Studio Time: From Religion and Society
March 11, 1998
A Broadcast by Claudia Sanders
Length: 19 minutes
Scientology: The controversial organization has been leaning increasingly toward politics in the past few years. The psycho-group has been under surveillance by the Office of Constitutional Protection since the summer of 1997. Some think this to have been an overreaction on the part of the State, others would rather ban Scientology, because the group, to them, appears to be dangerous. In this discussion it is easy to lose sight of the future of Scientology victims. According to the statement of the organization there are about 30,000 members in Germany. In the past year, one of these members died, Konrad A., under mysterious circumstances. The Munich Chief District Attorney's office is now investigating. In response, Scientology refuses any responsibility for the death of the man, and is designated by the the police investigation as a "malevolent third party under suspicion." Hear the story of the death of Konrad A. from his brother's side. "Deadly Career - in the Clutches of Scientology": a broadcast by Claudia Sanders
1. VOICEOVER: In a car.
Narrator: A two hour drive from Munich. The farm house lies somewhat off the road. In the front garden, across from the front door, stands a small devotional picture, with red roses, and candle, and a photo of Konrad. He died this past summer, after he lie in a coma for three weeks. The 43-year-old was a Scientologist. Today his family is still puzzled by the cause of Konrad's death, who outwardly appeared hale and hearty.
2. VOICEOVER: In a large City.
Fall 1974. Konrad had just finished his military service, he lived in Munich and received training with the Department of Transportation. This is when he encountered Scientology. They promised him outright miracles if he would use the Scientology technology - called Dianetics. They referred their novice to the standard work of the Scientology founder, L. Ron Hubbard: "Dianetics - the Textbook for Human Understanding." That is where Konrad, then 20 years old, found the following, and more, about Dianetics:
"It enables a plane of ability and rationality for people which is far over the average, and it does not destroy his life force or personality, but raises it."
Scientologists, according to the standard text of the organization, have at their disposal a higher degree of intelligence, become less sick, and they do not even catch colds. This is what Konrad believed. Even if he hardly spoke with his family about it. Perhaps he was aware, because of his strong Catholic environment, that it would have branded him as an outsider. Konrad's brother Bernd recalls:
The topic of Scientology was always off-limits with us. One knew full well that he had contact with Scientology, but that was not a topic of discussion with us. He had not brought up the subject spontaneously, therefore he had tried neither to bring one of us into SC nor to recruit for SC, nor had he expressed himself about SC in any way, there was nothing like that.
It is really unusual that a Scientology member not recruit for the organization. Even if Konrad himself had no interest in recruiting his family, he would still have been under pressure to take as many courses and buy as many books as possible. He had given Scientology almost all of his money:
We found piles and sacks of bills, the so-called donations to SC, they were so scattered about, we could have bundled them together in a large bag, that's how many there were. And books, all the books there were, and other documents, everything that could have had to do with SC, there you found it, in the room where Konrad lived.
In spite of his long-term membership, Konrad's career as a Scientologist did not run a smooth course: as soon as he would reach his Scientology course goal, he would find out that he would have to start all over again, and would have to take more expensive courses. Naturally all of this was done with the promise that one was only trying to help him to lead a successful life.
Finally Konrad made what was to be for him a fateful decision: He had a lifetime position; he worked as a bus driver. He gave it up: be became an independent bus driver - Scientology would help him with that:
He made himself independent, so around 3 years ago and for the past 2 years his personality was very, very much changed. He had always been the life of the party, he was eager, was very open, the last 2 years he became visibly more thoughtful, more depressive, absent. We all thought that had to do with his self-employment, but in hindsight I see it differently now. He had other problems.
In particular, financial problems. Because in order to make more money for Scientology, Konrad did not hesitate to take out loans, even on his parents' house. His mother signed the contract, she believed her son, that he would pay everything back -- an investment in the future. That was the point of Scientology's discussion with the family.
In Spring, 1997, a news story appeared on television about the mysterious death of an American Scientologist, Lisa McPherson. Apparently she wished to leave the organization before she got into an accident with her car. Then she came into the headquarters of Scientology, in Clearwater, Florida. She remained there for 17 days, until she was delivered dead to a hospital. The autopsy revealed that the 36-year-old was heavily de-hydrated and had lain in a coma for days before her death. The Scientologists had prescribed high doses of vitamins for her. Konrad's reaction to this show:
While the show was running, my mother said to him, look at that, what kind of thing is going on there, and he was terribly amused, he laughed. He only laughed and said that what the media was doing was a horrible injustice, nothing like that had happened, it was all made up in order to do away with SC, the people are all actors, the whole thing is made up, and I haven't seen a funnier show in a long time. That's how he reacted.
Konrad did not realize that his death would prove to be parallel to that of the American.
Several weeks later, it was July 17, 1997:
That was on Thursday evening about 9 o'clock, I would guess, or 9:30, when the call came, Konrad was lying on the couch here, then he got the call, there were three or four of us. Here on the table is where he took the call, and you could tell right away that that was a call which deeply affected him. He got shaky right away, started sweating, he was very nervous and he used sentence fragments, he couldn't even speak right, that's how nervous he was, and, in closing, he said, "yes is good, I'll do that," or "yes I'm coming", I don't know any more. He then hung up, packed his things and a half hour later he drove away with the bus and we could tell by the sound of his engine that he was headed for Munich.
