FOR YOUR OWN GOOD - Alice Miller
15 [Pages 198-219 in the print edition]

Jürgen Bartsch: A Life Seen in Retrospect

But another question will forever remain unanswered, quite aside from any considerations of guilt: Why do there have to be people who are this way? Are they usually born like this? Dear God, what crime did they commit before they were even born?


Those who swear by statistical studies and gain their psychological knowledge from those sources will see my efforts to understand the children Christiane and Adolf as unnecessary and irrelevant. They would have to be given statistical proof that a given number of cases of child abuse later produced almost the same number of murderers. This proof cannot be provided, however, for the following reasons:

  1. Child abuse usually takes place in secret and often goes undetected. The child conceals and represses these experiences.
  2. Although abundant testimony is presented, people can always be found who will substantiate the opposite. Even if the latter evidence is contradictory, as in Jetzinger's case (cf. pages 153-4), it is more likely to be given credence than the child is, because this helps to protect the parents.
  3. So far, the connection between abuse of children and infants and later acts of murder has scarcely been noted by criminologists or even by the majority of psychologists. As a result, little statistical data on the subject have been collected. Relevant studies do exist, however.
Even if statistical data confirm my own conclusions, I do not consider them a reliable source because they are often based on uncritical assumptions and ideas that are either meaningless (such as "a sheltered childhood"), vague, ambiguous ("received a lot of love"), or deceptive ("the father was strict but fair"), or that even contain obvious contradictions ("he was loved and spoiled"). This is why I do not care to rely on conceptual systems whose gaps are so large that the truth escapes through them, but rather prefer to make the attempt, as I did in the Hitler chapter, to take a different route. I am not searching for statistical objectivity but for the subjectivity of the victim in question, to the degree that my empathy permits. In the process I have discovered the interplay between hatred and love: on the one hand, lack of respect, lack of interest in the unique being dependent on his parents' needs, abuse, manipulation, curtailment of freedom, humiliation, and mistreatment; and on the other hand caresses, spoiling, and seductive behavior to the extent that the child is experienced as a part of the parents' self. My observations are lent scientific validity by the fact that they can be made repeatedly, can proceed with a minimum of theoretical assumptions, and can be verified or refuted even by nonprofessionals. Among nonprofessionals in the field of psychology, we can certainly point to members of the legal profession.

Statistical studies are hardly the thing to make disinterested jurists into empathic and perceptive human beings. And yet every crime, by virtue of being an enactment of a childhood drama, cries out for understanding. The newspapers carry these stories every day, but unfortunately usually report only the last act. Can knowledge of the underlying causes of a crime bring about a change in the way justice is administered? Not as long as the primary concerns are to assign guilt and impose punishment. But someday it may be possible to gain understanding for the fact that emerges so clearly in the case of Jürgen Bartsch: the accused never bears all the guilt by himself but is a victim of a tragic chain of circumstances. Even so, a prison sentence is unavoidable if society is to be protected. But there is a difference between prison being used to punish a dangerous criminal according to the principles of "poisonous pedagogy" and a human tragedy being perceived, with the result that the person in question receives psychotherapy during confinement. For example, prisoners could be allowed to paint or sculpt in groups, at no great financial cost. In this way they might have a chance to express creatively that crucial portion of their earliest years which has remained hidden from them, the mistreatment they suffered, and their ensuing feelings of hatred. Then the need to transform all this into brutally lived-out actions could be reduced.

To be receptive to an attitude such as this, we must first realize that merely pronouncing a person guilty accomplishes nothing. We are so caught up in the habit of assigning guilt that we have difficulty understanding any other approach. This is why my views are sometimes interpreted to mean that the parents are "to blame" for everything and why at the same time I am accused of dwelling on the plight of the victims and of letting the parents off too lightly, of forgetting that every human being must be responsible for his or her own actions. These accusations are also symptoms of "poisonous pedagogy" and are a sign of how effective the inculcation of the idea of guilt at a very early age is. It must be very difficult to learn to understand that a person can see the tragedy of a persecutor or a murderer without minimizing the cruelty of the crime or the dangerousness of the criminal. If I were to abandon one of these two sides of my position, it would fit better into the framework of "poisonous pedagogy," But it is my intention to escape this framework by limiting myself to disseminating information and by refraining from moralizing.

Pedagogues in particular are disturbed by the way I present my views, because, as they write, they "can find nothing to hold on to." If it is the rod or their particular method of child-rearing they have been holding on to, this turn of events would signal no great loss. By renouncing their principles of child-rearing, pedagogues might be able to experience the fears and guilt feelings that were once beaten into them or subtly instilled in them, for they would then no longer discharge these feelings onto others, onto the children. Experiencing these previously warded-off feelings would give them something more authentic and substantial to hold on to than do the principles of child-rearing (cf. my Prisoners of Childhood: The Drama of the Gifted Child ).

