More than 500 boys were subjected to physical or sexual abuse at a Catholic choir school in Germany between 1945 and 1992, according to a report released Tuesday.
A report by lawyer Ulrich Weber says at least 547 boys at the world famous Domspatzen choir were victims of physical or sexual abuse, or both, at the hands of 49 perpetrators.
Weber, who began his study in 2015 and was tasked with investigating in the wake of the 2010 sexual abuse scandal involving members of the Catholic Church, said victims felt dominated by “violence, fear and helplessness” and likened the school to “prison, hell or a concentration camp.”
“The whole system of education was oriented toward top musical achievements and the choir's success,'' the report said. “Alongside individual motives, institutional motives – namely, breaking the will of the children with the aim of maximum discipline and dedication – formed the basis for violence.”
Weber said a “culture of silence” was partly to blame for the abuse, and pointed at former choir master Georg Ratzinger, who led the choir from 1964 to 1994, whom Weber said could be blamed for “looking the other way and failing to intervene.”
Ratzinger, who is the brother of former pope Benedict, has denied any knowledge of abuse during his tenure with the choir.
Weber said he identified all 49 alleged abusers, but noted they are unlikely to face criminal charges since the crimes took place too long ago.
The local Catholic diocese has said it plans to offer victims compensation of up to $23,000 by the end of this year.