DOES THE USA ARMY NOT KNOW THAT THE KOCH DOESN’T REALLY LIKE FOREIGNERS—AT ALL? Why is USA army moving from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden, Hessen?
By Kevin Stoda, Wiesbaden
The USA Army in Germany is helping to drive up housing and living costs in Hessen with its newest move to Wiesbaden from Baden-Württemberg’s Heidelberg base over the next two years. This comes at a time when the USA needs to be watching its overall federal budget much more carefully.
According to USACE, Justin Ward, “With the demolition of a few empty storage bunkers south of the Wiesbaden Army Airfield recently, a new era has begun. The flattening of the garrison’s Basic Load Ammunition Storage Area is the first significant step to prepare a 99-acre tract of land for a new $133 million military family housing community. The project marks the first Army-funded townhouse community in Wiesbaden – a change in direction from stairwell living. It also marks the first visible sign of 7th Army Headquarters’ move from Heidelberg to Wiesbaden.”
Another US Army Corp of Engineers spokesperson in Wiesbaden, Syballe Ballnath, shares, “This housing project is monumental not only in its size, but also in its symbolism. . . . By building this community, we’re setting the stage for the future footprint of the Armed Forces in Europe.”
Ward writes, “By early 2012, plans call for up to 324 new townhouses, duplexes, and single family homes to be built for the staffers of 7th Army’s operational facilities. The community will include a mix of three- and four-bedroom quarters ranging from junior enlisted to general officer. Recreation areas will include 10 playgrounds, seven picnic areas with grills and shelters, two sports fields, two community plazas for yard sales and shuttle bus service, and a running path. When fully funded, the two-phased construction project will be the Army’s largest ever in Wiesbaden.”
DESPITE ALL THE HOOPLA
In short, less than a decade or so after the USA Air Force in Europe moved its headquarters in Europe away from Wiesbaden, thousands of Americans are now set to move back into the Wiesbaden, Hessen area, i.e. near the Rhine River and Frankfurt’s many regional and international airports.
The huge reversal in American Department of Defense (DOD) plans to build new base capacity in Europe has come at a terrible time in many ways. First of all, the U.S. Dollar to Euro exchange rate is currently at its worst level in history—(1) making it unwieldy in to keep budgets on target (in terms of U.S. Dollar expenditures) to build this new Army Command in Europe at this particular time and (2) making it extremely expensive for U.S. personnel and contractors to be sent into central Europe to work for years on end.
Finally, (3) the leadership of the very state of Hessen, where Wiesbaden is the capital, under the Christian Democratic Union (CDU party) political leadership under Roland Koch over the past decade (1999-2009) has become considered throughout Germany to be one of the least-foreigner friendly state in Germany to migrate to.
That status of Hessen’s having the most xenophobic political leadership in Germany may come as a surprise to many European experts, i.e. who have witnessed a more officially evident rise in nationalism and xenophobia in the former East German states of Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt over the past two decades. However, Koch has worked hard at this reputation and was reelected in 2009 once again without disavowing much—if any–of his prior anti-foreigner stance
In 2008, Charles Hawley had written in Der Spiegel magazine predicted that the next major elections in Hessen state would be different. He had written: “The center-right in Germany has often used xenophobic campaigns to propel them to power. Roland Koch’s anti-foreigner campaign in Hesse [in recent months] , however, [has] backfired, showing that he has lost touch with his electorate.”
Whereas, that may have been true in 2008, at the same Roland Koch, after a short political hiatus, was reelected to lead the Hessen Landtag again in January 2009. In short, “Koch’s years of experience as a prominent Christian Democrat (CDU) politician [have continually] told him that a bit of foreigner bashing is a sure way to win votes. It had, after all, worked before — Koch became governor in 1999 after a populist signature gathering campaign against double citizenship — one that many observers saw as profoundly xenophobic.”
Last year, the African People’s Convention concurred, “We have seen this in the past through his [Koch’s] propaganda campaign against Dual Citizenship proposal in 1999 that brought him to power. Roland Koch is actually seeking rightist support. Election watchers outside Germany have pointed out that the reason the far right vote collapsed in Germany is the policies of Roland Koch and some of his fellow politicians in the Christian Democrats. They have not become far right Party, but they have started speaking in tongues to the anti-immigrant vote, which may not be a good political strategy. The natural strategy for the right is in fact to start taking the immigration issues, crime, law and other related issues as an important topic to look into. It is however, a topic which plays on certain fears, rational or irrational on the minds of the less educated, the less enlightened and the less secured populace who think immigrants are the cause of all social problems in Germany.”
Koch consistently has declared that far too many crimes in Germany are committed by foreigners while ignoring the actual enforcement rules of police in handling, charging, and prosecuting criminals in the country. In short, foreigner violence is more visible in regions where unemployment is high—and due to the poor integration policies and job policies in Germany many more foreigners are out of work while failing to get government assistance in a fair and timely manner.
Moreover, the as the APC noted, “This hostility towards foreigners [under Koch in Hessen] has manifested in discrimination against foreigners, and in extreme cases, violent attack on an entire community. The reason for the rise of the far right attacks in Germany is the failure to integrate immigrants socially and economically into the German society unlike the United Kingdom and U.S.A, where the melting pot seems to work and has worked for many decades. In Germany, the melting pot has failed tremendously.”
