. soldier in 1962, found its way back to Oberursel after more than 50 years.

At one time, this very street named Vorstadt had about 20 pubs and eateries.

In 1991, the guest house/pub Zum Bären was torn down to make room for the new shopping arcade Bären-Arkaden, named after the former guest house.

Gasthaus Zum Bären in Oberursel
Vorstadt Oberursel 1962

The same building also housed the first movie theater in Oberursel, which later became a discoteque.

The disco was known as High Life (1971-1975), and later as La Soirée (1975-1991).

Armistice Day 2018 at FIS, Oberursel

At 11 o’clock on 11 November,  the Frankfurt International School (FIS) commemorated the centenary of Armistice Day. In addition to staging dance, drama, spoken poetry, orchestral and choral performances, FIS exhibited some artifacts that were contributed by members of the school community.

The uniform and cavalry sabre of Engelbert Seufert appears below, along with a wedding portrait with his wife, Veronika, and her memorial to his falling in battle on 9 June 1918. Engelbert Seufert was my paternal grandmother’s first husband.

Students displayed the artifacts in the exhibition and answered questions about their historical context and significance.

armistice: der Waffenstillstand (German)

Remembering Willy Brandt and the East-West Conflict

Yesterday afternoon, our work group Arbeitskreis Camp King was visited by a special guest speaker, Günther Vieser, to talk of the time, when he was working side by side with the former chancellor, Willy Brandt, from 1979 – 1982. At that time, Mr. Vieser was Brandt’s advisor, when he was Chairman of the Social Democrats.

One of the topics in question was of how much former chancellor Brandt’s doings contributed to solving the East-West conflict versus Chancellor Kohl, who reigned at the time, when the wall came down. Another question was what it was like to work with him on a professional and personal level. Of course, the spy Guillaume from the East German State was also mentioned and it was questioned why he chose Oberursel as his first place of residence in the West. For several months, Guillaume had rented an apartment downtown Oberursel, at the Homm Kreisel. In 1974, Chancellor Brandt resigned over the espionage scandal.

Mr. Vieser’s informative talk lasted close to two hours and we not only got a refresher course in modern history, but also heard some personal stories and tidbits.

After the talk, one of the visitors approached me. She said she remembers one time Willy Brandt came on an official visit to Oberursel. At that time, she was working for the Deutsche Rote Kreuz (DRK) (German Red Cross), and she confirmed how grown up women acted like teenagers as soon as Brandt showed up, with women screaming and occasionally fainting during his visit.

On his other visits to Oberursel, he would also meet with other young politicians of that time: Jürgen Habermas, Oskar Negt, and Joschka Fischer. They would stay at the former Villa Gans, which the state of Hessen had turned over to the Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB) in commemoration after WWII – as a place for Völkerverständigung und des Aufbaus der Demokratie (international relations and founding democracy).

I like the idea, that the beginning of democracy in modern Germany started with parties on a garden patio.

That same place is now the Dorint Hotel Frankfurt/Oberursel (140 rooms, including 15 suites).

Announcement

Announcement

Günther Viesner presentation about his work with Willy Brandt

Günther Vieser talked about his work life with Willy Brandt

Mayor Brum also had a few welcoming words for the guest speaker.

Mayor Brum of Oberursel

Mayor Brum of Oberursel

Special thanks to Sylvia Struck, who is in charge of our ‘Work Group Camp King’, for putting together this event.