German experiment: a paedophile is a child's best friend

Kentler's pedagogical experiment required that the role of foster "fathers" - for neglected boys who wandered around the Berlin Zoologischer Garten Station – was to be filled exclusively by paedophiles. Someone without any records of paedophilia had no chance of becoming a guardian of young people running away from their family homes.

In 1906, Friedrich Wilhelm Voigt, a shoemaker by profession, a thief and a fraudster, was released from prison. Voigt bought some used Prussian army captain's uniform, and it all started.

The army in the times of William II retained the authority gained under Frederick the Great. An officer was someone to respect. Therefore, Voigt easily subdued the patrol he encountered on his way. Together with the soldiers, he went to the Townhall of Köpenick (today a district of Berlin), confiscated the city treasury, and arrested the mayor under the cover of the soldiers' bayonets on duty.

In 1931, Karl Zuckmayer wrote a play about it, "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick" ("The Captain from Köpenick"), which was translated into many languages and travelled across European stages, had film versions, and was popularised in the Polish People's Republic by the famous live-broadcast "Television Theatre" program.

The Prussian militarism and bureaucracy traditions explain the Germans' need to submit to authorities. Where bureaucracy is on a pedestal - post-war Germany prefers not to admit to militarism - the law must enjoy great respect. Is it as big as science or something that only pretends to be science? From the end of the 1960s to 2003, there was a war between two authorities, especially in Berlin, but certainly not only there. In the clash with the authority of science, the applicable law failed miserably.

Foster "father"

In West Berlin, and then in the unified Berlin, the so-called Kentler pedagogical experiment was carried out, which involved the resocialisation of neglected youth, helping socially disadvantaged boys by placing them under the care of paedophiles as foster children. Physical closeness between the caregiver and the young person under his supervision was supposed to be therapeutic.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE And it was not about the fact that here or there happened to be a paedophile among the children's guardians, to the shock and regret of the aid organisers. Kentler's pedagogical experiment required that the role of the foster "fathers" - not foster families - for difficult boys who wandered around the ZOO station - could be filled exclusively by paedophiles. Someone without any records of paedophilia had no chance of becoming a guardian of young people running away from their family homes. The Senate of West Berlin totally excluded foster families from the project of helping the youth selected by Kentler.

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Helmut Kentler, a doctor of psychology, was leading the West Berlin Pedagogical Center. In the mid-1990s, he became the head of the Department for Social Pedagogy at the Technical University of Hannover, which did not stop his activity in advising the Berlin authorities. He continued to write opinions and monitor the life's progress of the boys assigned to the single foster "fathers". He also acted as a court expert and - as he admitted himself - led to the acquittal of 35 men accused of paedophile acts.

Based on his opinion, the district Jugendamt (Youth Welfare Office ) handed children - chosen from different municipal care units - straight to the assigned paedophiles. Sometimes, it happened that a paedophile took a boy from a nursing home himself, referring to Kentler's opinion, and then the relevant Jugendamt legalised it after a few months. Paedophiles received subsidies from the city authorities so they could easily "take care" of the boys.

The feminist magazine "EMMA" first issued a warning against Kentler in 1993, but it received no wider response. Actually, it was not an article about Kentler himself. "EMMA" wrote about paedophilia in Germany against the background of the large paedophilia scandal in the United States discussed by the German media. The magazine wanted to point out that this was not just an overseas problem.

In 2015, Dr Teresa Nentwig from the Institute for Democracy Research at the University of Göttingen began investigating the Jugendamts' participation in the Kentler experiment - her report was published in 2016. But it was only an article in "Der Spiegel" in 2017 - describing stories told to the newspaper by now-adult men Marko and Sven (names changed), in their youth the wards of Fritz H., who was praised and recommended to the Berlin Senate and put forward to the Jugendamt - that caused an absolute storm and attracted the public attention to the Helmut Kentler Experiment. Well, at the time of the publication, he was already dead, the same as Fritz H.

"In The Hairy Scary Castle"

Marko and Sven from the "care facility" run by Fritz H. still depend on Social Services because the "foster father" made their education as inaccessible and difficult as he could have. All to prevent domestic matters from breaking out into the daylight. Today, they are semi-illiterates without a profession and, despite the passage of time, struggle with the trauma of their childhood spent in the paedophile's house. They showed Der Spiegel journalists traces of wounds, quietly visible on their bodies - marked in the 1990s - the effects of the pedagogical practices of the foster "father". Both of them require psychiatric help.

Some documents and letters have been preserved before the decision was made to grant Fritz H. his first ward. The official who prepared the note knew that H. had been convicted of paedophilia: "Since we have no other alternative, accommodation in Mr H.'s house seems to be the best solution for us at the moment. There are reasons to believe that Mr. H.'s crime was a one-off event and that his punishment should not be a reason to refuse accommodation with Mr. H today."

According to this logic, the fox could be given a hen to care for. It should have been assumed that eating one before was a one-time event, and Helmut Kentler ensured the lack of alternatives.

Fritz H. had ten wards over thirty years, all with the knowledge and approval of the "Jugendamt" (Youth Welfare Office) and the Berlin authorities. The penultimate patient, with severe disabilities, died in mysterious circumstances. The autopsy reports and witness statements have not been preserved, and those which have survived were subject to personal data protection in this and similar cases. Evidence shows that the accusation against Fritz H. was dropped, and another ward was assigned to him.