How Konrad spent the last days of his life has not been fully explained. Bernd had found out that his brother apparently received the assignment to drive Scientologists to Frankfurt am Main. They demonstrated there on July 21 for "religious freedom" and against the "suppression of Scientology" in Germany. On the way there, but still in Munich, Konrad got into an accident with his bus - a moving violation - as the police reported. No mention was made in the report, according to Bernd, of his brother being hurt. Konrad left the bus there and several Scientologists drove with their own cars to Frankfurt. Konrad rented a car, which again, -- sometime later -- was involved in a slight accident. The driver was not Konrad, but a woman, apparently also a Scientologist. The trip continued nevertheless, at least that is apparently what a Scientologist told Konrad's brother later on. Arriving at a Frankfurt hotel, a waiter allegedly noticed that Konrad was not doing well. The 43-year-old is said to have then been brought to Munich.
The emergency doctor was notified about 10:30 at night, he drive down Bergstrasse, since that is the location of SC and the emergency doctor had then said, when I talked with him later, a couple of days later, he had said, that my brother was hardly breathing when he arrived, he was with the Scientologists, be was barely still breathing, he had to resuscitate him immediately, brought him to the hospital which was two kilometers [about a mile and a quarter] away, the Scientologists drove with him and went with him into the hospital where he then fell into a coma towards one o'clock in the morning. And stayed in a coma for three weeks and never woke up again.
The doctors were faced with a dilemma - no therapy could be recommended for the patient.
The course of the illness, such as the story in the hospital, was very atypical as far as the doctors were concerned, so they recommended or asked us, that my brother should have an autopsy, and we agreed, because we were also of the opinion, from the start, that something about the matter had not gone properly... It was determined at the autopsy, that Konrad had very, very poor organs.
Bernd researched some more on his own -- he wanted to know what role Scientology had played in the death of his brother. Not least of all, he tried to understand what had so fascinated his brother about this organization -- which is described by critics as a "cartel which despises people."
I drove there in anger, constant anger, because I knew that there was something which the Scientologists knew that they would not tell me about my brother's last hours or days. They appeased my anger, showed sympathy, sympathy which I never see today, where this sympathy came from, that was very unique at the time. I was down there four, five times to find something out, information about my brother, but I basically learned nothing concrete.
Besides the documents and books which Bernd found in the room of his dead brother, there is little else left over. Bills indicate that Konrad had been taking mega-doses of vitamin preparations for years. Scientologists are supposed to take vitamins when they receive auditing. This auditing is a procedure invented by Scientology. The adherents are supposed to be freed from psychic problems by a constant stream of questions and answers. The Federal Criminal Investigation Office (BKA) has been describing this auditing as brainwashing since the Seventies.
Scientologists also take vitamins when they undergo a purification process -- a so-called "rundown." A rundown is necessary, according to Scientology text, if someone has taken drugs. The use of drugs is prohibited in Scientology. However, for Scientologists, not only alcohol and other narcotics, but also medication -- even aspirin -- is viewed as a drug. How many of these "cures" Konrad had undergone is still unclear. It is also not clear what effects come about when someone takes high doses of vitamins for years at a time. It is known that a long-term overdose of certain vitamins can cause serious internal organ damage. How much this explains the fact that Konrad's organs were in such poor shape is uncertain.
What is certain is that Konrad believed that Scientology-Dianetics technology could prevent illnesses. It was for this reason that he, as a self-employed person, did without health insurance. How much Scientologists trust the Dianetic ability to heal is contained in the so-called "Book Zero", the first Dianetic writing of the Scientology founder:
Arthritis, dermatitis, allergies, asthma, some heart complaints, eye trouble, sinusitis, ulcers, etc. are just a small sample of the list of psychosomatic illnesses. Peculiar aches and pains, which appear in various parts of the body, are generally of a psychosomatic nature. Migraine is a psychosomatic illness and can, as can all the others, be healed with the help of Dianetic therapy, without exception (and healed in the fullest sense of the word.)
Healing with Dianetics? That and Konrad's death have reached the ears of the Munich State Prosecutor. Is Scientology practicing some kind of treatment that only doctors should be using? This would be a violation of the law against quack doctors. Does this include treatments with vitamin preparations that could cause long-term health problems?
Over a month ago, more than 100 police swept through the Munich Scientology buildings. They confiscated documents by the box full; the information which comes from that is supposed to disclose what actually happened to Konrad before his death. It has not yet been determined whether the district attorney will press charges against Scientologists. It may be weeks before the documents are all appraised. In the meantime, Konrad's family tries to find their way back to a normal life, though that will not be easy for them:
Today letters and newspapers from Scientologists arrive daily, letters personally written, such as, "Hello Konrad! How are you doing?" In closing, the letters offer, this week, to sell 6 books by Ron, etc. Mail constantly arrives as if nothing had ever happened. Mail arrives as if he were still alive.
Bernd and his family must pay dearly for the Scientology membership of their brother. Moreover:
We had already noticed, before the estate settlement, that we would have to assume a huge debt, the debt to the bank was so large and so high, that we had to sell the land, the farm and the woods, we had to sell it all to settle the debt with the bank (and this mountain of debt is, according to our research, all a result of nothing else but Scientology.)
What has been left to the family is their parents' home only. Bernd estimates that his brother must have given at least 600,000 marks [about $430,000] to Scientology. Add to that the hospital bills of 40,000 marks, which must still be paid.
The family is financially ruined, but much worse are the doubts: why was Konrad with Scientology? Could the family have saved him? Could anyone, after 23 years, have freed Konrad from the clutches of the organization? These are questions which remain unanswered for Konrad's family.
As said, the story of Konrad is a subjective story. And not the half of it is that Scientology denies any responsibility for Konrad's death. Police investigation designates the organization as a "malicious third party under suspicion."