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Barton, Betty. / The problem of 12 million German refugees in today's Germany
([1949])

Section III: What are the problems of the individual refugee?,   pp. 20-29 PDF (3.3 MB)


Page 20


SECTION III
WHAT ARE THE PROBLEMS OF THE INDIVIDUAL
REFUGEE?
A Hypothetical Case
In an attempt to answer this complex question let us take as an
example an individual who has come as a stranger into an overpopulated
community. How can he find a place for himself? What can he do?
Before he joined the army, this young man had four long years of exact-
ing training as an apprentice to a goldsmith, let us say. But now gold-
smiths are a drug on the employment market.
How can he settle down without knowing where his mother and
younger brothers are? "Gott sei dank," God be thanked, he knows
they
are alive, but since they left Silesia and he was released with Muenster-
lager there has been no way of keeping in touch with them. His aunt in
Essen would know, but where is she since her home was destroyed?
There really is not much use tramping from city to city any more to look
for his people. Four months of tramping have convinced him, and his
broken shoes show it. If he can find an apartment or small house in the
suburb of the town where he finds himself, then at least somebody in
the family would have a base, he figures. With a garden maybe. Toma-
toes, radishes, fruit, chairs under the trees. Inside in winter there might
be a tile stove, a diningroom with furniture, a bedroom for each of them
-how long is it since he has had a room of his own? he asks himself-
a bed of his own with warm covers?
"Foolish, isn't it," he muses, "to start furnishing a house
one hasn't
found?"
Actually, he knows there are no houses, no apartments. Clearly,
the thing this man must do is look for a room. If he can only find a room
with a family who perhaps have relatives in Silesia, he thinks he may not
feel such a stranger. They might then understand his loneliness. But
then another thought occurs to him and his heart sinks. For if they have
relatives in Silesia those relatives are almost certainly with them now.
So
there is no prospect of a room with this family that he has not even found.
Maybe, he speculates next, he should look for a room with some of
the richer people. They have larger houses and, many of these being in
the suburbs, their homes were not so badly bombed. They are likely to
have more comfortable furniture, too, and probably heat in cold weather.
Yes, he decides, that is what he must do. After finding the house he will
read the card on the door to see how many people are living there. If
the number seems below the three-to-a-two-room average, he thinks that
the local room-assignment office may give him a paper ordering the fam-
ily to let him move in. As a war veteran, as a refugee whose home in the
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