A report has found that 547 pupils at one of Germany’s most famous Catholic boys’ choir schools were physically or sexually abused over a 60-year period, with some boys likening the institution to a concentration camp.
49 members of the Catholic Church at the Domspatzen choir are accused of carrying out the abuse between 1945 and the early 1990s.
Allegations of abuse at the school, which dates back over a thousand years and now tours the world to perform choral music, surfaced in 2010 and in 2015 a report was commissioned to find out what happened.
The 440-page report tells how teachers doled out physical violence including slapping boys in the face so hard that the marks could be seen the next day, whipping them with wooden sticks and violin bows and subjecting them to severe beatings.
Boys who tried to escape the “Regensburger Domspatzen”, or Regensburg Cathedral Sparrows, were hauled back into the school and beaten and humiliated in front of other boys, it said.
The choir was run for 30 years by former Pope Benedict’s XVI’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, who acknowledged that he had slapped pupils in the face – but said he had not realized how brutal the discipline was.
The investigation said he was “to be blamed especially for turning a blind eye and not intervening despite having knowledge”, but it did not show he was aware of sexual abuse.
Whilst the alleged perpetrators have been identified they are not expected to face criminal charges because the alleged crimes took place too long ago to be legally valid.
Meanwhile plans have been announced to offer victims compensation of between 5,000 and 20,000 euros each by the end of this year.