Denn wo ein Wille ist...
“DENN WO EIN WILLE IST...”
“FOR WHERE THERE IS A WILL...”
In 1945, Allied forces found old ammunitions shacks in a dense forest area in North Rhine-Westphalia. They had been built by the National Socialists in the 1930s who not merely stored but even manufactured ammunition there. Over the years the town Espelkamp arose from these shacks.
Almost 20.000 tons of poison gas ammunition were found in Espelkamp after the Second World War. These were loaded onto ships and dumped by the Allies in the North Sea along with ammunition found in other German factories. 33 shipwrecks still holding ammunition lie there to this day and are regularly examined and visualized using sonar technology (Origin of shipwreck images: Norwegian Defense Research Establishment & Norwegian Coastal Administration).
After the Second World War around 14 million people were on the run - hundreds were drawn to Espelkamp. There they were housed in the old ammunitions shacks, which after long negotiations were saved from destruction. By 1948, North Rhine-Westphalia had taken in around 1.8 million displaced persons. From 1949 to the end of 1958 Espelkamp's population increased from 2400 to 10.000.
Many West Germans considered the refugees as a threat and often confronted them with xenophobia. But on the contrary the refugees made an important contribution to the "economic miracle" of post-war Germany. At the same time, Espelkamp was considered a prime example of successful integration and was repeatedly praised for its high level of diversity.
Today refugees live in Espelkamp again. However, they come from Syria, Libya or Iraq these days. In North Rhine-Westphalia alone, the number of attacks on refugee shelters in 2016 increased sixfold compared to the previous year. And in Espelkamp, too, there were numerous attacks on refugee shelters and right-wing extremist graffiti between 2015 and 2017. The AfD (a German far-right party) has also repeatedly recorded high results in past elections.
The history of Espelkamp is closely linked to the history of Germany. The former utopia is threatening to turn into its opposite.