A patient's father, who himself had had a very difficult childhood that he never talked about, often treated his son, in whom he kept seeing himself, in an extremely cruel way. Neither he nor his son was conscious of this cruelty; they both regarded it as a "disciplinary measure." When the son, who had severe symptoms, began his analysis, he was, as he said, "very grateful" to his father for the strict upbringing and "severe punishment" he had received. While in analysis, my patient, who had at one point been studying education at the university, discovered Ekkehard von Braunmühl and his antipedagogical writings and was strongly impressed by them. During this period he went home for a visit and for the first time experienced with great clarity the way his father continually hurt his feelings, either by not listening at all to what he was saying or by ridiculing everything he said. When his son pointed this out to him, the father, who was a professor of education, said in all seriousness: "You ought to thank me for that. You'll have to put up with people all your life who won't pay any attention to you or won't take what you say seriously. This way you're already used to it, having learned it from me. What you learn when you're young, you know for the rest of your life." The twenty-four-year-old son was taken aback by this reply at first. How often he had heard his father make similar statements without ever questioning their validity! This time, however, he became indignant, and on the basis of something he had read in Braunmühl, he said: "If you intend to continue treating me according to these principles, to be consistent you would then actually have to kill me, for someday I will have to die too. That would be the best way you could prepare me for it." His father accused him of being impertinent and acting as though he knew all the answers, but this was a very decisive experience for the son. From that point on, his studies took an entirely different direction.

It is difficult to decide whether this story serves as an example of "poisonous" or so-called harmless pedagogy. It occurred to me here because it provides a transition to the case of Jürgen Bartsch. My gifted twenty-four-year-old patient was so tormented in his analysis by cruel and sadistic fantasies that he sometimes thought in his panic that he might become a child murderer. But as a result of working through his fantasies in therapy and experiencing his early relationship with his father and mother, these fears disappeared along with his other symptoms, and he could begin to develop in a free and healthy way. His recurrent fantasies of revenge, in which he wanted to murder a child, were in my interpretation a compressed expression of hatred for his father, who was repressing his vitality, and of identification with this aggressor who was murdering a child (i.e., the patient himself). I have given this example before presenting Bartsch's case because I am struck by a similarity in the psychodynamics of the two men even though the outcome of their stories is so different.

"Out of the Clear Blue Sky?"

I have spoken with many people who have read Katharina Rutschky's Schwarze Pädagogik and were shocked at the cruel way children "used to be" raised. It was their impression that "poisonous pedagogy" was definitely a thing of the past, its practice having been discontinued around the time when their grandparents were children.

In the late 1960s the trial of a so-called sex offender by the name of Jürgen Bartsch caused a great stir in West Germany. Between the ages of sixteen and twenty this young man had murdered a number of children in an indescribably cruel manner. In Das Selbstportärt des Jürgen Bartsch (The Self-Portrait of Jurgen Bartsch), which appeared in 1972 and is now unfortunately out of print, Paul Moor presents the following facts:

Born November 6, 1946, the illegitimate son of a tubercular war widow and a Dutch seasonal worker, Karl-Heinz Sadrozinsky--later Jürgen Bartsch--was abandoned by his mother in the hospital, which she surreptitiously left ahead of schedule; she died a few weeks later. Several months thereafter, Gertrud Bartsch, the wife of a well-to-do butcher in Essen, entered the same hospital to have major surgery. She and her husband decided to take the abandoned baby, in spite of the reservations voiced by the adoption officials in the welfare office on account of the child's dubious background--such strong reservations that the actual adoption did not take place until seven years later. The new parents raised the child very strictly and isolated him completely from other children because they didn't want him to find out that he was adopted. When the father opened a second butcher shop (with the idea of setting Jürgen up with a business of his own as soon as possible) and Frau Bartsch had to work there, the child was taken care of first by his grandmother and then by a series of maids.

When Jürgen was ten, his parents put him in a Children's Home in Rheinbach, where approximately twenty children were living. At the age of twelve he was taken out of this relatively pleasant atmosphere and put in a Catholic school in which three hundred boys, problem children among them, were subjected to strict military discipline.

