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Home/Rod Dreher/The Second Coming Of Helmut Kentler

The Second Coming Of Helmut Kentler

Helmut Kentler, German psychologist who placed foster children with pedophiles, with approval of the German Senate (RT documentary still)

I almost don’t want to recommend this New Yorker story about a German experiment that placed foster children with pedophiles, because it is hideous. But people today need to know what it used to be like, and how we got to the point where we are today. Excerpts:

In 2017, a German man who goes by the name Marco came across an article in a Berlin newspaper with a photograph of a professor he recognized from childhood. The first thing he noticed was the man’s lips. They were thin, almost nonexistent, a trait that Marco had always found repellent. He was surprised to read that the professor, Helmut Kentler, had been one of the most influential sexologists in Germany. The article described a new research report that had investigated what was called the “Kentler experiment.” Beginning in the late sixties, Kentler had placed neglected children in foster homes run by pedophiles. The experiment was authorized and financially supported by the Berlin Senate. In a report submitted to the Senate, in 1988, Kentler had described it as a “complete success.”

Marco had grown up in foster care, and his foster father had frequently taken him to Kentler’s home. Now he was thirty-four, with a one-year-old daughter, and her meals and naps structured his days. After he read the article, he said, “I just pushed it aside. I didn’t react emotionally. I did what I do every day: nothing, really. I sat around in front of the computer.”

Marco looks like a movie star—he is tanned, with a firm jaw, thick dark hair, and a long, symmetrical face. As an adult, he has cried only once. “If someone were to die in front of me, I would of course want to help them, but it wouldn’t affect me emotionally,” he told me. “I have a wall, and emotions just hit against it.” He lived with his girlfriend, a hairdresser, but they never discussed his childhood. He was unemployed. Once, he tried to work as a mailman, but after a few days he quit, because whenever a stranger made an expression that reminded him of his foster father, an engineer named Fritz Henkel, he had the sensation that he was not actually alive, that his heart had stopped beating, and that the color had drained from the world. When he tried to speak, it felt as if his voice didn’t belong to him.

Several months after reading the article, Marco looked up the number for Teresa Nentwig, a young political scientist at the University of Göttingen Institute for Democracy Research, who had written the report on Kentler. He felt both curious and ashamed. When she answered the phone, he identified himself as “an affected person.” He told her that his foster father had spoken with Kentler on the phone every week. In ways that Marco had never understood, Kentler, a psychologist and a professor of social education at the University of Hannover, had seemed deeply invested in his upbringing.

Nentwig had assumed that Kentler’s experiment ended in the nineteen-seventies. But Marco told her he had lived in his foster home until 2003, when he was twenty-one. “I was totally shocked,” she said. She remembers Marco saying several times, “You are the first person I’ve told—this is the first time I’ve told my story.” As a child, he’d taken it for granted that the way he was treated was normal. “Such things happen,” he told himself. “The world is like this: it’s eat and be eaten.” But now, he said, “I realized the state has been watching.”

The state was watching all right. And it accepted Kentler as an expert. They all did:

When a public prosecutor launched an investigation, Helmut Kentler, who called himself Henkel’s “permanent adviser,” intervened on Henkel’s behalf—a pattern that repeats throughout more than eight hundred pages of case files about Henkel’s home. Kentler was a well-known scholar, the author of several books on sex education and parenting, and he was often quoted in Germany’s leading newspapers and on its TV programs. The newspaper Die Zeit had described him as the “nation’s chief authority on questions of sexual education.” On university letterhead, Kentler issued what he called an “expert opinion,” explaining that he had come to know Henkel through a “research project.” He commended Henkel on his parenting skills and disparaged a psychologist who invaded the privacy of his home, making “wild interpretations.” Sometimes, Kentler wrote, an airplane is not a phallic symbol—it is simply a plane. The criminal investigation was suspended.

Kentler was raised by a hysterically repressive military father. He later realized he (Kentler) was gay. More:

In 1960, Kentler got a degree in psychology, a field that allowed him to be “an engineer in the realm of the . . . manipulatable soul,” he said at a lecture. He became involved in the student movement, and at a meeting of the Republican Club, a group established by left-wing intellectuals, he publicly identified himself as gay for the first time. Not long afterward, he wrote, he decided to turn “my passions into a profession (which is also good for the passions: they are controlled).” He earned a doctorate in social education from the University of Hannover, publishing his dissertation, a guidebook called “Parents Learn Sex Education,” in 1975. He was inspired by the Marxist psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, who had argued that the free flow of sexual energy was essential to building a new kind of society. Kentler’s dissertation urged parents to teach their children that they should never be ashamed of their desires. “Once the first feelings of shame exist, they multiply easily and expand into all areas of life,” he wrote.

