German abuse victims "humiliated" by compensation

14 December 2010 - 12:08
By Reuters

German victims of abuse in foster homes say the 120 million euros proposed as compensation was "humiliatingly" small compared with damages awarded in other countries, and have vowed to fight for more

After a two-year inquiry, a government-appointed panel on Monday recommended 120 million euros be set aside for an estimated 30,000 victims expected to file abuse claims.

The VEH victims' group said the sum was a pittance compared with what abuse victims received in other wealthy countries.

"It's a poor start to the compensation process and another humiliation of victims," VEH leader Monika Tschapek-Guentner said. "Roughly 30,000 victims are expected to apply for damages which will leave individuals between 2,000 and 4,000 euros."

The VEH said it would go to court over the size of the fund, although the panel said the amount should be uncapped in case claims are higher than expected. The federal government, state governments and churches will share the cost of the fund.

Tschapek-Guentner said that a deal struck between abuse victims and the Catholic Church in Ireland resulted in payments averaging 76,000 euros per victim. Irish compensation claims are expected to top 1 billion euros.

The VEH has called for either one-off compensation of 54,000 euros per victim or 300 euros per month in restitution.

Between 1949 and 1975 up to 800,000 children and youths lived in foster care in West Germany where claimants have alleged rampant physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Roughly two-thirds of those in foster care lived in church-run homes.

Both Protestant and Roman Catholic churches in Germany applauded the panel's recommendations.

"The Protestant church ... assumes responsibility and will fulfill its share along with the government and Catholic Church," Nikolaus Schneider, the head of the council of the Protestant Church in Germany, said in a statement on Monday.

In the United States, individual Catholic dioceses have been sued by abuse victims, forcing some dioceses into bankruptcy. A 2007 settlement in Los Angeles resulted in individual damages of more than $1 million.