‘We were helpless’: Maestro comes clean on church child abuse

‘We were helpless’: Maestro comes clean on church child abuse


norman lebrecht

January 20, 2016

The conductor Lothar Zagrosek, widely known in Germany and extensively recorded, has been recalling his experiences as a boy lodger at the celebrated cathedral choir school in Regensburg.

Aged ten, in his bath, his mother found blue welts on his body and his twin brother’s. He says that anyone who sang badly or out of turn was summoned to the library for a beating. Afterwards, ‘you had to call a cleaning lady to wipe up the blood.’

Lothar, now 73, mentions two unexplained deaths, a director with a long record of sexual offences and another with a Nazi Party medal.


The school choir was directed by Pope Benedict’s elder brother, Georg Ratzinger, from 1964 to 1994. He denies all knowledge of brutality and sexual abuse. An official investigation has listed 231 known instances of abuse.

Read here.

Photo: Christian Nielinger



  • Max Grimm says:

    Sorry for being off topic but isn’t it the perpetrator who normally “comes clean” about something and not the victim?

  • Peter says:

    Was this something specific to the German Catholic Church, or were beatings and like this common practice also in other comparable institutions in other countries in the 1950s?

    • Robert says:

      Common, I don’t know… but a trombonist colleague of mine from Japan said that the school band programs there were extremely demanding and brutal. He would have been a student in the 1970s

      The directors were accustomed to beating students for mistakes and wrong notes and the parents not only knew of it but approved of it and demanded it.

      He played me a tape of a Tchaikovsky 4 Finale that was so blazingly fast and precise it made professional symphony recordings sound lazy.

      You can go on Youtube and hear some astonishingly proficient performances by these ensembles today.

    • Robert says:

      Another relevant story… my brother says that when he was in high school in the 1960s there were certain teachers who seemed free to beat the kids anytime they wanted, the teachers who were big enough to know they would win if a student ever fought back.

      My brother recalled a class where a kid made some minor smart alec remark to the teacher and the teacher hauled off and punched him. Broke the nose, tore the skin so it was just a flap hanging off his face, blood everywhere.

      Nothing happened to the teacher for this, I think the student got suspended.

      This was not an inner city school, this was suburban White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

      So, no, this wasn’t something just limited to a certain place or parochial setting.

  • esfir ross says:

    Sorry to learn of such terrible event in childhood of my friend Ebergard Zagrosek.

  • ForgottenAustralianFamily says:

    Australia is no exception. An elite school in Brisbane offers choir scholarships to small boys. I knew of choirboys’ mothers who spoke of the cruelty suffered at the hands of the choirmaster, who was reportedly himself a victim of abuse by the choirmaster when he was a small boy. The same choirmaster abused me, a beginning tertiary student, and one of my fellow students told me later that he was “beginning to lust after choirboys”. The choirmaster in question has never been charged. The police told me they couldn’t charge him unless some other victims were brave enough to come forward. Despite his advanced years, this has yet to occur.