Sexual abuse in GDR sport: processing required

DThe former Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Christine Bergmann, called for a consistent examination of sexual abuse in GDR competitive sport. The SPD politician is a member of the Independent Commission for the Study of Child Sexual Abuse. “It’s difficult and it really hurts. But it has to be. We need insights into structures that encourage abuse, misconduct and gaps in the protection system,” said Bergmann on Wednesday at a conference in Schwerin. Although the GDR is long history, many former athletes still suffer from the injustice and pain they experienced.

In front of the approximately 70 participants, the Cologne sports scientist Bettina Rulofs referred to a study from 2019 that revealed the mechanisms of the GDR sports system. “Children in GDR competitive sport were exposed to a system that exploited them,” said Rulofs. Constant pressure and the power of the coaches would have encouraged violence and abuse.

In the discussion, those affected reported on the agony they had suffered, but at the same time complained about the lack of willingness on the part of today’s leading sports officials to face the issue. They also criticized the excessive bureaucracy in applications for compensation.

The debate about sexual abuse in sport was fueled after former world-class water diver Jan Hempel made his ordeal public. In a documentary by ARD last year, Hempel first made public the allegations of sexual abuse against his longtime coach Werner Langer, who died in 2001. Accordingly, Langer had passed from 1982 to 1996 at the Olympic silver medalist in Atlanta in 1996.

The forum in Schwerin, in which Hempel also took part, was organized jointly by the state commissioner in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania for dealing with the SED dictatorship and the independent commission for dealing with child sexual abuse. In the past, the Schwerin authority has also dealt intensively with doping in GDR sports and the long-term consequences for affected athletes.


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