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The episcopal boarding school in Gerolstein has been closed for a long time. But the atrocities that raged behind the walls have not yet been addressed. The diocese of Trier has begun a project to come to terms with physical and psychological violence.
The focus should be on the interests of those affected, as one of the project leaders, Claudia Bundschuh, explained in Trier on Thursday evening. Former students should be given space to talk about experiences with violence at the Albertinum boarding school – whether they experienced it themselves or witnessed it. In addition, it is planned to evaluate about twelve meters of archival documents. The project is scheduled to last two years. A report is to be published afterwards.
The process was initiated by Bishop Stephan Ackermann of Trier in July. The project is funded by the diocese, but conducted by independent scholars. Ackermann is also abuse commissioner of the German Bishops' Conference.
Transparent reappraisal and possible participation
The project is coordinated by former Trier police chief Lothar Schomann and led by educationalist Bundschuh and lawyer Bettina Janssen. In addition, three affected persons are to sit on the steering committee, who have special voting rights.
At the first event, the leadership provided information on procedures and goals. All former students of the boarding school have the possibility to talk to the scientists, to describe experiences and to formulate wishes for the reappraisal. The scientists count thereby on voluntariness. There are no plans to actively contact former students, so as not to confront anyone unintentionally with what they have experienced.
Bundschuh said she sees the project as a "mouthpiece" for those affected. The process of coming to terms with the past should be transparent and the results should be published in full. Information, also about a possible participation, is available on a website (https://www).albertinum-gerolstein.en/).
Eight former students made serious accusations
The project was prompted by feedback from eight former students so far who reported violence at the hands of Albertinum employees. Accusations were made against all three former directors of the boarding school.
According to Bundschuh, those affected have so far reported sexualized violence, assaults and abuse, physical violence such as caning, and psychological violence such as public humiliation or being locked in a separate room. It is likely that many students have experienced similar things, they said. The Episcopal boarding school in Gerolstein, Rhineland-Palatinate, was closed in 1982. It was a home for boys attending the small town's state high school from 1946 to 1982.