Berlin - Germany's state-level youth and family ministers on Thursday agreed to investigate a national experiment that paired troubled youth with pedophiles. The program was launched in Berlin and Germany's capital last month agreed to compensate two participants who were sexually assaulted by their foster dad.
The programme followed the teachings of social educator Helmut Kentler and paired children from difficult families with pedophilic foster fathers - the children were supposed to benefit from the men's affection. The progamme started in the 60s but was still in use in the 2000s. Berlin's family welfare departments financed several foster positions with pedophiles but it's unclear how many were victimised by the Kentler experiment as records are incomplete.
Berlin on Thursday said it had funded two research projects to help investigate and atone for Helmut Kentler's work in the city-state's child and youth welfare department. A final report of the University of Hildesheim was presented to the public in June 2020.
"It can be assumed that there was a network of actors that strengthened and legitimised pedophilic positions. Pedophilic assaults were not only tolerated in different constellations, but also arranged and justified," a statement said.
Scope of experiment still unknown
The research team also hinted at links to youth welfare offices in western Germany as well as to scientific institutions and professional societies placing foster children with sex offenders. According to the report by the University of Hildesheim, "starting in the 1970s, the Berlin state youth welfare offfice and district youth welfare offices also established foster homes in West Germany with single men who accepted, supported and practiced pedophilia."
"The Kentler case is not yet closed. Due to supicions about a network and nationwide scope, further reappraisal and research are necessary. That is why I have commissioned a third research project at the University of Hildesheim with the task of investigating possible nationwide links," Sandra Scheeres (SPD), Berlin's top education official, said.
Prevention coach and anti-violence trainer Carsten Stahl (Freie Wähler) welcomed Thursday's decision to for a national investigation. "A country-wide, comprehensive clarification of the Kentler experiment in Berlin and nationally" is needed, he said. The current resolution is only "the first step on a long road."
Apologies have been made
"Compensation for all those affected and abused, i.e. the children from the past," is also necessary, Stahl said. "If those responsible for this experiment and the placement of the children in the care of the officially known pedophile caregivers are still active in offices, authorities or the Berlin Senate, I demand personnel consequences for everyone involved."
He would also like an official and public apology from public officials.
"We have apologised several times to those affected for the crimes against public responsibility and paid compensation," Scheeres said. "The case is now also being dealt with nationwide."