Later that day, the organizational manager of the Olympic camp, Mr. Martsch, and another executive, Mr. Kappus, visited Lang privately. They urged him to call the reporter again and disassociate himself from the Scientology religion to save his job.
When Lang refused to do so, Kappus asked him to return his key to the center.
The following day, Lang met with Beck and asked for a written explanation of what was wrong with his work that had caused him to be suspended. Beck said there was nothing wrong with his work at all. It was only because he admitted that he had read and enjoyed a book that he could no longer have him at the camp. I must think of the center, as otherwise parents will no longer send their children here, he concluded.
That same day, all employees at the Olympic camproughly 70had to sign papers stating they were not Scientologists.
Langs wife was dismissed that night. The couple was ordered to take their two young children and baby and move out of the camp.
The letter that came from the Board of Directors of the Fencing Club shortly thereafter stated that Lang had been dismissed because he had failed to disassociate himself from the contents and goals of Scientology and that a declaration of belief regarding Scientology was incompatible with his high-level responsibilities at the Olympic camp.
The news spread rapidly to the media. When interviewed, Mrs. Dienstl, president of the German Fencing Association and vice president of the German Sports Association, informed members of the press that she supported Becks actions in dismissing Lang, thus effectively ruining any chance he had of gaining employment elsewhere in the field in Germany.
To protect himself and his family and to obtain compensation for the damage done to his livelihood, Lang filed suit against his former employers with the local Labor Court.
Also, because his constitutional rights to pursue his chosen profession and to exercise freedom of conscience had been violated, Lang filed a petition for redress with the European Human Rights Office.
In a settlement which became binding in January 1996, the Fencing Club agreed to pay him substantial damages which enabled him to live while he worked out what to do with his future.
Because the Olympic camp itself depended on the financial support of the German federal government and the state government of Baden-Wuerttemberg, the case serves as yet another example of the influence of German officialdom in targeting individuals because of their religion.
Had this story been set in 1935, we now know that it would have been a chilling vision of what was to come. But it wasnt. Bernd Langs saga started less than two years ago. It need not presage a similar futureand it will not, if enough people make that decision.
Lang and his family now live in the United Kingdom.
Monika and Werner Esser
The schoolhouse vibrated with the childrens energy as they repeated the teachers lesson.
My friends are German, exclaimed the teacher, Frau Braun, at the top of her voice.
My friends are German, shrieked back the classroom full of 9-year-olds.
Gypsies and Jews are not German, yelled Frau Braun.
Gypsies and Jews are not German.
Gypsies and Jews are not my friends.
Gypsies and Jews are not my friends.
Monika Esser, mother, wife, successful businesswoman and member of the Scientology religion for 28 years, recalls with irony this 1942 incident from her grade-school classroom in Borken in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia where she grew up. As a child I saw my usually mild-mannered teacher change drastically before my eyes when she started reciting this Nazi propaganda lesson, she says. I was not Jewish and I never expected to be the target of such mindless hatred.
In 1982, Monika started a cosmetics and fashion consultancy business that over the next decade grew to a large and flourishing business with franchise holders throughout Germany, Switzerland and Austria. She personally trained every franchisee and helped them build successful businesses of their own. She wrote books that sold more than 160,000 copies, lectured at seminars, appeared on television and radio, and was active in her community.
She built the thriving business with her husband, Werner, and her son, daughter-in-law and a group of dedicated employees, in addition to her 650 loyal franchise holders.
Werner was a member of the local Rotary Club and served on the district board. One of his proudest achievements was becoming a Paul Harris Fellow, an honor bestowed in appreciation of tangible and significant assistance given for the furtherance of better understanding and friendly relations between peoples of the world.
They enjoyed close relationships with their sons and their families and welcomed the birth of each new grandchild with delight.
Their lives were full and satisfying. Then life changed abruptly for the Esser family.
In one year the business fell apart. Had it been the result of bad management, unfortunate whims in the financial market or some natural disaster, it would have been less distasteful than the actual cause: a media campaign targeting the Essers because of their membership in the Scientology religion.
The German magazine Focus and other media ran articles in the style of the Nazi-era anti-Semitic propaganda publication Der Stürmer, holding up the Essers to ridicule for their religious beliefs, in direct violation of privacy laws and common decency. Monika Esser found herself accused, tried and condemned in the media for being a Scientologist.
The Essers filed for and won an injunction against Focus which prevented it from repeating its claims, but the damage had already been done. The court upheld that religious beliefs had nothing to do with their company and therefore could not be mentioned by the magazine, but the article still drove a wedge between the Essers and many of their associates.
One by one, the franchise holders and customers disappeared, finding other places to do business. Monika recalled another admonition from her childhood: Germans, defend yourselves! Dont buy from Jews!
As a public service to young people in the community, Werner had regularly helped organize Information Evenings for the local Rotary Club, inviting members of various professions to speak about their careers to students of high-school age.
Shortly after the Focus article, the local headmaster refused to send his students to the Information Evenings unless the president of the club confirmed in writing that Werner would never be present when the students were there.
Why? Even if a snake has never bitten, you must still beware its fangs.
At the 1992 Christmas gathering of the Rotarians, Werner walked up to greet a friend of 20 years, a judge. When his friend saw Werner, he went pale and backed away saying, Please dont talk to me. Please.
Within weeks, Werner was visited by the head of the club. You want me to resign? Werner asked.
Its very awkward for me, Werner, very awkward. Youve done so many things to help. Youre a Paul Harris Fellow. Youve made us proud.
Do you want me to resign?
I wont ask you to do it, but. . . .
After this, the Essers decided that they simply could not continue to live in Germany, their birthplace and lifelong home. They closed their business, wrapped up their affairs, and bid farewell to their sons and their grandchildren. They now live in Clearwater, Florida, where they volunteer for their church and community.
They write and speak out about their experiences, to let others know the truth of battling religious discrimination daily in todays Germany.