Photo. Refugees waiting to be admitted to the Marienfelde Refugee Center, August 14, 1961
© DHM-Schirner

April 2012

Letter regarding the situation of refugees in the Marienfelde Refugee Center, Easter 1960 (ENM-003690)

Letter regarding the situation of refugees in the Marienfelde Refugee Center
“On Easter Sunday, I stood witness as hundreds of new arrivals waited in line to be registered at Marienfelde. I have seen a lot in the nearly eight years in which I have been working here, but what I saw at that moment shook me to the core.”

Superintendent Karl Gustav Ahme, at that time the director of Berlin’s Evangelical Refugee Pastoral Aid Society, wrote these words on April 19, 1960. The situation in the Marienfelde Refugee Center over the Easter holidays compelled him to turn to representatives of the church in a three-page letter. He asked for money and clothing for the refugees, as well as the dispatch of additional pastors and church deacons. Still, his letter did not deal solely with practical help – he also requested that the representatives of the church and their communities take an active interest in the fate of the refugees and that they include them in their prayers.

The urgency of Ahme’s letter is illustrated by the numbers of refugees that weekend: 1,336 arrive on the Friday before Easter; 1,202 that Saturday; 1,006 on Easter; and on Monday another 688 – a total of 4,232 people in four days.

Superintendent Ahme also mentions in his letter a new report on the impact of the forced collectivization of agriculture. He thus hints at the reason why the number of flights has increased at this time.

After the GDR began to collectivize farming in 1952, the pressure to join an agricultural cooperative (LPG) reached its peak in the spring of 1960. Thousands of farmers left the GDR. Several hundred committed suicide. At the end of May 1960, nearly all farmers in the GDR were members of an LPG.