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The Central Office of the Protestant Train Station Mission: Progress Report (1945/46)

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There are sick people – (mostly typhus and dysentery), there are people covered in vermin, the dying, the dead! The women missionaries work among them at the risk of their own lives! There are the starving! Harrowing is the following account from a western city:

“When the train entered the station, we saw with horror how people were falling from it, people who, completely exhausted, incapable of walking upright and screaming for bread, came crawling toward us over the tracks.“

The transports of returning prisoners of war began, and once again we recall Frankfurt an der Oder, where for many weeks, 100-200 soldiers are found dead every day in the streets in front of cellar doors and entryways. The train station Rummelsburg reported in November 1945 that an unannounced transport of returning soldiers, which took 1 ½ days from Frankfurt to Berlin, was pulling into the station on the Day of Penance. It carried 30 dead. (The work in Rummelsburg was especially strenuous. The railway grounds alone extend over 3 kiometers. Often, 3-4 transports arrived at the same time in different locations).

[ . . . ]

3. With this, the third lasting impression of the TSM in 1945 becomes clear: the difficulties, far greater than words can tell, of helping. Destroyed train stations everywhere. No space, no water, no opportunity to cook, no food, no drugs, no housing possibilities, or only those that fill one with horror, and where the poorest are better off lying and dying under the open sky (e.g. the La Plaza bunker in Berlin). No stretchers, no transportation options, no telephone to hospitals, offices, railroad offices, church offices, and so on. No porters, no accompanying persons to guide one through the streets, where all transportation options are lacking and exhausted mothers, children, the sick, and the elderly must walk the four kilometers to a shelter with their heavy luggage. And it remains one of the direst miseries that no answer can be given to a thousand questions and no help in a thousand cases. To all this we must add the personal insecurity of the female missionaries here in the East. Night work, dangerous for men, is simply impossible for women. After all, danger still exists today.

In view of these facts, one may say: surely, the TSM could not even begin to relieve the misery it encountered. But: it was present. As the first. The others who are now competing for the privilege of doing train station service came when the worst was over. What the women missionaries accomplished in this regard by bravely putting themselves on the line will remain unforgotten. True love to our fellow humans was practiced here, with a complete commitment of the self and without questions about compensation and gratitude. Indeed, one could behold with astonishment how ways and means of helping were found with indefatigable inventiveness. And we do not want to forget that our train station missionaries, themselves hungry, tired, at the end of their strength, assailed by suffering of their own, often served while refugees themselves and still do today.

II. The work of the central office.

[ . . . ]

In November, a relationship will be established with Caritas, and the old “Church Conference of the Train Station Mission” will be newly established. – This will lead from the outset to a very lively cooperation with the Catholic leadership. In addition, a lot of positive things are to be noted, genuine mutual help and support. At the same time, however, a very strong Catholic activity becomes visible, some of it not entirely without concerns. Vigilance on our part remains an urgent necessity. – Now, the Central Office is setting about procuring materials; there is a need, above all, for signs and arm bands. However, all attempts in that direction showed success only from 1946. – On November 16, 1945, a first meeting with representatives of the state and provincial offices of the TSM in the Eastern Zone was possible. It took place in the Central Committee of the I.M. [Internal Mission] Berlin-Dahlem and is generating a lot of mutual impetuses. The Central Office was asked for guidelines, which were soon issued.

[ . . . ]

IV. From the West it becomes clear that the TSMs there have more favorable working conditions. Even though train stations are destroyed, they manage to procure rooms much more quickly, work with fewer impediments, and have remarkable options for material aid, particularly in the distribution of food. – I was able to place the abbess of Alvensleben as my deputy in the British Zone, and, finally, to establish contact at the end of the year with our chairman, president von Kameke. In the American Zone, P. Schumacher, the head of the Internal Mission in Frankfurt am Main has assumed oversight of the TSM. All written publications of the Central Office, e.g. circulars, guidelines and so on are gradually being directed to the West.

Train station mission in 1946.

The year 1946 brings a picture that is similar in many ways and yet also very different, especially in the Eastern Zone. New questions, new miseries, but also new possibilities emerge. All in all, one can say this about 1946: it was a very active year with great concerns, and yet, in the end, we have good reason to be thankful.

I. The local work.

The following should be said about this:

1. The work is becoming more regularized.

Rooms are found, often too small, and yet they are an immense help. [ . . . ]

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