From Nazi-Party buildings to McGraw Kaserne. A brief retrospect of the former home of the University of Maryland Munich CampusPosted: October 27, 2016
By Karin Pohl
This is a story found in the newest anthology Eins, Zwei, G’Suffa: Memories from Munich Campus. It is third in a series of memories compiled by Circe Olson Woessner and Alex George. It can be purchased at Lulu.com
From 1945 to 1992 the U. S. Army resided in the south of Munich – even today this area is known to many as McGraw Kaserne. The buildings had been errected by the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). The NSDAP had been founded in Munich in 1919/1920, and in 1935 Adolf Hitler officially invested Munich with the honorary title „Hauptstadt der Bewegung“ (Capital of the party’s movement) with the intention to keep the NSDAP closely connected with Munich. Therefore the most important party’s institutions were not moved to Berlin but remained in Munich even after 1933. They were mainly located around Karolinenplatz and Königsplatz. But not all important party institutions were in Munich’s city center: In 1934 and in 1936 the NSDAP acquired spacious grounds on Tegernseer Landstraße in Giesing, a city district in southern Munich. The location was carefully chosen and conveniently accessible by the nearby Autobahn. Starting in 1935 the party built the headquarters of three institutions that would serve the appearance and the propaganda machinery of the NSDAP: the „Reichszeugmeisterei“ (buildings 7 and 8), the „Reichsautozug Deutschland“ (buildings 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6) and the „Hilfszug Bayern“ (buildings 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, and 19). All buildings were connected through supply tunnels with the central heating plant.
Through a license system the Reichszeugmeisterei had to ensure that the uniforms of the various party institutions as well as all other official party insignia met the party’s standards of homogenity regarding cloth, color, and badges. The Reichsautozug Deutschland consisted of a large motor pool of special vehicles and supplied the large party events (e. g. Reichsparteitage) with all technical equipment such as speakers and spotlights. The Hilfszug Bayern maintained large tents, mobile kitchens and ambulances and was in charge of accomodating, feeding and taking medical care of the participants to NSDAP‘s mass events.
The picture of 1938 shows the former cobblestone pavement and the swastika flags waving in front of the main building of the Reichszeugmeisterei. Above the entrance was the sculpture of a large eagle – a symbol of the Nazi-Reich. When the Americans took over they numbered the buildings. The Reichszeugmeisterei became building 7. At the end of the American usage building 7 hosted the Headquarters of AAFES Europe.
With awareness of the possibility of an uncoming air fight the NSDAP had all buildings with steel-concrete – after all the structures were intended to last and serve the „thousand year Reich“. Air-raid shelters were built and on top of building 2 anti aircraft guns were installed. During WWII some of buildings were camouflaged.
A short time after the U. S. Army had taken over power in Munich (April 30th 1945) they confiscated the large NSDAP structure on Tegernseer Landstraße. In February 1948 the large area was officially named after Private Francis X. McGraw (1918-1944) who had been killed in action near the German-Belgian border and was awarded by the U. S. Congress with the Medal of Honor.
The area was suitable for the Army’s purposes: The buildings were in good shape and hardly damaged during the war. The compound included a large number of offices, living quarters and spacious storage areas; in addition there were large utility spaces, garages, gas stations and underground carparks to serve the Army’s military and private motor pool. Moreover the space between St.-Quirin-Platz, Soyerhofstraße, Peter-Auzinger-Straße, Stadelheimer Straße and Warthofstraße was easy to be fenced in and guarded. Especially since the Tegernseer Landstraße was closed for German thru traffic until 1972 when the open tunnel (McGraw Tunnel) was built.
