Alarming Report on Sex Abuse in Germany’s Protestant Church: SNAP Responds

SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests [Chicago IL]

January 26, 2024

By Marc Artzruni

A just released report commissioned by the German Protestant Church (EKD) in 2020 estimated that over 9,300 children and young people were sexually abused since 1946 by 3,500 perpetrators, a third of which were members of the clergy. The EKD is an umbrella organization of 20 regional churches, representing 19.2 million Protestants in the country.

SNAP welcomes the publication of this report on the appalling extent of clerical sex abuse – even if it exposes the depth of depravity that prevails in yet another faith community. We believe that it is always a good development to have these crimes exposed. We are also grateful that more is being done in Germany to identify victims, compensate them adequately, punish perpetrators, and put in place safeguards to ensure that such crimes cannot be repeated.  

The study results are based on an examination of around 4,300 disciplinary files, 780 personal files, and over 1,300 further documents. By way of comparison, the large-scale report into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in 2018 looked into around 38,000 files.Martin Wazlawik, from Hanover University, who ran the Protestant study, said, “It’s the “tip of the tip of the iceberg.”   

This sentiment was shared by Detlev Zander, a victims’ spokesperson, who said that the results were based only on confirmed on-the-record cases and that researchers did not have access to all personal files in all 20 state churches. He also added that the €20,000 he received in compensation was not commensurate with the gravity of the crimes.  

Detlev expects an “eathquake” to shake the EDK – with the “illusion” that large-scale sexual abuse only takes place in the Catholic Church no longer holding up. This illusion was already shattered in the United States where the Southern Baptist Convention, one of the main Protestant groups in the country, was also rocked by accusations of widespread sexual abuse.  

Unlike its German Catholic counterpart, this latest report emphasizes the plight of the victims rather than the role of the perpetrators – and also takes into account abuse committed by lay members of the churches.  

“As an institution we have also been guilty of countless crimes against countless people”, Hamburg Bishop Kirsten Fehrs admitted. We are impressed that the Bishop used the “C-word” to describe the appalling acts committed in Protestant communities. Bishop Fehrs also acknowledged the guilt of the institution. In our minds, this stands in stark contrast to the response of Catholic hierarchs across the globe.

Moving forward, we think a good beginning for the Protestant churches would be an iron-clad rule forbidding clergy, other employees, and volunteers from being alone with a child under any circumstance. Although this runs counter to the level of trust that is usually extended to those who attend the same parish, we think it is worth adopting if it helps to prevent life-long injuries to innocent boys and girls. 

CONTACT:  Marc Artzrouni, SNAP European Coordinator (,+33 (0)6 95 73 65 92 – France), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director (, 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Executive Director (, 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board of Directors President (, 814- 341-8386)