Hundreds of refugees are taking temporary shelter in a former U.S. Army post here as Germany scrambles to handle a flood of asylum-seekers from wars in the Middle East and Africa.
A little more than a year ago, Patton Barracks was the neatly groomed headquarters of U.S. Army Garrison Baden-Württemburg. As the U.S. military bombs Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, the old base’s fences are now festooned with the drying laundry of people who have fled the violence.
It is not as comfortable as a regular home, said Benjamin Majer, who works for Germany’s national reception center for refugees in Karlsruhe, “but the people have rooms where we can accommodate the families together. They have all you need.”
Since opening in mid-September, the military base-turned-refugee center has housed up to about 500 refugees on any given day, Majer said. He expects about 1,400 refugees will cycle through the facility before operations are moved to a former Army barracks south of Stuttgart in mid-November.
“A very large group of them are from Syria,” he said, and there have also been large numbers from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the former Yugoslavia and eastern Africa. The base has also housed a small number of Iraqis.
Meals are served in a former gymnasium where a sign in the colors of the old high school — blue and yellow — reads, in English, “Welcome to Heidelberg.” The base itself is named after Gen. George S. Patton, the famous World War II general who revolutionized armored warfare. More recently, in 2007, members of the U.S. Army’s V Corps’ command group reunited with their families in the gym after a year in Iraq.
The base, part of the former Heidelberg garrison, closed last year as the Army pulled out of the city. V Corps inactivated last summer after one last deployment to Afghanistan.