The U. S. Army took over the former party buildings and had them reconstructed for their own purposes. Within the nearly fifty years of American usage McGraw Kaserne’s buildings hosted various U. S. institutions. One of them was the University of Maryland Munich Campus which was opened in October 1950. In the beginning classes were held on the fourth floor of building 7. In the 1960’s the Campus was moved to building 2. Shortly after 1950 the „Glass House“ at the corner of Tegernseer Landstraße/Stadelheimer Straße (building 13) was newly built as female students dorms. At that time the male students lived in the Soyerhofstraße-part of building 8. In the 1970’s the student dorms were transferred to building 12 („Bouvier Hall“) and to quarters that had been built in the 1950‘s for the U. S. troops: building 104 („Ehrensberger Hall“), 106 („Elkins Hall“), 108 („Brandl Hall“) and 109 („Parr Hall“). Approximately in 1980 building 15 was built for the Student Union, it served as a snack bar and a students‘ hangout. The most famous place to party on the grounds of McGraw Kaserne was located in the cellars of building 7. In the 1960’s the students had been given the permission to open a place for student parties right next to the underground parking garage: the legendary „Terrapin Keller“.
The former underground parking garage of building 7 is out of usage today. One part was turned into the „Terrapin Keller“. Photo: Karin Pohl, 2014
Abandoned bathroom in the cellars of building 7. Probably once part of the „Terrapin Keller“.
Remnants of 1970’s style-wallpaper in the cellars of building 7, that presumably once decorated the „Terrapin Keller“. Photo: Karin Pohl, 2014
The former University of Maryland building on the corner of Peter-Auzinger-Straße/Soyerhofstraße (building 2) was originally built for the Reichsautozug Deutschland, to host its administration and as a learning center of this institution. A monolithic, eagle-decorated entrance led to a „hall of honor“ („Ehrenhalle“) which was covered with a glass roof to allow day-light and create a special atmosphere. Tunnels connected the air-raid shelters of building 2 and building 3. A document of the fire police from July 22nd, 1943 lists storage and cooling areas in the basement as well as a „Bildwerferraum“ – a movie theater – on the first floor. Further there were different rooms for teaching, a chemistry lab, a physiscs lab and a radio station on the upper floors.
During WW II anti-aircraft guns were stationed on top of building 2. It is not known today if or how the structure was used during the Nazi-times.
The photo shows the shelter that was used by the ward who was in charge of the anti-aircraft installations. Photo: Karin Pohl, 2014
It is certain however that the building was in large parts unfinished when the Americans took over. They finished and redesigned the architecture to meet their own purposes. The building became a multifunctional building, it would host the Commissary, the McGraw Theater and the University of Maryland.
The denazification of the building was achieved by using it for practical purposes: The former „hall of honor“ was turned into a Commissary with checkstands, shopping carts and a frozen food section. The costumers admired the incoming natural light. The Munich American (newspaper of the Munich Military Community) summarized the positive reactions to the modern supermarket at the opening in April 1950: „Many adming comments were made by the housewives, who were delighted with the immense floor space, the sunlight which streamed into the big room through a large skylight of glass, and the flowers.“
Due to high energy consumption the glass-roof has been covered and lowered in the meantime. Many students once worked at the Commisary. In July 2014 I had the opportunity to visit the former Commissary with a group of University of Maryland students. They immediately recognized their former workplace; after so many years they still knew exactly were you could once find canned food, snacks, and meat.
Another poplar place to work at was the „McGraw Theater“ which opened in September 1950 and showed the movie . „The Flame and the Arrow“, starring Burt Lancaster.
In the early 1960’s the the former study rooms and labs were finally used by the University of Maryland. After the Munich Campus was moved to Augsburg in 1992 the Police moved into the building. Other parts, as the Commissary, were used as storrage rooms, while the movie theater was completely deserted. After many discussions and the thorough examinantion of the building`s structure it turned out that the restauration is much too expensive. Building 2 doesn’t meet the strict fire safety regulations, the electricity is outdated, and toxic construction materials wold need to be removed. Due to the steelconcrete structure and the dangerous substances the demolition of the building will be costly. Still, it has been decided that the former Campus building will be demolished in the near future. When the architecture is gone the University will still exist in the former students‘ memories and in the stories shared via facebook and the great compilation put together by Circe Olson Woessner and Alexander George.
Various hallways and rooms inside the former University of Maryland building.