The caretaker of one of the tenement houses near the ZOO station called "Mama Winter" was personally recommended by Kentler as a foster "father" to 13-year-old Ulrich. "Ulrich's advantage was that he looked good and he enjoyed sex. In this way, he could repay men who had paedophilic tendencies and cared about him", Kentler wrote in a report to the Berlin Senate. Ulrich lived with the mentioned caretaker for four years. When he became interested in girls, "Mama Winter" withdrew from care - he couldn't tolerate it.
Helmut Kentler, PhD in psychology. Photo By
These are a few examples of documented paedophile behaviour because few former victims of paedophiles, as adults, reported to the media and talked about their tragedies.

Clerical pedophile network

Three years after the publication of the Göttingen report, a more extensive report was published by the University of Hildesheim, which referred to a network of high-ranking paedophiles surrounding Berlin offices. There are no names, including the responsible officials - the files have been lost or data protected. The German law relating to the statute of limitations for crimes of that sort is applicable in the present case, and the victims – perhaps except the most famous ones, Marko and Sven - cannot count on financial compensation.

Kentler, as a court expert, launched an opinion that a court trial is more traumatic for a child than the rape that led to it. The professor operated in a specific atmosphere when, in May 1968 in France, the slogan "It is forbidden to forbid" was coined. In Europe and the United States, the Left used sexual liberation to attack capitalism and the entire existing social order.

It was about so much more than just a fact that a gentleman and a lady could have a formal, socially acceptable affair without getting married in a church. Moral freedom quickly turned into the glorification of all sorts of deviations. Movements and organisations were created to encourage promiscuous behaviour and doing much more than acceptable, even between adults. Kentler himself promoted the "cross-generational sex" as serving the development of children, which Alfred Kinsey was already leading from the USA.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who divided his activities between France and Germany, published a book in the 1970s describing his adventures with five-year-old girls in the alternative kindergarten where he worked. When the wave of boundless permissiveness subsided, Cohn-Bendit had to explain himself, saying that he was only joking, provoking and using metaphors.

But the 1970s and 1980s atmosphere is best reflected in the recording of Cohn-Bendit's performance in the France 2 television program "Apostrophes" in 1982. There, the German Green Party activist shared juicy stories from his career as a kindergarten teacher - certainly interesting for every prosecutor - which caused smiles full of spicy interest and understanding among the guests in the studio.

The Greens in Germany no longer admit to fighting for the legalisation of paedophilia, nor does the FDP, which politically probed the issue of decriminalisation of paedophilia. FDP MPs then invited Helmut Kentler to the Bundestag, who gave a lecture about paedophiles: "These people put up with those idiots only because they were infatuated and in love with them". In addition to the socialisation of the neglected boys, Kentler also argued that the caregivers, by having at home what they liked most, paedophiles would stop threatening other children in the city, and homeless children would be given new homes. Dr Kentler did not mention that - while escaping from the violence of their alcoholic fathers – the socially disadvantaged boys were trapped in the gutter by the rain, and no one even bothered to investigate it.

In the German legal system, paedophilia was punishable by severe penalties since 1879. Nonetheless, in 1969, the upper limit of 10 years of hard imprisonment was replaced by ten years of imprisonment, i.e., confinement without backbreaking forced labour, and the lower limit was reduced from one year to half a year.

However, throughout this time, paedophilia was a crime that was committed by government officials who turned a blind eye to it. The authority of Helmut Kentler cleared their conscience. When an officer began to have doubts and suspect sexual abuse of minors (which - in a situation where an adolescent boy was cared for by a convicted criminal, or at least a recorded paedophile - did not require any special insight or critical thinking skills), Kentler immediately dispelled the suspicions with the power of his authority as a renown and respected psychologist, sexologist and alternative educator, i.e. a modern specialist, who knows personally the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of History, and knows what should be done and how it should be done. After all, his book "Borrowed Fathers, Children Need Fathers" had many excellent reviews and sold very well.

The cult of authority

In Europe and the USA after World War II, there was a tendency to give more and more power to experts specialising in social sciences and medicine, whose authority seemed to grow - and still grows - regardless of the sometimes astonishing lack of logic and the vague foundations of their theories.

In Germany, this was accompanied by the cult of authority unknown elsewhere. In the times of William II, as in the case of the shoemaker from Köpenick, it was the cult of a man wearing a uniform. After World War II, Herr Doctor was always right, so even more Herr Professor, especially when he was surfing the right wave. "Zu Befehl Herr Hauptmann", the soldiers responded to the illegal orders of Mr Voight in disguise. Berlin officials had to agree with Kentler's criminal nonsense in some milder or more civil form.

The good news in this grim story is that the girls - running away from their homes and ending up in care facilities - escaped Helmut Kentler's attention. This is not surprising - the declared homosexual had three adopted sons and one foster child - he was not very interested in the opposite sex. Once, he wrote in general terms that women also need to be liberated from traditional society's oppressive attitude towards sexuality. Still, he did not involve girls in any of his experiments.

– Krzysztof Zwoliński

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and journalists

– Translated by Katarzyna Chocian
Main photo: Berlin Zoo Station. Photo DANIEL BOCKWOLDT/DPA/PAP
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