CULTS ACROSS EUROPE - From the Third Reich to Present Day

By Friedrich Griess, Austria

President of FECRIS


Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,


In 1945 when the war was over and the Nazi empire had broken down, I was a 13 years old boy and during the Nazi time I had to participate at meetings of what at this time was called “Pimpfe” so as not to appear suspicious in the eyes of the authorities of the times. I specially remember three things we were taught: 1.) The thinking we leave to the horses because they have the bigger heads, 2.) We are the elite of the world and everybody else is lower quality. 3.) Those who criticise us are enemies whom we must destroy.


In 1983, one of my 4 children unfortunately joined a Christian group, which turned out to be totalitarian and to have similar ideas as the Nazis. I quote some verses from their German songbook, translated to English:


Hate is necessary, hate gives us progress, and hate gives us victory in the battle of life,

Death for all enemies, I beat ruthlessly, there is no peace in this battle!

Reason and family ties now break with violence!

No longer are reason and form important, we now break any rules!

Reason definitely reject, come to the circle of brothers!


A leader of this group said during a big meeting that one should kill the apostates. At another big meeting a youth leader said that he would like to take the others with him in busses and travel around the world to tear down every church. “And what will we shout then? Hallelujah! Once again: Hallelujah!!!”


A lady, some years younger than I am, still remembers the German invasion in her country during World War II. She especially remembers the tramping boots of German soldiers. And then, when the war was over and her parents joined this group, she had the impression that the tramping boots were back again.


This is also a new type of racism. “We are the best race and everyone who is not one of us is a member of an inferior race.” Some cultists dream that in a couple of years 80% of mankind would have joined their group; the remaining 20% are incurable and have to be locked up in mental homes. Other cultists believe that at a battle at the end of the world, all people not belonging to them will be “annihilated”. On the one hand, racism today is an issue in all committees that monitor human rights, but on the other hand nobody seems to care about this new type of racism.


Such behaviour often tries to justify itself by evoking “religious freedom”, and merely to warn against such groups is called “discrimination of a religious minority”. Therefore I am glad that on 29 June 2007, the Parliamentarian Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted recommendation 1804 which deals with religious freedom as follows:


“Such freedom is not unlimited, however: a religion whose doctrine or practice ran counter to other fundamental rights would be unacceptable. In any case, the restrictions that can be placed on such freedom are those that "are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others" (article 16)


and further:


“Nor do may states allow the dissemination of religious principles which, if put into practice, would violate human rights” (article 17)


and further:


“freedom of expression as protected under Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights should not be further restricted to meet increasing sensitivities of certain religious groups” (article 18)


while recommendation 1805, adopted on the same date, states that


“Any democratic society must permit open debate on matters relating to religion and beliefs" (article 1) and "that under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, signatory parties are obliged to condemn discrimination and take effective measures against it" (article 17).


Cults show a double face: to the outside they appear as harmless; to the inside they are suppressive. We must listen to the victims in order to understand what cultic real goals are, and then bring this up in a public debate. This debate is not directed against people because they may act in good faith, and not in the first place against groups either, but against an unacceptable behaviour that violates human rights, and especially the rights of children and young people, as the Norwegian association Redd Barna, Save the Children, has exposed in a paper which has also been brought to your knowledge[1]. Federated under the FECRIS banner the associations try to help victims, to warn the public and to alert the authorities, institutions and professionals, politicians, judges, lawyers, civil servants, teachers, medical and social workers, so that they might understand the problem. FECRIS tries to coordinate this activity and represents our common interest at the level of the European authorities and institutions.


Several years ago already, the Council of Europe became aware of this issue. Attempts were made to report on this question also within the European Union, but finally it was decided to leave this subject to be treated by the individual countries. The attitudes of the authorities in those countries with regard to cults are rather variable. Some countries really seem to have understood what is going on. This is especially true for France, Belgium and Germany, but also for the countries in Eastern Europe, because they remember very well the suppression of human rights in Communist times, while some other countries seem to be ignorant, lazy or even reticent to act.


I hope that Europe will also become more and more united with respect to the attitude towards destructive cults.


Thank you for your attention.


[1] Regardless of Faith,