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Echoes of the Past
 
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Germany Special Report Yearning To Be Free

In the 1920s and 1930s, as Nazi influence permeated German society before the Holocaust, intolerance toward religious beliefs and practices that differed from the “accepted” mainline Christian faiths mounted. Many of those of the Jewish faith and of other religions left Germany—before the Nazis settled upon their policy of “containment”—settling in the United States, England or other lands.

     Decades later, individuals and families from Germany emigrate under similar circumstances.

     Now, as then, the standard response from German government officials is “There’s nothing happening.”

     In 1935, to disparage stories published outside Germany about repressive, discriminatory actions in Germany, the Nazi Party asserted, “Now the Jews are abroad spreading atrocity lies against us.”

     Back then, the facts turned out to be very different from what was being said by those in power in Germany—as is the case today.


“You will not get a job here”

G
erhard Waterkamp, a native of Vechta, in Northern Germany, comes from a family which has long recognized and forwarded the cause of tolerance.

     In the days of the Third Reich, his grandfather, a Roman Catholic and owner of a construction company, refused to join the Nazi Party. For his courage, he lost all contracts with the government and almost all of his laborers.

     Under measures adopted by the Nazis, any member of the Jewish faith who died was simply buried in the ground with no coffin. After an elderly Jewish woman died, members of her family came to the house of Waterkamp’s grandfather at night and asked for his help to build a coffin. Using lumber on hand, he made them a coffin. When the Gestapo found out about this, he was thrown in prison. Fortunately, friends obtained his release.

     Unintimidated, he later took his defiance of National Socialism further, openly providing succor to desperate Jewish families. When members of the Jewish religion from the area were being rounded up and herded onto trains, he handed out food to them. He was again arrested and it was only through the help of friends that he survived the war.

     Gerhard Waterkamp heard these and other stories as a young man, but never thought he would see the scourges of hatred and intolerance rise again in his homeland.

     He became a member of the Church of Scientology in 1979, marrying a fellow Scientologist in 1985. In 1988, the couple had their first child, a girl, followed by a second daughter three years later. Waterkamp worked as an executive at a large German manufacturer, Freudenberg, which has some 25,000 employees and an annual income of more than $1 billion in the United States alone. Shoes worn by American presidents use leather produced by Freudenberg, a fact proudly advertised by the firm in Germany.

      Near the end of 1995, he learned that he was about to be promoted to managing director with responsibility for finance and administration of one of Freudenberg’s major divisions. The board told him that after a 10-year search and three failures, they had finally found the right man for the job and Waterkamp was it.

     Not long thereafter, however, instead of being promoted, he was summarily fired.

     Although he had never discussed his religion at work, his superiors had been “informed” that Waterkamp’s name appeared on a list of individuals who had completed courses at a Church of Scientology.

     Waterkamp was dismissed with no recourse and no opportunity to speak on his own behalf. Based on personal beliefs, not performance, he lost his job, his career and the means to support his wife and two children. Freudenberg bluntly informed him it was company policy not to employ Scientologists and to fire any found working for the firm, a fact corroborated by a notice in its in-house newsletter.

     Relatives and friends wrote to the President of Germany, Roman Herzog, about this discrimination, as Herzog had spoken out on behalf of religious tolerance and human rights. They were told by the President’s office, however, that this matter was not their concern.

     During final negotiations with Freudenberg regarding severance pay, Waterkamp said he would be happy to take a job with the firm in the United States. He reasoned that despite the treatment he had received, he liked many things about the company, knew his services to it were valuable and wanted to keep working with the firm.

     The company, however, stated that its policy was not to employ Scientologists anywhere—even in the United States. That this violated the U. S. Constitution bothered them not at all.

     When Waterkamp contacted associates in the head-hunting business to find work and they learned that he had lost his job because he was a Scientologist, one of them told him, “As long as you carry this ‘Star of David’ on your jacket, you will not get a job in Germany.”

     In 1996, like others before him of many faiths, Gerhard Waterkamp and his family left Germany and settled in the United States, where, unlike his fatherland, religious freedom is more than empty words on tattered paper. Today he works as an executive with a market research firm in California.

Bernd Lang

Like others before him of many faiths, Gerhard Waterkamp and his family left Germany and settled in the United States, where, unlike his fatherland, religious freedom is more than empty words on tattered paper. I
n October 1995, life looked promising for Bernd Lang. As deputy to the head of the German Olympic training camp, he was responsible for training both male and female competitors on Germany’s Olympic Fencing Team. He had risen to his position as coach of an Olympic team by being one of the best in his profession.

     In another area of his life, his family was flourishing. In August, his wife had given birth to Annabelle, their third child. His wife also worked at the Olympic camp.

     Then, on October 19, came a phone call which was to blow their lives apart.

     As Lang returned from lunch, the head of the Olympic camp, Emil Beck, asked to see him in his office. Beck told him that he had received a phone call from a German magazine reporter who claimed Lang was a Scientologist.

     In the manner of inquisitors through the ages, Beck “accused” Lang of being a Scientologist. He demanded that Lang return the call from the reporter on the spot and state that he was not a Scientologist.

     The subsequent interrogation by the magazine reporter smacked of a police state and included the following:

     How did you contact these people?

     Which of their books did you read?

     Don’t you know that book is dangerous?

     What else did you do with them?

     After the call was over, Beck told Lang, “Now there remains just one thing to do for me, that you pack your things and go. He asked you three times and you stated three times that the book was good. I am sorry, I cannot act in any other way. I have to think of the center.”



Yearning To Be Free

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