Like many of his contemporaries, Kentler came to believe that sexual repression was key to understanding the Fascist consciousness. In 1977, the sociologist Klaus Theweleit published “Male Fantasies,” a two-volume book that drew on the diaries of German paramilitary fighters and concluded that their inhibited drives—along with a fear of anything gooey, gushing, or smelly—had been channelled into a new outlet: destruction. When Kentler read “Male Fantasies,” he could see Schreber, the child-care author whose principles his parents had followed, “at work everywhere,” he wrote. Kentler argued that ideas like Schreber’s (he had been so widely read that one book went through forty editions) had poisoned three generations of Germans, creating “authoritarian personalities who have to identify with a ‘great man’ around them to feel great themselves.” Kentler’s goal was to develop a child-rearing philosophy for a new kind of German man. Sexual liberation, he wrote, was the best way to “prevent another Auschwitz.”

Good God. And, here we go:

Suddenly, it seemed as if all relationship structures could—and must—be reconfigured, if there was any hope of producing a generation less damaged than the previous one. In the late sixties, educators in more than thirty German cities and towns began establishing experimental day-care centers, where children were encouraged to be naked and to explore one another’s bodies. “There is no question that they were trying (in a desperate sort of neo-Rousseauian authoritarian antiauthoritarianism) to remake German/human nature,” Herzog writes. Kentler inserted himself into a movement that was urgently working to undo the sexual legacy of Fascism but struggling to differentiate among various taboos. In 1976, the magazine Das Blatt argued that forbidden sexual desire, such as that for children, was the “revolutionary event that turns our everyday life on its head, that lets feelings break out and that shatters the basis of our thinking.” A few years later, Germany’s newly established Green Party, which brought together antiwar protesters, environmental activists, and veterans of the student movement, tried to address the “oppression of children’s sexuality.” Members of the Party advocated abolishing the age of consent for sex between children and adults.

A key figure of the German radical left:

The story goes on to say that Kentler was open in testimony before the German parliament about his program placing runaway boys with pedophile foster fathers — and nobody cared! Look:

[I]n a 2020 report commissioned by the Berlin Senate, scholars at the University of Hildesheim concluded that “the Senate also ran foster homes or shared flats for young Berliners with pedophile men in other parts of West Germany.” The fifty-eight-page report was preliminary and vague; the authors said there were about a thousand unsorted files in the basement of a government building that they had been unable to read. No names were revealed, but the authors wrote that “these foster homes were run by sometimes powerful men who lived alone and who were given this power by academia, research institutions and other pedagogical environments that accepted, supported or even lived out pedophile stances.” The report concluded that some “senate actors” had been “part of this network,” while others had merely tolerated the foster homes “because ‘icons’ of educational reform policies supported such arrangements.”

Finally:

For much of his career, Kentler spoke of pedophiles as benefactors. They offered neglected children “a possibility of therapy,” he told Der Spiegel, in 1980. When the Berlin Senate commissioned him to prepare an expert report on the subject of “Homosexuals as caregivers and educators,” in 1988, he explained that there was no need to worry that children would be harmed by sexual contact with caretakers, as long as the interaction was not “forced.” The consequences can be “very positive, especially when the sexual relationship can be characterized as mutual love,” he wrote.

Read the whole thing.The story goes on to criticize the right-wing AfD party in Germany for allegedly exploiting the pedophile scandal involving Henkel to justify more restrictive sex laws in contemporary Germany.

In his Sunday NYT column, Ross Douthat uses this story as a springboard to ask: Can the Left regulate sex? He concludes:

Progressives are not quite in the cultural position that Christian churches once occupied in this country, but they are close enough that the question “how should the left regulate sex?” increasingly implicates our whole society.

… I don’t know how long the current period of progressive cultural power can last. But so long as it does, these debates will continue, because the regulation of sex is an inescapable obligation of power.

So progressives will continue to teeter between two anxieties. On the one hand, the fear of turning into the very Puritans and Comstocks they brag of having toppled. On the other, the fear of Helmut Kentler’s legacy, and liberation as a path into the abyss.

