Guided Tour: Tracing Jewish Life in Oberursel

On Sunday, 26 March 2017, the historian Angelika Rieber once again offers the tour Tracing Jewish life in Oberursel.
In the 90-minute tour around town, Ms. Rieber talks about the history of the Jewish community and  some local Jewish families.

On 19 October 1941, deportations of Jews from Frankfurt began. Within a year, more than 10,000 people were deported and murdered in the extermination camps. Numerous Oberursel residents of Jewish origin did not live to see the end of the Nazi regime and the Second World War.

The city tour is about the integration of Jewish neighbors into the town life, as well as the discrimination and persecution during the Nazi era.

The city tour starts at 2.30 pm at the St. Ursula-Brunnen in the market square and the touring fee is three euros per person.

If you want to know more about Ms. Rieber’s work, or get in contact with her, then visit: http://www.juedisches-leben-frankfurt.de/

Oberursel and its Sister City, Epinay-sur-Seine, France

On Easter 1967, 50 years ago this coming Sunday, the Epinay Square was named after Oberursel’s French partner town, Epinay-sur-Seine. The city partnership between these two cities was barely three years old at that time. Idealism and euphoria of the early years, as well as its humble beginnings at that time, became the foundation for a long-lasting friendship between the two cities.

The 50-year-old place jubilee of the Epinay Square will be held:
Saturday, March 25, 2017, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm

The city partnership with Epinay-sur-Seine has been successful and is Oberursel’s oldest sister city. After many years, this alliance is still very active in arranging visits and joint projects.

In the face of  current events and debates about Europe, this event is not run in the form of a regular festival, but is more a rally with speeches, stands, and music. These days, Europe is at a crossroads, and alliances need strengthening.

The rally is organized by the City of Oberursel and the Europa-Union Hochtaunuskreis e.V.

U.S. Air Force Radio Relay Site near Camp King in Oberursel, Germany

This afternoon, we drove for about 20 minuten to the Kolbenberg Mountain, which is part of the Taunus Mountain region and the Taunus Nature Park. It borders the towns of Oberursel to the southeast, Schmitten to the northwest, and Bad Homburg to the southeast.

Radio Relay Site Kolbenberg, Germany

The Kolbenberg is about 690m in height, compared to the Feldberg with 890m.

The reason for this trip was one of my blog readers, who had the following question: Could you tell me the name of the of the small U.S. Air Force station above Camp King. We would go up there to their enlisted club to watch the American (military) TV channel that we didn’t have on Camp King. I remember a few soldiers talking about using the Air Force station to call home using their radio system.

On the summit of the Kolbenberg, there is a large telecommunication system with a visible lattice mast, which was used  by the U.S. Air Force until 2007. Since the withdrawal of the U.S. military, the mast has been used by civilian radio services, including mobile radio.

Barbwire around the Kolbenberg Radio Relay Site

Far into the 1950s, there was also a ground radar station for the MGM-1 Matador (Matador Missile), which was a radio-controlled cruise missile stationed in West Germany during the Cold War. In the event of a launch, the missile was remote-controlled by ground-mounted radar stations, such as the one on the Kolbenberg.

The plant was rebuilt and expanded over the years. In 1962, the lattice mast was finished. At first it was painted red and white. The lattice mast is about 100 m high and can be seen clearly from far away. Since that time, the system was only used as a radio relay site. At peak times, 20 to 25 antennas were mounted on the lattice mast, often called “dishes” by the American soldiers because they looked like soup bowls.

From the station, signals were sent northwards to Obernkirchen / Schwarzenborn, east to the Wasserkuppe and southeast to Breitsol / Geiersberg. To the southwest, signals were sent to Wiesbaden, to the north-east in the direction of Stein. Those for Rhine-Main Airbase and Darmstadt were sent to the south. Towards the west, Donnersberg was signalled.

The plant was officially called the “Feldberg Radio Relay Site”. This often caused confusion because there was also a broadcasting system in the Black Forest on the Feldberg. In the local vernacular, the station is also called “Sandplacken” or “Kolbenberg”.

In the 1960s, a part of today’s existing station was enclosed by a simple wood fence. At that time about 20 employees of the U.S. Air Force were stationed there. Most of them worked in the “Telephone Switching Center”. In 1969, up to 150 personnel were on the ground, among them communication personnel, four cooks in the canteen, as well as five in the administrative section. The personnel lived in specially built barracks directly on the premises. At the beginning of the 1970s, soldiers set up a small club with a mini-cinema on the ground floor of the barracks. At the same time, the wooden fence was replaced by a wire one.

