“It was quite terrible”

Provost Michael Ludwig cared for Marion Loblich's family 30 years ago. The latter was part of the Gladbeck trio of hostage-takers. Their relatives were shocked and at a loss, the clergyman recounts in the interview.

Interviewer: In these days, when everyone is reporting on the anniversary of this tragedy, to what extent do old memories come back to you??

Provost Michael Ludwig (St. Peter Paul Bochum): It was a very surprising pastoral outreach to relatives for me at the time. I only became aware of the dimension in the course of time.

Interviewer: How did it come about that you were sitting at the living room table with Marion Loblich's family at that time??

Ludwig: The family was totally shocked. They did not know how to help themselves in their distress, called the family counseling center at that time, whether they could get help as a family.

This family counseling center made appointments by phone, but no home visits. I was in charge of the counselors in the background as a pastor. They called me. I took the bike and rode to the family's house. I didn't think at all about the implications of it.

Interviewer: Wasn't the family's house surrounded by police and media??

Ludwig: Not to the same extent, because the scene of the crime was in a different part of town. There were police officers in front of the house, of course. They had the task to protect the families – also from the press and similar stories. As chaplain, I told the parish that I would make a house call, so after consulting with the police, I went past the officers and visited the family.

Interviewer: How do I imagine it then? There is somehow a sister, children of the hostage-takers sitting on the sofa and saying 'Look at that on TV'?

Ludwig: That's more or less how it was. The television was on. It was quite terrible. The family was very concerned. They were nervous and totally shocked. The children were running around the apartment, trying to distract themselves. Today there are technical terms for that. All this was not known at that time. They just wanted to talk to someone who could give explanations. Then it was up to the counseling center or me as "man of the church".

Interviewer: Who could give explanation – for what?

Ludwig: How people could do such a thing. I first said, 'flicker off.'. Because, when such a thing runs in the background, one only pays more attention to it. The children should first go to the nursery, play. I tried to clarify with the relatives who was affected and how, what contacts were available to stabilize the children – and not so much what the others were doing who were driving around out there in the republic.

Interviewer: Now this whole hostage drama has dragged on for days, 54 hours. This lasted until the police were able to put an end to the whole thing in a very controversial action near Bonn. Did you stay there the whole time in the family's house??

Ludwig: No. I also got to know other relatives. I tried to calm the situation. We simply took the children to the youth groups – to play, to distract them, to get them out of the hustle and bustle. It was all very spontaneous and relatively amateurish at the time. But so the children could see something else. The hostage-takers gave interviews during their escape, they phoned newspaper and television editors. The press got worse and worse. As a result, we took the children to the summer camp, so that we simply integrated them into groups.

Interviewer: When a child with the last name "Loblich" came into such a group, were there any problems?? Were they brought up with it, addressed?

Ludwig: It's not like that with children. The names were not important for the children in the youth groups. There they were simply children.

Interviewer: After all, it began then what is almost everyday life today. People have gotten a little used to the media reporting on crimes before the fire department and police are on the scene. These so-called social media are fueling it all. How do you judge?

Ludwig: I find this quite terrible, because even those who are not affected are often emotionally hyped up. And those affected have enough problems already. We have to build more and more protective walls, as in highway accidents. We need protective walls for people. In the meantime, after all, there is also emergency pastoral care. I later became an emergency chaplain. There was not. We must enable those affected to deal with their emotions and grief without it being abused by the media.

The interview was conducted by Uta Vorbrodt.

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