Munich today is a very international city. But also in former times many people from different parts of the world lived here and influenced the culture and everday life. Also the USA had an influence on Munich – before and after the second world war…
The “Amerikanerblock” (american block)
Munich grew fast in late 19th and early 20th century. So in the 1920s the city gouvernment decided to build a new housing area, the “Siedlung Neuhausen” (Neuhausen-housing) near the old town of Neuhausen. It was a housing area made from scratch and at that time very modern. About 2.000 flats were built and the architects also thought of infrastructrue like shops and restaurants. They even made a whole street with nearby flats with studios especially for artists like painters and sculptors.
To afford building this new district the city gouvernment raised a credit from the US Gouvernment. Especially one certain apartment building became known for that – The “Amerikanerblock”. This building is a significant example of the “Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity/New Sobriety) architecture style.
To honour the US Gouvernment which gave the loan to build this district, the streets near the “Amerikanerblock” are named by famous Americans or German-Americans (Washingtonstreet, Steubensquare, Karl-Schurz-Street).
Amerikanersiedlung (american housing) near Perlach Forest
The Amerikanersiedlung or “Ami-Siedlung” as the citizens called it, has the official name “Siedlung am Perlacher Forst” (housing beneath Perlach Forest). It was built in the 1950s in a part of the Perlach Forest (which reaches to the southern city border) to build houses and flats for the US Army members which served especially in the near Mc Graw barracks. It’s a very intersting district, because it was built in “american architectural style”. This district was nearly autarchic, because there were not only houses and appertments. The district had it’s own infrastructure. School, hospital, supermarkets, gas station, even a cinema. The streets got “american” names (Lincolnstreet, Cincinattistreet, Minnewitstreet, General-Kalb-Weg. Inside of this district, the famous festival “Little Oktoberfest” was held until 2005. For young Munich citizens it was also a great thing to stroll through the Ami-Siedlung during christmas time, because the buildings were illuminated and decorated with figures, which was uncommon in Germany at that time.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s fewer and fewer US soldiers were needed and the last US troops left Munich in 1992. So the Amisiedlung had many unused flats which were then given to citizens. The american supermarket was taken over by a german supermarket chain, the gas station was from then used as a pound. Nowadays only the street names and the different architectural style compared to other districts tell you about the history of this special district. Sometimes you’ll find old bilingual signs. But until today the citizens of this district are proud and celebrate small american festivals and always have a strong cultural connection to the USA.
After the war, the stationed US-Army troops, who also lived in the Amerikanersiedlung and the southern Munich districts Giesing and Harlaching, celebrated 4th of July (Independence Day). And the Munich citizens did not have a clue what the Americans are celebrating. From 1956 on, the Americans started a small festival in the Amerikanersiedlung around July 4th every year. There they also invited the citizens to participate, which was great for them not knowing any american products or food. Soon this festival was called “Little Oktoberfest” or “Little O”. A small festival with american food and specialities along with all types of american music. The festival became an institution and the citizens liked it as the US soldiers did. It was also a festival to get to know each other.
When the last US troops left Munich in 1992, the “Little O” stayed. But from the late 1990s on, it became more and more a regular festival with very commercialised “Americanism”. So fewer and fewer people came to the festival. It was last held in 2005. After that, no organiser could be found to revive the festival.
A bavarian restaurant with beergarden, the “Waldwirtschaft” (or “WaWi” as the citizens call it) brings the “Little O” back. Not as a big festival, but more like traditional bavarian beergardening with some “american music” like swing, jazz, country and oldies, bullriding and american food (burgers, spare ribs, steaks). Sadly this has nothing to do with the original “Little Oktoberfest”.
So let the “Little Oktoberfest” rest in peace and be remembered as a post-war festival of friendship between Munich and the USA.