Between 1962 and 1966 Jürgen Bartsch murdered four boys, and he estimated that in addition he made more than a hundred unsuccessful attempts. There were minor deviations in each murder, but the basic procedure was the same: after he had lured a boy into a former air-raid shelter, now empty, on Heeger Street, not far from the Bartsch home in Langenberg, he beat the child into submission, tied him up with butcher's string, manipulated his genitals while he himself sometimes masturbated, killed the child either by strangulation or by blows, cut open the body, completely emptied out the stomach and breast cavities, and buried the remains. The variations included: cutting the corpse up into little pieces, cutting off the limbs, decapitation, castration, putting out the eyes, slicing sections of flesh (which he then smelled) from buttocks and thighs, and unsuccessful attempts at anal intercourse. In the extraordinarily detailed descriptions he gave during preliminary questioning and during the trial, Bartsch emphasized that the climax of his sexual arousal did not occur during masturbation but while he was cutting up the corpses, which gave him a kind of continuous orgasm. With the fourth and last murder he finally attained what he had always had in mind as his ultimate goal: he tied his victim to a post and butchered the screaming child without killing him first.

When deeds such as these are brought to light, they understandably elicit a wave of outrage, indignation, even horror. People are also amazed that such cruelty is possible at all, especially in the case of a youth who was friendly, likable, intelligent, and sensitive and who did not show any signs of being a vicious criminal. In addition, his entire background and childhood did not at first glance reveal any special indications of cruelty. He grew up in a conventional middleclass home like many others, with his share of stuffed animals, in a family it is easy to identify with. People could well say, "Things were not all that different for us; that's all very normal. Everyone would become a criminal if a childhood like his is supposed to be responsible for what he became." There scarcely seemed to be any other explanation than that this youth had been born "abnormal." Even the neurological experts stressed again and again that Bartsch had not been neglected as a child but came from a "sheltered background," from a family that had taken good care of him, and he therefore bore full responsibility for his actions.

Thus, we have here again, as in the case of Adolf Hitler, a portrait of innocent, respectable parents whom, for inexplicable reasons, the good Lord or the devil himself presented with a monster. But monsters are not sent into decent middleclass homes from heaven or from hell. Once we have become familiar with the mechanisms that turn child-rearing into a form of persecution--identification with the aggressor, splitting off and projection, and the transference of one's own childhood conflicts to the child--then we can no longer be satisfied with antiquated explanations. Moreover, when we realize the powerful effect these mechanisms have on the individual, the intense and compulsive hold they can exert, we see in the life of every such "monster" the logical consequences of childhood. I shall attempt to illustrate this in the life of Jürgen Bartsch.

But first I must address the question of why it is so difficult to make psychological findings about the human being accessible to the public. Paul Moor, who grew up in the United States and then lived in West Germany for thirty years, was very surprised at the view of human nature held by the officials participating in Bartsch's first trial. He could not understand why the people involved were not aware of all those aspects of Bartsch's case that immediately struck him, a foreigner. Naturally, the norms and taboos of a given society are reflected in every courtroom. What a society is not supposed to see will not be seen by its judges or prosecutors either. But it would be too easy to speak only of "society" here, for the experts and judges are, after all, human beings as well. Perhaps their upbringing was similar to Jürgen's; they idealized this system from the time they were little and found appropriate methods of discharge. How could they be expected to notice the cruelty of this upbringing without having the whole edifice of their beliefs come tumbling down? It is one of "poisonous pedagogy's" main goals to make it impossible from the very beginning to see, perceive, and evaluate what one has suffered as a child. Over and over in the testimony of the experts we find the characteristic statement that, after all, "other people" were brought up similarly without becoming sex criminals. In this way the existing system of child-rearing is justified if it can be shown that only a few "abnormal" people who are its product become criminals.

There are no objective criteria that would permit us to designate one childhood as "especially bad" and another as "not so bad." The way children exerience their situation depends in part on their sensitivity, and this varies from person to person. Furthermore, in every childhood there are tiny saving as well as shattering circumstances that can be overlooked by an outside observer. Little can be done to alter these fateful factors.

What can and must be changed, however, is our state of awareness of the consequences of our actions. Protecting the environment is no longer a matter of altruism or "do-goodism" now that we know that air and water pollution affect our very survival. Only as a result of this knowledge can laws be implemented that will put a stop to the reckless polluting of our environment. This has nothing to do with morality; it is a matter of self-preservation.

The same can be said for the findings about psychic development. As long as the child is regarded as a container into which we can safely throw all our "emotional garbage," little will be done to bring about any change in the practice of "poisonous pedagogy." At the same time we will be struck by the rapid increase in psychosis, neurosis, and drug addiction among adolescents; we will be outraged and indignant at acts of sexual perversion and violence and will become accustomed to regard mass murders as an unavoidable aspect of our present world.

But if psychological insights become part of public consciousness--and this will certainly happen someday, thanks to a new generation that has grown up with fewer constraints--then, in the interest of all humanity, the subjugation of the child implicit in the law of the "parental powers" can no longer be justified. It will no longer be acceptable for parents to vent their fury and rage freely on their children while the children are required to control their emotions from an early age.

