STERN - Heft 25 - 10. Juni 1997
Titelstory über das neue Buch von Peter Reichelt
"Helnwein und Scientology - Eine Organisation und ihr Geheimdienst"
The Painter and the Sect
From: "STERN: Der Maler und die Sekte", "97/25"
June 10, 1997
A new book reveals that the Viennese painter, Gottfried Helnwein, in spite of his denials, is a leading member of Scientology. The sect is now under observation by the Office of Constitutional Protection, because it is possibly totalitarian, criminal and hostile to democracies,
by Andreas Hallaschka
Gottfried Helnwein really has it made. Museums all over the world display pictures by the native-born Viennese, who currently resides in a castle in Burgbrohl [Germany]. His posters are best-sellers everywhere. Famous theaters have him paint their stage scenery. The bald painter, who poses mainly with a long-haired wig, headband and sunglasses, is among the most internationally successful, German-speaking artists at age 48.
Helnwein has, over the years, used sworn testimony to successfully battle rumors that he belongs to the Scientology sect - which, per the decision of the Ministry of the Interior, is being observed by the Office of the Constitutional Protection nationwide, because it apparently pursues goals hostile to a democracy and has a totalitarian foundation. When the Frankfurt Superior State Court (OLG) [Oberlandesgericht] decided a year ago that Helnwein may even be designated as a "clergyman of the Scientology sect," this was "a catastrophe" for him, wrote Herbert Riehl-Heyse in the "SZ" [Sueddeutsche Zeitung]: "No museum, no gallery in Germany can allow themselves to work with him." Riehl-Heyse also thought that Helnwein was "not a clergyman of the so-called Scientology church, most certainly not."
Helnwein, who has chided the OLG judge as a "Nazi judge," and has appealed the decision in federal court, believes the entire thing is a "campaign led primarily by the Evangelical Church. It [the Evangelical Church] has been trying to use psycho-terrorism for years; it has a sort of secret service in Stuttgart, where it pays millions to spy on people all over the country." The Germans are said [by Helnwein] to need the phenomenon of a witch hunt. He stated, "They have tortured and burned hundreds of thousands of people in Germany. That's what they did with the Jews, too... Now they're fighting the Scientologists... Germany is an unpleasant country, an intolerant, fanatical country."
In interviews, he has continued to assert: "I am no Scientologist," "I shit on Scientology." He says he had only taken several courses with Scientology many years ago to come off of LSD and alcohol, and since then he has even proceeded violently against Scientology. However, because the Evangelical Church's "witch hunt" against him cannot be stopped, he will leave Germany. "I have already brought my children to safety."
Is Helnwein being used by the Scientologists, and has he been "fair gamed," as stated by the Green Party Bundestag Vice President, Antje Vollmer? Is the artist a victim of German sect hysteria?
A remarkable book has appeared this week, in which the unique biography of Gottfried Helnwein, the Scientologist, is told on 496 pages*. Peter Reichelt, who was an advisor to the artist from 1987 to 1994, describes in his book how Helnwein entered Scientology in the 1970's and married a highly trained Scientologist. He also reveals to which "safety" Helnwein has brought three of his four children: a private school of the sect and to their paramilitary "Sea Org."
Substantiated by numerous documents and writings, Reichelt describes how Helnwein was able to serve as a sect spy and a Scientologist for years without being recognized, while he cooperated with OSA, the sect secret service and fooled critics with possibly false sworn statements and kept his image as a persecuted innocent.
Today 39 years old, Reichelt has already made headlines on numerous occasions. In 1991 he made financial manipulations public to the disadvantage of Hessian radio, where he was the producer for the talk show "Zeil um zehn." The manager later resigned, and the auditing office did actually find numerous irregularities.
In 1994, Reichelt accused the actor and show host, Dietmar Schonherr, of embezzlement of donated money. Schonherr had founded a development assistance association for Nicaragua. Reichelt was a business manager at the time. The district court [Amtsgereicht] of Mannheim admonished Schonherr, in 1996, for related matters [Untreue per Strafbefehl].
Today, Reichelt is a promoter, journalist and publisher in Mannheim. In he book, he presents Helnwein as one of the most important men of the psycho-business. He writes about prison camps of the Scientologists, about illegal money laundering, and about tax evasion in the international network of the sect.
"I want the public to learn the truth about Gottfried Helnwein," said Reichelt, who had a falling out with the painter after both he and Helnwein published a book about Carl Barks, the Donald Duck cartoonist. That was the first time, Reichelt told STERN [a German magazine], that he experienced the dangerousness of the sect.
