When I was in Berlin a few weeks ago, I checked out some of the places my parents were in the late 1960s, including Andrews Barracks and the Army swimming pool where my father was a lifeguard. Of course, this being Germany, the place turned out to have a rather interesting history.

What in 1945 became the American sector of Berlin historically had a large military presence. Situated in the southwest corner of the city, and adjacent to the famous Prussian military town and court at Potsdam, the leafy districts of Zehlendorf and Lichterfelde were ideal for barracks, bases, and other city defenses on the approach from Brandenburg into the capital. Beginning in the “Kaiserzeit” of Wilhelmine Berlin, the Prussian government built many military installations that went on to become Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS facilities before coming into the hands of the US Army.

Today many of these facilities are being converted into housing, stores, and even big-box retail, particularly along the southern boundary of the city. Where once sabres rattled, prisoners were executed, and tanks rolled, is now a quiet community of condos and convenience stores which would not appear out of place in the suburbs of Chicago.

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