There will surely also be some change in parents' behavior when they learn that what they have previously practiced in good faith as "necessary disciplining" is in reality a history of humiliating, hurting, and mistreating the child. Further, with increasing public understanding of the relationship between criminality and the experiences of early childhood, it is no longer a secret known only to the experts that every crime contains a concealed story, which can then be deciphered from the way the misdeed is enacted and from its specific details. The more closely we study this relationship, the more quickly we will break down the protective walls behind which future criminals have heretofore been bred with impunity. The ensuing acts of revenge can be traced back to the fact that the adult can freely take out his or her aggressions on the child, whereas the child's emotional reactions, which are even more intense than the adult's, must be suppressed by force and by the strongest sanctions.

Once we realize how many pent-up feelings and aggressions people who function well and who behave unobtrusively must live with and the toll this takes on their health, we might well regard it as fortunate--and by no means a matter of course--that everyone does not become a sex offender. There are, to be sure, other ways of learning to live with these pent-up feelings, such as psychosis, addiction, or a perfect adjust- ment that still enables parents to pass on their bottled-up feelings to their child (cf. the example on pages 201-2), but behind every sexual offense there are specific factors that occur much more frequently than we are usually ready to admit. They often come to the surface in analysis in the form of fantasies that do not have to be translated into actions for the simple reason that experiencing these impulses permits their integration and maturation.

What Does a Murder Tell Us about the Childhood of the Murderer?

Through a lengthy correspondence, Paul Moor made an effort to understand Jürgen Bartsch as a human being; he also spoke with many people who knew something about Bartsch and were willing to talk about him. Moor's inquiries about the boy's first year of life brought the following to light:

Jürgen Bartsch found himself in pathogenic surroundings the very day he was born: November 6, 1946. Immediately after the delivery, he was taken away from his tubercular mother, who died a few weeks later. There was no ersatz mother for the baby. In Essen I found a nurse named Anni, still working in the same maternity ward, who remembers Jürgen very clearly: "It was so unusual to keep children in the hospital longer than two months. But Jürgen stayed with us for eleven months." Modern psychology knows that the first year in the life of a human being is the most important one. Maternal warmth and body contact are of irreplaceable value for the child's later development.

While the baby was still in the hospital nursery, the economic and social attitudes of his future adoptive parents were already beginning to influence his life. Nurse Anni: "Frau Bartsch paid extra so he could stay here with us. She and her husband wanted to adopt him, but the authorities were hesitant because they had reservations on account of the baby's background. His mother was illegitimate like him. She had also been raised by the state for a time. No one was sure who the father was. Normally, we sent children without parents to another ward after a certain amount of time, but Frau Bartsch didn't want that to happen. In the other ward there were all sorts of children, including some from lower-class parents. I still remember today how the baby's eyes shone. He smiled at a very early age, followed objects with his eyes, raised his head, all at a very, very early age. At one point he discovered that the nurse would come when he pushed a button, and that amused him greatly. He didn't have any problems eating then. He was a thoroughly normal, well-developed baby who related well to those around him."

On the other hand there were some early pathological developments. The nurses on the ward had to devise special methods for caring for him, since it was an exception to have such a big baby there. To my astonishment I learned that the nurses had toilet trained him before he was eleven months old. Anni obviously found my astonishment strange. "Please don't forget the way things were then, just one year after a lost war. We didn't even have shifts." With some impatience, she answered my questions about how she and the other nurses had managed that. "We simply put him on the potty, beginning at six or seven months. We had children here in the hospital who were already walking at eleven months, and they were nearly toilet trained too." Under the circumstances, a German nurse of her generation, even as kind a one as she... could hardly be expected to use more enlightened methods of child training.

After eleven long months of this pathogenic existence the child, now called Jürgen, was taken by his adoptive parents. Everyone who knows Frau Bartsch more than slightly says that she is a "demon for cleanliness." Shortly after being released from the hospital, the baby regressed in the matter of his abnormally early toilet training. This disgusted Frau Bartsch.

Acquaintances of the Bartsch family noticed around that time that the baby was always black and blue. Frau Bartsch had a different explanation for the bruises each time, but it was never very convincing. At least once during this period the downcast father, Gerhard Bartsch, confessed to a friend that he was considering divorce: "She beats the baby so badly I simply can't stand it anymore." Another time, when he was taking his leave, Herr Bartsch excused himself for being in such a hurry: "I have to get home or she will beat the child to death."

Jürgen, of course, is unable to report about this period, but we can assume that the frequent anxiety attacks he tells of are the result of these beatings. "When I was very little, I was always terribly afraid of my father's lumbering way. And I have hardly ever seen him laugh, which I noticed even way back then."

