Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Titel:
The German work-student
Person:
Rohrbach, Paul
Persistente ID:
urn:nbn:de:gbv:wim2-g-3259479
PURL:
https://digitalesammlungen.uni-weimar.de/viewer/resolver?urn=urn:nbn:de:gbv:wim2-g-3260970
i smock to work by the side of the men that a year before had regarded me as an  
I enemy. l wished to earn my bread in the factory during the vacation, to save money  
 for my studies, and at the same time to investigate that riddle that had then so power-  
2 fully urged itself on me in this place.  
I The working-student was at that time a new and, in Germany, little known appearance.  
i So it was evident that I drew attention and was again recognised. But nothing that  
 I had expected occurred. There was no threat, no hostile word from the workmen,  
 only a shy reserve towards the intruder, and stolen glances at him. Was it that they  
E were taken aback and thrown up against the old riddle again?  Z 
 I did my work as well as I could. It was quite strange and new to me andl had  
 much to learn. The simplest handgrips, the swinging of the hammer, the holding of  
 the chisel, all had to be shown to me. Then Iwas set to work with a gang of men  
Z who were putting together the different parts of railway carriages and cranes and  
 finishing them off. My hammer struck in time with the others, and my hand lay on  
 the lever of the engine next to the rough hands of my fellow-workmen. Men belonging  
 to different worlds and separated by an endless gulf toiled together at the same work.  
 And out of the common rhythm of the dull work there arose a common pulsation of  
I souls, and a comradeship grew up. Before long I was able to feel that my fellow-  
 workers were overcoming the mistrust cherished against me at first. In the intervals  
 of work leisure was found to speak about this and that and to gain some interest  
E in one another, and soon I was occasionally invited by workmen and foremen to the Z 
 midday meal with their families. Thus I had the opportunity of becoming acquainted  
 with workmen in their homes, and was frequently surprised by the cleanliness and  
 cosiness of their simple dwellings and by the beautiful and often truly Christian family  
 life of many a workman. The wide difference in the working-classes themselves bet-  
 ween those that are efficient, orderly and contented and those that are unfit, untidy  
I and unamiable became very clear to me.  
 When, after a few weeks, the doors of the Dortmund works had closed behind me,  
 I was in many respects a different person. I had learnt to judge manual labour itself  
 otherwise thanl had previously done; the outward situation of the lower classes ap-  
 peared to me in a different light; l understood that the material interests of the workmen  
 were conditioned by their wages and manner of living, and found myself obliged to change  
I my former superficial opinion about them. A closer acquaintance with various workmen  
Z caused me to see many things that remain hidden from most of those that belong to  
 the "better" classes. The grave disadvantages of a material kind that are bound up  
 with the life of the working classes were a revelation to me; the over-crowded, barrack-  
 like dwellings  those horrible breeding-places of disease, the unhealthy work, the  
 child mortality, the strike and lock-out misery. For the students who by their higher  
E education and training are called upon to take an active and leading part in the great  
E tasks of the time it is of immense worth to become, through his own experience as a  
 working-student, acquainted with the deep material needs of men.  
 But besides observing the outward circumstances of the working-classes I obtained  
 a deep insight into the inner conditions of their existence. For the social question   
 has two sides and touches not only the material economical needs. And especially  
 in Germany, more so perhaps than in other countries, is it on the spiritual side a  
I burning question. The spiritual needs of the working-classes do not make themselves  
72 
        

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