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Pupils write for pupils

A pamphlet on “Self-perception and perception of the other: the American invasion in 1945”

Munich, 10/22/2008

“Self-perception and perception of the other: the American invasion in 1945” was the theme of a research project undertaken by pupils at Humboldt Gymnasium (grammar school) and Vaterstetten Realschule (state secondary school) as part of the first “Denkwerk project” sponsored by the Robert Bosch Foundation. With support from Professor Ferdinand Kramer of the Institute for Bavarian History, and other academics at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) München, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and Humanities, the Bavarian State Archive and other archives, and their teachers, the pupils went on field trips to familiarise themselves with academic archives and libraries, and undertook on-site research at the Munich and Freising Archbishopric Archive. Here they investigated reports by Bavarian clergy relating to the effects of the war and invasion on their local parishes. Back at school, they also translated and analysed files from the American Military Authority in the Ebersberg district, and rounded off the study by meeting contemporary witnesses. Based on their findings, the pupils produced a pamphlet which was launched on 22 October 2008. Conceived primarily as an aid to history teaching, its new findings and hitherto unknown sources will also however be of wider interest.

The first encounter between the German population and US soldiers was usually fairly peaceful. Repeated conflicts ensued however, arising from things such as billeting of the soldiers with local people, or plundering. Strict public order regulations, which the American military government enforced primarily to safeguard its own troops, also caused resentment. Prejudices existed on both sides before they ever met, compounded by new blanket judgements as rapprochement continued. Many locals, influenced by nazi racial doctrines, were frequently surprised by the friendliness of the “negroes” who ignored the non-fraternization policy and generously distributed sweets or other small gifts. On the other hand, the US military authority’s 1946 annual report for the Ebersberg district makes a cutting judgement about the Bavarian population: “The Bavarian follows what he is told to do, blindly, and is very poorly informed as to the general situation. He is not intelligent enough to understand the reason for the conditions of the country…” Likewise, generally true to type, the clergy complain about the “unworthy” conduct of the female population towards US soldiers.

The aim of the Denkwerk project is to create links between academic research and schools and to give pupils an insight into interdisciplinary university and non-university research and project work. An unusual feature here was the collaboration between Realschule and Gymnasium. The inter-school pamphlet was authored by close to 120 pupils from Year 9 classes (ages 15-16) at Humboldt Gymnasium and the Realschule in Vaterstetten, thus crossing the boundaries between different types of school. The pupils’ contributions are supplemented with introductory sections by teachers, archivists and professors. The Denkwerk project will continue in the current school year and be extended across a wider geographical area. Supported by the House of Bavarian History, pupils at the Anton-Heilingbrunner Realschule in Wasserburg, the Bad Aibling Gymnasium, the Traunstein Gymnasium in Chiemgau and the Humboldt Gymnasium in Vaterstetten are working on a travelling exhibition about the occupation period in these districts. This will be on show in participating schools from October 2009 onwards.

Prof. Dr. Ferdinand Kramer,
Institut für Bayerische Geschichte LMU München
Tel.: ++49 (0)89 / 28638-2507

The German-language pamphlet can be ordered free of charge from Humboldt-Gymnasium Vaterstetten, Johann-Strauß-Str. 41, D-85598 Baldham, Germany (Please enclose an A4-size stamped addressed envelope).

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