"Why this fear I wrote about? It was not so much of confession as it was of the other children. You don't know that I was the scapegoat in the early grades or all the things they did to me. Defend myself? Just try it if you are the smallest one in the class! I was too afraid even to sing in school or to do gymnastics! A few reasons why: classmates who aren't seen outside of school aren't accepted, in line with the idea, 'He doesn't want to bother with us!' Children don't make a distinction between whether he doesn't want to or he can't. I couldn't. A couple of afternoons with my teacher Herr Hünnemeier, a couple of days in Werden at my grandma's, where I slept on the floor, the rest of the afternoons in Katernberg in the shop. The end result: at home everywhere and nowhere, no pals, no friends, because I didn't know anyone. Those are the main reasons, but there's something else that's very important. Until I started going to school I was locked up, most of the time, in the old underground prison [his grandmother's cellar] with barred windows and artificial light. Walls ten feet high. All that. I was allowed out only if my grandma had me by the hand; wasn't allowed to play with another child. For six years. I might get dirty, 'and anyway so-and-so is no one for you!' So I resign myself to it, but I'm only in the way there and pushed from one corner to another, get a beating when I don't deserve it and get away with it when I deserve one. My parents don't have any time. I'm afraid of my father because he starts yelling right away, and my mother was hysterical even then. But more than anything else: no contact with others of the same age because, as I said, it's forbidden! So how do you fit in? Get rid of my shyness, which sometimes happens when I'm playing? After six years it's too late!"

Being locked up is an important factor. Later, Bartsch will lure little boys into an underground shelter and murder them there. Because he had no one as a child who understood his unhappiness, he was unable to experience it and had to repress his pain, "not letting anyone see [his] misery."

"I wasn't a coward about everything, but I would have been one if I had let anyone notice how I suffered. Maybe that was wrong, but that's what I thought anyway. Because every boy has his pride, you surely know that. No, I didn't cry every time I got a licking--I thought that was being a 'sissy'--and so at least I was brave about one thing, not letting anyone see my misery. But in all seriousness now, whom should I have gone to, whom should I have poured my heart out to? My parents? As fond as I am of them, I am sorry to say that they never, but really never, could come up with even a tiny fraction of an ounce of understanding in this regard. Never 'could,' I say, not never 'did'; please notice my good intentions! And--this is not a reproach, it's a simple fact--I am firmly convinced--yes, I even experienced it at first hand--that my parents never knew how to deal with children."

Not until he is in prison does Jürgen reproach his parents for the first time:

"You never should have kept me apart from other children, then I wouldn't have been so chicken in school. You never should have sent me to those sadists in their black cassocks, and after I ran away because the priest mistreated me, you shouldn't have brought me back to that school. But you didn't know that. Mama shouldn't have thrown into the stove the book about reproduction that I was supposed to get from Aunt Martha when I was eleven or twelve. Why didn't you play with me one single time in twenty years? But maybe other parents would have been the same way. At least I was a wanted child. Even though I didn't know it for twenty years, only today when it's too damned late.

"Whenever my mother flung the curtain in the doorway to one side and came charging out of the shop like an amazon and I was in the way, then slap! slap! slap! I got it in the face. Simply because I was in the way, often enough that was the only reason. A few minutes later I was suddenly the dear boy you put your arm around and kissed. Then she was surprised that I resisted and was afraid of her. I was already afraid of that woman when I was very little, just the same as I was of my father, except that I saw less of him. Today I ask myself how he ever stood it. Sometimes he was at work from four in the morning till ten or eleven at night without a break, usually in the kitchen where he made his sausages. For days at a time I didn't see him at all, and if I did hear or see him it was only when he went rushing around shouting. But when I was a baby and made a mess in my diapers, he was the one who tended to me. He would say himself: `I was the one who always had to wash and change the diapers. My wife never did it. She couldn't; she couldn't bring herself to do it.'

"I don't mean to run my mother down. I'm fond of my mother, I love my mother, but I don't believe she is a person who is capable of the slightest understanding. My mother must love me very much. I find it really astonishing, otherwise she wouldn't be doing everything for me that she is. I used to get it in the neck a lot. She's broken coat hangers on me, like when I didn't get my homework right or didn't do it fast enough.

"It got to be a routine with my bath. My mother always bathed me. She never stopped doing it, and I never griped about it, although sometimes I would have liked to say, 'Now, for heaven's sake...' But I don't know, it's also possible that I accepted it as a matter of course till the very end. In any case, my father wasn't allowed to come in. If he had, I would have yelled.

"Until I was arrested when I was nineteen, it went like this: I washed my hands and feet myself. My mother washed my head, neck, and back. That might have been normal, but she also went over my stomach, all the way down, and my thighs too, practically everything from top to bottom. You can certainly say that she did much more than I did. Usually I didn't do anything at all, even though she said, 'Wash your hands and feet.' But usually I was pretty lazy. Neither my mother nor my father ever told me I should keep my penis clean under the foreskin. My mother didn't do that when she washed me either.

