The post-war years shaped Germany in so many ways that I will concentrate on my home state of Rheinland-Pfalz. While I don’t personally remember the 1950s, many developments influenced my life as well as the lives of my countrymen until the fall of the Iron Curtain.
The Korean War spurred such a military build-up in Rheinland-Pfalz that it resembled a Gold Rush. Practically overnight, fields and moors were turned into air bases, army depots, and housing or recreational facilities for the American GIs who poured in. These installations provided jobs for thousands of Germans and brought prosperity to previously poor areas. Local businesses and landlords also profited from the influx of money.
Even during the 1960s, few villagers owned cars, relying instead on their two feet, bicycles or motor scooters. If we had business in town, we took the bus or train. I remember being awestruck at the sight of the huge American cars that navigated our streets.
Of course, there were also many negative aspects to these developments. I never took a walk in our village forest because it was turned into an ammunition depot before I was born. We followed the news very closely because every crisis between the superpowers could mean war. Still, life went on, despite the fact that we were living on a powder keg.
Many of those military bases have disappeared now, and we recently observed the equinox of the Berlin Wall. It has now been torn down longer than it stood. A whole generation of Germans has never lived in a divided Germany. May they never have to experience the tensions our generation and our elders endured.
Image: Trier Air Base (U.S. Air Force)