Twelve years. You don't have to have children yourself to be stunned by this number, but when you have children, the shock is even greater. Twelve years young was Luise from Freudenberg, twelve years young was one of the girls who was partly responsible for her death; The other was 13. At twelve, you are a child, not even a teenager, whom you usually trust to be more escapades, albeit at the earliest at the age of 14 or 15 – and even then hardly a murder.

Joerg Thomann

Editor in the "Life" section of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.

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Nothing is worse than the violent death of a child. Much of the anger that is then directed at the perpetrators can also be felt this time, on the Internet curses are pronounced against the girls, who, which makes quite a few furious, are not criminally responsible. However, if one takes it for granted that the two are actually too young and immature to be responsible for their terrible deed, then the anger may mix with pity. Because of the tragic death of Luise and the lifelong suffering of the bereaved, it may sound like mockery to some, but in Freudenberg three families and three children's lives have been destroyed. Will a mother or father ever again be able to enjoy a good school grade or a homemade gift when the child has extinguished a life?

It could have been my child

And no, it is not meant to explain, relativize or even excuse anything. Rather, the fact that a child kills another child with a knife is so abnormal and incomprehensible that it can overturn a worldview. It could have been my child: this thought comes to parents every time they learn of a crime. Does he also come to mind when it comes to the perpetrators? You won't learn much about them if authorities and the media adhere to the rules of youth protection, but the prognosis is not daring that they have childlike facial features, love French fries and have at least one stuffed animal in their bed. Just like most other twelve-year-olds.

In the imagination of many people, the world of children is a colorful alternative to serious, regimented adulthood. The childhood should be cheerful and carefree, which is transfigured just as much as the children themselves. "Children to power," Herbert Grönemeyer demanded almost 40 years ago and fantasized about: "Instead of suppressing, there is strawberry ice cream for life." The certainly well-intentioned ballad follows the thesis that man is born pure and only corrupted by the bad influences of adult society. Expelled from the paradise of childhood, you lose your innocence.

Strawberry ice cream and suppression

The antithesis is: Man already carries evil within him and must first be civilized in order to learn to control it. Small children who tear out flies' wings or scorch ants in the concentrated sunlight affirm them. And not only girls and boys who are abused and abused by adults know that a childhood can be anything but paradisiacal. Hell, that's the other children – that's also true sometimes. Not only strawberry ice cream, but also oppression is part of everyday life for some. And one does not convince oneself that this then runs comparatively lightly. A child who is bullied by others for weeks or even months is in danger of losing the courage to live. For someone who is harassed in this way, his tormentors should not be high-spirited children, but overpowering tyrants.

The topos of the bad child is no stranger to culture. In Stephen King's horror visions, children appear as heroes, victims and perpetrators. As early as 1954, William Golding left a bunch of schoolboys stranded on an island in "Lord of the Flies" and failed as an emergency community: The gentle and sensible stand against the growing group of savages and violent on a lost post, two boys are murdered. The oldest of the children in the novel are around twelve years old.

The deeds on the distant island imagined by Golding a long time ago may not only leave those who work through the book as school reading unmoved. The deed of Freudenberg, on the other hand, whose cheerful-sounding name will be clouded for many years, is close to us. With the death of a girl by a knife in the hands of a child, another evil of the adult world has invaded the supposed shelter of childhood, which has already become increasingly fragile. Not least due to the Internet and social media, children today are much more confronted with questionable things than previous generations, and the parents, who are often not only technically overwhelmed, often let this take its course.

Most children, thank God, still grow up quite sheltered in this country and rarely suffer worse injuries than the proverbial bloody knees. The great social task of adults is to assist them as persons of trust. This also applies to Freudenberg's deed: be it through the Internet or at school, almost all children will hear about it sooner or later, and we adults should talk to them about it. Even if we can hardly understand it ourselves.