"Did I find the whole thing peculiar? It was the kind of feeling that wells up periodically for seconds or minutes and perhaps is close to breaking through, but it doesn't quite come to the surface. I felt it, but never directly. I felt it only indirectly, if it's even possible to feel something indirectly.

"I can't remember ever being affectionate with my mother in a spontaneous way, ever putting my arm around her and trying to hug her. I can vaguely remember her doing that when I was lying in bed between my parents, watching television in the evening, but that may have happened twice in four years, and I resisted it. My mother was never especially happy about that, but I always had a sort of horror of her. I don't know what to call it, perhaps an ironic twist of fate, or even sadder than that. When I dreamed about my mother when I was a little boy, either she was selling me or she was coming at me with a knife. Unfortunately, the latter really came true later on.

"It was in 1964 or 1965. I think it was a Tuesday; at that time my mother was in the shop in Katernberg only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. At noontime the meat was removed so the counters could be washed off. My mother washed one half and I the other. The knives, which were kept in a pail, were also washed off. I said I was finished, but she was having a bad day and she said, `You're not finished by a long shot!' 'Yes, I am,' I said. 'Take a look.' She said, 'You take a look at the mirrors, you'll have to do all of them over again.' I said, 'I won't do them over again because they're already nice and shiny.' She was standing in the back by the mirror. I was standing three or four yards away from her. She bent over to the pail. I thought to myself, what's going on? Then she took a nice long butcher knife out and threw it at me, at about shoulder height. I don't remember whether it bounced off a scale or what, but it landed on a shelf in any case. If I hadn't ducked at the last moment, she would have hit me with it.

"I just stood there stiff as a board. I didn't even know where I was. It was so unreal somehow. That was something you simply couldn't believe. Then she came up to me, spit in my face, and began yelling that I was a piece of shit. Then she yelled, 'I'm going to call up Herr Bitter'--the head of the Essen Welfare Office--'and have him come right over and get you so you can go back where you came from, because that's where you belong!' I ran into the kitchen to Frau Ohskopp, who worked in the shop. She was washing the things from lunch. I stood next to the cupboard and held on to it. I said, 'She threw a knife at me.' 'You're crazy,' she said, 'you don't know what you're talking about.' I ran downstairs to the toilet and sat down and cried like a baby. When I went back upstairs, my mother was running around in the kitchen and had the telephone book open. Probably she really was looking for Herr Bitter's number. For a long time she didn't speak to me. I guess she thought, 'He's a bad fellow who lets someone throw a knife at him and simply jumps aside,' I don't know.

"You should hear my father sometime! He has a pretty extraordinary pair of lungs, a regular drill sergeant's voice. Awful! There can be different reasons for it--his wife or some little thing that displeases him. Sometimes the shouting was something awful, but I'm sure he didn't think of it that way at all. He can't help it, but it was horrible for me as a child. I remember a lot of things like that.

"He was always one for issuing military commands and blaming me for something. He simply can't help it, I've often said that. But he has a hell of a lot on his mind, and so we won't hold it against him.

"In the first trial the lawyer said, 'Herr Bartsch, what was it like in the school in Marienhausen? Your son is supposed to have been given so many beatings. Conditions are supposed to have been so brutal there.' My father answered, in these very words, 'Well, after all, he wasn't beaten to death.' That was a straightforward answer.

"As a rule my parents were never available during the day. Of course my mother rushed past me from time to time like greased lightning, but it was understandable that she had no time for a child. I hardly dared open my mouth because wherever I was, I was in the way, and what's called patience is something my mother never had any of. I often got hit for the simple reason that I got in her way because I wanted to ask her something.

"I never was able to understand what was going on inside her. I know how much she loved me and still loves me, but a child, I always thought, should be able to sense that as well. Just one example (this is by no means an isolated case; it happened often): my mother thought absolutely nothing of it to put her arm around me and kiss me one minute and the next minute, if she saw that I had left my shoes on by mistake, she took a coat hanger from the closet and hit me with it till it broke. Things like that happened often, and every time something inside me broke too. I've never been able to forget those things or the way I was treated and I never will be able to. I'm sorry but I just can't help it. Some people would say I'm ungrateful. That's hardly the case, because all this is nothing more and nothing less than an impression I have, an impression based on my experiences, and the truth is really supposed to be better than pious lies.

"My parents never should have gotten married in the first place. If two people who are scarcely capable of showing their feelings start a family, in my opinion it can only lead to some sort of trouble. All I heard was, 'Shut up, you're the youngest, you've got nothing to say anyway. You're just a child, don't speak until you're spoken to.'

