Abuse on Christmas Eve
Like all children, I would look forward to Christmas as a very special time of year but all that changed overnight in 1967.
But first things first so that you know where I am coming from. In Southern Germany legend has it that in the run-up to Christmas, St Nicholas (the region’s equivalent of Santa Claus) will bring the children gifts if they have been good and he will come for those who have been naughty, stuff them in his bag and dump them in the woods. That year in the run-up to Christmas, I would repeatedly be reminded of the latter fate that may well befall me on Christmas Eve. Initially I did not give the matter much thought. After all, instilling “fear” in me had become an all too familiar tool used in my upbringing.
When my godmother turned up on Christmas Eve, presents in tow, it did dawn on me that the adults were in a particularly “smug mood”. Soon some strange noises could be heard outside and I quickly realised that two St Nicholas were approaching our front door. When I saw what they looked like, dressed in jackboots and armed with chains, a big bag and a cane, I instinctively knew this was bad news for me. Before long the doorbell rang and a deadly sense of panic suddenly overcame me. I fled at lightning speed and hid under my parents’ double bed. In those days bed bases still came with large metal springs and I grabbed hold of these with my hands and feet. Hanging suspended from the base I clung on for dear life but it was not long before I was found out and the evening would evolve into a surreal nightmare. One St Nicholas tried to pull me out from under the bed with his cane while my mother attempted the same with a broom. I screamed like a banshee while all this was going on and did not let go of the bed base. Then everything went quiet, they had evidently given up. Once I was convinced that the two St Nicholas had left the house, I carefully crept out from under the bed totally exhausted. The first thing I can remember on emerging was my mother yelling at me because I could have caught a cold staying in the unheated bedroom so long. To add insult to injury my father started lavishing me with scorn and ridicule for being such a scaredy-cat. Neither parent showed any sign of empathy or the like!
Just when I thought it was all over for the night, things went from bad to worse.
There was still a mandatory Christmas Eve visit and before I knew it my parents had hustled me off with them to my aunt and uncle’s house in Schornbach. All the relatives were gathered and at face value it looked like a congenial family celebration.
Little was I to know that I was soon to become the defenceless subject of the entire family’s scorn, ridicule and derisive laughter when they learnt of my ‘cowardice’. At age six the experience was so terrifying for me that to this day I cannot put adequately into words the emotions that I went through on that Christmas Eve. It was by far the worst incident I had to endure of everything that went down that evening. I still get flashbacks of it haunting me to this day.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree! Thou tree most unfair and ugly…
The following Christmas my pocket knife became my tried and trusted companion. If I were to land up in the St Nicholas bag, at least I could cut my way out of it.
Fortunately I did not have to resort to the pocket knife and was soon to realise that there was no weapon in the world that could counter what would transpire the next few Decembers. Once again scorn and ridicule, with me the object of the family’s derisive laughter would keep everyone entertained on "Christmas Eve".
These were actions that I experienced as child abuse, as confirmed by the therapist treating me today.
(wording according to the settlement deal dated 18 January 2012, Schorndorf District Court, Germany)
This was the diagnosis that was submitted against the background of aforementioned:
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Comment by the ringleader:
That which had taken place was really nothing out of the ordinary in the Sixties!