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The Psychological and Physical Condition of Prisoners of War Returning from the East (undated report)

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3. A young returnee arrives at the hotel on the night train, does not dare to enter the lit-up rooms, crawls into a dark room and waits until he is discovered the next morning.

b) Mental support: As the physical condition improves, the demeanor becomes more secure, the interest grows. The returnee no longer sits around for hours staring straight ahead and mentally absent; he likes to read entertaining books, is trying to get a job, likes to play a kind of table billiards (a gift from the YMCA), makes music with a variety of instruments, takes part in events: church services, music evenings, lectures, youth evenings, talks more easily now about the past, and takes a lively interest in press reports. He criticizes those who have not yet been able to give up the “Russian culture,” and feels like a new, civilized person, especially after being furnished with new clothes by the Protestant relief organization in Korbach.

The returnee is broadly supported in his search for work. Job offerings from farmers, artisans, and construction companies are abundant. Permission to move in is granted by the commissioner of refugees in Giessen. So far, all 150 have been placed in accordance with their wishes. Two amputees were sent on to the retraining facility in Rotenburg o. d. Tauber (one-year training period).

Every returnee is given pocket money and paper for writing letters, as well as reimbursement for travel costs while he looks for a job. The home continues to try and establish the connection with family members that has been missing so far.

c) Emotional support. The goal is to make the especially hard-hit Eastern returnees into full members of the nation. The symptoms of psychological illness (complexes, repressions) are to be neither abreacted, nor uncovered or covered up, but should slowly attenuate. The realization that he cannot be a full human being without Christ shall be awakened in him.

Initially, the returnees are surprised by the possibility that they can recover in our home and say in astonishment: “That something like this still exists!” They feel secure, lose something of the fear of being thrown into the ruthless struggle for existence without adequate strength. They feel grateful that there still are “Christians” and are for the most part willing to participate with an open mind in the morning watch. They happily accept the letters sent to the home.

Starting points for religious care: interpretation of the Biblical text by looking at contemporary conditions and at man as he is. The Eastern returnee has lost faith in humankind. Because of his experiences, he has become a skeptic or a pessimist. We want to help him become a life- and humanity-affirming realist. He should recognize the shortcomings and abject nature of man and his institutions, and know that he himself is in need of salvation. We are to be moved by the question: “How can things be and become better in and around us?” He should experience that Christianity of action (“But be ye doers of the word”) is not possible by one’s own strength: “Without you we can do nothing.”

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