According to Reichelt's rendition [of the Helnwein story], Helnwein's Scientology career started 26 years ago in Vienna. In early Summer 1971, the struggling young artist got heavily involved with the almost unknown healing teachings of "Dianetics," [creation] of the American science fiction author, L. Ron Hubbard. By July, 1972, Scientology in Munch had already published Helnwein's name as a graduate of a "communications course."
Along with five co-students, he founded a discussion group of artists in Vienna. This groups culminated, in 1974, with the "founding, under the direction of Helnwein, of the Center for Art and Communication, ["ZKK", Zentrum fuer Kunst und Kommunication] which, to my knowledge, offered Scientology courses," said Ulrich Gansert, current assistant professor in Vienna, to STERN.
In the sect's hierarchy, Helnwein soon advanced to "clear" and then "operating thetan I," wrote Reichelt. That is part of a personal record which Helnwein published in his exhibition catalog in 1974.
One year later, the 27 year old Helnwein gave an interview to a Scientology magazine in Germany for the first time. "Scientology has brought about a consciousness explosion in me," he said. Question: "How long have you been in Scientology?" Helnwein, "Since 1972."
In Winter, 1975, writes Reichelt, Helnwein met the 22 year old Renate Buhre from Heilbroon, a psychiatric nurse and trained Scientologist. A short time later she was his wife. The couple had three children: Mercedes, Ali and Amadeus. The son Cyril came from her first marriage.
After the official opening of the "Art Center," Renate Helnwein gave Scientology courses there in 1976. This was confirmed to STERN by the Viennese author, Heinrich P. Steiden, "I really learned very little there about communication. It was more how to lie perfectly, how to manipulate your environment."
By the beginning of 1977, the ZKK was praised in a German Scientology magazine as one of the two "unique Scientology training centers" in Austria. "It is directed by the renowned painter, Gottfried Helnwein. In an area of 400 square meters, 12 staff members and 4 staff on half-days work on the attainment of highly-placed goals. Besides receiving training up to a Dianetics auditor, one can receive excellent auditing from a Class IX auditor there."
In Summer, 1977, Gottfried Helnwein went to the USA for seven months of "spiritual recuperation," according to Reichelt. That is where the sect's messiah Hubbard had opened his new "Flag" headquarters, in the small port city of Clearwater, Florida. Helnwein's "Art Center" on Singer Street in Vienna was disbanded. The course instructors and students moved to the painter's former residence.
In the ensuing years, Helnwein kept a low profile. As evidenced by a contract in Reichelt's book, he rented a castle in the village of Burgbrohl in December, 1984, from Marietta Kempe. Mrs. Kempe has been an "operating Thetan VIII" (OT VIII) since 1990, which is the highest step of the Scientology hierarchy, the same as held by Renate Helnwein. Mrs. Kempe's husband is Klaus Kempe, the Dusseldorf millionaire and real estate agent. He is a "patron" (donor of a large amount of money) and an "operating thetan."
16 months after the move into Burgbrohl, Renate Helnwein reported to the Kempes, whom she had also met in the "Flag" sect center in Florida, "Dear Marietta and dear Klaus, ... Surely you have heard what all has been happening around the castle. There is auditing here and courses two times a week."
In the internal charts of the Dusseldorf sect organizations, according to the statement of an ex-sect-member, the castle in Burgbrohl is a "city office," which ranked 9 out of 35 in recruiting Hubbard youths. Successful "field staff members" receive ten percent of all money which the future novices pay into Scientology.
In September, 1985, Gottfried Helnwein wrote a "knowledge report" to the police officers of the Hubbard headquarters in Florida, wrote Reichelt in his book. In in he blew the whistle on a friend who had visited Burgbrohl, because his [friend's] girlfriend was "constantly unsure in regards to Scientology."
These kind of tattling letters are compared by Renate Hartwig, critic of Scientology, to the secret police reports of the former East German system. Gudrun Derlin, the "unsure" girlfriend, told STERN that in early 1986, her lover was given the choice of "separation from Gudrun" and "being thrown out of the organization."
In 1988, Helnwein bought a villa with a beach and a pier, located just three kilometers north of the Hubbard headquarters in Clearwater. Later, Renate Helnwein took the "L10 Rundown" at the headquarters. This is a course which is reserved exclusively for the elite of Scientology, and which costs more than 70,000 marks ($50,000).
