Ukraine, End of WW II. The six year old Roman Korol and his parents are on the run from the Soviet troops. He reaches Augsburg and is interned in the Ukrainian DP camp at Somme Kaserne. His father worked as school principal for the refugee children. The apartment of the family was in the then Block 2, the middle building of the three (former) Wehrmacht barrack buildings at Sommestraße. In 1949 the family emigrated, like so many, to Canada. There, Roman Korol lived in Montreal, till he traveled for the first time again to Augsburg in August of 2015. Destination was again the presently topical Reese Barracks, or better what still was left of it.
A niece, living in Kempten, organized the journey to Augsburg. She contacted the Amerika in Augsburg e.V. society and asked about the relics of former Somme Kaserne. And she was lucky. The former Block 2 was still utilized by the “Kulturpark West”. Two members of the society looked after the ex-displaced person Roman Korol and lead him through the small area of Reese (Somme) Barracks that was still existing. He recognized his quarters and proceeded immediately to the second floor, where he also at once recognized the door to his former apartment. After a determined knock, the group of visitors entered and found itself in the painter’s studio of the Augsburg artist Siegfried Stiller, who was extremely amazed by this surprise visit, but also very cheerful after having learned the story of his studio (later, American soldiers had lived for decades in his room that now was a studio). For Roman Korol, this was a moving time jump from the past to the present. He also could tell stories from the past about the other rooms of that hallway.
What did he experience with the Americans? According to him, they hardly appeared there, because the DP camp was managed by the IRO*) The camp was Off Limits for American soldiers as well as for Germans. However, on Christmas the U.S. Forces invited the kids to their legendary Christmas Party. On the other side, American personalities were allowed to be present as guests at Ukrainian cultural festivities. Roman Korol was an officer of the Canadian Army, Corps of Engineers, from 1962 to 1965. After his graduation from High School, he studied electrical engineering at McGill University Montreal and became a respected figure in the range of architecture and Facility Management.
With the Ukrainian Roman Korol, a Canadian influenced America returned to Augsburg, that, due to the war, was only a small stopover in his life. However it was not forgotten, as there were throughout positive memories of this city. And the artist Stiller was unexpectedly caught up by the past on a sunny Friday morning in DP Block 2**), Reese Barracks. (Text: ML)
*) = International Refugee Organization from 1947, prior UNRRA
**) Block 2 of the DP Camp Somme Kaserne was not identical with Bldg 2, Reese Barracks at Langemarckstraße
Starting in 1939, numerous Augsburgers were drafted, The industry, converted to war production, as well as numerous workshops had to leave many slots vacant. Therefore Prisoners of War (PoWs) were transported to Augsburg following the advancing front. With these, a part of the vacancies could be filled again. All the same, the production in Augsburg could not be kept up for long with only these PoWs. Therefore one had to resort to civilian labor from the occupied countries. These were compulsory transported to Germany and Augsburg where they had to work for companies - partly under the harshest conditions.
In the contemporary language these workers were named for their country of origin, e.g. “Polish workers” or “east workers”. Today, on account of the external constraints these persons are called “Zwangsarbeiter” or “forced labor”. In Augsburg and the later incorporated neighboring communities – like Göggingen and Haunstetten – their number amounted to far more than 10,000 persons.
As of May 1945, the term and the status Displaced Persons or, shortened, DPs existed. Among these were not only forced laborers but all those persons that had fled, were driven away or deported from their native country due to WW II and its consequences, i.e. KZ inmates, East European civilian workers, who perhaps had supported the German economy even voluntarily after the beginning of the war or had fled from the Soviet Army in 1944. A comparatively small group among the DPs in the Western Occupation Zones consisted of 50,00 to 75,000 Jewish survivors. In the later territory of the three West Zones lived circa. 6.5 to 7 Mio DPs.
Mostly however, after the end of WW II and that of the NS regime, the DPs could not go straight home. Affiliated with the DP status was support, additional food, clothing allocation and accommodation in specially furnished DP camps or Assembly Centers. These emerged in hospitals, sanatoriums, schools, industrial workers’ settlements, former barracks, but also immediately in PoW and forced labor camps, occasionally even in the areas of former concentration camps.
In Augsburg existed a total of 15 different DP camps, operated at different times, one of those, e.g. in the Servatius Stift, a former old people’s home or also in the former Somme Kaserne, erected by the NS regime, or the Infantry Kaserne (once Prinz-Karl-Kaserne) and the Hindenburg-Kaserne, both erected by the Kingdom of Bavaria.
While the local population had a daily ration of 1,200 calories, the DPs were entitled to a minimum ration of 2,000 calories as a rule. The practical realization however depended greatly on the availability of foods resp. the Allied supply line. The support was provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the International.
Refugee Organization (IRO) and the local military administrations. Only after the UNRRA permitted the international aid organizations to take action in the DP camps as of autumn 1945, the situation of the DPs began to improve.
Not only did they receive extra rations, but psychological support, various leisure facilities and above all, they could move freely in and out of the camps. In Augsburg there was even a separate Ukrainian University for the DPs from Ukraine. This was initiated by a linguist. In Augsburg’s camps even sports events or “Camp Olympics” were held.
The Soviet-American repatriation agreement of 11 February 1945 had determined that all DPs who were met in areas that were to be occupied should be repatriated to their native country. Such an agreement was also signed with France. At first, the Western Allies tolerated the compulsory repatriation of Soviet DPs with all consequences for the affected persons, however recognized soon the brisance of the agreement and stood back. Many DPs were afraid of restrictions in their native country as being accused of collaboration with the enemy. The Soviets however insisted on the agreement. Finally, a UN resolution of February 1946 determined the voluntary nature of any repatriation. Therefore many DPs opted on a departure to third countries, e.g. Canada or the USA. For the processing of the repatriations or the homecomings there was even a resettlement center in Augsburg.
In 2002 and 2003, former forced laborers from the Ukraine and the Netherlands came to Augsburg in the context of an official visit program of the City of Augsburg. Often however, former DPs visit Augsburg completely private. (Text: GF)