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 dont 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 didnt 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 prosecutors 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 mens 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 Peoples 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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