|Stern: Undercover at the Scientology-Church Berlin|
Stern Magazine HEFT 21, 15.5.2008
Scientology: Undercover in der Berliner Zentrale
English translation from enturbulation.org:
While the sun sets behind the Berlin scenery, Scientologists are celebrating a birthday. The 97th of their founder L. Ron Hubbard, died in 1986. Torches line the red carpet leading into the Scientology-Residency in Charlottenburg. The building at the Otto-Suhr-Allee is a complex of glass and steel, the Scientology-cross above the entrance. The Scientologists – dark suits, dresses – are jolly laughing in the foyer. Berlin, so is the internal saying, allegedly works ten times better than planned. And: Berlin is meant to grow even further...
To the Scientologists, I am Thorsten Brock, workless specialist in American studies, fan of Tom Cruise and his success. I pretend to live with my girlfriend in a 2-room-flat in the Prenzlauer Berg quarter. Sandra is against Scientology. For five months overall I have been able to hide my true identity. Have smuggled in a micro cam. I am a journalist and want to document what is really happening behind that glass front. About 250 Scientologists, among them obviously lots of newbies, have gathered on this saturday in the end of march. They want to reflect on the past year and set the marching route for the future. There will be a video from Los Angeles, then buffet on the 6th floor.
On the 1st floor Irmi Tjarks, Executive Director Berlin, goes before the audience. Her red short hair is shimmering in the lights, her smile is bright. The former real estate agent has just been to the USA. She brought along her a gold cup, with a galloping horse on top. In the worldwide comparison of the Scientology-organizations – a yearly race for fixures, sales, stats – Berlin made the top. Allegedly. Not even the local Scientologists had been reckoning that. "The start for a new civilization" says Irmi Tjarks "here in Berlin and in the whole of Germany." Strong applause."And with that we gonna turn Europe around!"
Statements like that the general public doesn't get to hear usually. The video tape is about the expansion as well. David Miscavice, Ron Hubbard's successor, presents 13 new "orgs" - that's how Scientologists call their "parish" - as well as plans for Africe and China. Confidently he lays out the charactor of Scientology "We are a train without brakes, and we're even putting more coals into the fire." After leaviing the the room, I am being intercepted by someone in a dark suit. "I am Sören", he says "Director personnel." Kennen wir uns? "No", he replies smilingly "but I know of you – come along."
It started last year. A Scientologist called Corinna accosted me on the street right outside the Berlin Org. Tight white shirt, black trousers, crimped hair, 19 years old. She opened her mouth to a shining white smile and asked, whether I wouldn't like to come in. She was very nice, sweet even.
So I went in and filled out a personality test. The result was "inacceptable." All stats severely down. But they would be able to help. With a course called "Troubles of work." Pay rightaway, start now. Tom Cruise did that course too," they said.
My provisional membership ID dates from the 22th of November 2007. Since then I did four courses, und the Scientologists tightened the circle around me. The phone rang more frequently, more often I was meant to come, and ever longer I was meant to stay. Four months that went on, first with a loose leash, that was strained always further – and now, on Hubbard's birthday they wanted to get the catch into the boat. I was to be a part of the system.
While the others are moving to the buffet, Sören leads me to the 2nd floor on the back stairs. The window is open, it's chilling. Sören is blond, in his early 20ies and suddenly has a form in his hand. "That's how an employee contract looks like", he says, and his green eyes drill into me. He keeps eye contact till I turn away. A trick of the Scientologists. Who looks away, gives in. Sören wants me to sign.
In my distress I pretend to be hungry, to evade Sören. On the 6th floor I am putting some salami on my plate, more is impossible, my stomach is a fist. When my plate is emtpy, Sören appears again, his hand behind his back. He won't take his eyes away from me. All other, who are relatively new, experience the same. They are being worked on by Scientologists with clipboards in their hands. It's about donations, course, staff work.
Sören wants me to come with him to the 2nd floor again. He points to the contract and tells me that in contradiction to a normal company there is no pay. Company? I always thought they would denounce themselves as church. At some point Sören talks about his partents. They were against Scientology till he "handled" them. A word I will encounter often. In Scientology-jargon it means: to win somebody for the cause. Time passes and it becomes more exhausting to fight off Sören. As I am leaving the building shortly before midnight it feels like peeling off a heavy coat.
Tuesday, April 1st. On my way to the course Sören intercepts me in the foyer. "I want to show you a movie", he says, "about the meaning of Berlin." Sören starts playing a DVD. The movie shows Kennedy, he speaks his famous words in front of Schöneberger Rathaus. Berlin has ethic presence, the movie argues, Berlin stands for freedom. Us against them, the movie narrates. And about the resistance they encounter. "So bad things we already had to experience in Germany" Sören says. What bad things? "Scientologists have been tortured, to reprogram them." By whom? "By the church, secret service, Interpol. By those who have money."
