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Odenwaldschule board resigns in wake of abuse claims

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Odenwaldschule board resigns in wake of abuse claims
Photo: DPA
11:14 CEST+02:00
Nearly the entire board of the Odenwaldschule progressive boarding school in Hesse have resigned following the exposure of a long-neglected history of child sex abuse there.

The abuse scandal emerged as part of the wave of such child abuse horrors being unearthed across Germany that are largely, but not exclusively connected with Catholic church institutions.

It became public about three weeks ago that abuse claims had been made about ten years ago, relating to the period between 1966 and 1991 but had not been systematically investigated and then ignored.

The school has mentioned claims from 33 victims concerning eight teachers, although Der Spiegel magazine says the numbers are 40 victims and ten teachers.

Former head of the school Gerold Becker, who was in charge between 1972 and 1985, has been accused of being particularly involved in the abuse.

Accounts by former pupils say that some teachers at the school in Heppenheim woke them by stroking their genitals, forced them to perform oral sex, and were made into "sex slaves" for whole weekends.

Teachers also beat their wards, provided them with drugs and alcohol, and did not intervene when several pupils sexually abused a girl.

Now in a decisive move which will increase pressure on other institutions where such claims of abuse have been made, five of the seven members of the school's board have stepped down.

The previous board, “neglected a number of things in the past,” said Philipp Sturz, spokesman for the school's operating association.

“This school became a culpable institution,” he said, adding that those responsible had not listened properly to the children making claims of having been abused.

The Odenwaldschule was established in 1910 with a holistic ethos of raising a child according to its own individual desires, rather than through discipline and drill.

The 225 pupils currently attending (200 as boarders) live in so-called 'families,' with their class teacher as a kind of 'family head' who lives in an adjacent room. A boarder's place at the school currently costs €2,220 a month.

Famous alumni include French-German politician Daniel Cohn-Bendit, journalist and television presenter Amelie Fried and author Klaus Mann.

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