The Peril One Faces at Switching Places

Wenceslas_Hollar Sword of Damocles

Sword of Damocles (by Wenceslas Hollar)

Have you ever heard this story? A fawning, flattering counselor named Damocles extols the wealth, power, and authority of his king. Promptly, King Dionysius trades places with him. Unknown to Damocles he places a huge sword over his head, suspended only by a horse’s hair. He quickly realizes his precarious position. When will it fall, taking his life? Damocles pleads to not have such an exalted position at such peril to his life.

Generally, the sword of Damocles has come to symbolize the sense of foreboding one has in a precarious position.1 It is a position in which tragedy is restrained by just a delicate “trigger” or whim of chance. It is a place one sincerely wishes one had never gotten to.

Alternate Title: “How Germany Rewards Parents”

Staatsanwalt Christian Grimmeisen

Staatsanwalt (prosecutor) Christian Grimmeisen

Curiously, it is the very language used by the prosecutor of a parent who left the Community at the urging of the Jugendamt to get their children back. So not only are you prosecuted, but you are threatened: “May the suspended sentence hang over you like a sword of Damocles,” said prosecutor Christian Grimmeisen to the 28-year-old woman in the dock.”2



Aurelia Pelka


Secretly taped videos were admitted as evidence. Her lawyer, Aurelia Pelka, said, “My hair stood on end to give my consent to evaluate this dubious video.” But she did agree, and the video showed how her client only slightly tapped the child’s hand three times with a small rod. Prosecutor Grimmeisen wants the defendant to incriminate others, but she will not.

In the discussion around the penalty she said: “My worst punishment was to be separated a year long from my children.” (She is still separated from them as far as we know.)

In case that wasn’t enough punishment, ten members of an online group heckled the mother of four. So the Jugendamt, the courts, and at least a small but vocal part of society rewards one who will “distance themselves from the faith”.




  1. And not just the dangers those in power face.
  2. See the article, “Zwölf Stämme: Eine Aussteigerin (28) packt vor Gericht aus.” (in German)