By Kay Steiger
Monday, October 8, 2012
Thousands of children fell victim to violence and abuse in Catholic boarding schools in Switzerland up until the 1970s, according to a recent study decrying “sadistic” practices resembling “torture”.
“There was always this incredible fear, fear, fear, fear,” recalled a former student of a Catholic boarding school in the German-speaking central Swiss canton of Lucerne.
The former student, whose name was not given, was one of around 50 former boarders at 15 different boarding schools in Lucerne between 1930 and 1970 who in chilling detail testified to their experiences in a report ordered by the canton.
“These interviews were very important for the people in question, because finally their testimony was being taken seriously,” said Markus Furrer, the lead author of the report and a professor at the PHZ Lucerne University of Teacher Education.
“Many boarding school children long felt guilty over the experiences they had. Some managed to move on, others failed and some committed suicide,” said Furrer, who along with two colleagues had spent a year and a half delving into the murky past of these establishments.
Some cases of violence and sexual abuse were already known, he told AFP, but “we were not expecting it to be this large-scale.”