Money is what they want as well. In the movie Hubbard appeals to push people into closings, to put them on courses, to sell them books: Don't be stopped. No matter what excuse they have. "Clear Deutschland!" The movie ends with that. "Clear" in Scientology means the liberation of the psyche from the subconscious. Sören switches off the TV and presents the work contract to me. This is no job, he clarifies. This is a crusade.
I hesitate. Sören alters his tactics. He shows me on the organigram positions I could work in. Org Security for instance. What are they doing? Sören's fingertips touch each other: "Press can write anything" he says "but someone has to leak this information – we find these people and put them to court." I nod.
I hear yelling: "Let me go! Let me go!" It has to be in the room around the corner. I look at Sören askingly. Is that by chance? He only smiles und shrugs his shoulders.
"I am expecting a decision till Thursday, 2 pm," he says.
Wednesday, April 2nd. Courseroom. My current course is called "Self Analysis." A mixture of philosophy, psychology, banalities and lies. The target: dressage to unresistancy. If I am not asking a question for 10 minutes, I am suspect. Then the course supervisor appears on my side, goes through my book, asks questions. Until the answer is congruent with Hubbard's demand. If I am looking out of the window for a bit, the course supervisor stands besides me again. Might say that I should use the "demo kit" - a bowl with some kind of building bricks – to receive "more mass." If I don't do it, I am urged to it over and over again.
I answer the question in the books and write essays. As long as I am using Hubbard's key words, everything is fine, then the rest can be the biggest rubbish. Any critical discourse about the content ends most likely like that: "who believes to know everything never learns the right thing." To end a course one has to get attached to the infamous "e-meter," the central tool of the Scientologists, a sort of a lie-detector. One has to "attest" to have understood everything. One gets a certificate and holds a speech in the courseroom. The applause does good to many. After to the "registrar," pay for the next course. One of my first lessons was: Let yourself be controlled.
I learn that you can heal diseases as a Scientologist. "Skin diseases too?" I ask course supervisor Hermias. He: "Exactly." Me: "And if I continue, can I then cure cancer?" He: "Totally. You are then the cause over the physical universe." Hermias isn't the only one telling me that so cloudedly. At what point, I think, does one stop to ask questions? At what point one starts to adopt that nonsense?
Thursday, April 3rd. Sören's office. The recruitment form Sören gave me last time I didn't fill in. Ten pages of personal questions. For instance question 41: "Have you committed crimes you haven't been convicted of?" Question 42: "Did you ever had anything to do with prostitution, homosexuality, illegal sex or any sexual perversions? Please state with any incident with who, where and when it happened."
I tell Sören my girlfriend has found the papers and torn them apart. "Hm," Sören says. "It's best you do a different course now." Immediately. "To overcome the ups and downs in life." 90 Euro and 50 Cent. "Do you have the money?" Of course not. "I am unemployed."
Him: "Good, then get it. Because you need to become cause once more. You need to handle your girlfriend. And if not, one has to separate." So it's us against them. Sören looks me deep into they eyes. "Have you ever thought about whether your girlfriend is betraying you?" He then leads me to Philipp. Blond, hard eyes, about 30 years old. "Please take the cans in your hand." Again, the e-meter, the lie-detector.
"Are you here to find stories for newspapers?" I try to laugh the question away with a bit of outrage. Just don't think of anything, don't put pressure on the cans of the e-meter. A small current flows through them, measuring skin resistance. If the needle [reacts] one sees that something is happening inside oneself, but not what it is.
Primitive. My heart is beating. The other got control, I don't. "Is there something you don't tell me?" Again and again he is asking such questions. How long have I been in here now? My hands are cold and damp. I become aggressive. Want to get out. "You can tell me everything", says Philipp, "it stays with us". For every session there is a protocol. The most intimate secrets are being archived and when necessary used as means of pressure. "There is still something left" Philipp says and looks at me suspiciously as I leave.
At home I need to drink a schnapps at first. The methods of the Scientologists go to the essence. To mentally seal oneself off is exhaustive. How long can one stand such a thing? Sören told me I should be home before my girlfriend. So she doesn't realize I was gone.
Wednesday, April 9th. My phone rings until late in the night. It rings, then it's hung up. Again and again. For Scientologists the week ends at Thursday 14 o' clock. At that time the performance of each organization is being analyzed. For the expansion the numbers have to grow. Everyone is under this pressure and passes it on.
Thursday, April 10th. This morning it starts right away once more. I let it ring 20 times, before I pick up the phone. "Hello Thorsten, this is Carina. So when can you come in again?" Carina replaces Sören. I tell her I come at 14 o'clock anyway. "[Oh no], a little bit earlier." - "I need to get some things done before." - "We [will/may] also come where you are." - "No, that's a waste of time." - "There is a piece of paper you would need to sign. And it's definitely too late at two o'clock!" - "See you at two" I say and end the conversation. Two minutes later it rings once more.
