Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The German Choirboy

Regensburg, Germany, Fall 1979

During my freshman year at Augustana College, I declared a major in English and Modern Languages and registered for advanced Spanish and French.  So when I had the opportunity to spend a quarter abroad during my sophomore year, you'd expect me to pick Spain or France, right?

No -- Germany.

It wasn't my fault.  I was taking first-year German, too, and the professor kept rhapsodizing over his trips to Germany: Munich, the Black Forest, the Rhine, Neuschwanstein Castle, Wittenberg, where Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses on the cathedral door.

So in the very busy summer of 1979, right after I got back from meeting the gay cannibal in Colombia, I started packing for Germany.  Six Augie students flew from Chicago to Frankfurt on August 19th, and then took the train south to the university town of Regensburg.

  We all took Intensive German and The Protestant Reformation, and for my elective I chose German Myths and Legends. Classes met in the morning, so we had the afternoons free for sightseeing, and there were weekend trips to Augsburg, Munich, and Salzburg.

As in Colombia, I didn't know how to meet gay people.  I didn't realize that Regensburg had several gay bars, or that Munich, an hour away by train, had a gay neighborhood full of bars, restaurants, bath houses, and community organizations.  But I found a gay guy anyhow.

Regensburg was predominantly Catholic, so I overcome my early religious training about Catholics being evil! evil! evil! and toured all the churches.  I toyed with the idea of converting, and started going to Mass at St. Peter's Cathedral, where I heard the famous boys' choir, the Domspatzen.

 There were about 80 of them, mostly little kids, but in the back row I saw some teenagers and young adults.  One caught my eye -- the tallest of the group, broad-shouldered, probably muscular, with a shock of unruly brown hair.  I thought he looked back, but I was probably imagining it.

The next day I went to the Musikgymnasium, the boarding school attached to the choir, said I was an American University student, and asked for a tour.  They summoned a boy my own age to show me around -- 18 year old Wolfgang (not his real name) -- the same one who caught my eye yesterday!  (Ok, it was actually the one standing next to him, but wouldn't that make a great story?)

Wolfgang showed me the classrooms where the younger kids were studying English, Latin, history, and science, the music rooms, the sports complex -- and the swimming pool.  I asked if there were any good places to lift weights in Regensburg -- the gym at the university was tiny --and he suggested the Reebok club.

We started going out regularly, mostly to museums and Catholic churches, sometimes to dinner, and eventually we ended up dating -- though we both had roommates, so we never spent the night together.

The Musikgymnasium
Wolfgang was in his last year in the Domspatzen -- next year he would be in the University, but he didn't want to study music.  He hated the Musikgymnasium, and especially the conductor, Father Ratzinger (brother of the future Pope).

"He treats us like animals.  Always shouting.  He threw me across the room once.  Paddling on the bare buttocks.  He caught me and another boy together once, and forced us to stand outside naked in the snow."

He didn't mention any sexual abuse, but there have been recent allegations against a teacher (not Father Ratzinger) by many former members of the Domspatzen, according to this article in Der Spiegel.

When I returned to America in November, I didn't want to become a Catholic anymore.  I started going to liberal Protestant churches, like First United Methodist, where  I met my boyfriend Fred the Ministerial Student.

I've lost touch with Wolfgang.  I hope he's out and proud now.

See also: Fred the Ministerial Student.

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