POW Descendants Visit Camp King, Oberursel, Germany

As a member of the Camp King Historical Society, I occasionally write about the latest news, events, tours, etc.

That’s how Judy, a blog reader, found me and asked to enlist my help in getting a tour of the Camp King and the Klinik Hohemark from our historians, Mr. Kopp and Ms. Struck.

This is what Judy had to say:

My father was an American POW and spent time in the Hohe Mark hospital and Dulag Luft (later known as Camp King).  My son and I will be in the area touring sites connected to my father’s war experiences.

We leave for Koblenz right after our morning tour in Oberursel… and we are visiting a couple of different towns where my father’s plane crashed and where his crew member was buried.

Mr. Kopp, Judy and son Will, in the center, and Ms. Struck

The tour given by Mr. Kopp and Ms. Struck was a success, and later on I was able to catch up with our visitors as well.

Kuranstalt Hohe Mark, Oberursel

Hauptgebäude: main building

Kuranstalt: convalescent home

Based on my knowledge, this card dates back to about the 1930s.

Life at the Motor Pool in Oberursel, Germany in the 1950s

Jack Stites, a former U.S. Army soldier and now a retired police officer, was stationed in Oberursel at the Motorenfabrik (Motor Pool) from January 1954 to January 1955, and he loved every minute of his time there. Now, almost 60 years later, he is here to share some memories with us.

Jack Stites in 1954

Jack Stites in 1954

1)  In what ways was Oberursel different to the places you were previously stationed?

The difference between Oberursel and other stations was that it was very low key, and like a regular job. We got up in the morning, went to roll call and then to breakfast. After P.T. we were off to our assigned jobs.

We were a Direct Auto Support. We repaired vehicles from all over Germany. When a vehicle came that needed an engine, our mechanics took the engine out and put it in a crate, then put another one in the vehicle. We just replaced engines — not overhaulling them.

I had been to 14 weeks of wheel vehicle repair at Atlanta General Depot. Then to Red River Arsenal in Texarkana, where I packed wheel bearings in trucks, which really doesn’t need any schooling. Duh.

Then to Oberursel, finally! After arriving there, they discovered that I had been a truck driver in civilian life. They assigned me to a M62 wrecker, where I evacuated vehicles that were in need of repair and brought them back to our base.  14 weeks of schooling wasted. I never touched a wrench while there. My job was to take the engines in crates to different military bases where German civilians overhauled them. I was very fortunate because I saw a lot of Germany through my job.

2) What sort of interaction was there between the Motorenfabrik and Camp King?

The only interaction with Camp King was the Post Exchange (PX).  Camp King was a military intelligence center, and we were the grease balls from down the street.

3) What were your impressions of Germans and German culture? Did you have a favorite hangout in Oberursel?

As for the German culture, it was so interesting.  For example, I had never seen leather coats, knapsacks on the school kids, and reflectors on bicycles’ pedals. These are things that we have here now. It just goes to show how far behind we are.

In regards to hang outs – at $91.30 a month, there wasn’t much hanging around. This is where I learned  poverty is no crime. It’s just a helluva inconvenience. Across the street from our building, and about a block towards Camp King, there was a bar in the basement, and we used to go there for steak sandwiches and a beer. Not much, though. Poverty ruled.

4) Is there a particular memory that you would like to share?

There was an Enlisted Members (EM) club in town. The only time that I was there was during Fasching. Bad news!! There were four of us sitting at a little round table, drinking German white wine. When we couldn’t fit another bottle on the table — empty, that is — we decided to go home. Back at the camp, I crawled up the steps to the second floor. It wasn’t pretty.

The other place was in Bad Homburg, at the Texas bar. The funniest thing that happened was at the Texas bar. Claude Wiggins, a real redneck from the south, got drunk one night, then punched out a few of the windows in the bar, cutting a large slash in his wrist which could have been fatal. In front of the bar, he asked the owner how much he owed him, then paid him. It was quite a scare!!

5) How has the town changed from the way you remember it?

As far as if the town has changed? I really can’t say. My wife says it’s really built up! I wasn’t there to compare. My wife is the traveler.

Thanks so much, Jack, for sharing your story with us.

Camp King’s Unpopular Bugle Calls

Among the many interesting tidbits one finds when rummaging through history was the following post by the Oberurseler Kurier, dated 4 September 1979.

Oberursel residents complain about reveille

Oberursel residents complain about reveille

Local residents took to complain about reveille being played eight times a day.

Interestingly enough, the complaints collected in the petition came only from one side of the fence – the 1972-built area of Im Rosengärtchen and Neuhausstrasse (both facing the Feldberg). The tenants of the high rise buildings Im Rosengärtchen #11 and #13, mostly the upper floors, were hardest hit by the daily round of reveille.

Back then, the Rosengärtchen area was considered a plush neighborhood and residents had a lot of pride in living there. The article also stated they paid high rents and felt entitled to a more comforting and quiet surrounding.

