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Vienna paid out €52.5m in children's home scandal

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One of the former homes. Photo: Wolfgang Glock/Wikimedia
11:21 CET+01:00
A project in Vienna to compensate the victims of sexual, physical and psychological abuse in children's homes in the 1950s and 1960s is to be closed after six years.

2,048 victims have been awarded compensation since 2010, after a probe into the abuse at the homes managed by the city of Vienna.

The report concluded that municipal employees in the department overseeing the city's homes for children were aware of the widespread abuse but failed to react. Municipal politicians who learned of them in the 1960s also shut their eyes to the problem.

One of the homes where some of the worst abuses occurred was at Schloss Wilhelminenberg, now a hotel in the leafy outskirts of Vienna's 16th district.

Since the first allegations surfaced in 2010, hundreds of former Schloss Wilhelminenberg residents turned to the Weisser Ring, a victims' organization supported by the city of Vienna.

Beyond psychological help, some of the victims have received financial payouts as high as €35,000. The average payout was €17,000, and the psychotherapy services provided to victims amounted to €8.9 million.  

Vienna councillor Sonja Wehsely said that the city has paid out a total of €52.5 million, and that any victims who have not yet been compensated have until March 31st to contact the Weisser Ring.

Victims will still have access to legal help and therapy after the project has ended.

Former residents of the homes were raped and sexually abused by their caregivers as well as outsiders. Some were drugged or forced to drink alcohol, and the report also detailed frequent beatings and other forms of physical abuse that went on for decades until the homes were closed.

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Most of the children came from problem families, prompting disparaging comments about their backgrounds from their caregivers, that resulted in psychological damage.

"For the victims, the money is not a priority", Udo Jesionek, President of the Weisser Ring said. "They want to be heard and taken seriously."

This year, 67 new victims have been in touch with the Weisser Ring. Vienna's city government has said it intends to hold a memorial ceremony for all those who were abused.

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