Jan 22 2021

From Time toTime: Americans with Covid-19 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

Published by at 2:54 pm under From Time to Time

From Time to Time

History does not repeat itself,
But it certainly likes to rhyme.

 

Americans with Covid-19 in

 

Alpine Garmisch-Partenkirchen

 

by Anna Rosmus

 

On September 8, 2020, when a 26-year-old American in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, showed symptoms of Covid-19, she went for testing, and was told to self-quarantine until her results came back. Instead of doing that, however, the woman visited various bars and pubs. Then, she was confirmed positive.

As a result, the district administration asked all 18- to 35-year-olds to get tested for the virus. AP reported that 740 locals obliged.[1] Allegedly, the woman had infected up to 59 people. Because 24 were staff members of the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort,[2] where she worked, the Lodge was closed. In addition, all bars and restaurants in Garmisch-Partenkirchen were ordered to close by 10 p.m.; indoor gatherings were limited to 50 people, and outdoor gatherings to 100.

Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Söder deemed the woman’s behavior not only “a model case of stupidity,” but he demanded that “such recklessness must have consequences.” Because US civilian employees are subject to Bavarian ordinances on prevention of infectious diseases, like German citizens, the woman could not only face a fine of 2,000 euros ($2,370), she might also be held liable for the lost revenue of businesses impacted by this coronavirus outbreak. To better determine whether this woman caused “bodily harm,” the public prosecutor opened a preliminary investigation. Depending on the outcome, she could also face six months to 10 years in prison.[3] In the meantime, the US military has launched its own inquiry.

News of that case spread like a wildfire. Among many other outlets, Bayerischer Rundfunk,[4] Deutsche Welle,[5] The Guardian,[6] the Mirror,[7] CNN,[8] nbc,[9] Newsweek,[10] People,[11] the hill,[12] stripes.com[13] and armytimes.com[14] reported about it, and among the millions of readers more than a few may have wondered why this particular Corona case stirred not only international news but legal procedures as well. The affected municipality is relatively small, after all, and its geographic location in the Alps somewhat remote.

Partenkirchen, which originated as the Roman town of Partanum, on the trade route from Venice to Augsburg, was first mentioned in the year A.D. 15. Its main street still follows the original Roman road. Some 800 years later, neighboring Garmisch was mentioned as Germaneskau, a “German District.” While bears, wolves and lynxes posed a constant threat to livestock, the swampy valley floor was hard to farm, and residents periodically suffered from epidemics, including several bouts of bubonic plague, the deadliest pandemic in human history. Resulting witch hunts led to trials and executions. From 1589 until 1596, 63 people, more than 10 percent of the population at that time, were strangled or burned at the stake.[15]

In anticipation of the 1936 Winter Olympic games, which featured alpine skiing for the first time, Adolf Hitler forced the two market towns to unite. And for most people, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, as it has been known ever since, remained simply that, a ski town near Zugspitze, Germany’s highest alpine peak and the Partnach Gorge, where water gushes
through a narrow, one mile gap between limestone cliffs.

 

Signal Corps 209354, Garmisch-Partenkirchen on July 14, 1945: The 10th Armored Division celebrates its 3rd anniversary

 

After World War II, however, when combat ended, the US-Army confiscated a number of German military hotels and resorts. Garmisch-Partenkirchen, for instance, had served as a major hospital center for Germany’s military. Now, Americans used it as a R&R center for US military stationed in Europe.[16]

 

Signal Corps 209350, General George S. Patton Jr. on July 14, 1945 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

 

This new relationship between the American military and German civilians was not without benefits for locals. Funds from the US-Marshall Plan, for example, helped them to convert a pediatric facility for treating tuberculosis into a full pediatric hospital. In 1952, the German Center for Pediatric and Adolescent Rheumatology, the largest of its kind in Europe, opened.

With the Cold War quickly emerging, however, America pursued somewhat different goals. In 1947, the US Army Russian Institute (USARI) opened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen,[17] “cementing the community’s role as a center for both military education and U.S. Forces recreation.”[18] An article in the Los Angeles Times begins with a summary, “Surrounded by snow-capped Alpine peaks, an elite U.S. Army school turns out experts on the Soviet Union. They go on to become military attaches, Pentagon intelligence analysts and even ambassadors.”

Two paragraphs later we read, “The institute’s two-year program covers Soviet military and political affairs, Marxism-Leninism, the news media, military history, arms control and the fine points of the Russian language, as well as numerous other subjects.”[19] In 1953, the NATO School in nearby Oberammergau (NSO) started its operations.[20] In 1993, the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, an internationally funded and mostly US-staffed conference center for governments primarily from the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries, opened in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It replaced the US Army Russian Institute. Facilities include the Sheridan Kaserne and Artillery,[21] formerly known as the Krafft von Dellmensingen Kaserne.

In 2000, the US-Congress approved the consolidation of all Armed Forces Recreation Centers (AFRC) resorts in Europe into one facility. Three years later, the fabled Lake Hotel closed, and the Von Steuben and General Patton hotels followed.[22] In September 2004, at a cost of $80 million, the American AFRC opened its Edelweiss Lodge and Resort. Operated by the US Department of Defense, it serves US and NATO military as well as their families. Facilities include 246 rooms and suites, a conference center, three restaurants with American and German dishes, a fitness center, a sauna and a pool. The resort operates a ski school, the Edelweiss Vacation Village and Campground, and it offers guided tours – ranging from the Dachau Concentration Camp to Oberammergau. To make it all possible, the Edelweiss Lodge and Resort employs US citizens, recruited from the United States, as well as local hospitality staff.