I am as skeptical as I can possibly be that the Left will ever regulate sex effectively. Granted, there is not one monolithic “Left” any more than there is a monolithic “Right.” The general thrust of the Left — at least those with power and influence — is towards greater “liberation.” I mean, look, here is the cultural Left’s idea of good advice for teenagers:

Elizabeth Bruenig has a sobering piece in The Atlanticabout how so-called “porn literacy” education — high school courses that aim to teach students how to navigate pornography “ethically” — are hopelessly outmoded because of the extreme nature of modern porn, and its ubiquity. Excerpts:

But dismissing porn literacy as progressive evangelizing suggests an enormous misapprehension of the problem itself. Many digital natives who pride themselves on a certain kind of ennui likely far underestimate exactly how difficult it is to be an ethical user of pornography, or even to begin to judge how to be such a person, given the dark, circuitous routes porn travels before it arrives as a thumbnail on a streaming site. And parents who imagine porn-literacy courses like Fonte’s to be little more than crash courses in en vogue libertinism seem entirely unaware of how dire the stakes are. The risk isn’t that their children may be exposed to something “dirty” or politically incorrect, but that their children may well be exposed to things that are brutal, cruel, vicious, even genuinely criminal—the sort of material law-enforcement agents carefully train themselves to encounter—all without a sense of how to distinguish the authentically violent from that which only masquerades as such. If anything, courses like Fonte’s aren’t given nearly enough funding, time, or other resources to fully demonstrate just how onerous ethical porn use really is. Without that kind of guidance, how are teenagers supposed to have any idea how to be good people in the world we’ve created?

How are any of us, for that matter?

Bruenig talks with cops and activists, and says that the world of online pornography is so incredibly twisted, and the most grotesque stuff is so widespread, that it is all but impossible to manage. More:

On a July weekend, I sat down with four teenagers—three girls and one boy, ranging in age from 16 to 18—to talk about their reflections on pornography and the way it has influenced their lives so far. None of them was especially enthusiastic about the genre, largely because they were enthusiastic about sex. (I agreed not to use their real names so that they could speak candidly about this sensitive topic.)

“The boys that I have had sex with,” Thalia, 17, told me, “I can tell while having sex with them which one’s watched too much porn, based on how they behave during sex.” It comes across as a certain impersonal performance, she said, “or they’ll do certain things that … I know they probably wouldn’t have thought of organically.”

I asked about the nature of those learned behaviors. Were they violent, disconcerting, uncomfortable?

“When I first started having sex, I thought that I was just—because of watching porn and also listening to other people my age talk about sex, the weird ubiquity of BDSM [sadomasochism] culture—I thought that I was just supposed to like being, like, choked and stuff,” Thalia said.

Joy, 18, agreed: “I think there was a point in my life where I tried to convince myself that I could possibly be into that. And now that I have grown up, I’m like, ‘No way, I would never let anyone do that to me.’”

“Personally I have only had sex with one person,” Callie, 18, added. “And he is not even as exposed to porn as I would think that most boys are, and he thought that [choking] was a normal thing.”

Thalia mused that the light, obligatory strangling had become vanilla among a certain set of her peers. “It’s taken on a weird flavor, maybe, where it’s like—who can have the most weird, violent sex? It’s like a contest.”

This is not just a thing of the Left. Where have you seen any serious, sustained proposals from politicians of the Right to ban or otherwise regulate online porn? I believe that this is a civilization-killing phenomenon, and that the emergence of all these weird sexualities (and genderfluidity, etc.) are a related phenomenon to online porn as a normal part of society, and of growing up in our decadent era. In the future, I believe that whatever survives us will ban online pornography, for the sake of saving our ability to live together in moral sanity.

That said, there is no question but that the two cultural pillars of the Left today are Race and Sex. Back in 2013, two years before Obergefell, I wrote a widely-read blog post here titled “Sex After Christianity”. It said, in part:

The magnitude of the defeat suffered by moral traditionalists will become ever clearer as older Americans pass from the scene. Poll after poll shows that for the young, homosexuality is normal and gay marriage is no big deal—except, of course, if one opposes it, in which case one has the approximate moral status of a segregationist in the late 1960s.

All this is, in fact, a much bigger deal than most people on both sides realize, and for a reason that eludes even ardent opponents of gay rights. Back in 1993, a cover story in The Nation identified the gay-rights cause as the summit and keystone of the culture war:

All the crosscurrents of present-day liberation struggles are subsumed in the gay struggle. The gay moment is in some ways similar to the moment that other communities have experienced in the nation’s past, but it is also something more, because sexual identity is in crisis throughout the population, and gay people—at once the most conspicuous subjects and objects of the crisis—have been forced to invent a complete cosmology to grasp it. No one says the changes will come easily. But it’s just possible that a small and despised sexual minority will change America forever.