In 1990, the American Scientology magazine, "Celebrity", mentioned Helnwein - in the meantime he had reached the rank of "OT V" - as one of its major donors. Altogether, Helnwein's ex-advisor calculates in his book, the Helnweins have paid over 1.6 million marks to Scientology down through the years.
Helnwein maintained frequent contact with Alfred Biolek, who visited him at his castle. As the talk show host learned that Renate Helnwein knew the wife of Adnan Kashoggi, the arms dealer (she is said to have taken courses in the sect's headquarters in Florida), Biolek invited the Kashoggis to be on one of his broadcasts.
After one of Biolek's visits to Burgbrohl, Renate Helnwein proudly reported in a letter to a sect friend, which is cited by Reichelt in his book, "Gottfried is to be a guest in the Biolek broadcast, Scientology will be mentioned. Biolek was here, [he] is very positive! Renate." Helnwein was actually a guest on the broadcast of November 3, 1992.
During the time that Scientology President Helmuth Blobaum was testifying under oath that Helnwein was not a member of the sect, Reichelt quoted "a hand-written letter" from the international Scientology President Heber Jentzsch. "My dear friends Gottfried and Renate", reads the letter, dated Mary 27, 1993. In it Jentzsch describes how he has "thoughts" with one of the UN staff who is allied with the sect about the further development of Scientology in Germany, and which "special function" Helnwein will play in those. He signed off, "... much love, your Heber Jentzsch."
In June, 1993, Helnwein stated in the trade union paper "Arbeitnehmer" ("Employee"), that he would not subject his children to the "weak-minded system" of the schools in Germany and Austria. Instead of that, wrote Peter Reichelt in his book, they were brought to the USA and England to take various training and education courses of the sect, or to boarding schools, where the organization schooled its progeny elite. Cyril, the eldest Helnwein son, had enlisted in Spring, 1991, in the sect's "Sea Org," in which children and cadets are trained. In Fall, 1991, he was sent to the world headquarters in Los Angeles for further training.
It is no rarity, reports ex-Scientologist Martin Ottmann, who was a leading staff member of the Sea Org until the end of 1993, to have a ten year old child in the Flag center in Clearwater giving orders to a subordinate, some of whom are over 50 years old. It is very advisable to obey the instructions of these children, since stiff punitive measures are enforced otherwise. Numerous ex-members report of penal camps, which they call "modern concentration camps." The FBI has investigated in one case, because a former member gave sworn testimony that the sect gave him the assignment of killing critic[s] and apostate[s].
As Helnwein met with increasing suspicion of his being a Scientologist in 1993, he wrote to the German Scientology President Blobaum, "Dear Terminal" is what he wrote. He urgently needed a statement that he was not a Scientologist, he requested a meeting in order "to clear up a few important things," and asked, in closing, "Why have you really let Professor T. Gottschalk from Switzerland be publicly outed?"
Sat 1 [TV station] and "Bild" [magazine] had speculated that "T. Gottschalk" was the renowned TV moderator, whereupon Scientology made it clear that it was just a like-named Swiss man. This outing was not alright with Helnwein. He wrote, "This information only benefitted the enemy." Scientologists designate all opponents of the sect as "enemy."
Inquiries from journalists as to whether Helnwein was a member were apparently reported from the German Scientology secret service (OSA) directly to the artist. Helnwein was outraged, as shown by a hand-written note documented by Reichelt in his book, "Since our faxes are possibly being intercepted, in the future I want every Comm (communication) only via the OSA computer. That means no more faxes in clear text."
Four months after Helnwein appeared a second time with his friend Bio[lek] and presented himself as a persecuted innocent in October, 1996, Waki Zollner, long-time Scientologist from Gmund by Tegernsee, said "Yes" to the ARD magazine "Report": Helnwein was a Scientologist, Also, on January 15, 1997, the German Press Agency (dpa) reported out of Washington, "The Austrian artist, Gottfried Helnwein, had given officials of the American administration "a first-hand report about the shocking and painful discrimination that he, a Scientologist, has been subjected to in today's Germany."
STERN would have been happy to give the artist the opportunity of responding to the claims made in Reichelt's book. Gottfried Helnwein reacted to neither the questions sent to him from STERN over the fax machine, nor to inquiries left on his answering machine.
Sabine Weber, the speaker for the Scientologists in Germany explained that she could not answer questions as to individual membership. "Why don't you ask Gottfried Helnwein himself?" she asked.