Saturday, October 5, 2013

K-Town Saturday Ramblings

[Ready for a knowledge bomb? As I've mentioned before I'm taking a travel writing course. I just completed the Research Assignment on my current city and thought I would share. Enjoy!]

Kaiserslautern is located in southwest Germany in the Rhineland Platz region. The area features rolling hills covered by dense Palatinate forest and is bordered by German wine country. The city is home to four-time German football champions, an authentic Japanese Garden and the largest concentration of Americans outside the United States.  

Kaiserslautern’s city center dates back to the 9th century, but its modern composition was largely shaped by one single historical event, World War II. During WWII, bombs destroyed more than 60% of Kaiserslautern. Post-war, the town of Kaiserslautern experienced slow reconstruction until United States military started to move their garrisons into the area. The city experienced vast economic growth due to American troops. Today, Americans contribute one billion dollars annually to the local economy. K-Town, Kaiserslautern’s nickname, is something else Americas contributed, finding its full name too difficult to pronounce.

Americans settled in Kaiserslautern shortly after World War II. The war ended with Germany divided among the victorious nations into two distinct blocks. The western block dominated by the United States became a capitalist democracy, while the eastern half became a communist state dominated by the Soviet Union.

The Berlin Blockade and negative relationship with the Soviet Union made the US military seek a geographically defensible location from which to counter potential Soviet aggression in Western Europe. Kaiserslautern was a perfect location to satisfy this need. It was in the far west of the country, giving it physical distance from Soviet forces, and was on the western side of the Rhine River, a formidable natural barrier.

In addition, there was already a former Luftwaffe Airbase in the neighboring village of Ramstein. The combination of geography and existing infrastructure is what led Kaiserslautern to be home to 50,000 Americans today.  

Once Americans started settling in Kaiserslautern, the city needed something to help German and American people develop a neighborly friendship. In 1956 eight wives of American Officers decided to buck military regulations and make contact with local German women. They created the German American and International Women’s Club (GAIWC). In 6 months they had grown from 8 members to 120. Their goal was and continues to be to deepen the cross-cultural relationship between Germans and Americans while promoting tolerance through providing opportunities for cultural exchange. 

In additional to the GAIWC, the first ever German-American Community Office was established in 2003 to promote the cohabitation of the two nationalities.

“It’s amazing that our office has been in existence for 10 years already,” said Rut Pinillos Cediel, host nation assistant to the German-American community office. “Throughout the years, we noticed that Germans and Americans learned to appreciate the multifaceted help they’re getting from us.”

The office helps Americans with questions about German documents, host nation polices and their potential German heritage while helping Germans interested in getting involved in German-American activities.

This multi-national friendship has seen Kaiserslautern rebuild and grow into the prosperous city it is today. It’s a cultural crossroad, and it’s this interaction that makes Kaiserslautern the interesting and unique, yet lively heart of the Palatinate Forest. 

* * * * *

History of Kaiserslautern. N.d. Theodore Zink Museum. Kaiserslautern, Germany.

"Kaiserslautern." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

Lessoing, Petra. "German-American Community Office Turns 10." Web log post. Kaiserslautern American. KMCC, 15 Feb. 2013. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

"Newsletter." German-American & International Women's Club. GAIWC, n.d. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

"Ramstein Air Base." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Aug. 2013. Web. 02 Oct. 2013.

"Various." City of Kaiserslautern. N.p., 01 Jan. 2008. Web. 30 Sept. 2013.

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