GHDI logo

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

The Christian churches played an important role in the devastated society of the immediate postwar period. In the war’s aftermath, enormous crowds of people – evacuated civilians, returning soldiers, refugees from the East, “foreign workers” – travelled through Germany without adequate provisions and with very limited means of transportation. These itinerant masses turned train stations into hotbeds of social misery. The Protestant Train Station Mission began its work as early as May 1945 and tried, at first in large cities, to help travelers as best it could, despite the difficult circumstances and a general lack of space and funds. The pressure eased in 1946 and basic conditions improved.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

Train Station Mission (TSM) in 1945

I. The local work.

Three especially vivid impressions characterize the year 1945.

1. The TSM work is being revived everywhere. On September 1 (1939), the old, tried-and-true work of the TSM was suspended through a decree of the NSV [National Socialist People’s Welfare Organization] (Hilgenfeldt). What was done instead, disguised as “Church Service to the Migrant Congregation,” was very modest and could no longer be spoken of as TSM in the true sense – even though in this work, in particular, given the growing misery from the bombed-out cities and their evacuated residents, the Central Office worked with great love, and it can be said with gratitude that this work preserved the Central Office of the TSM for the service today.

The collapse came in May 1945. From the very start of the most modest passenger traffic, the TSM was there. From Berlin, from the province, from the zone, finally also from the West came the reports: “We are at work.” In the months of May, June, July, August, and September, all of the chief TSMs were revived.

Behind the local TSMs and their work stood the initiative of all church forces, above all the work of the internal mission, which immediately went to work with great energy locally and in provincial locations. Women’s relief also started up. Above all, the women’s relief groups provided volunteers in large numbers and helped with material gifts. Some of this help was provided especially in areas where the greatest misery existed even in the villages. Likewise, church congregations helped in a similar way. The charitable breadbasket, the charitable wardrobe are becoming important sources of aid to relieve part of the boundless misery. Financial subsidies are being made available to pay for the workers. We have welcomed this anchoring of the work in the church congregations with great joy. It must be further promoted and deepened. (Congregations should, as they now do in Pomerania, sponsor TSMs, and members of the congregation must be called upon to distribute their gifts to those in need. It is important that train station missionaries continuously report in detail on their work at congregation evenings.)

[ . . . ]

2. The second lasting impression of 1945 is the shocking extent of the suffering. What took place at the train stations offers a terrible picture of the German fate in an especially blatant and concentrated form. Unspeakable misery! A chaos of suffering! The TSM experiences all of this first hand, so to speak.

A few sentences from a report from Frankfurt an der Oder about the summer months of 1945 are enough to illustrate this:

“For weeks, 10-15,000 refugees arrived at the train station every day. As a result, the railroad had to haul away 124 carloads of trash from the station every month. There was a lack of shelter, food, clothing. Men and women came wrapped in ragged blankets and no longer own anything else.”

first page < previous   |   next > last page