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

November 2017

The Lamentations of Jeremiah in November 1964

The Lamentations of Jeremiah in November 1964
Sermon (excerpt) Click to enlarge
The text of this sermon is a relic from a special church event that took place in Berlin-Nikolassee. On the third Sunday in November 1964, former political prisoners from the Brandenburg penitentiary were invited to an afternoon with coffee followed by a church service. The event was initiated and organized by the Protestant refugee care service, which was familiar with the problems faced by former prisoners in the Marienfelde refugee center.

It was hoped that by bringing these amnestied political prisoners together, inviting them to spend a day at an idyllic site and having them partake in a church service, a concrete form of assistance would be provided that would help them adjust to their new life in the West. Three years after the wall was erected, the Berlin-Brandenburg State Church also thought that support of this kind would be a way for it to exercise its right to provide spiritual care in divided Germany through concrete action.

The invited guests were brought to Nikolassee on a special bus. They were greeted by the church council with a richly spread table of coffee and cake, after which they were shown a film. This sermon was a central part of the prayer service that was held afterwards in the Nikolassee Church. Beginning with the Lamentation of Jeremiah, it drew a parallel between the expulsion of the Israelites and the collapse of the German Reich in 1945, pointing out that both were experienced as catastrophes but also gave birth to new hope. It also denounced the political persecution and imprisonment of Christians in the GDR and stressed the importance of providing humanitarian aid to the former prisoners even after they were amnestied and had arrived the West.

It noted that these people continued to suffer not only from their past persecution, criminal convictions and prison sentences: Many also felt isolated in West Berlin and suffered social exclusion as former prisoners. Although their personal freedom had been restored to them, their situation in West Berlin was anything but easy. This sermon bears witness to this.