Denmark PM apologises for abusive care homes
She told an event at her official residence in Marieborg that, on behalf of Denmark, she was sorry for what one of the darkest chapters in Denmark’s history.
“I would like to look each of you in the eye and say the only right thing: Sorry,” the new prime minister said. “Sorry for the injustice done to you and your loved ones.
“For those who are here, and for those who were, and for those who will follow. On behalf of Denmark: Sorry.”
Victims praised the Social Democrat prime minister’s comments.
Many in the audience were in tears as Frederiksen said children were taken from their parents and, instead of getting support and warmth, received humiliation and abuse.
“The apology means everything. All we wanted was peace of mind,” said 68-year-old victim Arne Roel Jorgensen.
He said the victims had been ruined by the abuse, suffering with alcohol, drugs, multiple jobs and failed marriages.
Children in care between 1946 and 1976 suffered abuse, including beatings and neglect. A doctor at a boys’ home was accused of carrying out medical experiments.
Bjorn Elmquist, then an MP who had already been working on the abuse cases, said LSD was prescribed to stop bed-wetting, leading to many of the children developing drug addictions.
Elmquist referred to the shame carried by the victims. “Some of them contacted me and begged me not to have their names mentioned publicly.”
One of the most notorious examples was Godhavn boys’ home in northern Zealand.
He mentioned an overweight master at Godhavn. “He pushed them with his big stomach and they fell down the staircase. He put them on a sofa and sat on top of them and jumped on them.”
After taking office in June, Frederiksen said it was “high time that we apologise to the victims”.
A 2005 documentary aired allegations from survivors and staff that exposed a failure to adequately oversee the care homes.
An independent inquiry was conducted in 2010 and published the next year. It examined 19 homes and contained interviews with children, staff and state inspectors.
Poul-Erik Rasmussen, head of the National Association of Godhavn Boys’ Home, which was set up shortly after the television documentary, had demanded an apology.
“During our upbringing at the care home we were told we had no value,” he said. “For years we have felt guilt. We no longer have to do so.”
During the 1960s, Rasmussen said he suffered beatings and mental abuse at the home.
Denmark abolished corporal punishment in 1967. Researchers found blood traces on a wooden gym horse, suggesting children had been beaten on it.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. Picture credit: Wikimedia