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Child abuse: The Protestant Eros

2019-06-20T18:00:44.475Z

What did the Kirchentag know? Displacement of child abuse is not just a Catholic problem. For years, a Protestant milieu courted the main offender of the Hessian Odenwald School.


If it had gone to Gerold Becker, politicians and nobles would have buried him. A publishing house editor would have been there and also an editor-in-chief. When the former head of the Odenwald School made the guest list for his funeral, he thought he was sure that he would be surrounded by powerful friends at the grave. After all, Gerold Becker was not anyone. He was considered a celebrated star of reform education, knew the people on his list for years personally and well.

The funeral that Gerold Becker wished for never happened. Too big was the media vortex around his person when it became known in 2010 that Becker had been abusing and raping children and adolescents for decades. At this time Gerold Becker was already seriously ill. He knew he would not live much longer.

The first allegations against him had already been made in 1999, when the Frankfurter Rundschau reported on sexual abuse at the Odenwaldschule. But no one was interested in it. Only when in 2010 many victims of the Odenwaldschule had their say in 2010 as a result of the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, were the allegations against Becker investigated. There are said to have been several hundred victims at the Reform School in Hesse's Upper Hambach. Gerold Becker, who was headmaster of the Odenwaldschule from 1972 to 1985, is considered one of the main perpetrators.

Pedophiles like Becker rarely act alone. It needs a system, know-it-alls, who for whatever reason look away; a social framework within which sexual violence can go undetected. Or as the professor of education Jens Brachmann writes in the preprint of a study published in July to Odenwaldschule: "It takes a whole village to abuse a child."

Even the good reputation of the perpetrators can promote abuse. The more impeccable the reputation of the accused, the less implausible the victims are if they dare to speak publicly after years. Shine protection, in short, is the formula that caused Gerold Becker's deeds to go undetected for so long. Becker's guest list is an indication that he was sure of this splendor until shortly before his death in July 2010.

A former managing director of the German Protestant Kirchentag is also on Gerold Becker's list. This proves that Gerold Becker was also well connected to the Protestant church. Becker worked in committees of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), attended church days regularly, appeared as a critical theologian. A network of Protestant elites supported him, one of them was Hartmut von Hentig.

Like no other educator, Hentig shaped education policy after the Second World War. He spoke on podiums, published in newspapers and was a sought-after interlocutor, also for DIE ZEIT. And Hentig was Becker's mentor and life companion. He cared for Becker until his death in a Berlin apartment.

Reform education and the Protestant church share a long common history. Was one blind to their dark side? Did the Protestant church - unknowingly - contribute to the splendor of perpetrators like Becker? And why are not these compounds being worked up consistently with today's knowledge?

Anyone who asks around in the Protestant church quickly realizes how sensitive the topic is. Many people do not answer or answer. Who speaks, wants to be rarely quoted. It is difficult to find eyewitnesses, even for scientists who try to understand these connections. The retired professor of education Jürgen Oelkers, for example, has rummaged through archives and documents for his 600-page biography of Gerold Becker. Speaking, he says, hardly anyone wanted to be part of the network.

Source: zeit

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