They were right, and though the word “cosmology” may strike readers as philosophically grandiose, its use now appears downright prophetic. The struggle for the rights of “a small and despised sexual minority” would not have succeeded if the old Christian cosmology had held: put bluntly, the gay-rights cause has succeeded precisely because the Christian cosmology has dissipated in the mind of the West.

Same-sex marriage strikes the decisive blow against the old order. The Nation’s triumphalist rhetoric from two decades ago is not overripe; the radicals appreciated what was at stake far better than did many—especially bourgeois apologists for same-sex marriage as a conservative phenomenon. Gay marriage will indeed change America forever, in ways that are only now becoming visible. For better or for worse, it will make ours a far less Christian culture. It already is doing exactly that.

Part of this revolution is the hardening into orthodoxy of the twentieth-century belief that sexual desire is the essence of identity. If you can’t look at the fact of ubiquitous hardcore porn considered a normal part of American childhood, and if you can’t look at the fact that mainstream magazines like Teen Vogue advise young readers on the best lubricants to use for being rogered up the rear, and if you can’t observe that progressives are actually arguing now over whether it is appropriate for little children to see sadomasochist queers at Pride events — if you can’t look at all that and see the Second Coming of Helmut Kentler, I say you are blind as a bat.

Notice too that all the politicians, journalists, and others in Germany deferred to Kentler’s authority, as he incarnated the elite-culture Zeitgeist. In Germany, he was the Ibram X. Kendi of Baby Boomer sexual liberation: a quack who was revered as a prophet and a healer. We all can see how insane medical authorities, and adjacent gatekeepers, have gone about transgenderism today. Thirty, forty, fifty years ago, one of the most respected psychological authorities in Germany was placing foster children with pedophiles, with the knowledge and approval of the German parliament. Today, top doctors, hospitals, and medical schools are cutting healthy breasts off of young females, and jacking children up with cross-sex hormones, all in a grand experiment to liberate them from biology. And Democratic politicians cheer it on, while judges do little or nothing to stop the insanity.

I am certain that in several decades’ time, maximum, we will see this transgender madness in the same way that we see Helmut Kentler’s pedophile foster program. If we’re lucky. 

You know who else was there in 1968, in Germany, and saw the devastating effects of the Sexual Revolution? Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI. In 2019, in a reflection about the connection between this culture and the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, he wrote:

The matter begins with the state-prescribed and supported introduction of children and youths into the nature of sexuality. In Germany, the then-Minister of Health, Ms. (Käte) Strobel, had a film made in which everything that had previously not been allowed to be shown publicly, including sexual intercourse, was now shown for the purpose of education. What at first was only intended for the sexual education of young people consequently was widely accepted as a feasible option.

Similar effects were achieved by the “Sexkoffer” published by the Austrian government [A controversial ‘suitcase’ of sex education materials used in Austrian schools in the late 1980s]. Sexual and pornographic movies then became a common occurrence, to the point that they were screened at newsreel theaters [Bahnhofskinos]. I still remember seeing, as I was walking through the city of Regensburg one day, crowds of people lining up in front of a large cinema, something we had previously only seen in times of war, when some special allocation was to be hoped for. I also remember arriving in the city on Good Friday in the year 1970 and seeing all the billboards plastered up with a large poster of two completely naked people in a close embrace.

Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.

The mental collapse was also linked to a propensity for violence. That is why sex films were no longer allowed on airplanes because violence would break out among the small community of passengers. And since the clothing of that time equally provoked aggression, school principals also made attempts at introducing school uniforms with a view to facilitating a climate of learning.

Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate.

For the young people in the Church, but not only for them, this was in many ways a very difficult time. I have always wondered how young people in this situation could approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications. The extensive collapse of the next generation of priests in those years and the very high number of laicizations were a consequence of all these developments.

BXVI goes on to talk about the simultaneous degradation of theological norms within the Church, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. Now, imagine how young people in our contemporary situation, with hardcore violent porn everywhere, with the annihilation of gender and sexual identity, and with the demand that all sexual expression short of incest and pederasty (for now) must be affirmed and mainstreamed — how can young people in this situation approach the priesthood and accept it, with all its ramifications? How can young people in this situation today approach the faith itself, and accept it? Or family life, as we have long understood it to be?

We are living through a general civilizational collapse. No wonder Benedict XVI says we need a Benedict Option. It’s all falling down around us.

Here is a 2020 RT documentary about Kentler and his paedo-files:

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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