Oktoberfest is a long-running tradition even in New Orleans, which retains a substantial number of descendants of the hard-working German immigrants who found New Orleans a friendly port in the storm of political turmoil in the 19th century. Today, New Orleans’ German culture is threatened again by the construction of a mega-complex envisioned for the Veterans Administration and the Louisiana State University medical system. It would replace is the 1940s-era hospital shown at right, which the Veterans Administration will abandon in favor of building a new facility possibly in the Mid-City National Register Historic District of New Orleans. This hospital has not been opened since Hurricane Katrina.
Deutsches Haus, today’s German cultural society in New Orleans, and a tattered but intact neighborhood are at ground-zero of the VA-LSU development. It is one of many buildings threatened by the city's plans. We will see how this all plays out, as federal and state forces couple with the city to carry out the 21st century version of urban renewal to clear neighborhoods for development.
Walter Gallas is director of the New Orleans Field Office.