BERLIN (AP) - Several students at one of Germany's most prestigious high schools were sexually abused for many years by their teachers, the school's director said Thursday.
Father Klaus Mertes says he has sent out 500 letters to alumni of Berlin's private Catholic Canisius Kolleg to determine the extent of the case after seven ex-students recently reported they were abused in the 1970s and 1980s.
Canisius Kolleg is one of Germany's pre-eminent schools, alma
mater of many politicians, businesspeople and scientists.
Mertes said Thursday that the seven, and likely many more, were
abused by two ex-teachers who were members of the Jesuit order.
"I'm deeply shocked and ashamed about these appalling assaults,
which are not just single incidents, but took place systematically
and over several years," Mertes wrote in his letter to the
At a press conference at the local archdiocese's office, Mertes
said the school had been guilty of looking the other way when the
abuse cases happened.
He said the letter was an apology and a signal to other possible
victims to come forward.
Mertes said the two Jesuit fathers taught at the school for
eight years before leaving in the late 1980s.
They are no longer members of the Jesuit order, but after the
allegations surfaced earlier this month, they were contacted by its
independent counselor for sexual abuse victims.
"We are currently communicating with them," counselor Ursula
Raue said. She declined to elaborate.
Raue also told The Associated Press that several other alumni
responded to the letter and told her they had been victims of
sexual abuse, but she did not want to specify how many more cases
The ex-students first got in touch with the school after
discussing the abuse with each other, Mertes said. It was unclear
whether they planned to take legal action.
All the victims were male and most were about 13 when the abuse
started, Mertes said. They are around 40 now.
He added that he had promised the victims not to make public
details of the abuse.
Canisius Kolleg was founded as an all-boys school and turned
coed in the late 1970s.
Germany, unlike the U.S. and Ireland in particular, hasn't seen
major abuse scandals in its Roman Catholic church.