1950s' Child Deaths Investigated in Netherlands

Did you think the international child abuse crisis couldn't get any worse? Apparently it could.

The Wall Street Journal reports: "Dutch authorities said Tuesday they were investigating possible murders at a Catholic institution for psychiatrically ill boys during the 1950s. A total of 34 children under the age of 18 died at St. Joseph's boys' school in Heel, in the south of the Netherlands, between the beginning of 1952 and the end of 1954. Annual enrollment in the institution at the time was around 60.


"The Catholic church in Western Europe has been rocked recently by findings of sexual abuse of minors. Churches, schools and institutions, especially in Ireland and Germany, have been scenes for many such crimes. But these possible murders, if found to be true, would form a unique case."

The wave of deaths ended in 1955. Although the Dutch currently maintain no statute of limitation on homicide, the Netherlands did back when these possible crimes were committed. That means no one can be criminally prosecuted even though Dutch authorities say some suspects are still alive.

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Anne Chapman
7 years 5 months ago
Correction - in reading the whole story, I see that the deaths ended in 1955; the church was operated by a Catholic organization until 1969.  Apparently a part of the investigation is into the non-response of various govt agencies to these death reports. Right now they apparently don't even know the cause of these deaths.  It seems that if there had been something like an epidemic, or e coli or whatever, the general public would also have been impacted and that this would be a matter of record. Also, epidemics or outbreaks of disease don't usually last for two or three years.

If it was murder, and if it was 34 murders committed by a single murderer, you would think that a responsible administrator or any responsible staff member would have asked the authorities to investigate and try to root out whoever might be guilty of horrible crimes.  Those who want to split hairs constantly about "the church" vs. individual criminals also tend to be those who think that investigating possible crimes that occur in a church-operated jurisdiction is simply "sensationalizing" the case - I doubt that they would say the same if the institution had been run by anyone but a Catholic group - then they would be calling for an investigation just as anyone else would do. 

Carolyn, I too try to resist responding to some of the posts here - but my blood pressure goes up and I find I hit the keyboard again even after vowing to stay away. But, I also don't believe that anyone here is truly uncaring - but they have misplaced their priorities just as did too many bishops and others in the hierarchy it seems - the institution was/is their first priority  - but their first priority should always be with the victims and with truth and with justice. 
Anne Chapman
7 years 5 months ago

Why the sarcasm?  Should crimes be ignored forever? It is the Netherlands government  who is investigating - should reporters not report if the target of an investigation is Catholic? Are Catholic priests, nuns, lay people, schools, institutions exempt from both the laws of God and the laws of man simply because they are Catholic?  What kind of morality is that?

 Have you no interest in truth or justice? Have you no concern for the tens of thousands of victims we know about - victims who we KNOW included several hundred young deaf boys who were used as sexual playthings in their ''safe'' special education Catholic boarding school in the US (and Ratzinger, as usual, dragged his feet in doing anything about the priest). If the worst suspicions about this case turn out to be true, it puts even some of the horrors revealed in Ireland in the shade.  While I pray that the possible crimes involved in this will turn out not to have actually happened, at this point, given the church's sinful track record and its continued efforts to obstruct all efforts to get at truth or justice in these cases, it is more logical to fear that they will be proven.
Carolyn Disco
7 years 5 months ago
Thank you, Anne, for your patient, reasoned reply.

After a certain level of such as the first post here, I move on elsewhere. Your consistent presence on this blog is a gift.
Thomas Piatak
7 years 5 months ago
It may well be there was a murderer or murderers on the loose in that institution in the Netherlands.  Even if that turns out to be the case though, it is a huge stretch to blame murders that may never even have happened on "the Church," rather than on the murderers themselves.  I doubt that, if the Dutch government were investigating murders at a similar institution run by itself, the conclusion reached would be that "the State" was responsible. 
Anne Chapman
7 years 5 months ago
David, how is reporting about an investigation ''media sensation?'' 

We in America certainly know that without the media, there would have been no truth nor justice for the thousands of victims of priests in this country - it was the free press, the media, that forced the ugly truth to come out, and at least some victims have obtained justice because of it. The crimes that were committed against the young in this country were hidden by bishops for decades, and would never have come to light if it were up to the church. And if there is any kind of a silver lining at all  in these tragedies that occurred because of ecclesial malfeasance, at least the Catholic church's sorry track record of protecting sexual predators has awakened everyone to realizing that you can't brush aside sexual abuse simply because of who might be committing it. 

