Coming to Terms with the Violent Constellation in the Martinstift (Moers)
The research project aimed to systematically collect and evaluate the experiences of the persons involved in coming to terms with the constellation of violence in the Protestant alumnat Martinstift in the 1950s.
University of Wuppertal
Background and research interest of the research project
In the first half of the 1950s, approximately 70 boys between the ages of 10 and 20 lived in the Protestant school hostel Martinstift in Moers in the Lower Rhine region. They attended the nearby Adolfinum grammar school and were supposed to lead a "community life governed by Christian house rules" in the Martinstift – far away from their parents' home. However, there were only a few educators available; most of them did not have the necessary qualifications. Some of them used violence to get their way with the young people.
Since 1952, the director of the dormitory was Johannes Keubler, a pharmacist and grammar school teacher. He maintained the regime of violence he had set up, consisting out of brutal corporal punishment and sexual abuse, for almost three years. In a trial at the Regional Court Kleve in May 1956, he was sentenced to eight years in prison for "ill-treatment and moral misconduct" against numerous pupils.
The research project aimed to deal with the history of the violent constellation at the Martinstift: it traced the line of development of the church's handling of the matter from the 1950s to the recent past and asked how today's successor organisations deal with institutional responsibility for what happened.
Another aim of the study was to show how the involved people dealt with the violence in the Martinstift after it became known. Were the children, adolescents and their parents informed? What measures were taken to avoid similar incidents? In what way is the memory of the constellation of violence at that time and of the residents at that time secured?
The research project also investigated the framework conditions that enabled the establishment and maintenance of the violent constellation in the Martinstift. In particular, the questions arise about the institutional embedding of the pupils' home in the structures and peculiarities of the Inner Mission (today Diakonie) of the Protestant Church: What responsibility was assigned to the supporting organisation and the leaders there – especially the board members Otto Ohl and Eduard Kaphahn, who were at the same time high-ranking representatives of the Rhineland Regional Association and the Central Committee for Inner Mission?