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1 November 2000

GIs in Germany: The Social, Economic, Military, and Political History of the American Military Presence, 1945-2000

An International Conference Sponsored by the German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C./
Department of History, University of Heidelberg (Germany)/
Internationales Wissenschaftsforum/Stiftung der Universitšt Heidelberg

Wissenschaftsforum Heidelberg, Germany, November 9-11, 2000
Convener: Detlef Junker

One of the most dramatic and varied chapters in modern international history is the story of German-American relations. In the first half of the 2oth century, American soldiers twice played a decisive role in preventing the German Reich's attempts to establish its hegemony over Europe. In the second half of the same century American troops were stationed on West German soil, this time not as enemies but as allies in the Cold War. Post-war German-American relations have become one of the most heavily researched areas of contemporary international history. Until recently, however, scholars devoted little attention to the history of American soldiers stationed in Western Germany. What the American authorities originally intended as a short-term occupation after the end of World War II was to develop into one of the largest and longest military operations of all time, spanning six decades and involving more than sixteen million men and women from the length and breadth of the United States. The US military presence represented a weighty factor in the German-American diplomatic and strategic partnership, but it also played a considerable role in German life. American bases had a considerable impact on the Federal Republic's economy. American military personnel and their families also helped shape the face of many towns and regions in the Federal Republic. Through their daily contacts with the local inhabitants they strongly influenced German perceptions of the United States. In spite of the common political and strategic interests, relations between Germans and Americans living in the same communities were not as conflict free or even friendly as they may often appear to have been in retrospect. Nonetheless the US military presence can be considered one of the 20th century's greatest "cultural exchange programs".

At the conference "GIs in Germany: The Social, Economic, Military, and Political History of the American Military Presence, 1945-2000", which will take place at the Internationales Wissenschaftsforum in Heidelberg, scholars for the first time will attempt to evaluate all the various dimensions of the American military presence in Germany. The topic stands at the nexus of social, cultural, military, and political history. Thirty scholars from various disciplines (history, political science, sociology) from the United States, Great Britain and Germany will participate in this path-breaking event. The Commanding General for USAREUR/7th Army, General Montgomery Meigs, will deliver the keynote address for the conference entitled "America's Army in Germany: Neighbors, Partners, Comrades". The address is open to the public and will take place on November 9 at 6 p.m. in the Alte Aula (Great Hall of the Old University, Grabengasse 1, Heidelberg).

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