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CRIME

Mystery of missing teenager found in suspected paedophile’s cupboard grips Germany

The case of a missing 15-year-old boy found in a closet at the flat of a suspected paedophile has gripped Germany – but the boy's mother says she just wants to celebrate Christmas with her son.

Mystery of missing teenager found in suspected paedophile's cupboard grips Germany
The house in Recklinghausen where the boy was found. Photo: DPA

Marvin had been missing for over two years when he was found hiding in a cupboard last Friday as police searched the home of a 44-year-old man suspected of distributing child pornography.

The shocking discovery in the western town of Recklinghausen, north of Dortmund, has drawn comparisons to two shocking cases in Austria – of Natascha Kampusch, who was held by her kidnapper for eight years before she managed to escape in 2006; and of Elisabeth Fritzl, who was kept in a cellar and repeatedly raped by her father Josef in an ordeal that lasted 24 years.

Marvin, who disappeared after saying goodbye to his carers at a youth shelter early on June 11th, 2017, is currently in psychiatric care.

“I want to visit him for Christmas, to celebrate a little with him,” his mother Manuela B., 53, told Germany's best-selling tabloid Bild.

A police spokesman on Monday said the decision on when Marvin can go home “is up to the doctors, not the police”.

Many questions remain answered in the case that German media have dubbed an “Advent miracle” – including how the boy ended up at the flat and if he could have left at any time.

The 44-year-old suspect at whose flat Marvin was found has been arrested and charged with a serious sexual offence.

Prosecutors in Bochum on Monday said the man already had a 2018 conviction for possessing child pornography but was only given a ten-month suspended sentence.

The boy was already staying with the man at that point as he is understood to have lived at the flat for “at least two years”, chief prosecutor Christian Kuhnert told DPA news agency.

What exactly happened in the first months after the child's disappearance “is still being looked into”, he added.

TV appeal

Police said in a statement that the officers who discovered him “did not see any indications at that point that he was being held against his will”.

But Marvin's mother, who was briefly reunited with her son on Friday, doubted he was there entirely out of free will.

Photo: DPA

“The man whose place they found him at must have manipulated him,” she told Bild.

“I could go crazy thinking about what's been done to him.”

She said Marvin was found wearing the same clothes as on the day he vanished, and said he looked like “a broken old man”.

“He now needs to process what's happened over the past two and a half years. This is all so painful.”

His stepfather Michael B. told the RTL broadcaster he believed the boy hadn't stayed at the flat voluntarily, adding that Marvin “didn't talk much” when he saw his mother.

Marvin was 13 when he was living in a care home for young people, reportedly after he had trouble processing the death of his father.

After the investigation into his disappearance had gone cold, Marvin's mother and sister made a fresh appeal for information in the TV show “Aktenzeichen XY” in July, which tries to solve missing cases.

But in the end the boy's discovery appeared to be entirely coincidental.

Marvin's mother told Bild she already knows what she will give her son for Christmas.

“I want to give him new clothes.”

Michelle Fitzpatrick

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CRIME

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

Borys Shyfrin fled as a young child, along with other members of his Jewish family, from the Nazis.

Ukrainian Holocaust survivors find safe haven in Germany

More than eight decades on, the Ukrainian Holocaust survivor has been forced from his home once more – but this time he’s found a safe haven in Germany.

Shyfrin is among a number of Ukrainian Jews who lived through the Nazi terror and have now fled to the country from which Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich launched its drive try to wipe Jews out.

He never wanted to leave Mariupol, where he had lived for decades. But Russia’s brutal assault on the Ukrainian port city made it impossible to stay.

“There was no gas, no electricity, no water whatsoever,” the 81-year-old told AFP from a care home in Frankfurt, recalling the relentless bombardment by Moscow’s forces.

“We were waiting for the authorities to come… We waited for a day, two days a week.”

Bodies of people killed by bombs and gunfire littered the streets, recalled Shyfrin, a widower who had lost contact with his only son.

“There were so many of them… no one picked them up. People got used to it – no one paid attention.”

People scraped by finding what food they could, with water supplied by a fire engine that made regular visits to his neighbourhood.

Shyfrin’s apartment was damaged during the fighting in Mariupol – defended so fiercely that it became a symbol of Ukrainian resistance – and he spent much time sheltering in the cellar of his building.

Became homeless

The elderly man eventually left Mariupol with the aid of a rabbi, who helped the local Jewish population get out of the city.

He was evacuated to Crimea, and from there, travelled on a lengthy overland journey through Russia and Belarus, eventually arriving in Warsaw, Poland.

After some weeks in Poland, a place in a care home was found in Frankfurt.

In July, he was transported to Germany in an ambulance, with the help of the Claims Conference, a Jewish organisation that has been aiding the evacuation of Ukrainian Holocaust survivors.

Shyfrin, who walks with the aid of a stick, is still processing the whirlwind of events that carried him unexpectedly to Germany.

The outbreak of war was a “very big surprise”, he said.

“I used to love (Russian President Vladimir) Putin very much,” said Shyfrin, who is a native Russian speaker, did military service in the Soviet Union, and went on to work as a radio engineer with the military.

“Now I do not know whether Putin is right to be at war with Ukraine or not – but somehow, because of this war, I have become homeless.”

Shyfrin was born in 1941, in Gomel, Belarus.

When he was just three months old, his family fled to Tajikistan to escape German Nazi forces who were occupying the region.

Many of Belarus’s Jews died during the Holocaust, in which the Nazis killed a total of six million European Jews.

In neighbouring Ukraine, the once-large Jewish community was also almost completely wiped out.

After the war, his family returned to Belarus and Shyfrin completed his studies, did military service, and settled in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union, in the mid-1970s.

“Traumatised”

The pensioner seemed philosophical about the twist of fate that has forced him to leave his home.

“Well, it’s not up to me,” he said, when asked about having to flee war for the second time in his life.

His most immediate concerns are more practical – such as how to access his money back home.

“I can’t even receive my honestly earned military pension,” he said.

He recently moved to a new care home run by the Jewish community, where there are more Russian speakers.

As well as helping Shyfrin on the final leg of his journey, the Claims Conference provided him with financial assistance.

It has evacuated over 90 Ukrainian Holocaust survivors to Germany since the outbreak of the conflict, a break from the organisation’s usual work of ensuring that survivors get compensation and ongoing support.

The body had long been helping to run care programmes for Holocaust victims in Ukraine.

But, as the conflict intensified, it became clear such care programmes could no longer be sustained, particularly in the east, said Ruediger Mahlo, the Conference’s representative in Germany.

“Because many of the survivors needed a lot of care and could not survive without this help, it was clear we had to try to do everything to evacuate (them),” he told AFP.

Getting them out involved huge logistical challenges, from finding ambulances in Ukraine to locating suitable care homes.

For many of the frail Holocaust survivors, it can be a struggle to grasp the fact that they have found refuge in Germany, said Mahlo.

They are fleeing to a country that “had in the past persecuted them, and done everything to kill them,” he said.

“Certainly, they are traumatised,” he said.

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