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A Four-Star Vienna Hotel, Formerly A Hellish Orphanage

Shock is spreading across Austria where allegations are emerging of systemic violence, sexual abuse and child prostitution dating from the 1970s in Schloss Wilhelminenberg, a Vienna foster home. Some Austrian leaders want to change the statute of limitati

Schloss Wilhelminenberg (Wikipedia)
Schloss Wilhelminenberg (Wikipedia)
Michael Frank

VIENNA - Today, the former Schloss Wilhelminenberg foster home is a four-star hotel. From the terrace, there is a panoramic view of the Vienna woodlands and the city center. But in the 1970s it was a home for so-called "social orphans," children whose families were unwilling or unable to take care of them. If the accounts of a growing number of them are to be believed, it was the orphanage from hell.

So far, accounts by two women, both in their late forties, have been made public. They paint a picture of sexual abuse and daily torture with a racist component – one of the staffers in the home, the women said, used to tell the children that "as Gypsies, you don't have the right to live."

The Austrian daily Kurier reported that children were shown movies and photographs of Nazi concentration camps and told that "dark" people were killed there. "They would then ask us if we understood that we belonged there too because we didn't have a right to live."

Descriptions of beatings, sleep deprivation, and psycho-terror contribute to the suspicion that behind the mass rapes perpetrated by both male staffers and other men at the home lay an organized child prostitution ring. Very young girls were particularly targeted – female staffers used to dress them up in garter belts, and they were forbidden to cut their hair.

An Austrian group called the Weißer Ring that helps victims of violence and sexual abuse, as well as the state prosecutor's office, say that the claims of the alleged victims are credible.

The women said that men from outside the home, as well as staffers who worked in the boys' section, would be let loose in a room of up to 20 girls. "Nobody escaped sexual abuse," according to the women. The suspicion that money changed hands for these sessions seems to match descriptions of the men's sadism. Four men are being investigated, and complaints have also been filed against an unknown number of others.

Four of the five parties in the Austria parliament (only the People's Party opposes it) support either extending statutes of limitations that apply in such cases -- or doing away with such statutes altogether, as it often takes the traumatized victims of such abuse decades before they have the strength to come forward.

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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