Anybody who is nowadays having a look the remnants of the former Haunstetten Rifle Range, surrounded by the peace and quiet of nature, may well be ignorant of the fact that, for about a hundred years, there were festival atmosphere as well as training for war, military drill and even tragic executions. Thus quite different facets have characterized the time in the seclusion of Augsburg’s “Siebentischwald” (Seven Table Forest).
The history of the area is memorable. As early as in 1886, the General Command of the 1st (Bavarian) Army Corps started operations on the Schießplatzheide and soon handed it over to the administration of the Augsburg garrison. Until WW I, extented combat shooting took place and even after the sorrowful years of the war debacle, the use of the area remained unchanged. It is said that at the beginning of the Twenties, even light trench mortars of the Reichswehr were employed. Also, the Haunstetten Militia was trained in shooting with live ammunition.
There was a permanent change of the rifle range’s owners and users. Nevertheless, ten thousands of German soldiers were trained in the use of small-arms.
Between WW I and WW II, leisure activities dominated the rifle range area with its adjacent outhouses. The inn “Beim Harrer”, as it was called after inn keeper Michael Harrer, officially called Gaststätte Schießplatz (Rifle Range Inn), offered draught beer and hefty Brotzeiten out of a rather limited supply in a wide chestnut and pine tree garden. On Sundays, people liked to go with their family, bag and baggage, to the Schießplatz. There was always a bustle on fine summer days. Utilizing the course furniture, most of the guests brought their own, usually frugal, Brotzeit. There were an aviary with exotic birds and a selfmade swing-boat for the kids. The fact that, during the week, shooting with live ammo was close by, apparently was not injurious to that middle-class leisure rapture.
Starting in 1934, an artillery ammo depot was built north of the rifle range. The plans show a total capacity of about 40 tons of explosives. Even nowadays, 13 small bunkers at least show some evidence of that time. When questioned, the Freiburger Militärarchiv (Military Archive) (Bundesarchiv), could not verify the rumour that during WW II, executions of German soldiers and other persons took place on the rifle range. Neighbors of the “Harrerhof”, however, report such occurances. This is an especially dark side of the Haunstetten Rifle Range. External research confirms that at least 25 German Wehrmacht soldiers were demonstrably killed by shooting.
The innkeeper couple at the rifle range (left)
Private scene at Harrer’s Rifle Range Inn (right)
The American Time
It is said that after the end of WW II on April 28, 1945, it took the U.S. Forces eight days after the occupation of Haunstetten to find the secluded rifle range in the Siebentischwald. After the occupation of the area, the sorrow of the NS-Government was, of course, terminated, but also the once happy activities near the rifle range. 5 short and 6 long distance ranges were now utilized by the U.S. occupation forces. The outhouses, however, fell into decay or were subject to arson. One after the other, the structures were demolished. Guard of the ammo depots in the North was granted by a Labor Service Company.
At the beginning of May 1957, a shooting contest between the 11th Airborne Div Military Police and the Augsburg city and county police as well as the Bundeswehr Feldjägers (MP) from Munich took place during the German-American Friendship Week. The contests with different types of small-arms lasted for several hours and were highlighted by the use of U.S. Army’s legendary .45 handgun, also called pocket cannon.
On a 1961 site map, structure numbers are listed from 1150 to 1172. The total area consisted of the 57,6 ha (144 acres) rifle range and the 14,4 ha (36 acres) ammo depot. At that time, live ammunition and “diverse” weapons were utilized, at least the different sound indicated that according to Haunstetten testimonies. Warning signs all over the area pointed out the danger and made the rifle range an “Off Limits” area. Especially during the Sixties, the area was intensely used by the 24th Infantry Div, stationed in Augsburg. It is reported that shooting was trained until the end of the Seventies. Army buses were utilized for the transportation of soldiers between kasernes in Augsburg and the forest in Haunstetten.
