It all began on September 5, 2013 at 6 clock in the morning when police cars and cars from the youth office (Jugendamt) rolled onto our property. Within minutes about a hundred policemen and a whole bunch of social workers were on our site. They hesitated a moment, then “got to work.” They broke into the houses. When they came to our house, they said the same, that they would take all children under 18 years. They were not willing to give us any information about why they had decided on such a measure.
A short time later I found myself in a car that drove to the Jugendamt (youth welfare office) Donauwörth. I remember how I asked the woman in the passenger seat if we could at least go back and grab a few things because we had nothing with us (the police and social workers had not even given us time to carry an extra set of clothes!). They told me that it was probably possible – to my disappointment that never happened.
When we arrived at the Youth Office, we had to all be examined for signs of abuse.There we were also asked a few questions. Although they could not find in any of us anything notable, they had not yet changed their minds. They seemed to have taken it into their heads to separate us from our parents and they would not let go of this decision. After waiting several hours and having a hot discussion with the staff of the Youth Office, they allowed me to stay with one of my younger friends. They had separated us and wanted to bring in two different corners of the country, only by our stubbornness could we prevent that.
They took us to a facility in the middle of nowhere, a place whose name I had never heard before.1 After about two hours we arrived at our “prison”. Here we were now so: a church and a few other buildings, surrounded by walls, fences and gates.
When we arrived in our apartment in the “Youth Protection” section, we found locked doors and windows and a set of laws and rules. We were treated as if we were totally broken youths who were either terribly abused and therefore become crazy or that were completely out of control and violent. We were monitored at every turn.
There we were then. We had no idea where we were, let alone where our our friends and siblings were. We asked if we could call our parents or have contact with our friends. Either we were not allowed by the educators on the grounds that we would have to wait for our supplement nurse who would come until Monday (it was Thursday!). Life was just awful here – nothing to do and the worst was this ban on contact!
After a day or two I caught up with reality. I woke up slowly from my state of shock. When I realized what had happened, I could only sit on my bed and cry. Luckily I was not alone! My little friend was my only consolation. I remember how I went to bed at night and each time was glad that again a day was gone. We have just been waiting for the day when we could call our parents or learn at last what really was going on here.
At last Monday came – but our supplement nurse did not come as promised! Instead, he called us. He told me that my parents had been in the office today with him, they gave him a card and a few other things for me and sent greetings. He can he and his girlfriend could not visit until Wednesday or Thursday. Then we would know when we could contact our parents. When the call was over, I ran to my room and started to cry. I asked the teacher why I actually could not even talk to my parents. Why could my parents not tell me personally what he had just told me? They could not help me unfortunately.
Now we had to wait several days so again, only to find out when we could finally talk our parents. It was a nightmare – or rather, I wish it was all a bad dream from which I would eventually wake up and realize that I was actually at home with my parents and friends. But unfortunately that was not the case. So we could only make the most of this situation. Luckily we had each other.
Finally Wednesday came, and with him also came our complementary caregivers. We talked for almost an hour with them. Mr. B. cleared up our situation for us a little and about when we could have contact with our parents. He also told me that I would have a hearing on September 18, 2013 with the Judge of the District Court of Nördlingen. Then they brought us the things that were sent with our parents. I was so happy to get a few cards from my family.
It took another two final days before we were finally allowed to call our parents. I was overjoyed! However, there were a few conditions: We were only allowed ten minutes on the phone, there had to be at least one educator there, the speaker had to be on and we were not allowed to say where we were to our parents. So now you can imagine what kind of phone conversation it was! A horrible one!!! Suddenly I could not even talk normally with my parents! Well, at least I could hear their voices, which made me happy.
The next day (after 9 days at the home!) we were able to make for the first time together, with a teacher, a little “walk” across the grounds of the facility. A full ten minutes! Until then, we had not been able to go out there together save on our two-minute walk to school with the other girls in our group or on our way to the dining room. It was practically nothing. They also only allowed us to write one letter a week and to receive one from our parents. However, we could not believe that we could now write what we wanted! Oh no, there were exactly the same rules as for our phone call: again we were not allowed to tell our parents where we were; all our letters had to be controlled by the teachers – the ones we sent and also the ones we got. What crime had we committed that you treated us so? The true answer is: absolutely nothing!
It went on like this until after my hearing in the district court happened. Then I could call my parents without supervision and my letters were not controlled. Just two weeks after my hearing, and four weeks after the raid, my parents were allowed to visit me for the first time. They were allowed to remain there for an hour and it was always at least a supervisor there to see everything. The next day we moved from the protection of minors to the “Marian group”. We had heard that the girls had to be normally a maximum of 2-3 weeks in the protection of minors. For some reason it was different with us.
In St. Mary’s group, there were not as strict rules as in the protection of minors, but for some reason we were treated differently than all the other girls, even though my teachers and teachers knew that I was a very good girl. I have no problem with anyone. The fact that we were treated differently, must have been directed by those “above”, and not by educators themselves. When I visited my parents, for example, it was noticeable that the teachers were always under pressure and were in a hurry. My parents time after three hours was up at the minute. A teacher told us that they had to keep accurate records of everything we did during the visits, and would need to pass those along to the youth department.
Why I was not allowed to visit my parents over the weekend or spend the holidays at home like all the other girls in the home?
Sometimes we were the only two girls that were left in our group, while all the others visited their parents or grandparents. We could not even leave the site alone, except when my girlfriend had riding lessons. I accompanied her then sometimes to the stables, which was fifteen or twenty minutes away. I took her there and then went back. On one occasion one of the teachers allowed us both to go outside for a walk, which we of course did. This was, as it turned out, a huge error of her. She probably thought she could treat us like all the others. The next time, when we wanted to leave the premises of the establishment, we were called back by another teacher who let us know vigorously that we should not have done that.
A few weeks later I asked one of the other girls if I could go jogging with her. I changed my clothes and was on the way down, as I was told I could not leave the premises. Something so crazy! Why I was banned, and why did I have to get permission to go?
Why have I been treated differently? Had the youth welfare office may be afraid that if I had time outside, that I would run home to my parents? If that was the case, why then they had taken me and all the other children of our parents? Why did they say we were in great danger, and would be beaten at home and may even beaten to death if we were only one day to stay at home longer? Would that be true, then surely we would not run back to our parents! But no, we wanted with all eagerness to get back! That was a sign that something in their approach was not right!
Finally, after three months when I was separated from my parents against my will, it was decided that I could go back home. There had never been a reason to take me away three months earlier. All lies and accusations that they have testified against us, did not have anything to do with me. For some reason I was allowed to return at once to my parents, but only on the condition that they would sent me to the public school. Why? This had not been at all the reason why they had torn me three months ago from my parents! Why now suddenly is this a condition for me to go back home?
I was definitely happy at that time – at least I could go to my parents. But I had to leave alone my dear little friend. She was not allowed to take home! Again, the pain of separation! My ten-year-old girlfriend was now alone in this prison, away from parents and friends! So a great injustice! She was not the only one, who had to go through this great suffering. All these 34 innocent children who were taken away from their parents in the raid suffer so much from this great injustice! I call that child abuse!
How long will it take before someone finally opens their eyes to the reality and the cry of all these innocent children and hear their longing to be able to go back home?
Who will muster enough courage to stand up for justice?
Sarah Remmache, 17 years old
To read of her intense and unjust experience in being taken, and her happiness at being home, read “The Pain of Separation.”
See her video of why she can no longer go to school at “Why our children refuse school.”
- They lived at a Franciscan convent, the Antonia-Werr-Zentrum in St. Ludwig, Bavaria. ↩