Twelve Tribes members suspected in Tirol

Patrick Guyton and Julia Hernböck
June 14, 2014
Translated from the German

A former member tells of his experiences of violence in the Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult. Bible-based cult Twelve Tribes was drawn along with their children a few weeks ago to Austria to avoid German compulsory education.

Klosterzimmern/Vienna – Once, recalls Christian Reip, he stole and ate a bit of sugar. The adult group denounced the crime and the father asked to punish his child. The father took action and beat his son. “Expect the child to return crying,” says Reip.

Scenes like this return to the 22 -year old en masse when he thinks of his childhood and youth spent in the sect. Because the Bible-based Twelve Tribes cult refused to send their children to compulsory public education – they received much criticism.

Secretly filmed Beatings

In 2013 a RTL reporter smuggled into the former Bavarian monastery rooms and secretly filmed the child abuse taking place. The Youth Welfare Office of the district of Donau-Ries responded quickly to the evidence.

On September 5, the police removed 40 children from their families. Parental custody was removed from the cult members and the children were placed in foster families. Now the parents are struggling in court.

26 children still are in foster homes and some were allowed to return to their parents. At the end of April, five Twelve Tribes families left Germany for Austria. The district confirmed this in early June. The German authorities were unaware of their addresses.

It is believed that the five Twelve Tribes families have settled in a small community near Innsbruck. It seems that neither the Tyrolean authorities nor the police have received the message. Their current accurate location seems difficult to pinpoint.

Little is known about the whereabouts of the five Twelve Tribes families

Twelve Tribes cult members sought to escape compulsory public education of their children in Germany and therefore immigrated to Austria where it is comparatively easy to teach children at home. Corporal punishment is prohibited in Germany and Austria. The authorities need to take action to protect the welfare of the children.

Reip and his family fled the Twelve Tribes sect four years ago. In Klosterzimmern, where the young man spent much of his life, children were beaten solely because they chose to listen to “secular music” or imitated the hum of an airplane.

An attempt to speak personally with the victims was unsuccessful. A footpath leads between houses and fields along the right are the old peasant houses. Very soon a woman came running. Stop, what are you doing here? This is private property. She had long gray-white hair and wore a billowing dress. She refused to talk any further.

In 1979, the Twelve Tribes sect tried to teach its children themselves. For seven years, the state of Bavaria had granted the Twelve Tribes sect permission to do so. Christian Reip has a certificate that he has complied with compulsory education – although he has not completed his secondary education like other German children. He has a hard time with reading and writing.

There are no trained teachers or midwives in the Twelve Tribes community.

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