"I feel the saddest when I'm at home, where everything is so antiseptic you think you have to walk around on tiptoe. On Christmas Eve everything is sooo clean. I go down to the living room, and there are lots of presents there for me. It's really fantastic, and at least on this evening my mother somewhat controls her temper that otherwise blows hot and cold, so you think maybe tonight you can forget a little your (I mean my) own wickedness for once, but somehow there's tension crackling in the air so you know there'll be hell to pay again. If we could at least sing a Christmas carol. My mother says, 'Now go ahead and sing a Christmas carol,' and I say, 'Oh, go on, I can't, I'm much too big for that,' but I think, 'A child murderer singing Christmas carols, that's enough to drive you crazy.' I unwrap my presents and am 'pleased,' at least I act that way. Mother unwraps her presents, the ones from me, and really is pleased. In the meantime, supper is ready, chicken soup with the chicken in it, and Father comes home, two hours after me. He's been working till now. He tosses some kind of household appliance at Mother, and she's so touched she has tears in her eyes. He mutters something that sounds like 'Merry Christmas'; then he sits down at the dining table: 'Well, what is it, are you coming or not?' The soup is eaten in silence. We don't even touch the chicken.

"Not a word is spoken the whole time, there's just the radio playing softly as it has been for hours. 'Hope and steadfastness bring strength and consolation in these times....' We're finished eating. Father straightens up and bellows at us, 'Excellent! And what are we going to do now?' as loud as he can. It sounds really awful. 'We're not going to do anything now!' my mother screams and runs crying into the kitchen. I think, 'Who's punishing me, fate or the good Lord?' but I know immediately that that can't be it, and I'm reminded of a scene I saw on television: 'The same as last year, Madame?'--'The same as every year, James!'

"I ask softly, 'Don't you at least want to look at your presents?' --'No!'--He just sits there staring at the tablecloth with an empty gaze. It's not even eight o'clock yet. There's nothing to keep me down here anymore, so I head up to my room. I pace up and down and I seriously ask myself, 'Are you going to jump out the window now or not?' Why am I living in hell, why would I be better off dead instead of going through something like this? Because I'm a murderer? That can't be all there is to it because today was no different from every other year. This day was always the worst, mostly of course in recent years when I was still at home. Then everything, but really everything, came together all at once on one day.

"Of course my father (and of course my mother too) is one of those people who are convinced that the Nazis' ways of 'educating' had their good side too. 'No doubt about it,' I would almost say. I even heard my father say (in conversation with other older people, who almost all think that way!): 'Then we still had discipline, we had order; they didn't get stupid ideas when they were harassed,' etc. I think most young people feel the same way I do and would rather not look into their family history under the Third Reich because every one of us is afraid something or other might come out in the process that we would rather not have to know about.

"I'm sure the episode in the shop with her and the butcher knife happened after the third murder, but similar things, only not quite so bad, happened (of course only with my mother) before that. Every half year or so, even before the first murder. Always when she hit me. She always got furious when I warded off the blows. I was supposed to stand more or less at attention and accept the blows. From about sixteen and a half to nineteen, when she was about to hit me with something she had in her hand, I simply took it away from her. That was just about the worst thing for her. She took that as rebelliousness, although it was only self-defense, because she's by no means weak. And at such moments she had no qualms about injuring me. You can just tell about something like that.

"Those were always times when I had either offended her love of order ('The front room has been cleaned, I don't want anyone going in there today!') or talked back to her." [Moor]

I have let Jürgen Bartsch tell his story for a while without interrupting him, in order to give the reader an idea of the atmosphere of a therapeutic session. You sit there, you listen, and if you believe the patient and don't tell him what to think or offer him any theories, sometimes a hell will open up right in the midst of a sheltered home, a hell whose existence neither parents nor patient suspected till now.

Could we say that Jürgen's parents would have been better parents if they had known that their son's subsequent behavior would bring their own before the public eye? It's possible, but it is also conceivable that for reasons of their own unconscious compulsions they could not have treated him any differently than they did. But we can assume that if they had known better they would not have taken him out of the good Children's Home and put him in the private school in Marienhausen, would not have forced him to return there after he ran away. Everything that Jürgen tells about Marienhausen in his letters to Paul Moor, everything that came to light in the testimony of witnesses during the trial shows the degree to which "poisonous pedagogy" still prevails today. A few examples:

"In comparison, Marienhausen was a hell--even though a Catholic one; that doesn't make it any better--and not just on [Pater Pülitz's] account. I only have to think of the constant beatings given by the priests in their cassocks when we were in school, at choir, or--and they didn't think twice about it--in church. Of the sadistic punishments (having to stand in a circle in the courtyard in our pajamas for hours at a time until the first one collapsed), of the illegal child labor in the fields every afternoon for weeks in extreme heat (pitching hay, harvesting potatoes, pulling turnips, a thrashing for children who were slow), the merciless way they demonized the oh so wicked 'nastiness' among the boys (necessary for one's development!), the unnatural 'silentium' during meals and after a certain time of day, etc., and the confusing, unnatural things they said to children, such as, 'Anyone who so much as looks at one of the girls working in the kitchen will be given a thrashing!'