Not only Africans and Americans need to be wary of Koch and his anti-foreigner bias. Koch has also been charged as behaving and speaking anti-Semitic phrases in many speeches, whether in making allusions to Jewish and German history or to Muslims or Arabs.
“The Central Council of Jews in Germany is right,” said Kenan Kolat, who heads the umbrella group of Germany’s Turkish community. “The level of Mr. Koch’s campaign is hardly distinguishable from those run by the (neo-Nazi National Democratic Party — NPD). … I hope voters give Mr. Koch what he deserves for his xenophobic rhetoric.”
“’Ali Kizilkaya of the (German) Islam Council called Koch’s campaign ‘wind in the sails of right-wing radical parties.’ He echoed the sentiment of Thursday’s letter by saying that he is concerned that Koch might be sacrificing social cohesion in Germany for short-term political gain.”
ANTI-AMERICAN VISA AND WORK ISSUES ARE MANY
All of Germany has become a more unfriendly place for Americans to work over the past two to three decades. This has occurred parallel to the growth and power of the European Union as a whole, which has decided to position itself as an alternative to America on the global political economic stage. This has occurred even as more and more Germans have come to confess that historically both Germany and Central Europe have been a multicultural melting pot for the continent for millennia. Even today, “Berlin the German capital and international metropolis in the heart of Europe” is not only a “city of culture, sports, politics, and science [but a] . . . population of almost 3.4 million fills an area of 890 km², including people from more than 200 different countries who have chosen the melting pot of Berlin for their new ‘heimat’.”
Many other regions of Germany, such as the Industrial Ruhr River region (in North Rhine Westphalia) have—with the exception of 12 years of the Nazi era—consistently seen itself as a multicultural region in Germany.
Similarly, as in Switzerland, the Rhine River in Germany has often played a role in the Rhine regions’ development as a multicultural identity–in the centuries prior to 19th Century when Romanticism and Nationalism became the prominent regional paradigm. By the way, Wiesbaden, where the new American Army base is to be located in Hessen, is also on the Rhine. Even in the days of the Roman occupation of the Rhine, two millennia ago, the Rhine region was certainly considered a multicultural place.
Nearby Frankfurt on the Main River in Hessen, too, is seen as another great melting pot–as are the great cities of Cologne and Duesseldorf to the north, i.e. where the Rhine River eventually passes into Holland and the Netherlands.
Meanwhile, in Germany, many Americans who come over to join their family members here have found that they will never get any visa to work in the state of Hessen. The job situation for Americans is so bad that the USA Department of Defense is currently telling teachers arriving at the DOD schools throughout Germany (but especially in the Wiesbaden region) not to try and bring spouses nor kids over here because:
(1) the cost of living is to high,
(2) Germans almost never give spousal visas to work (and, in my case, even a spousal visa to live with me), and
(3) integration in Hessen for long-term foreign labor and children of laborers has been abysmal for decades.
In other words, although almost 1 out of every 3 Wiesbaden residents are of foreign birth or of foreign-born parentage, most of these foreign youth—as a whole—do not do outstandingly well in the educational and training system (for which Germany has been renowned for decades). This means that very few children of foreign born-and-raised households do as well financially and academically in society as their German counterparts.
“Immigrants rarely have in their possession formal vocational training certificates or qualifications that can easily match the German standards. Employees who came to Germany as immigrants can hardly expect any career advances in their companies, as company training programs are either too limited or non-existent.”
“The effect of that is that they are quite frequently employed as unskilled workers or aides, or that they are unemployed. A reason for that is the lack of awareness on the part of the employer, the firm, and the employees’ representations both in the company and beyond. In addition to that, more and more youngsters and young adults try to get access to the training market. Quite frequently, they will experience adjustment and integration problems in job training and social life similar to those of their parents. Typical is the phenomenon of isolation, compartmentalization, and exclusion.”
This is neglect of foreign born residents is pretty sad because nearly 1 in 5 (or even 1 in 4) Americans of Caucasian descent have ancestors from Germany. With the American economy in the doldrums a closed Fortress Europe is not helpful to the many qualified and technically talented Americans who could otherwise succeed here.
Historically, American soldiers, veterans, and military personnel (and their families) have enjoyed their time in Germany. However, over the past decade—with the larger anti-foreigner backlash in some regions in Germany and with the rising value of the Euro, Germany and other lands are becoming hardship duties for USA personnel and their families—as well as for the 1000s of subcontractors, who are supporting the building and creation of the newest—most monumental—base in Wiesbaden in this 2009-2012 transition period.
In short, due to the lack of good integration practices and related educational skills training or certification, Americans and other foreigners here often remain fairly isolated and under-integrated in German society—even when and where Americans have played an important economic role in the community for decades, such has been the case for 7 decades in Wiesbaden, via DOD expenditures and other direct foreign investment.
Now, with the cost of living in Europe so high due to the drop in the dollar and because of the anti-immigration character of the Hessen state currently in 2009, it is not clear whether American military personnel, their dependence, and related U.S.A. laborers will have much joy living and working on or for in new Wiesbaden Army base—except on the new USA military base itself—which serves as an advanced sort of reservation—or ghetto (where the Americans continue to remain separated from the changing cultures of Central Europe around them). In short, it will become a more quarantined world than American military experience in the past in Hessen have witnessed in the last 5 decades.