The rifle range was controversial for and loathed by the citizens of Haunstetten from the very beginning – people were anxious in regard to drinking water protection and heavy metal in the ground. Safety considerations of all kinds as well as the noise caused by the shooting were a special nuisance for the inhabitants of Haunstetten. After a temporary acquiescence, the area was utilized again in 1983, if only with blanc cartridges, however, when deemed necessary, until 22.00 hours. This was required when the new NCO Academy, founded in1984 and located in Sheridan Kaserne, used the nearby Schießplatzwald for combat training and hence the rifle range as well. Sometimes, the range was also used by German Police and Bundeswehr. By the end of the Eighties, things calmed down on the Haunstetten Rifle Range. Already a couple of years ago, starting with the use of blanc cartridges, the U.S. had transfered the firing with live ammunition to Schwabstadl on the Lechfeld.
Following were endless discussions in regard to a consecutive utilization, ownership, possible ground pollution by ammo remnants and neglect of the remaining structures, while nature already occupied embankments, butts and concrete walls, developing all kinds of biospheres. Environmental protection got its own element und besides a few concrete foundations of former buildings remained only a servus ami graffitti on the perimeter wall of a small structure that once had been a transformer station. Evidently, the Americans were not so unpopular after all in the Haunstetten Forest…
1952: GIs of the 43rd Infantry Division at the MG shooting on the shooting range Haunstetten.
At Haunstetten Rifle Range
Millard Plummer, Chief / U.S. Rifle Ranges Haunstetten & Schwabstadl (above left)
Bundeswehr friend (in the middle) visits at 7th Brigade, 24th Infantry Div (above right)
GI James Morgan driving thru Haunstetten Forest (below left)
StUffz Werner Luthard, German Air Force, Lagerlechfeld, (in the middle) with James Morgan (right) and another U.S. soldier (picture below right). Werner Luthard died 2007 in Haunstetten.
GI Smothers (left)
Very early years of German-American Friendship: GI Gratham and Werner Luthard, Haunstetten, at the rifle range (right)
Rifle training in 1960, the 24th Infantry Division. (Photo: Kelling/Dollrieß).
Photographs from the Eighties (above)
Bunker in the ammo depot (left)
Embankments along the ranges (right)
Butts all over the Siebentischwald (below right and left)
We would like to thank the Kulturkreis Haunstetten e.V. and Mrs. Cornelia Bühlmeier for their friendly support and handout of the historical photographs.
When in October 2020 a Munich Heimatforscher*) communicated to the Amerika in Augsburg e.V. society that German Wehrmacht soldiers had certainly been shot dead on the Haunstetten firing range, and that he even had sources verifying this - providing a list with striking details of the executions and the victims’ names that he had worked out. We passed this on to the Kulturkreis**) Haunstetten e.V. society, who contacted the Munich researcher. Outcome of an intensive research of both sides was that 25 German soldiers and two hard labor persons had been executed for trivia in the Siebentischwald.
In the meantime, the City of Augsburg and the Federal Republic intended the demolition of the complete firing range installation. However, things were to turn out quite different. Due to the disclosure of the victims’ names as well as the untiring efforts of the Kulturkreis, now the complete range area, including the 13 ammunition bunkers located in the North, was classified as a Historical Site in 2020.
Further development led to a memorial in front of the big bullet trap at the “Eulen Geräumt”. In front of about 40 guests, it was ceremonially inaugurated by Stadtdirektorin***) Dr. Melanie Haisch and Jutta Gossner, chairwoman of the Kulturkreis Haunstetten. Impressive speeches were also made by Dr. Markus Perpeet of the Bundesforstbetrieb****) Hohenfels and Dr. Herbert Veh, Landesgerichtspräsident a.D.*****).The memorial was consecrated by two minister of Haunstetten’s Christuskirche.
The memorial is endowed with a commemorative stone and an information stele, showing all so far investigated names of the men that were executed there. So far, the latest status of the firing range era. A further replenishment of these annals is not excluded.
Jutta Gossner of the Kulturkreis Haunstetten describes her society’s efforts in regard to clearing up the fates of the victims and their memory. Left: The front side of the info stele.
Visitors of different interest groups as well as political representatives of the Federal Republic, the state and the region attended the inauguration. (Photos: Amerika in Augsburg e.V.)
Stele (left) and commemorative stone (right) at the entrance to the memorial in front of the big bullet screen. (Photo: becutya).
*) local historian
**) cultural circle
***) City Director
****) Federal Forestry Agency
*****) State Court President, retired