The operator of this non-commercial website is the highly motivated community-minded Martin Mitchell from Australia (himself an instititionalised and abused minor in church institutions in the former West Germany)

( 09.05.2004 )


by Regina Gazelle

All throughout the postwar years, beginning straight after the war, and continuing throughout the 1950ies, 60ies, 70ies, and continuing in some cases into the mid 1980ies, many thousands of us children and juveniles were held incarcerated in church institutions in the 'care' of 'merciful orders of religion': child welfare hellholes.

More than 3000 of these prison-like institutions existed in the 1960ies in every State of West-Germany. Whilst the economy was thriving and Germany was getting fat during the reconstruction period spanning several decades after the war children and juveniles disappeared quietly behind high walls and barbed wire. Here there they were locked away and severely abused simply for being a burden to society.

Almost all of these children were from underprivileged families, deprived and living in poverty, neglected, orphaned, or raised by overburdened single mothers.

All of us were in desperate need of a few kind words, a friendly gesture, love and understanding. But the perpetrators of our hell on earth to come thought differently.

The official administrators of our child welfare agencies removed us from society and put us into the 'care' of church-personnel who called themselves "Sisters" and "Bothers". The State initiated, financed and tolerated our existence behind locked doors and barred windows.

The culprits who actively mistreated and tormented these young people, often for a duration of many years, were the members of the catholic and protestant churches in Germany. Nuns, brothers, priests, deacons and deaconesses and other clergy had no inhibitions to act out their fury and perversions on us. Severe beatings ("corporal punishment") and the locking away of children in isolation cells was part of the daily routine.

If some of us were ill or too disgusted to consume the non-edible food and threw up, we were forced to re-eat the vomit. At times we were served stew which contained rind with bristles still attached. Refusal to empty a plate was met by severe beatings. We were forced to maintain silence all day. The showing of emotions was prohibited: no crying, no laughing, no sign of friendship was allowed. Small, active children were bound to their chairs during daytime and bound to their beds at night. Children who soiled their pants were dunked into cold bath water several times and held under until they almost suffocated. They were given sedatives in the morning so that they would stay quiet during the day.

Juvenile boys and teenage girls from the ages of fourteen to twenty-one were put behind locked doors and barred windows and forced to hard labour without pay. Isolated areas in the country, especially in the moors, were also favourite places for child slave labour, particularly for boys. We had to wear house-uniforms so that we would be easily recognised in case we managed to escape.

There are no statistics about these unfortunate souls who suffered this fate. A big secrecy surrounds the whereabouts of our files both in state and private hands. Politicians and church personnel are not willing to comment or give any explanation. Everywhere we turn we are met by a wall of silence.

During our forcible internment in the years of our youth all of our fundamental human rights were severely violated. We did not count as human beings. We were treated like scum. We actually had it drummed into us that we were "worthless" and would always remain "worthless". "Nobody wants you!" they screamed at us, "You are the devil’s offspring!". I would simply stare into space, often dumb with shock, wondering if this hell would ever end.

Eventually it did end, when I was nearly twenty-one. But not at night in my sleep it ended; I was being haunted by nightmares for many years to come.

How tragic this time was for so many dependents, children and teenagers, boys and girls. There was no support-group interested in us. We were totally at the mercy of these vicious priests, nuns, deacons and deaconesses. There was no Amnesty International or any other such organisation to help us, and no lawyers or a justice system to protect us. There was no child protection agency. It was they who had handed us to our tormentors.

We were not criminals (and even criminals should not be treated the way we were!). We were the helpless and forgotten children of postwar West-Germany.

Years on, decades later, we still suffer, all of us, severely traumatised in our childhood, and the pain remains with us every day for the rest of our lives.

We will never forget these mental and physical tortures we had to endure as children at the hands of the churches. We want the world to know of these atrocities committed on us.

(The author, a German national, currently living in Paderborn in the German State of Westphalia, has lived both in the United States and in England, and speaks fluent English and German).

[ Date of first publication on this Website: 9 May 2004 ]

Subindex No. 1

DW WORLD.DE - DEUTSCHE WELLE on 23.01.2009 in English ( Sabina Casagrande reporting )
( relating to the former West-Germany ) »Abused Wards Of The State Demand Reparations In Germany«
An apology and compensation are long overdue

( The current CDU/SPD Government of the German Federal Republic, however, is dragging its feet. )

News in brief in the German news-magazine FOCUS, Munich the 12 August 2007:
»The Association of Former Wards of the State [ of the former West-Germany ] /
Former Institutionalised Children / Care-Leavers-Survivors demand compensation -
"The firms that made use of institutional child labour ( "unpaid forced labour" ) have to pay"« -
announced the lawyer for the victims, Munich
human rights lawyer Michael Witti.

Media reports pertaining to an Australian compensation case indexed by GOOGLE:
Court Judgment:
Compensation for Aborigine of the "Stolen Generation":

Judgment of The Honourable Justice Gray - 1 August 2007

Former wards of the state take the initiative.
German care-leavers-survivors take Government to task.
The German Federal Government is being challenged to answer the following simple question:
Ehemalige Heimkinder stellen eine sehr einfache Frage an die Deutsche Bundesregierung:

Legitimate critical observations by the Australian operator, Martin Mitchell, of the
cum postwar German history site Care-Leavers
@ with regard to specific human rights violations -
extra-judicial incarceration and "forced labour" and the profiteering therefrom
by the postwar West-German State
, the churches and private enterprise
(between ca 1945 - 1975) - which should concern us all.

Absolute prohibition of all forms of forced labour / compulsory labour !, or not ?
Was "forced labour" / "compulsory labour" / "work therapy" /
"indoctrination by toil" / "labour discipline" / "pressganged labour"
"hiring out of involuntary labour" / "forcing people to work without pay" ever permitted
in the Federal Republic of Germany, or not? Was it ever permitted in the 1950s, the 1960s,
the 1970s and the 1980?
Is it permitted in the Federal Republic of Germany today?

The use of and the profiteering from forced labour are crimes under international law and they
constitute a serious violation of human rights and an unlawful curtailment of human freedoms.

German wards of the state / institutionalised children used as slave labourers (in the former
West Germany
) demand adequate compensation and the making of appropriate amends;
they don't want to be "paid off" / "to be bribed henceforth to keep quiet"; no "compromise" !

Deutsche Heimkinder / Kindersklaven verlangen eine anständige Entschädigung und
Wiedergutmachung; keine "Abfindung" / "kein Schweigegeld", keinen "Kompromiss" !

Horrific (hidden) POSTWAR GERMAN HISTORY unearthed !!!
Justice at last for abused wards of the state being detained
and slave laboured in ‘institutional care’ in
(West) Germany
by church and state
(a couple of million of them between 1945-1975+;
the exact number has not as yet been able to be determined).

However, whether these victims will in fact obtain justice remains to be seen.


Mary Raftery and Eoin O'Sullivan – First published in 1999 – ISBN 0-8264-1337-4 – (425 pages).
Well-researched non-fictional documentary-type account of Irish institutional child abuse –
in this case perpetrated almost solely by Catholic orders of religion in institutions run for profit
and enrichment of themselves, and to the total disregard of the needs of the children in their ‘care’.

Forgotten Children – The Secret Abuse Scandal in Children's Homes.
[ Institutional child abuse in the UK ]
Author Christian Wolmar – Vision Paperbacks . October 2000.

Visit also “Ehemalige Heimkinder” (former Wards of the State) Blog @

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