In Germany, An Incest Case Everyone Knew About – But Did Nothing To Stop

Everybody talked about it. And some even made jokes. But a visit to the small German town of Willmershbach where a recent incest case has exploded, our reporter finds that nobody came to the help of a woman abused by her father for decades.

A video image of the family house in Willmersbach, Bavaria (DAPD)
A video image of the family house in Willmersbach, Bavaria (DAPD)
Katja Auer and Olaf Przybilla

WILLMERSHBACH -- At the local fair, little kids chanted mocking verses about boys who look exactly like their grandfather. No need to point this out to Jürgen Mönius, mayor of the commune of Gerhardshofen in the Middle Franconia region of Bavaria: he brings it up himself.

But doesn't he think it's unusual that, at a village festival, reference is being made to children born of an alleged incestuous relationship? The problem is that although rumors have been circulating for 34 years, nobody did anything about it. But no, the mayor does not believe it is unusual. After all, he says, these were just old rumors that had persisted for "many years' following one alleged event that might have provided some basis for their being true.

More of that later: first the facts. A 69-year-old man from the village of Willmersbach had incestuous relations with his daughter over the space of 34 years and fathered three handicapped sons by her. The woman's fourth child was fathered by her uncle – the father's brother. The information was given to Süddeutsche Zeitung by the father's lawyer, Karl Herzog, who stressed that his client – who has been charged with rape -- claimed that the sexual relations with his daughter were consensual.

In other cases of this type, the question has always been how something like this could go unnoticed for decades – particularly in villages where everybody knows everybody else. In Willmersbach, an idyllic rural hamlet located 40 km from the town of Fürth, the issue is somewhat different. Talk of the alleged incest has been making the village rounds for years. The mayor himself says so, but so do plenty of others. "Everyone talked about it," says one village resident. "And everyone joked about it," says a woman standing next to him. "The story's been making the rounds for 10, maybe 15 years, but of course nobody had any proof," Mönius confirms.

Fears of libel

Pressed for more details about what villagers were saying, Mönius conceded that, along with the startling resemblance of the woman's sons to their grandfather and absence of a known father, there was the one sighting that could have pointed to something. "Ten or 15 years ago" a hunter in the woods some 10 km from Willmersbach reported having seen father and daughter in flagrante in a car. It was after that reported sighting that rumors started to fly, Mönius said.

If that information is combined with statements made by a woman and two men approached on the main village street, the picture becomes even more disturbing. Of course, one of the villagers says, they'd noticed the father driving out of the village with his daughter "sometimes up to five times a day." And naturally people wondered aloud what father and daughter were up to.

And through all those years it hadn't occurred to anybody to report this? The mayor, who lives in Willmersbach, says that he knows of no one who might have informed authorities. He and others "actually weren't under the impression" that the daughter was being forced to do something against her will. Even so: isn't it still incest?

"You don't want to be sued for libel," Mönius says, and anyway the family had a lot to do with local authorities. "Why they didn't notice anything and ask some hard questions was something a lot of people here wondered about."

District authorities contacted about the case made a terse statement to the effect that the family "received some financial support" and that the child welfare department had not been involved. For the time being there would be no further comment. They and others may not have much choice in the matter once the 69-year-old defendant's trial gets underway.

Read the original story in German

Photo - DAPD (screenshot from YouTube video)

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A Mother In Spain Denied Child Custody Because She Lives In Rural Area

A court in Spain usurps custody of the one-year-old boy living with his mother in the "deep" part of the Galicia region, forced to instead live with his father in the southern city of Marbella, which the judge says is "cosmopolitan" with good schools and medical care. Women's rights groups have taken up the mother's case.

A child in Galician countryside

Laure Gautherin

A Spanish court has ordered the withdrawal of a mother's custody of her one-year-old boy because she is living in the countryside in northwestern Spain, where the judge says the child won't have "opportunities for the proper development of his personality."

The case, reported Monday in La Voz de Galicia, has sparked outrage from a women's rights association but has also set off reactions from politicians of different stripes across the province of Galicia, defending the values of rural life.

Judge María Belén Ureña Carazo, of the family court of Marbella, a city on the southern coast of 141,000 people, has ordered the toddler to stay with father who lives in the city rather than with his mother because she was living in "deep Galicia" where the child would lack opportunities to "grow up in a happy environment."

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - October 25, 2021

Front page of La Voz de Galicia - Monday 25 October, 2021

La Voz de Galicia

Better in a "cosmopolitan" city?

The judge said Marbella, where the father lives, was a "cosmopolitan city" with "a good hospital" as well as "all kinds of schools" and thus provided a better environment for the child to thrive.

The mother has submitted a formal complaint to the General Council of the Judiciary that the family court magistrate had acted with "absolute contempt," her lawyer told La Voz de Galicia.

The mother quickly accumulated support from local politicians and civic organizations. The Clara Campoamor association described the judge's arguments as offensive, intolerable and typical of "an ignorant person who has not traveled much."

The Xunta de Galicia, the regional government, has addressed the case, saying that any place in Galicia meets the conditions to educate a minor. The Socialist party politician Pablo Arangüena tweeted that "it would not hurt part of the judiciary to spend a summer in Galicia."

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