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.
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)