No compensation, but help

As of now, former children in care in Germany can apply for financial aid. At the beginning of 2012, the federal government, the states and the churches launched the "Home Education Fund in the Federal Republic of Germany from 1949 to 1975. Victims of abuse and mistreatment in church and state-run homes can contact counseling centers in the western German states.

In early July, the Bundestag approved a fund of 120 million euros, financed in equal parts by the federal government, the states and the churches, including dioceses, charities and religious orders. The Round Table expects 30.000 claimants. Applications can be submitted until 31. December 2014 be put.

In the period from 1949 to 1975, there lived about 700.000 to 800.000 children and adolescents in homes for infants, children and adolescents in the Federal Republic, including up to 600.000 in church institutions. In recent years it had been revealed that many of them had to endure draconian punishments, mistreatment and abuse. Being a child in a home "has always been a stigma in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany," according to a study presented last May by the Ruhr University in Bochum, which deals primarily with the conditions in church homes.

Massive abuses
The Catholic church historian Wilhelm Damberg and his Protestant colleague Traugott Jahnichen found massive abuses in the process. "Quite a few" children and adolescents had experienced the homes as "total institutions" in which they had to endure restricted rights, draconian punishments as well as humiliation and mistreatment up to sexual abuse. Punishments ranged from deprivation of food to isolation to torture. This is how a home child had his hair cut off after an escape attempt. In the case of bedwetters, "running around in the morning with wet bedclothes in front of the other children and adolescents has been handed down," the report emphasizes.

Damberg and Jahnichen, however, also refer to the educational ideas that were valid at the time and the situation of youth welfare in the post-war period. Thus, church historians emphasize that order and discipline had a high priority in the 1950s. In the first decades in particular, the homes were criminally neglected, both financially and in terms of personnel.

The report by the church historians was a building block for society to recognize the suffering of many children in institutions. A goal for which many of those affected had long fought in vain. The nationwide debate was triggered in 2006 by a book by Spiegel author Peter Wensierski entitled "Schlage im Namen des Herrn" ("Beatings in the Name of the Lord"). The Petitions Committee of the Bundestag subsequently dealt with the ie. In 2009, the "Round Table on Home Education" began its work. Federal states also set up research commissions to look into the fate of children in institutions.

The president of the German Bishops' Conference, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch, expressed his relief at the launch of the fund in Bonn on Monday. "I am pleased that there is now an offer for former home children that takes into account their central concerns: the need for discussion, the desire for recognition, counseling and therapeutic help, as well as financial assistance."

Successful Catholic hotline
Zollitsch also referred in this context to the Catholic Home Children's Hotline, which for two years has offered those affected the opportunity to obtain information and advice on personal questions and problems relating to their own experiences and experiences in homes run by the Catholic Church. This offer, which has been taken up by around 600 people so far, continues to exist for the time being.

The fund could help those affected to overcome the still demonstrable consequences of institutionalization, said Federal Family Minister Kristina Schroder (CDU). The president of the EKD Church Office, Hans Ulrich Anke, expressed similar views. "Accomplishments can't undo anything, but they should help people better cope with the aftermath," Anke said.

Contact and counseling centers in the western German states and Berlin now advise those affected and determine the concrete need for help. For those affected by homes for infants, children and young people, as well as youth work centers of the former GDR, it is planned to create corresponding regulations and foundations by the summer.

No lump sum compensation
The Fund can be used to provide assistance to those who have suffered trauma or other impairments and consequential damage as a result of their home upbringing and whose special needs are not covered by the existing assistance and insurance systems. The fund provides for as few benefits as possible to be paid out in money. 100 million euros are earmarked for benefits in kind, while 20 million go toward pension replacements.

Some of the children affected would have liked more, however: they criticize the Round Table for avoiding the terms "human rights violations" and "forced labor" in its recommendations. Even the reparation scheme that has now come into force is not enough for them. Although the fund is intended to compensate for lost pension rights and pay for therapies. But there should be no lump-sum compensation. The ex-home children insist on more. They demand 300 euros monthly pension or 54.000 euros in one-time compensation.

Note: The website on the fund provides detailed information on the fund, how to apply and the responsibilities of the counseling centers. A free information phone provides information about the responsible counseling center: Tel. 0800 1004900 (Mondays: 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays,
Fridays: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.; Sundays: 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

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