As I have written before, the village of my birth is a place of layers upon layers. Everyone has been here from the Celts to the Alemanni, to the Romans to the Nazis to the Americans. On a recent visit my father told me that the mystical square mile – his hunting grounds (he’s a hunter), where American Nike missiles used to be buried deep in the ground, where a small labor/sick camp once stood, where planes used to take off heavy with bombs during the Second World War – is about to become an industrial zone.
Porsche already has a large storage facility there and other buildings and distribution centers have gradually colonized the area. But the latest wave of development will obliterate, or at least cover up most of the remaining evidence. He also reminded me of old stories about the village, when had was a military airport, that planes would get stored in the woods for protection. American or British planes would bomb those woods and there is still so much shrapnel in the old oak trees that no-one will fell them. The metal in there would ruin any saw blade, so old oaks grow majestically, undisturbed. It is for those mystical oaks that I first set out, to see what I would find in the dark fairy tale forest of my childhood.
This is what I found. Foundations of buildings, with cellars beneath them. Trees with damage to their bark. Traces and signs.
My town for many years was home to its small American village. Many people harbor happy memories of their time here. But after the Iron Curtain came down many military bases were closed down and dismantled. Few traces remain of the radar towers, the barracks, the compound, or the place where missiles facing Russia were buried deep underground.
Soon, even fewer will be left.
Actually, I just found the map that would have pointed me in the right direction
I did however notice a gravestone for the camp’s Jewish unofficial doctor Adolf Levi (who died there, like so many others in 1944), among the gravestones of people who died in the final days of the war.
As I walked back to my father’s house, musing on how inside village limits everything looked as if forgotten by time, a strange apparition entered from left field. A young black man on a unicycle, wearing headphones and a baseball cap. What could it all mean?