Orientation festival at Graefenthal monastery uncertain after police raid

20 Nov 2020

There is uncertainty about whether Radboud University’s orientation festival will be held at the Graefenthal monastery again next summer. Aside from the fact that a face-to-face event may not even be possible because of Covid-19, there is also the issue of the case involving the controversial Order of Transformants.

The religious group owns the monastery in Goch, where thousands of first-year Radboud students celebrated in 2018 and 2019. The German police raided the venue last month, freeing a 25-year-old woman who was allegedly held there against her will by the Order of Transformants. The 58-year-old leader of the Order, Robert B., was also arrested. In the weeks that followed, more and more facts emerged about the Order’s controversial past.

Robert B. was suspected of multiple sexual offences, two rapes, and deprivation of liberty. It also appears that members of the sect have been involved in attacks on critics in the past. In 2008, two members were accused of attempting to assassinate businessman Frits Bebelaar. The two were eventually acquitted on appeal in 2012. In 2014, sect member Erwin S. was convicted of stabbing former member Jeroen van Hasselt, who had heavily criticised the Order. Erwin S. returned to the Order after serving his sentence.

Jealous gossip

Monastery director Camiel Engelen has dismissed most of the stories as false and envious gossip or exaggerated scaremongering. According to Engelen, himself a member of the Order, Erwin S. had simply wanted to talk to Van Hasselt but the conversation had got out of hand. Engelen said that the recent raid relates to a failed love affair.

Radboud University rented the Graefenthal monastery, operated by the Order of Transformants as an events venue, for the 2018 and 2019 orientation festivals. This past year the orientation could not be held as it was in previous years, and it was cancelled altogether. It remains to be seen whether there will be future festival weekends in the German town of Goch.

‘No arrangements with the owners of the Graefenthal monastery’

In a short statement, the University stated that it is aware through the media of the German justice system’s investigation into someone involved in the Order of Transformants.

‘For the time being, we haven’t made any arrangements with the ADG Management Group GmbH, the owners of the Graefenthal monastery, about the 2021 orientation (the Group is headed by monastery director Camiel Engelen, ed.),’ a spokesperson commented. In early 2021 we’ll look into whether and where we can organise an orientation festival. All options are open. We’ll have been in touch with the German authorities by then if necessary.’

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