WE sat together on a terrace overlooking the Rhine, Eugen and I, and this is the story he told me.
"They treated me officially with respect because there is a great shortage of medical men in Eastern Germany and I was very busy. In this I was happy, for the people needed me. I was allowed to live in a better house than the average, and although not rich I was reasonably provided for.
"I could have left Eastern Germany at any time had I wished-before the present crisis. that is. It would have meant leaving all my belongings there. of course, but I could have got a pass to enable me to attend some medical conference in a western capital and so got out of the country. But I didn't.
"Why not? Well, because of my belief. Each of us has to serve his fellow men according to his ability and my ability was as a doctor. I am not superior to a priest, nor to a civil servant. nor to a good workman, but neither am I inferior. We all serve mankind. Besides, at the end of my student career I had taken an oath to serve the sick. This was a matter of conscience to me.
"I wanted to be a good citizen. They wouldn't let rite. In a corrupt state you may do your own part honestly, but all around you is the rot. If corruption doesn't eat into you it can still eat into those dear to you, and you have a Christian duty to protect them too."
We had been fellow students. Eugen and I, in the University of Jena. but circumstances had led us apart. We both fought in the war: my fate was to become a prisoner of war in the hands of the Americans, but that is past; I am back in my homeland and a magistrate. but fortunately on the west side of
• I his is a true story. But we details which would enable the reason will appear obvious to the barrier. By reason of my post I know a great deal about the state of tyranny on the other side. Every refugee has a story to tell; my old fellow-student Eugen was only one of many.
You may think that by nonaggression in a country, even one that is not free, you may exist. Leave them alone and they will leave you alone. It is a delusion. Your thoughts arc your own, it is true, and you may not wish to impose them on others not of your opinion, but the Communist creed is active, and though you may resist its blandishments yourself. you cannot prevent your children being affected.
That was Eugen's problem. He went on to explain.
"For myself," he said, "I had not wish to leave those people. They needed me and they appreciated me. But corruption I could not control.
"Sooner or later some accident happens. Supposing some party leader had died from an overdose of a drug I had supplied! Fortunately nothing like that happened. The things which alarmed me were trivial in themselves but immensely dangerous portents.
"One day, while running down the steps out of school, my elder son bumped into a girl and knocked her down. It was an accident and my son was not punished for it. But that evening, while I was on my rounds, a man came to the house. He was a working man and he complained that my son had assaulted his daughter so seriously that she had had to be taken to hospital suffering from concussion and a broken arm.
"My wife knew nothing of the
have purposely removed any subject to be recognised. The the reader.
event and could only apologise and offer what assistance we could. But that was not enough. This man had determined on revenge. He declared that he was on the local committee of the Party and that the matter would be discussed there.
"The school my son attended, he claimed, was not for the sons of doctors but for the sons of working-men, and he would have him expelled.
"This was the story my wife told me on my return. I went off immediately to the hospital to see the girl, but she was not there. She had gone there earlier in the day, under her own steam, and had an adhesive plaster put on her grazed knee, but that was all.
"At once I wrote to the Burgomeister and protested. Not a word of truth was in that man's statement and I expected an apology from him and from the local branch of the Party. Moreover, I got them.
"But if I had been a farmer instead of a doctor, should I have got those apologies? No.
"The next event concerned my younger son. Hans is only eight, but he'd proved so good at his lessons that he was chosen to be promoted to a special class where he would learn the Russian language. This was a great honour. There were only 32 children in this class from the whole district, and Hans was the
youngest. • "Our family is Christian. We all go to church and, of course. both my children have been baptised. But of the 32 children in the advanced class to which Hans now belonged. only two boys had been baptised; the other 30 were voting atheists. This is the normal situation now in Eastern Germany.
'Had my son not been a bril
liant scholar and got into this special class, it is possible that he may not have suffered any great inconvenience on religious grounds until later in life, but in the advanced class he was asked questions about Christian doctrine and his answers were 'ridiculed.
Then came the Christmas holidays. Hans came home and asked for candles.
" 'But, Hans, you know we have no candles this year,' I said. '
" 'That is what I said, but teacher says I must bring a pound of holy candles to school when 1 return after the holidays. I told her there are none in the shops, but she says 1 should pray to God: God will surely send me holy candles if I pray.'
"1 talked it over with my wife that night. Somehow we might find or make ourselves some candles, but what then? Hans would have to explain that God had not really sent them, and the candles would be made the source of ridicule.
"You see, I was being invited to provide the means of my son's conversion to atheism. And those devils were technically just. Nobody had told Hans he mustn't go to church.
"What were we to do? My Christian duty was to help those poor people there so desperately in need of medical care. If we left Eastern Germany 1 should come to a country well provided with doctors, and one lone Christian boy would be left in that class to fight 30 young atheists If we stayed, our children would be penalised, corrupted, made the tools of our discomforture.
"What would you have done?
"Well, we escaped by way of Berlin. That was before the barriers. Now we are free and everybody says I've been wise; but, Marcus. my old friend, am I a coward?"