Guard-house at the Kolbenberg Site, Germany

In the mid-1980s, terrorist threat in Germany from groups like the Red Army Faction (RAF) rose sharply. As the largest radio relay site in Europe was located on the Kolbenberg, a wall about 5 m high was built around the station. The barrier did not allow any view into the station’s interior, and the access through the walls were built so that in the event of a breakthrough with vehicles, the station could not be damaged. At this time, the barracks on the site had to be given up, probably because of space limitations. The soldiers then resided at Camp King in Oberursel.

Kolbenberg

The last employee of the U.S. Air Force left the station in 1993. From then on, it ran self-sufficiently and was remote-controlled by the Rhein-Main Airbase. Maintenance work and monitoring took place at regular intervals. On the Kolbenberg, there were never any underground facilities or bunkers. This was often claimed because of a translation error on a site map published on different pages and forums in the Internet. Only the water tank was covered with grass.

Since 2007, a telecommunications service company has rented parts of the plant and installed antennas on the grating mast, connected to a separate cable line. Various cable thieves and vandals have already discovered the premises and left visible traces. The current owner is unknown.

The US soldiers stationed on Kolbenberg (at times, up to 150 soldiers) were popular among the locals. They also gave their technical support  in the construction of a number of facilities in the neighboring towns. For example, they helped build the bobsleigh track in Oberreifenberg, the Schutzhütte (mountain hut) called Kittelhütte (same name as the mountain pass), and the sports field in Niederreifenberg.

After the withdrawal of the U.S. troops, a memorial stone with a copper plate was erected about 200 meters west of the Kastell Old Hunting House near the Sandplacken mountain pass, with which the US soldiers express their gratitude.

The memorial plaque was stolen in August 2011. Thanks to the sponsoring by a local company, a new one was added in March 2012.

The memorial reads:

From all of the American military personnel who were stationed on this mountain top since World War II, we would like to express our gratitude to the citizens of the surrounding communities who so openly accepted us and made our stay in Germany so memorable and enjoyable. Thank you.

Oberursel Rosengaertchen and Camp King in the 1970s

The photo shows the early days of the new housing area ‘Im Rosengärtchen’, completed by 1972, and built in the marshes and fields right next to the U.S. Military Camp King Oberursel.

Since then, the newly planted trees have reached heights past our fourth floor. Also, at the first right turn into the Rosengärtchen, a U-Bahn platform was added on in 1997. Before that, we had the choice of getting off at at the station ‘Kupferhammer’ or ‘An der Waldlust’.

On the bottom right, two of the former U.S. housing buildings can be seen. The building closest to the edge was taken down, when the new German housing area was built. The other original building is still standing and has been rented out to locals.

Some of the playgrounds around the Rosengärtchen look rather abandoned these days. When we first arrived in 1995, we usually found a few moms and kids there. Today’s children are in daycare, and more mothers are returning to work earlier.

Im Rosengärtchen in Oberursel, ca. 1972

Im Rosengärtchen and Camp King Oberursel, 1972 Photo by C.Kreuzer

Thanks to Carsten Kreuzer, who found this photo in his father’s files. His father was the Bauleiter (site manager) of the Rosengärtchen development at that time.

Class of 2016 – Graduation at Frankfurt International School

We attended our daughter’s high school graduation – the class of 2016 at Frankfurt International School (FIS) in Oberursel on 4 June 2016.

The graduation ceremony was held as usual at Oberursel City Hall.

FIS - 50th graduation: class of 2016

FIS – 50th graduation: class of 2016

The guest speaker was Reinhold Messner, the most famous mountaineer of all time. His talk was good and interesting, but personally, I found it too long at 45 minutes. We parents are eager to move on, and a change of speakers or performers is quite welcome at this point. He also directed his talk at the students by making certain references to having enthusiasm, visions, etc., and he had a few anecdotes to share as well.

But we parents have already climbed our personal mountain to get to that point – our child’s graduation. I wanted a shorter descent.

Reinhold Messner

Reinhold Messner

The happy toasting family.

FIS graduation

Over the years, the school had rented the event hall at the Sheraton Hotel at the Frankfurt Airport. This year, it was the first time to host the graduation dinner dance at the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten in Frankfurt. What a grand setting. It could not have been done any better. The appetizer was served, the rest was from the buffet. Service was splendid, and the food was good. Not gourmet style, but good. If you aren’t vegetarian, try their veal. That was gourmet.

Well, we got what we paid for, and I dare say, we even got a little more.

Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten, Frankfurt

Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten, Frankfurt

Another bonus was the restaurant’s patio and its view. It was a warm and somewhat humid day, so at certain times, it was nice to be on the patio to catch the breeze. This was with a glass of wine in hand, and a feeling of accomplishment in my chest. Take a deep sigh and enjoy the moment.

Gesellschaftshaus Frankfurt patio