THE MICHIGAN DAILY
Wednesday, May 19, 1971
Army moves against racism in Germany
FRANKFURT, Germany lP)-
Last month an investigating
team of the National Associa-
tion for t h e Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP) re-
ported that discriminatory rent-
al practices in West Germany
were so serious that they "caus-
ed black soldiers to regard Ger-
many as an unfriendly country
and to wonder aloud why they
should be stationed there."
Though this change may have
surprised some of the Army staff
which was to later read the re-
port, it was nothing new for the
black servicemen stationed in
West Germany. Off and on, the
problem of discrimination in
renting off-base living quarter
has been one of his complaints.
An Army major, talking heat-
edly about the trouble he en-
countered as a black in trying to
find an off-post apartment for
his family said, "It's something
whites can't understand - the
frustration of being turned
away because of your race."
The Army h as developed a
campaign to secure fair housing
for service families, though. It
set up 50 housing referral of-
ficrs to locate and monitor off
base housing and confronted
German landlords with t h e
choice of pledging to accept
black as well as white families
or being placed off-limits.
Officials at Theater Army
Support Command in the City
of Worms have final authority
to declare apartments off-limits.
They say the new system has
resulted in a drastic decrease in
charges of landlord discrimina-
"Of the more than 2,500 Ger-
man apartment owners a n d
agents we've contacted, only
three refused to sign the non-
discrimination pledge," report-
ed Brig. Gen. John Pierce Jr.,
"Apartments owned by these
three landlords now are off lim-
its to U.S. military personnel
and U.S. citizen employes of the
military," he stated. "We have
not had one complaint of racial
discrimination against land-
lords or rental agents who sign-
ed the pledge."
First Lt. Anthony Atenasio of
Watertown, Mass., housing re-
ferral officer for the Frankfurt
area says "We're trying to elim-
inate the middle-man by get-
ting landlords to list directly
with our office. This is going to
take a year or two because the
agents have a stranglehold on
the local market."
Two agents doing large busi-
ness with American soldiers in
Frankfurt say the system hasn't
hurt them. One of these, has a
minimum fee of 1/ months'
rent. "Not every landlord is
willing to rent to military peo-
ple - or to colored people, Ital-
ians or Spaniards," he said.
Agent Wilfried Vollmerhaus
observed: "Germans are not
basically discriminatory, b u t
given a choice between a white
and a black, they'll rent to the
white because they know how
whites will react. It takes an
agent to talk to landlords - to
convince them that the great
majority of blacks are good ten-
ants. Up to n o w I've always
been able to, f in d apartments
Maj. Washington Hill, a 32-
year old obstetrician from cam-
den, N.J. is skeptical about the
"The Army had to do some-
thing to correct a bad situation,"
he said, "but nondiscrimination
pledges aren't enough. The r e
are many landlords you aren't
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going to reach that way. Talks
have to be initiated at the high-
est level - between Bonn and
Washington - and pressure has
to be put through German
Hill was one of seven black
servicemen in W e s t Germany
who petitioned the Department
of the Army for a court inquiry
into the housing problem. Hill
alleged he personally had been
refused leases on racial grounds
by four landlords on a semiof-
ficial Army housing list.
Three days later, on Dec. 28,
the army issued a directive that
discriminatory landlords an d
rental agents would be placed
The Army rejected the peti-
tion in March, asserting the re-
ferral system was countering
To date less than h a1f the
private dwellings have been in-
spected by Army rental offices
to insure they meet minimum
"We're inspecting by attri-
tion," one official said. "When
a soldier moves out, the apart-
ment is inspected and the land-
lord is required to sign a non-
discrimination pledge before an-
other American military tenant
can move in."
Channing Hall, civilian chief
of housing for the Army support
command, says problems often
arise because Americans are not
familiar with German language
"So many cases we have in-
vestigated in which racial dis-
crimination was alleged have
boiled down to nothing more
than landlord-tenant disputes,"
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