Having 34 deaths of young people in only TWO YEARS - in a school population that averaged 60  - a death rate that ended once the school was no longer operated by the Catholic religious order who were there at the time of the deaths - is more than highly suspicious. There is a moral obligation to investigate - and the media has a moral obligation to report on the findings.  It is probably also an outrage that the govt authorities in the Netherlands never investigated these deaths - one in a two year period in that age group would have been unusual but 34 should have been the reddest of red flats that something was terribly, terribly wrong.

The negligence seems to have infected both the church and the civil authorities - just as it did here. We know from the various judicial proceedings in this country that too often the civil authorities did not look into things they should have out of ''respect'' for the church.  At least now the civil authorities are looking into it - and it won't surprise anyone if the church simply stonewalls and does everything it can to hinder the investigation.  Truth and justice and basic morality seem to have deserted too many in the ecclesial power structure.
ed gleason
7 years 5 months ago
Norman; What you describe is diabolical and true.  I'm afraid  that the Catholic Church has many many many times more enablers then even the FLDS polygamy group whose leader Jeffs was just imprisoned for abuse of children.. Why the excusers/doubters of abuse keep posting their comments on progressive blogs ought to be looked at.  2+ $billions in abuse awards does not deter them. Thousands of credible clergy abusers named does not deter them. The media, the legislators, the DAs the Grand Juries, the comedians ..none deter them. Pope's apologies are ignored, The rationalizations that can be done by the human mind is the wonder of the world.
Brendan McGrath
7 years 5 months ago
Dear God...

...dear God...
Carolyn Disco
7 years 5 months ago
Thank you, Norman Costa, for taking the time to post so fully. Your first-hand experience with survivors and the issues involved are highly valuable. Bless you for your advocacy.

Richard Sipe has written of the sexual geneaologies of clergy, where you begin to see the tentacles spread from one generation to the next.

Secrecy is primary among these elements. Secrecy and accountability cannot co-exist.

When a man is created a cardinal he kneels before the Pope and takes a vow in Latin. He promises fidelity to Christ and the gospel. He vows obedience to the pope and unfailing communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Then comes the one practical directive at the heart of the commitment. I quote:

'' ... never to reveal to anyone whatever has been confided in me to keep secret and the revelation of which could cause damage or dishonor to the Holy Church.''

Brendan is right ''...dear God...'' yet the great hope is that finally, finally, what is done in darkness is being revealed in the light.
Rory Connor
7 years 5 months ago
For a decade or so after 1996 there was a witch-hunt in Ireland involving claims that the Christian Brothers and the Sisters of Mercy had deliberately killed children in their care. As in the present case, most of the alleged victims were boys and the killings were supposed to have taken place mainly in the 1950s - a nice long time ago and therefore difficult to investigate. UNLIKE the current allegations, many of the accusations related to times when no child died of any cause!! Accordingly I coined the phrases ''Murder of the Undead'' and ''Victimless Murders'' - try Googling these. (However some related to children who actually existed and had died.)

The Gardai (Irish police) spent a large amount of time investigating these allegations and came up with no evidence to support them. I know that one current Garda Superintendent is angry at the ''waste of time'' caused by his predecessors actions in having ground dug up etc. Of course if his predecessor had said ''This is rubbish'' and refused to commit men to the investigation, he would probably have been denounced as a pawn of the Catholic Church!

There is a summary of the allegations against the Christian Brothers at:

Does this kind of thing differ from medieval Blood Libels against Jews??
Rory Connor
7 years 5 months ago
Since you seem to have read my full article you will see that there were SEVERAL separate allegations of child murder made against the Christian Brothers in Ireland - all of which have now been discredited and all police investigations into such claims have ceased. If you want to check out one claim in detail I suggest you Google ''Murder of the Undead'' and you will come across the following:

This includes a letter from our then Minister for Justice in December 1999 confirming that:
That case related to Artane where a former pupil (and current leading member of a ''Victims'' group) claimed to have attended the funerals of boys killed by the Brothers. No boy died while this gentleman was in Artane.

The same applies to all of the other allegations including cases - like that of Letterfrack industrial school - where boys did die and the police spent a huge amount of time confirming that they had NOT been murdered. I was told that the current Garda Superintendent for the area is extremely fed up with the waste of police time spent on this investigation by his predecessor.
Rory Connor
7 years 5 months ago
The following is an extract from another article I wrote. It also relates to a claim made by a leading member of a ''victims'' group that he had attended the funerals of boys who had died following beatings administered by the Brothers in Artane Industrial School. Believe it or not but this is a different guy and a different ''victims'' group to the one I wrote about above! (Hysteria was sweeping Ireland at the time and people came up with stories that the hysterics wanted to hear - like in the Netherlands today I suspect.)

CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AT ARTANE - letter to Irish Times, 25 November 2000

A chara,
On Sunday, November 12th, TV3 broadcast a one-hour documentary entitled ''Stolen Lives: Our Boys'' which had first been shown on the station in October 1999. The programme repeated a number of serious allegations against members of the Christian Brothers by former pupils of industrial schools.

One particular past pupil claimed that he had attended the funerals of boys who had died while in Artane. It was further implied that these boys had died following beatings administered by the Brothers. This allegation is completely untrue. The records show that no boy died in Artane during this person's time there. [my emphasis] This is a matter of verifiable fact.

In addition, this same past pupil claimed that a particular Brother who allegedly had been abusing him made certain lewd comments during Mass, as a result of which the pupil fainted and had to be transferred to the infirmary. Versions of this story have been repeated elsewhere, to the extent that the Brother is easily identifiable. However, the record shows that the Brother was not teaching in Artane at the time in question. That is also a matter of verifiable fact.

Elsewhere in ''Stolen Lives'', certain comments, said to have been made on radio, were attributed to a named spokesperson for the Christian Brothers, claiming that the Brothers rejected all allegations made against them. Such comments were never made.

This most recent airing of a programme containing unfounded, uncorroborated allegations is a matter of great concern to the Christian Brothers. It is deeply worrying that a national broadcaster chooses to deal with very sensitive matters in such a way.

Yours etc.

Br J. K. Mullan
Province Leader
Christian Brothers Provincialate,
Cluain Mhuire,
North Circular Road
Dublin 7.
Rory Connor
7 years 4 months ago
And just possibly this may solve the ''mystery'' (although no doubt some people will claim that the doctors who signed the death certs, were in league with the Catholic Church to cover up the murder of children)!

Boys at 1950s Mental Home Died of Natural Causes
The deaths of 34 boys at a Catholic institution in the early 1950s were all due to natural causes, according to their death certificates. Half of the boys who lived at St Joseph's home for mentally disabled children in the town of Heel in the Dutch province of Limburg died of infectious diseases, regional television station L1 reports.

L1 and national publicbroadcaster NOS had requested information about the causes of the boys' deaths from the Dutch statistics office. Earlier this month, the Deetman Commission, which is looking into cases of sexual abuse in Catholic institutions, asked the Public Prosecutor's Office to look into the deaths as there were peaks in the number of fatalities at the boys' home in 1952, 1953 and 1954.

The information from the Dutch statistics office (CBS) is based on the death certificates of the boys. According to the NOS, the doctor reported death by natural causes in all cases. L1 reports that birth defects, cancer and heart disease were also recorded as causes of death. All the boys were teenagers under the age of 18. The were also peaks in the number of deaths at a girls' home for mentally disabled children in the same town, but those cases are not under investigation.

The boys' home had a poor reputation as the residents were made to work long hours without pay making bicycle lights for Philips. They were also made to work at night.

So far the Public Prosecutor's Office has not commented on its ongoing investigation into the deaths.
Rory Connor
7 years 4 months ago
Thanks for the offer but I definitely can't come to the USA - for a number of resaons including financial. I tried clicking on your name but no Email address appears - at least from here. My website is www.irishsalem.com and if you click on ''Contact Me'' at the the (extreme) top, you should get my Email address.

Child-killing allegations in Ireland seem to be the equivalent of Satanic Ritual Abuse in the USA. We had NO SRA and much less ''Recovered Memory'' than the USA. Until recently, Ireland seems to have been the only country in Europe to have experienced child-killing claims. The outbreak on the island of Jersey in the UK (at the former Haut de la Garenne institution) in 2008 was directly linked to Ireland e.g. the police officer who started the witch-hunt is from Derry in Northern Ireland. The Dutch allegations have nothing to do with Ireland - apart from a shared anti-clericalism but even if they are quickly discredited they will inevitably spark copy-cat claims elsewhere. When I checked the story out in Google News it showed links to 269 publications in places as far afield as Taiwan. OTOH the article Boys at 1950s Mental Home Died of Natural Causes, that I quoted above seems to be practically unknown.


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