20,000 REFUGEES ARRIVE EACH MO NTH
By NORMAN MEARES
HE Soviet threat to pull the stems tighter on Berlin by denouncing the Potsdam Agreement and handing over control to the East German Communists is Khrushchev's answer to an extraordinary demonstration of no confidence in Marxism. At the rate of nearly 20,000 a monthor one every two minutes Germans are fleeing from the puppet " democratic " Republic to the The most open channel is into Berlin, more than a hundred miles inside the Iron Curtain from where political refugees are flown over the Soviet Zone into Western Germany. The motive of refugees is sometimes economic, but mostly it is a plain matter of conscience-religious or political revulsion against the oneidea state.
At present, teachers form a large proportion of the people flying to the freedom of the West. Make no mistake. They leave their homes, often their families and always many friends on conscientious grounds.
Nor are the refugees merely representative of the older age groups. In a stark office at Marienfelde Reception Camp for refugees on the outskirts of Western Berlin I sat with a tribunal investigating new arrivals to assess what aid they were entitled to.
The chairman of the committee of three with a Yul Brynner hairdo except for a cock's comb running down the centre had himself been a refugee. Careful questioning, supported by corroborative evidence, dug down into the personal history and motives of the refugees passing before the committee.
In that office of file-laden tables the bubble of Communist propaganda was pricked by human stories from its victims.
As I arrived a sharp-featured art school teacher from the Soviet Zone was opening a large portfolio of paintings and sketches.
With emphatic gestures he showed the tribunal a woodland scene. They told me that it was not Socialist art, because it was supposed to be Spring and I had painted the sky behind the trees blue," he said.
Quickly he sorted out a strong sketch of art earnest woman's face. "That's my wife. I was reprimanded because they said I had not made her look optimistic enough, and that was not good Socialism."
He looked through his collection and produced two or three different sketches-a hough of a tree, a head reminiscent of Durer. "These were the work of my pupils," he said.
"I was called before the school administration and warned that I was influencing them to show too much imagination and to make the individual too important. They told me Socialist art must be naturalistic."
Later a music teacher from Mecklenburg told the tribunal how he had been cautioned because he failed to teach his classes "Socialist music" The staff at this school numbered 20, he told the tribunal, and four were fanatical members of the Communist S.E.D. Party, four were members for expediency, and the rest were under suspicion and watched. This refugee was the fifteenth teacher to flee from that school since 1950.
Members of the tribunal had already received favourable reports on him from colleagues who had preceded him. So with his wife and four children he was welcomed to the West.
These interrogations tell more than any agent could learn in weeks, for they bring the testimony of men and women who have lived under the system for years With his wife appeared a 37year-old former member of the S.E.D. He had been a baker until 1951, when he became a teacher. Membership of the Communist movement had raised him rapidly to deputy headmaster and to head master by this year.
But he insisted that he had refused to advise parents of the need to send their children to work in factories during the holidays under recent regulations.
He had resisted the compulsory drafting of children into the "Free German Youth" and attendance at a civic oath ceremony instead of church confirmation, and he had declined to give lectures on Communism to visitors to his locality.
That was his story. and the committee told him straightforwardly that he could stay with his wife and two children in the West but would receive no assistance as a political refugee.
More pathetic were the widows. One aged 46 was accepted because she had two children aged 15 and 16. She had come over on their account, because, she said, they had to tell lies at school every y.
If the tribunal appeared reluctant in her case it was because the West German authorities do not want to see the zone depopulated and thc vacuum -filled perhaps by Russians. Almost brutally the committee pointed out to this middle-aged woman that she had not been compelled to flee.
Her reply moved them. "I had only one reason;' she said. "I had lost hope. I do not believe any more in unification. I could not bear this life any longer."
Anyone who is misled by the attempts of Communists to associate themselves with movements apparently designed to promote freedom and democracy would find a corrective in the obviously sincere narratives of personal experience by those who are giving up all rights to pensions and promotions to start a new life in the West.
The dramatic change from nervous tension to grateful relief at the news that they have been accepted by the authorities of the Federal German Republic-Western Germany-is a commentary on the strain of life in Eastern Germany.
A TV dream