By the time we had moved to the Rosengärtchen in 1995, people only shrugged when I stated my address. By then, this high rise architectural style of the early 70s had definitely lost its former grand appeal.

Residents sent their complaints to the U.S. Colonol, the local regulatory office, and the city of Oberursel. When that did not work, they started an initiative to stop this noise pollution (Lärmbelästigung).

Reveille sounded off at 5:00, 6:00, 6:10 and 7:30 every morning. The evening schedule called for 17:00, 17:15, 21:30 and 21:45 for the trumpet to announce the last call (Zapfenstreich).

The ´Zapfenstreich´ is defined as “Beating Retreat”.
Beating Retreat is a military ceremony dating back to 16th century in England and was first used in order to recall nearby patrolling units to their castle.

The article also mentions that reveille had enjoyed a rest period of six years until May 1979 when it started up again. Back in 1973, a citizens initiative had already brought reveille to a halt.

For those who haven’t heard reveille or just want to reminisce, listen to First Call/Reveille on YouTube.

Alles wird vergehen,
Geschichte bleibt bestehen.

(Everything comes to pass, history will remain)

Quoted from the German Camp King website

History Depot for Camp King Oberursel

Today’s opening ceremonies are still in full swing and are due to last for another three hours (at the time of writing).

This morning, I attended the first part of the Grand Opening with Mayor Blum giving a welcome speech. Mr. Kopp, the Camp King historian, gave an informative and witty presentation of the depot’s purpose. A U.S. American diplomat was also in attendance.

16 March Opening Ceremony

16 March Opening Ceremony

A close-up of Mr. Kopp during his presentation.

 Manfred Kopp during his talk

Manfred Kopp during his talk

The depot is now open and can be viewed. Here are some photos of the archived material.

Camp King 1956/57

Camp King 1956/57

Camp King Depot

Camp King entrance

Camp King entrance

 

Camp King cooler

Camp King cooler

I walked up to the Mountain Lodge which was advertised as Open Doors (with permission from the new owner) for the public in the afternoon.  While I was there around noon, the doors were still closed and did not even look like they would open up any time soon…

Mountain Lodge, Camp King

The Chapel

The Chapel

 

Door to the Mountain Lodge

Door to the Mountain Lodge

 

Door to the Mountain Lodge

Door to the Mountain Lodge

With one entrance overgrown by bushes and layered in snow, and the other one boarded up, I wonder what’s in store for the public to see.

 

 

Camp King and Memories Need a Home

Camp King in Oberursel

 1933 – 1993

 – Announcement –

Our Camp King historian, Manfred Kopp wrote:

I have been collecting material related to Camp King and its history, started an archive, given tours throughout the areal, answered many questions and kept in touch with anyone interested in the history since 2005.

Our first location for meetings and storing material was the “Treffpunkt Aktiv im Norden” (a church café), Im Rosengärtchen (an area adjacent to Camp King).

The current Kinderhaus in Camp King (address: Jean Sauer Weg 2) now offers a basement room to house the depot and the shared use of a community room on the first floor. This ensures the upkeep of the Camp King’s archives with the help of the Historical Society Oberursel.

Camp King archives at the Kinderhaus

Moving to this new facility also includes some special events listed for this month:

11 March 2013 (Monday) at  20:00 at Cityhall Oberursel, room E01.

 “Outside 7 – A house and its History”

Lecture and photo presentation by Manfred Kopp

Content:

Around 1921, the house “Außerhalb 7 “(a.k.a. the house by the forest) was built to serve as a residential building.

Then, in 1933, it became a university dorm for students of the University of Frankfurt.

In 1937, the house was reconstructed to serve as a community building for the school of agricultural settlers (Gausiederschule).

In 1939, the building became the commander’s post (Luftwaffe) for recording the prisoners coming through Oberursel.

In 1945, it became “House Florida” (history archives) for the US-Army.

In 1953, it was turned into “Haus 997” by the U.S. Intelligence.

Having had so many different uses and occupants, this house is a perfect time-line to illustrate the history 1933 – 1993

 

 

16. März 2013, Saturday, am “Kinderhaus”, Jean-Sauer Weg 2

 “Memories Need a Home”

 

11 Uhr: Major Brum’s welcome speech to the official opening of The Place to Remember (Erinnerungsort) in the basement of the Kinderhaus.

 12 Uhr: Lecture by Gerd Krämer on Memories Need a Home in the community room on the first floor.

 

13 – 16 Uhr Open House and Self-guided Tours through Camp King with:

*more information about the archives

*exhibition and historical background to Camp King

*flyers for self-guided tours around the area to points of interest such as the artist Thomas Kilpper’s work, memorial for Colonel Charles King, the Mountain Lodge (open doors), and Siedlerstraße.

 

 11. April 2013, Thursday, 19 Uhr, Community Room

 Browsing, Learning, and Networking

This invitation is for anyone who has contributed so far as well as newcomers. Please join us!

Organized by Manfred Kopp and Sylvia Struck