Letter from Munich – the Joseph Affair – 32
EINE DEUTSCHE FASSUNG STEHT WEITER UNTEN.
17 August 2001
Dear Mr. Graf, dear friends,
A continuation of the letter of last week:
The Social Democrats, in other words, often in power since the Second World War, impress one as a party whose members have made great contributions to German democracy, far beyond the kind that politicians usually have an opportunity to make.
As has so often happened in German history, the Social Democrats suffered another defeat at the hands of the conservatives and – to use a euphemism – the arch-conservatives. The defeat this time was in the person of Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother. The government media practically overnight – and yet with a certain gradualness – transformed her from a victim into a perpetrator. At first it was implied that she was not only an unbalanced woman, but evil as well, capable of the most devious machinations. The conclusion of some in authority in Saxony that Dr. Kantelberg-Abdulla, the mother, was unbalanced provided them with a pretext for proceeding, a short time later, to a new phase of their “investigation.” After three suspects, one of whose parents had influential connections with the CDU, had been arrested and then released some hours later, the national news on German state television one morning produced dramatic pictures of the Kantelberg-Abdullas arriving back at their home near the Czech border, after the long, exhausting journey from western Bavaria. They were met in Sebnitz, not by any sympathetic townspeople, but by the local district attorney who informed them on national television that he had a warrant to search their house and to seize every article of proof. Proof that their child had been murdered? Unfortunately not: the district attorney informed them that he was considering charging them with the peculiarly German crime of spreading “false suspicions” and he was going to seize proof that would support that charge.
The district attorney’s men spent the rest of the night, approximately eight hours, searching the family’s quite modest home. They seized every videocassette, including those with ordinary feature films and those containing images of their dead son. They seized every audio cassette of recorded telephone conversations, every computer diskette, every file, every piece of paper that they could find that was related to the family’s own investigation of the circumstances surrounding their son’s death. They brought in computer experts who transferred every electron of data stored on the hard disk of the family computer to police computers. None of this material, it should be noted, has yet been returned.
The investigating officers even seized the diary of the Kantelberg-Abdullas’ fourteen-year-old daughter, Diana. This was too much for Dr. Abdulla, the father. He protested that there could not possibly be anything of interest in the diary of a young girl. The authorities relented. They would not seize the diary. But they would read it. One of the men then took the girl to a quiet place. She was permitted to sit and watch him as he read everything she had written about the events in her life: a young girl’s intimate commentary on her daily activities, her dreams, her aspirations.
This letter will be continued next week.
Robert John Bennett
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