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

September 2017

Donated Care Package in the Boy’s Dormitory

Donated Care Package in the Boy’s Dormitory
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The photo shows a dormitory room for refugee children in the Volkmarstrasse camp in Berlin-Tempelhof. A Protestant theology student stands in the middle of the picture. He is unpacking a care package from West Germany that was donated to the children. The photo, taken in fall 1957, was supposed to document the tense situation in the West Berlin camps and also show the work of the welfare organizations.

The refugee camp was established in summer 1952 on the former factory grounds of the electricity company C. Lorenz AG on the Teltow Canal. Month after month, the transit camp, which was run by the German Red Cross and Workers Welfare Association, provided immediate housing to thousands of refugees from East Germany and East Berlin after they arrived in the West. The former factory buildings were often overcrowded: the large assembly halls were divided into sections by temporary cardboard walls; a single area was shared by as many as a hundred people. Under these circumstances it was impossible to have privacy or prepare food individually.

Housing in the Volkmarstrasse refugee camp was divided strictly by sex, which meant that even families were separated. Boys 12 years and younger were allowed to stay with their mothers in the women’s dormitory. Boys over 12 had to sleep alone in the men’s room, even when they did not have a father there. To resolve this problem, in April 1957, the Protestant Refugee Care Service created this separate boy’s dormitory with space for 28 boys. It also provided pajamas and daily supervision by vicars and theology students who stayed overnight in the dormitory with the children.