Ina Brockmann and Peter Reichelt
From: "Mannheimer Morgen"
July 28, 1998 [referring to March 3 incident]
Scientology Shows its True Face in "Happy Valley" California
TV reporters from Mannheim must fear for their own lives as they search for signs of missing Germans
by our editorial staff member, Stephan Tongi
Ina Brockmann and Peter Reichelt have had nothing to do with sheriffs since the cowboy and Indian games of their childhood. On this day, however, the natives of Mannheim received a letter at home from Larry D. Smith, the sheriff of Riverside County, California. The reason was that both freelance journalists were held by force on a public road for two and a half hours in the San Jacinto Mountains by members of the controversial Scientology organization last March. They had been filming a documentary about the organization's prison camp. Now the Scientology staff is being investigated for unlawful detention and unlawful coercion, as Reichelt told our paper. The primary accused include Ken Hoden, second man after David Miscavige in the organization, which has the word "church" in its official name, though only God knows why.
"The jig is up," shot through the heads of both Mannheim natives as it became obvious to them that they had been trapped. But one thing at a time. For years, Reichelt had been trying to show the true face of Scientology. In 1997 he published an explosive book which turned out to be one big accusation against Scientology starting from page one and going through page 489. In Spring he and his co-producer, Ina Brock, flew to the USA for a week to deliver the first photographs of the Scientologists' forced labor camp to the world. They had several names of Scientologists from their relatives in Germany, who had not seen any sign of life from them for years. Among them was Wiebke Hansen. She had been chief of the German offshoot of Scientology, and had apparently disappeared from the face of the earth in Fall of 1995.
In California, the native of Mannheim hired a cameraman, a former police sergeant, as well as a pilot together with his helicopter and headed out in the direction of "Happy Valley." Life in the valley is - in spite of the name - anything but happy. In his book, Reichelt cited sworn testimony given by a former presiding member of US Scientology in 1994 before a judge. Andre Tabayoyon was not only an adherent of the empty teachings of L. Ron Hubbard, but had even been his butler before he left the sect - as security director. He described the camp as comparable to "a type of gulag or concentration camp."
Several small, secret prison and work camps were supposed to be in the desert-like setting of "Happy Valley." According to Tabayoyon, high ranking Scientologists who had begun to doubt the teachings, as well as members of the Sea Organization elite unit, were interned there. Round the clock they were said to be under guard by armed watchmen who forced them to work. In addition, they underwent hours-long brainwashing sessions every day. Hubbard's son, Arthur, was said to have been hidden away in Happy Valley for a year after the death of his father, when Arthur had wanted to leave the "Sea Org." According to Tabayoyon, 60 children and youths as well as 30 adults live in the camps today.
Late in the morning of March 9, both of the curious Germans flew the 40 minutes from Palm Desert to the highly secret camp. From their lofty height, they spotted over 20 children and youth. "When the caretakers noticed our helicopter, they quickly drove the camp inmates into the barracks," said Reichelt. "They immediately put several jeeps in motion in order to follow us on the ground." Reichelt and his crew circled the area and let the cameras roll. Then they traveled back to the landing field. Somebody was already waiting for them...
By motor vehicle they traveled - pressed and pursued by four passenger vehicles and jeeps, photographed and filmed by Scientologists - back again in the direction of "Happy Valley." They drove past "Gold," the secret seat of Scientology Chief Miscavige in Gilman Hot Springs. The name, "Gold," comes from the fortune in gold bars which are stored underground there, and which are under heavy guard, according to Tabayoyon.
The Mannheim residents were driving through an Indian reservation on a public road. At that point, they recalled the warning given to them by the German consulate in Los Angeles that this area, "because of the trigger-happy Indians", should only be visited with bullet-proof vests. However, the danger was lurking elsewhere: suddenly Ina Brockmann had to stamp on the brakes - a yellow bulldozer blocked the road. To the right and left were large trees, so that there was no way of getting around it. Behind that were two automobiles. Brockmann tried to turn around, but the pursuers, along with a white delivery van, cut off her retreat. Men sprang out of the cars and surrounded the vehicle of the people who had intruded into the secret world of Scientology - who were travelling, as mentioned, on a public road. "You are Germans. You are all under arrest," screamed the ringleader, who turned out to be Scientology Vice-chief Ken Hoden. Along with five armed men, he tried to intimidate Brockmann and Reichelt. His purpose was to obtain the surrender of the videocassette. Hoden handed over his visiting card and asked what the reporters were looking for. "Scientologists who have disappeared without a trace, among them Wiebke Hansen," answered Brockman, "and we assume that she is in Happy Valley." Hoden confirmed the assumption, "Yes, she is here for rehabilitation."
Only he would not let anybody in to see her. One word led to another, until Hoden gave a warning to all Germans who enter the vicinity of the Scientology region, "All Germans will get the same as you have. Germany is our arch-enemy number one, especially here in California."
The psycho-terrorism with the unmistakable allusions to the clubs and pistols lasted for two and a half hours. Then the sheriff finally showed up. At first he believed Ken Hoden, who claimed that Reichelt had gone deep into their property and endangered the residents there. The Mannheim resident defended himself and told of the roadblock with the bulldozer - which had long since gone. It was not until Reichelt showed the sheriff the snapshots from his digital camera that the man with the star took Hoden along with three other Scientologists into custody - the others were able to talk their way out of it. Since they could prove they had a fixed address, they were let free.
Even after being let go by the sheriff, their adventures were still not at an end. Round the clock, Brockmann and Reichelt were shadowed in Los Angeles by four cars, who kept a distance of one meter and who shined their high beams. They managed to shake their pursuers with the help of the police. "For the first time in my life, I was afraid," admitted Peter Reichelt, "and I was with Dietmar Shoenherr in the war zone in Nicaragua." Today he admits, "I had completely underestimated the danger." He brought his film, which included shots of other penal camps in Hollywood near the Scientology Secret Service as well as in Clearwater, Florida, safely back to Mannheim. Sometime soon, ABC broadcasting in New York is going to show 60 minutes of it. The footage will also appear in the Fall on German television.
"I am certainly no James Bond, although I acted like one," said Reichelt. At least he had helped to let Wiebke Hansen's brother, Jochen, know that she was still alive. In the meantime, a postcard came from the USA, in which she wrote, "I am doing fine, don't worry, I'll soon be out when I make some progress." Then she gave a telephone number so that her brother can keep in contact with her. The number belongs to Mike Rinder, the Director of the notorious Scientology Secret Service in Los Angeles.