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2 Mar, 2017 14:16

Scientologist ‘mole’ in famed Munich art gallery prompts German intel probe

Scientologist ‘mole’ in famed Munich art gallery prompts German intel probe

Bavarian intelligence is inquiring into suspicions that Scientologists infiltrated the famous House of Art in Munich, built by a notorious Nazi architect. Critics say local authorities neglected the church’s activities there for over 25 years.

Bavaria’s department of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) is currently investigating whether the House of Art (Haus der Kunst) was infiltrated by Scientologists. The agency will specifically look at the head of the museum’s human resources department, who was in charge of employment and salary policies, and is apparently also a well-known Scientology member.

According to the newspaper, the man was employed by the House of Art in 1995, and was assigned an unusually large number of functions.

“Everything passes through his desk, almost all of us were hired by him,” a museum employee said.

The person in question has already been suspended, according to a statement from Okwui Enwezor, the museum’s director, who said the decision was made based on legal advice. The House of Art, he added, is keen to “reorganize, strengthen and professionalize” the position previously occupied by the man, in order to promote “our employees’ work and well-being."

The museum staff has long complained about the alleged Scientologist’s controversial policies. In 2014, employees set up a committee which began appealing to members of the museum’s supervisory board in the form of letters and private conversations. Two years ago, dozens of employees complained about the poor treatment of staff and extreme workloads.

Ludwig Spaenle, Bavarian interior minister and also a member of the supervisory board, confirmed to Sueddeutsche Zeitung that the regional security service is looking into the case. In the meantime, external management has been dispatched to investigate the administrative practices of the museum and make recommendations for reorganization. “We are more than aware of how serious the situation is,” Spaenle stated.

Isabell Zacharias, the culture spokesperson for the Social Democrats (SPD) in Bavaria, told the Local that the story stirs up much controversy because of the museum’s history. Built in 1933-1937 according to the plans of Paul Ludwig Troost – believed to be Hitler’s favorite master builder – it is known as the Third Reich’s first monumental structure of Nazi architecture

“And now there is a man in an important position there who belongs to an organization with fascist-like structures,” Zacharias said.

In a separate comment for Sueddeutsche Zeitung, she said the Scientologists’ “strong hierarchical structures,” which she compared to those of the Nazi Germany, had “obviously” affected the man’s management style. She also lambasted the Bavarian government’s reaction, describing it as “a scandal.”

“They have known for 25 years that a leading manager at the museum is a Scientologist,” she stated. “Even when there was an official complaint made to the museum board a year and a half ago [by the museum's employee committee], they did nothing,” she said, adding that the culture minister had “a very Bavarian attitude” of silencing the situation.

According to intelligence estimates quoted by DPA news agency, the Church of Scientology has around 1,200 members in Bavaria. Between 2009 and 2013, the number of members shrank by about 30 percent, with the figure remaining stable since then.