WHILE Mr. Khrushchev "rattles his tin tray" in the wings, help is being rushed to West Berlin from Catholic centres all over Europe to help the refugees, mostly non-Catholics, who run grave risks to escape from East Berlin and East Germany.
"All over the city of West Berlin there are signs which say 'Ich Bin bci ouch' (I am with you), a scriptural assurance left over from the Kirchentage ( Protestant Church days ) which have just ended". writes Mgr. Francis Lally, a Catholic correspondent in Berlin.
The motto of this Protestant Congress now has a double meaning very well understood by the Berliners.
" I am with you " is taken to mean that free men everywhere stand behind Berlin and what it means to the West. Berliners are even expecting and hoping for a visit from President Kennedy.
From Federal Germany and other parts of Europe help for the refugees from the East has been pouring in. The great German relief organisation "Caritas" has called for help everywhere. especially clothes for men and children-clothes to be sent to Berliner Caritas Verband, Berlin Schoneberg, Kolonnenstrasse 38.
The Catholic Worker Movement has appealed to people to provide accommodation for the homeless. One Catholic Men's Society has given up its annual dinner and sent the money, 1,000 marks. to the refugees. Five tons of clothing have been sent from Tongerloo, Belgium, and the same from Cologne.
The danger which refugees from East Berlin have encountered in their bid for freedom has not been sufficiently publicised. To attempt to escape is a crime called "Flight from the Republic". To help others to fly is almost as had. If caught, both crimes mean long prison sentences. Even neighbours may be imprisoned if they fail to report attempts at flights by their neighbours.
It was unfortunate for East Germany that the crisis took place in high summer. for the chances of successful flight at this time of the year are much greater. Families with children are making their way for their summer holidays. Trains pass through East Berlin. and it is easy to alight and get into the subway between the two Berlins. If they escape the soldiers, they will reach freedom in ten minutes.
Typical refugees. interviewed to make sure that they were not spies, included a concrete worker, long bullied to become an organiser, who finally came with his wife and three children, having nothing but their clothes and pocketmoney. Next a woman doctor with two sons who could not go to the University because they were "upper-class" and therefore suitable only for the factory. A theatre make-up man left because he found art dead in East Germany; only the people's Marxist plays are tolerated.
This last desperate bid for freedom is the tail-end of more than two and a half millions who have been welcomed during the last ten years by their free fellow Germans.
The majority are under 25; few are over 65. From the religious point of view, most are Protestants, the traditional faith of East Germany. Some fifteen per cent may be Catholic.
The attitude of the West Berliners to the great crisis seems a great deal less worried than is the case in the rest of Europe.
No other German city is more prosperous or busy. The shops arc full of first-rate goods and fine new buildings are springing up everywhere. They know well the contrast between their free city and the Soviet citadel. That is another world. All the rubble of the war still litters the famous Unter den I.inden. Only the Communists' party headquarters, the Karl Marx school and the famous Stalinerstrasse, built ten years ago. are worth looking at. yet already the buildings are peeling and beginning to have a slum-like look.
A million Berliners have lived and worked in East Berlin and they have known Communism better than anyone else in the West-and they do not like anything about it. Almost every family has some personal experience and knowledge of kidnapping.
Communism among the Fast Berliners is almost unknown, and even party-members do not like it much either. The climate of freedom is too near.
It is surprising that the West does not counter Khrushchev propaganda about the glory of Soviet science, arms and cosmonauts with the now demonstrated truth that if the harriers between East and West Germany were raised, men, women and children would pour out of Communist Germany like floodwater through a raised dam.
The Berlin diocese covers not only the city of Berlin itself. with a total population of 2.000.000 on the West and 1.000.000 in the East, but also a considerable surrounding territory, all of it in Soviet hands.
To the West the Bishop exercises jurisdiction to a point near Magdeburg, and to the East as far as the Polish border. Ten per cent of the total population is Catholic Cardinal Dopfnere Bishop of Berlin until his recent appointment as Archbishop of Munich, always had difficulty in entering Soviet territory or even East Berlin, where his cathedral stands. He has had to ask for leave eaoh time.