"One evening Deacon Hamacher gave me such a wallop in our sleeping quarters (I had said something, and in the evening there was a rule of strict silence) that it sent me sliding under the length of several beds. Just before that, 'Pater Catechist' had broken a yardstick on my behind and said in all seriousness that I would have to pay for it.

"Once in the sixth grade I had the flu and was in the infirmary, where the Catechist was on duty. He was not only the religion teacher but in charge of the infirmary as well. A boy with a high fever was in the bed next to mine. The Catechist came in, stuck a thermometer in him, went out, came back after a few minutes, took the thermometer out, looked at it, and then thrashed him mercilessly. The boy, who after all had a bad fever, whimpered and bawled. I don't know if he had any idea of what was going on. Anyway, the Catechist ranted and raved, and then he roared, 'He held the thermometer against the heat!'--forgetting that it wasn't even winter and the heat wasn't even on."'

Here we see how a child must learn to accept the absurdities and whims of the educators without any opposition and without any feelings of hatred and at the same time condemn and stifle any desire for the physical or emotional closeness of another human being, which would have eased the burden. This is a superhuman accomplishment that is demanded only of children, never expected of adults.

"First PaPü [Pater Pulitz] said, 'If we ever catch two of you together!' And when that did happen, then first came the usual thrashing, only probably even worse than usual, and that's really saying something. Then of course, first thing the next day, expulsion. God, we were less afraid of being expelled than of those thrashings. And then the usual clichés about how you could tell boys like that, etc.; something like--anyone who has damp hands is homosexual and does nasty things, and whoever does those nasty things is a criminal. That's pretty much what they told us and, above all, that these criminal offenses were second only to murder--yes, in those very words: second only to murder.

"PaPü talked about it almost every day, as though he couldn't possibly have the temptation himself sometimes. He said that it was actually natural for 'the blood to back up,' as he put it. I always thought that was a terrible expression. He said he had never given in to Satan, and he was proud of the fact. We heard that practically every day, not in class, but always in-between times.

"We always got up in the morning at six or half past. Strictest rule of silence. Then getting ready in silence, always in very orderly rows of two, to go downstairs and into church, then the celebration of mass. Back from mass, still in silence and in rows of two.

"Personal contact, friendships as such were forbidden. It was forbidden to play with another boy too frequently. To a certain extent you could get around that because they couldn't have their eyes everywhere at once, but it was still forbidden. They thought friendship was suspicious because someone who made a real friend would be sure to reach inside his pants. They immediately sensed something sexual behind every glance.

"You can hammer some things into children by beating them, that's clear. And it stays in there. Today it's often denied, but if it's done under the right conditions, if you know you have to retain it, then it stays in there, and a lot has stayed in there till today.

"When PaPü wanted to find something out, like who had done something, he herded us down into the school courtyard and made us keep running until some of us got completely out of breath and collapsed.

"He told us very often (actually even more often than that) in great detail about the horrible mass murders of the Jews in the Third Reich and also showed us a lot of pictures of it. He seemed to enjoy doing this.

"In choir PaPü liked to strike indiscriminately at anyone he could reach and at the same time he would foam at the mouth. His stick would often break when he hit us, and then too this incomprehensible frenzy and foaming at the mouth."

The same man who always warns the boys against sexuality and threatens them with punishment for it lures Jürgen into his bed when the boy is ill:

"He wanted to have his radio back. The beds were quite far apart. I got out of bed with my fever and took the radio over to him. And all of a sudden he said, 'As long as you're here, you might as well get into bed with me!'

"I still didn't realize what was going on. First we just lay next to each other for a while, and then he pulled me up against him and put his hand down inside the back of my pants. That was something new, but really not so new after all. I don't remember how often it happened, it may have been four times, it can also have been seven times, mornings when we were sitting side by side in the choir, he kept making certain movements so he could reach my shorts.

"There in bed he pushed his hand down inside the back of my pajamas and 'stroked' me. He did the same thing in front and tried to masturbate me, but it didn't work, probably because I had a fever.

"I don't remember the words he used but he told me he would finish me off if I opened my trap."

How difficult it is for a child to extricate himself from a situation like this without help. And yet Jürgen summons the courage to run away, which makes him sense even more clearly than before how hopeless his situation is, how altogether lonely he is.

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