“You are nothing; you can do nothing; you will become nothing.” This is how many former Verdingkinder (Eng.: children for hire) describe the feeling that was conveyed to them in their childhood years. Until the late 1970s, children were “hired out” in Switzerland. The authorities took them away from their parents, for instance when they were too poor to raise children on their own. Poverty was considered an individual failing and represented a danger to the good of the community. It was thought that poor mothers and fathers would have a negative influence on their children. Illegitimate children, and those whose parents had divorced, were affected particularly frequently. These children and teenagers were accommodated in homes, but primarily on farms, where they were to learn to work. However, they were often exploited, beaten and abused. Assaults were seldom followed up, not least because the foster families were poorly monitored by the authorities. Corinna Guthknecht met three Verdingkinder, who tell their story.
*1989 in New Zealand After completing her studies of Journalism and Communication Studies in Zurich, Corinna Guthknecht devoted herself from 2015 until 2018 to the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography programme at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts, where she earned a master’s degree in Design and Media. Her photojournalism work concentrates primarily on the topics of identity and dance. She works as a freelance journalist for media such as Gruner + Jahr, DER SPIEGEL and the Bavarian Journalists’ Association. Since July 2018, she has been undergoing an internship at the Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich. www.corinnaguthknecht.com
*1987 in Traunstein, Germany
Josef Wirnshofer studied Cultural Sciences, Politics and Philosophy at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. He is a graduate of the German School of Journalism and has been working as an editor at the Süddeutsche Zeitung since 2017. www.sueddeutsche.de/autoren/josef-wirnshofer-1.4670063