“Today, the George C. Marshall Center and NATO School provide essential forums for international military diplomacy, education and cooperation.”[23] To provide logistical support to the Marshall Center and the Edelweiss Recreation Center, a number of US-troops and civilians are stationed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

No wonder, then, if various politicians, institutions and the media on both sides of the Atlantic were instantly on high alert by this local outbreak. The White House and more than just a few significant other US-leaders have – at the very least – failed to discourage cautionary prescriptions and mandates. By contrast, Germany’s relatively strict response to this particular pandemic might be a mere backdrop for such international interest.[24]

 

Footnotes

[1] JORDANS, FRANK and RISING, DAVID, “3 more COVID cases linked to American’s bar crawl in Bavaria,” on September 15, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-germany-archive-5b787f5ca80fb3c0a80f416bab622759

[2] Lieutenant General Michael S. “Mike” Tucker, then Executive Officer to the Commanding General U.S. Army Europe, suggested the name “Edelweiss”.

[3] On September 17, 2020, the Independent headlined an article by Danielle Zoellner, “American woman could face up to 10 years in prison after allegedly spreading coronavirus during German bar crawl.”

[4] “Corona in Garmisch-Partenkirchen: Ein Superspreader macht Party,” on September 12, 2020, https://www.br.de/nachrichten/bayern/garmisch-partenkirchen-54-corona-infektionen-nach-bar-besuchen,SALvXYT

[5] “US army probes coronavirus outbreak at military ski resort in Bavaria,” on September 16, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/us-army-probes-coronavirus-outbreak-at-military-ski-resort-in-bavaria/a-54954950

[6] Kate Connolly, “American accused of ignoring Covid-19 quarantine to go on Bavaria bar crawl,” on September 14, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/14/american-accused-of-ignoring-covid-19-quarantine-to-go-on-bavaria-bar-crawl

[7] “Coronavirus ‘superspreader’, 26, ‘went partying’ after being told to self-isolate,” on September 14, 2020, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/coronavirus-superspreader-26-went-partying-22678037

[8] Halasz, Stephanie and Pleitgen, Frederik, “A 26-year-old American woman is believed to have caused a coronavirus outbreak in Germany,” on September 14, 2020, https://www.cnn.com/world/live-news/coronavirus-pandemic-09-14-20-intl/h_a9071c19bc8a73f1c4d7e77ed9b08e3e

[9] “American woman’s bar crawl spreads Covid in southern Germany,” on September 15, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/american-woman-s-bar-crawl-spreads-covid-southern-germany-n1240149

[10] Impelli, Matthew, “U.S. Woman Accused of Infecting Over 50 People With Coronavirus in Bavaria,” on September 14, 2020, https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/crime/us-woman-accused-of-infecting-over-50-people-with-coronavirus-in-bavaria/ar-BB191oeb

[11] Mazziotta, Julie, “American Waiting on Coronavirus Test Results Went Bar Hopping in Germany, Likely Infecting 59,” on September 16, 2020, https://people.com/health/american-waiting-coronavirus-test-results-went-bar-hopping-germany-infecting-59-people/

[12] CASTRONUOVO, Celine, “American woman at German resort allegedly spread COVID-19 to at least 59 people,” on September 15, 2020, https://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/516544-american-woman-at-german-resort-allegedly-spread-covid-19-to-59-people

[13] VANDIVER, John, “Edelweiss to close for two weeks after getting blame for virus spread in Garmisch,” on September 12, 2020, https://www.stripes.com/news/europe/edelweiss-to-close-for-two-weeks-after-getting-blame-for-virus-spread-in-garmisch-1.644837

[14] “American could face fine over Garmisch-Partenkirchen virus spike in Germany,” on September 14, 2020, https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-military/2020/09/14/american-could-face-fine-over-garmisch-partenkirchen-virus-spike-in-germany/

[15] Much of Werdenfels Castle, where the accused were held, tried and executed, was torn down in the 1750s. Its stones were used to build a baroque church that replaced one that may originally have been a pagan temple.

[16] Maps and photos of this cluster are featured at https://www.usarmygermany.com/Sont.htm?https&&&www.usarmygermany.com/USAREUR_City_Garmisch.htm

[17] Details about this intelligence agency: https://www.inscom.army.mil/organization/History.aspx

[18] Link here.

[19] COSTELLOE, Kevin in the Los Angeles Times from May 7, 1989: “Army Training Facility in W. Germany: Just Don’t Call It a ‘Spy School’”, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-05-07-mn-3629-story.html

[20] Since then, more than 200,000 officers, non-commissioned officers and civilians have attended NSO courses focusing on multinational military education as well as individual training to support NATO “operations, strategy, policy, doctrine and procedures.” For details see: https://www.natoschool.nato.int

[21] Sheridan Kaserne, originally named Jäger Kaserne, was built in 1937 to house German Wehrmacht troops. In 1945, the U.S. Army began to use it as a prisoner-of-war camp for officers. On November 1, 2015 the Münchner Merkur headlined an article by Tanja Brinkmann “US-Army gibt Artillery-Kaserne auf” (US-Army Gives up Artillery Barracks). On June 28, 2017, during a ceremony honoring 70 years of the Marshall Plan, however, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and former German Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen reaffirmed transatlantic bonds between the U.S. and Germany.

[22] In November 2004, the U.S. military returned to the German government the last hotels it confiscated at the end of World War II.

[23] Link here.

[24] With currently more than 356,000 deaths due to the virus, the US death toll is 10 times as high as Germany’s. For updates see: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

One response so far




One Response to “From Time toTime: Americans with Covid-19 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen”

  1.   Peter Kreitmeiron 24 Jan 2021 at 10:10 am

    Only the media were on “high alert”. The young woman was eating in ONE restaurant and probably infected NO ONE. At least nothing could be determined. A lot of noise about nothing…

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