"We just want to get this done quickly, then our statistics go up, it has something to do with the size of the Org, so our influence on Berlin grows." As if there had been no previous phone call. "What kind of form is it?" Carina: "Ahem, I show you." When I ask her where she is, my heart stops beating for a moment: Even though I said no several times, they are already on their way to my part of town. We agree on the S-train station Bornholmer Straße as a meeting point. On the way to this my mobile rings five more times.
In the station hall Carina and Cornelius demand of me to sign the working treaty now. Now. Carina is 19, Cornelius 21. They would easily outplay any competition in a group of hardsell doorstep salespeople. I tell them, that I don't want to do anything behind my girlfriend's back. Carina points at the treaty, in the hand a ball pen.
"The signature would be a step in the right direction." I'm hesitating. "How if you would already enter your name in here? We won't enter a date yet."
"No. We will do it the way I want to."
Carina: "I'm for another direction. Just enter your name here." And taps on the treaty once more. "[Just] take the ball pen." She tries to force me with her look. I keep my hands in my pockets. "[Just] take the ball pen now!"
Saturday, April 12th. Training room. The lessons take up to three hours. I read about potential trouble sources (me) and supressive persons (my girlfriend and everbody critic of scientology). Course leader Reinhold is questioning a child. How old may it be, eight years? But it is stubborn, so they have to isolate it and bring it into another room. I see kids here more frequently. Sometimes they belong to staff and sometimes to parents that study here. If have to think about Carina's gaze, when I was signing the contract last Thursday. Of course it would have been possible for me to just leave. This is the only way. But I wanted to see how far they will go. The look Carina gave Cornelius. Stone cold. Hard. It wasn't about me. It wasn't about "total freedom and immortality," that Scientology pretends to give to mankind. I was only a number, a conclusion of a contract. How does someone feel that falls into scientologys trap?
Tuesday, April 15th. Sörens office. Carina is talking to me.
"When are you able to start?"
"Why not now?"
"I still have stuff to do."
"I want you to start now!" Carina is grabbing a piece of paper. I told her that I have a new job at the Unversity. Four days a week 8 hours each day. She draws a couple of quick lines on the paper with the ballpen and my new shedule is ready. I'm to work for 52.5 hours a week beside of the job at the university. Salary? She can´t say how much exactly. She gets 50 Euros, at the moment. Sörens enters the room. Both start to grill me. At the end they get me to enter the years in the contract , that I pledge myself to work for Scientology. Allegedly I have the choice between 2.5 and 5 years, as I write 2.5 years Carine smiles and says,"You will enter 5 years on Monday."
A short time later executive director Irmi Tjarks enters the office. I think to myself that this looks as if it is arranged that way. She says that we have to rescue the planet, who else will do that?
"You know," she says, "this is like rescuing a drowning man that doesn´t want to be rescued, but you do it anyway." The Scientologists are laughing. I starting to think how my life will look in like in 2.5 years if I had done this for real if I had obligated myself for real.
Monday April 21st. A traditional Bar in Berlin "House of 100 Beers." I can´t go on. How long can you stand the pressure before you break, mentally, and you start to become another person? Half a year, one year? Today is gonna be the last day I will meet with them. Carina is dropping by to "handle" my girlfriend. Corinna is with her. Carina tells me that Berlin shall raise in the internal structure of scientology and be on one level with Copenhagen, the European headquarter of Scientology. To do so they need 55 more staff members. They already got 125. They want to do this until the 6th of june.
They admit me into their confidence. "We have really good contacts," they say quietly, "not only actors, but also politicians. They only wait for a sign that we are proceeding, and that they can emerge from the shadows." Who knows which of these claims are true. Scientology masters PR not only in public but also on the inside of the organisation.
When Sandra arrives we lean back again. Sandra asks questions and the two girls laugh – and lie.
"You can heal diseases?"
"Bullshit, no-one tells that."
"They are lying."
Then they try to lure Sandra into the Org. Sandra resists and says that she doesn´t want to. That she ain't got time and that the numerous phone calls piss her off. Carina and Corinna just put their hands under their chins and nod nicely. Obviously they have the feeling to at least have me under control.
Sandra gets up. "You know what I think of that" she says to me and leaves. We planned it that way Sandra is being acted by a colleague. Corinna says I have to go to the org immediately to become "stable." They want to drill me so I can handle Sandra when I come home. They want to show me how "assistance" works. It's a psychological method that I should use on Sandra. It worked with Corinna's boyfriend as well.
Carina plants seeds of doubt. "Did you ever think that your girlfriend is cheating on you?" I take a look at both of them. How can it be that two 19-year old girls are trying to destroy my relationship, to break me mentally and financially try to ruin me while they are smiling?
The light catches Carina's blond hair. The 19 year old girl shows her teeth while smiling and says: "We're like Rottweilers, we won't let go."
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