Germany’s main Protestant welfare agency has announced it wants an independent investigation into allegations that thousands of children in post-Second World War Germany faced abuse and neglect in church-run homes.
"We don’t want to gloss over, play down or deny the facts," said Juergen Gohde, president of the Diakonisches Werk of the Evangelical Church in Germany, acknowledging that children had faced unacceptable conditions in homes.
However, there was no evidence that children had been "systematically abused on the instructions of the authorities of the welfare agencies or the church", the Protestant news agency epd quoted Gohde saying.
The allegations were made in a book, "Beatings in the name of God", published in February by journalist Peter Wensierski. He alleged that between 1945 and 1975, thousands of children faced abuse in children’s homes, the majority of which were run on behalf of the Roman Catholic or Protestant churches.
Most of the children lived in the church-run homes for two to four years, but some spent the whole of their childhood there where they were cut off from the society. Some children were placed in them by the authorities because they were not being cared for properly by their parents. Others there were seen as
unruly or difficult to educate.
Once there, according to Wensierski, children could face beatings or solitary confinement if they deviated from the daily routine set by the institution.
"Evidence from recent publications means it cannot be denied that from the 1950s to the 1970s children and young people faced inhuman treatment and even physical and psychological mistreatment in church welfare homes," said the Rev. Uwe Becker, a spokesperson for the Diakonisches Werk of the Protestant church in the Rhineland, in western Germany.
Becker said the use of violence in church-run homes needed to be investigated, "for the sake of the victims who are still suffering the consequences".
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