Before you say anything, this is not one of those rants in which the writer accuses liberals of poisoning the minds of the young with dirty movies and stuff. This is from the German magazine Der Spiegel, and it’s a story about how the Left — as in, the activist Sixties radical left in Germany — went berserk in literally sexualizing children. It’s jaw-dropping stuff, how pedophilia was considered “progressive” by the radical German left. Here’s how it begins:
In the spring of 1970, Ursula Besser found an unfamiliar briefcase in front of her apartment door. It wasn’t that unusual, in those days, for people to leave things at her door or drop smaller items into her letter slot. She was, after all, a member of the Berlin state parliament for the conservative Christian Democrats. Sometimes Besser called the police to examine a suspicious package; she was careful to always apologize to the neighbors for the commotion.
The students had proclaimed a revolution, and Besser, the widow of an officer, belonged to those forces in the city that were sharply opposed to the radical changes of the day. Three years earlier, when she was a newly elected member of the Berlin state parliament, the CDU had appointed Besser, a Ph.D. in philology, to the education committee. She quickly acquired a reputation for being both direct and combative.
The briefcase contained a stack of paper — the typewritten daily reports on educational work at an after-school center in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood, where up to 15 children aged 8 to 14 were taken care of during the afternoon. The first report was dated Aug. 13, 1969, and the last one was written on Jan. 14, 1970.
Even a cursory review of the material revealed that the educational work at the Rote Freiheit (“Red Freedom”) after-school center was unorthodox. The goal of the center was to shape the students into “socialist personalities,” and its educational mission went well beyond supervised play. The center’s agenda included “agitprop” on the situation in Vietnam and “street fighting,” in which the children were divided into “students” and “cops.”
The educators’ notes indicate that they placed a very strong emphasis on sex education. Almost every day, the students played games that involved taking off their clothes, reading porno magazines together and pantomiming intercourse.
According to the records, a “sex exercise” was conducted on Dec. 11 and a “fu**ing hour” on Jan. 14. An entry made on Nov. 26 reads: “In general, by lying there we repeatedly provoked, openly or in a hidden way, sexual innuendoes, which were then expressed in pantomimes, which Kurt and Rita performed together on the low table (as a stage) in front of us.”
The material introduced the broader public to a byproduct of the student movement for the first time: the sexual liberation of children. Besser passed on the reports to an editor at the West Berlin newspaper Der Abend, who published excerpts of the material. On April 7, 1970, the Berlin state parliament discussed the Rote Freiheit after-school center. As it turned out, the Psychology Institute at the Free University of Berlin was behind the center. In fact, the institute had established the facility and provided the educators who worked there. Besser now believes that it was a concerned employee who dropped off the reports at her door.
A few days later, Besser paid a visit to the Psychology Institute in Berlin’s Dahlem neighborhood, “to take a look at the place,” as she says. In the basement, Besser found two rooms that were separated by a large, one-way mirror. There was a mattress in one of the rooms, as well as a sink on the wall and a row of colorful washcloths hanging next to it. When asked, an institute employee told Besser that the basement was used as an “observation station” to study sexual behavior in children.
It has since faded into obscurity, but the members of the 1968 movement and their successors were caught up in a strange obsession about childhood sexuality. It is a chapter of the movement’s history which is never mentioned in the more glowing accounts of the era.
Got that? This wasn’t just a project of a bunch of dirty commie German hippies. Top German academics were involved in this thing. The report quotes mainstream German textbooks of the day that openly lament the “de-eroticization of famly life.” More:
In the debate on sexual abuse, one of the elements is confusion as to where the line should be drawn in interactions with children. It is a confusion not limited to the Catholic Church. Indeed, it was precisely in so-called progressive circles that an eroticization of childhood and a gradual lowering of taboos began. It was a shift that even allowed for the possibility of sex with children.
,,,Sexual liberation was at the top of the agenda of the young revolutionaries who, in 1967, began turning society upside down. The control of sexual desire was seen as an instrument of domination, which bourgeois society used to uphold its power. Everything that the innovators perceived as wrong and harmful has its origins in this concept: man’s aggression, greed and desire to own things, as well as his willingness to submit to authority. The student radicals believed that only those who liberated themselves from sexual repression could be truly free.
If you can stomach it, read the whole thing. Warning: Spiegel does not hide details, which can be very, very disturbing. Lee Podles, the Catholic writer who has been a withering critic of the Catholic Church’s response to the sexual abuse problem, writes on his blog:
Although Der Spiegel has given extensive coverage to clerical failings, it also keeps raising the uncomfortable question: Why is it so bad if priests have sex with minors and OK if Roman Polanski and Daniel Cohn-Bendit have sex with minors? Is the fuss about child molestation in the Church simply a cover for anti-clericalism or anti-Christianity? Shouldn’t sauce for the clerical goose also be sauce for the artistic and political ganders?
Exactly right. But as the Spiegel report says, some on the German Left who were involved in this say today that it didn’t count as pedophilia, because hey, the Leftists meant well and were doing it for the good of the children (like Lee Podles says, this is what pedophiles always say to justify their crimes). What’s more, these prominent Leftists denounce those, even their critics on the Left, as aiding and abetting anti-progressive forces by bringing all this up now.
Is it time to purge the German Church by confronting hidden sexual abuse and purifying memory by dealing with what was done to children? Absolutely. But the German Church is by no means the only German institution and group that needs to be held to account for what was done to children by those in charge. Did we ever have anything comparable in the US? I’m sure there were crazy hippie communes that did sick stuff like this, but if you read the Spiegel report, they’re not talking about fringe figures; this involved people who were sympathetic within the Establishment, and young adults — like the radical Daniel Cohn-Bendit — who went on to become Establishment figures in Europe today. It is unthinkable that figures who had this kind of open advocacy of pedophilia could get anywhere in American political or academic life. Right?
I would also like to know to what extent this Leftist anti-bourgeois pedophilia culture penetrated radical circles elsewhere in Europe. Anybody here know? One wonders if the leadership of the national Catholic churches — I’m thinking right now of the Belgian church, and retired Cardinal Danneels, one of the Roman Church’s most progressive top churchmen for decades — assimilated any of this so-called progressivism in the way they thought about sexuality. It was not unheard of here — remember the self-styled progressive street priest of Boston, Fr. Paul Shanley? — but it’s not my impression that U.S. society degenerated like European society did in that same period.
UPDATE: Let me say to you who are about to write a comment saying that I’m a rat bastard for “blaming” pedophilia on the cultural Left: Save it! Read, and re-read, what I’m saying here. I’m not saying “cultural radicalism caused pedophilia,” in Germany or anywhere else. There is no one cause for the eroticization of children, either clandestinely, in church circles, or anywhere else. This post is only about a particularly deranged cultural attitude powerful in self-identified progressive circles in a particular time and place, which might help explain why people who ought to have known better — Christians, especially Christian clergy — gave way to a persistent human evil that ought to have been fought. That is all. If you think I’m trying to “blame” pedophilia on the cultural left (in Germany, or anywhere), you’re deliberately misreading what I’m saying here.