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"That Was When I Knew: I Had to Become a Refugee" (March 19, 1953)

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A week ago I went to the authorities in the county seat. The functionary said: “Do you think we don’t know that two of your horses died during the winter? You simply let the poor animals starve! Do you know what that is? Sabotage! Do you know the punishment for that? Prison! – So far you have not taken the artificial fertilizer allocated to your plot. Nothing will grow on your fields. Sabotage against the national wealth! And now you have the gall to demand loans!” I asked and pleaded: ‘Take my farm into the production cooperative!’ They threw me out. My wife sat at home and was making packages to send ahead to East Berlin. I saw them and cried like a baby. It was all over. All the work for nothing. You see, my wife and I and our twelve year-old daughter had done everything on the farm by ourselves during the winter; we could no longer pay any wages. Three days ago I was once again summoned to the county seat. I said: ‘I have met my quota. I did what I could.’ They said: ‘Scoundrel! You let go of your farm girl and your farm servant and threw them out into the street. Capitalist pig!’ I took my hat, and before I left I said: ‘I am going to Berlin, to the Ministry of Agriculture, to complain.’

‘Suit yourself!’ the comrades said calmly. They knew: they had me. – I gave notice in my village: a trip to Berlin to lodge a complaint. I had them certify it. They pulled the people they did not trust off the train to Berlin. One man in our compartment already had a stamp in his identification card: ‘Flight risk!’ I had my certificate: trip to lodge a complaint. I went to acquaintances in East Berlin; they had the packages my wife had wrapped up; I went there every day, every day new packages: linens, dishes, clothes, and canned goods. Of course I did not lodge a complaint; I came here, to Kuno Fischer Straße. My wife should stop it: this package-making . . .” On the third day. The farmer in his loden coat is leaning against the front-yard fence. But you can see a change in him. His wife and daughter have arrived. They are being registered inside . . .

Source: Jan Molitor [Josef Müller-Marein], “Da war mir klar: ich mußte Flüchtling werden” [“That Was When I Knew: I Had to Become a Refugee”], Die Zeit, March 19, 1953.

Translation: Thomas Dunlap

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