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Jürgen Brauer of the Independent Commission for Reappraisal: No "proactive contact" with possible victims

Photo: Harald Tittel / dpa

So far, three alleged abuse victims of the Catholic priest Edmund Dillinger have reported to the reappraisal commission in the diocese of Trier. They had reported "personally experienced inappropriate, sexually motivated behavior," according to the first interim report by judicial experts on the Dillinger case, which has now been presented in Trier. Most of the 25 contemporary witnesses interviewed so far were not victims themselves.

The former priest from Friedrichsthal in Saarland is suspected of having sexually abused young people in particular for decades from the seventies onwards and of having made recordings of them. The nephew of the priest, Steffen Dillinger, had found after the death of the man umpteen unframed slide shots in his house – and had gone public in April.

»No indication of a network«

"We do not miss any opportunity to advertise to those affected to contact them," said the former Koblenz Attorney General Jürgen Brauer and the former deputy head of the public prosecutor's office in Trier, Ingo Hromada, as authors of the report. One goal of the project is to identify possible victims, also so that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled in recognition of their suffering. However, "proactive contact" with potential victims is out of the question, "because it could be associated with the risk of retraumatization."

So far, there have been no indications of accomplices, said Brauer. "But we've actually only been working through things for three months, evaluating files, looking at pictures, talking to contemporary witnesses. But so far there has been no indication of a network with other perpetrators or accomplices."

According to the nephew Steffen Dillinger, many pictures were taken while traveling. From 1972 to 2005, the clergyman was chairman of the CV Africa Aid, which he founded – and, according to the report, often in Africa. In addition, he was often in Germany or on trips in Europe in the company of young African men. "He is said to have granted some of them lodging in his house in Friedrichsthal," the paper reads.

Individual contemporary witnesses had reported having observed sexual assaults on others or learned about them from third parties. The experiences of the interviewees concern the time from the beginning of his ministry in the church in 1961 as a chaplain in Saarbrücken to an incident that occurred in Fulda in 2018.

The first interim report does not include final results or evaluations, but describes the work of the project and provides an overview of the first steps, Brauer and Hromada said. Final results will be available in the final report.

Second interim report announced for November

The lawyers have so far taken a look at the files of the public prosecutor's office in Mainz, said Brauer. This included 236 slides, 13 paper photos and data carriers. The allegation that the footage shows multiple abuse of children and adolescents has not been confirmed. The inspection of the files of the public prosecutor's office in Saarbrücken is still pending.

Large parts of the evidence from the estate of the priest had been destroyed at the beginning of July at the request of the public prosecutor's office in Saarbrücken. Attorney General Manfred Kost later apologized for this. He described this as a mistake that unfortunately could not be undone.

"The loss weighs very heavily. We have only been able to estimate this now that we have been able to view two of these calendars at the Mainz public prosecutor's office," said Brauer. This is a pool of information in these two calendars and one can imagine that the other calendars have been kept similarly. There are addresses in there, telephone numbers, contact details and so on, which are now lost to all of us.«

In addition, the report discusses the fact that the Church was apparently informed about Dillinger's actions: "In fact, the files of the diocese record massive sexual assaults by the deceased to the detriment of juvenile victims from 1970," the report says, according to SR. When the priest was to receive the Federal Cross of Merit on ribbon in 1977, there were still no objections from the diocese.

A second interim report has been announced for 22 November: further interviews will be held next quarter, the lawyers announced. In addition, further files should be evaluated. At the end of the investigation, a comprehensive report by the Independent Commission for the Reappraisal of Sexual Abuse in the Diocese of Trier followed. Dillinger had died at the age of 87.