Victims in Germany
1. Groups most victimized by crime.
Information on German crime victimization is
collected by the police and various victimization
studies. The results of a nationwide victimization
study conducted by the Criminological Research
Institute in Niedersachsen are expected to be
published by 1995. Pitsela (1988) has conducted
one of few victimization studies comparing
victimization rates between Germans and Greek
inhabitants. Victimization studies are conducted
on a limited, irregular, and often regional basis
(Boers, 1991; 34).
Official police statistics provide
information on victims according to sex and age
(age groups are divided into children (Kinder,
under 14), youths (Jugendliche, 14-18), young
adults (Heranwachsende, 18-21) and adults
(Erwachsene, 21-60, and 60 and over). The age
group 21-60 categorically accounts for the highest
percentage of victims. (PKS 1991, 1992; 53).
Males outnumber females as victims for the
crimes of murder, manslaughter, robbery, battery,
and battery resulting in death. Female victims
outnumbered males in the categories of sexual
offenses. While the age group 21 to 60 accounted
for the most victimizations for murder,
manslaughter and robbery, the rates for youths and
young adult victims increased dramatically in the
crime categories of rape and unlawful sexual acts.
Elderly victims (60 and older) accounted for a
higher percentage (even compared to youths and
young adults) for the categories of murder,
manslaughter and robbery and aggravated battery
resulting in death. While offender statistics are
available for ethnic minorities, no such
victimization statistics are available.
2. Victims’ assistance agencies
Note: See Eisenberg, pages 1003 and 1004 for a more
detailed description of victims’ assistance
a. Weisser-Ring (White Ring) is a national
victims’ assistance agency providing a victims
toll-free hotline and 300 satellite offices
nationwide. The organization provides advice,
assistance and financial support to aid in the
legal situation and social restoration of crime
victims. It is supported through voluntary workers
and financed through membership fees,
contributions and money from fines (Weisser Ring,
Presseinfo, Helmut Rster, Pressesprecher, Weisser
Ring, Weberstraáe 16, 6500 Mainz-Weisenau,
Deutschland; information packet sent by the Public
Relations Officer of the Weisser Ring).
b. Opferhilfe e. V., the Victims’ Assistance
Organization, a national organization, is
concerned with assisting the crime victim.
However, emphasis is placed on reaching an
agreement between the offender and victim
(restitution) and assisting in resocialization.
c. Victims of traffic accidents in which the
offender has fled are assisted by the national
Verkehrsopferhilfe e. V., the Traffic Victims’
Assistance Organization, which is funded through
sources from mandatory car insurance (Kerner,
d. Individual jurisdictions have established
houses for battered women, crisis centers for rape
victims, womens’ self-help groups, and
Kinderschutzzentren (Centers for the Protection of
Children) where children who are the victims of
personal crimes can turn for assistance.
By order of German law, all people have
health insurance. In cases of victimization,
health insurance pays for medical costs. In
addition, the insurance companies may also be made
to pay for emotional damages (Schmerzensgeld).
Additionally, restitution provides another
opportunity to compensate the victim. Restitution is a
sentence handed down by the court requiring the
payment by the offender to the victim to
compensate the victim for losses suffered.
3. Role of victim in prosecution and sentencing.
The victim’s role is limited to the ability
to act as an accessory to the prosecution in
situations in which the prosecutor would not
normally bring a case to court. In limited cases
(libel, slander, trespass, simple assault and
battery) the injured party may seek an indictment
without having to rely on the prosecutor’s office.
In fact, if the victim fails to initiate action,
no action will be taken by the prosecutor’s
office. The injured party takes over the role of
the Public Prosecutor’s Office (StPO, ss 395 et
seq). The victim plays no role in the sentencing
of the offender.
4. Victim’s rights legislation.
Legislation which considers the role of the
victim in the criminal justice system includes:
a. The Federal War Victim’s Maintenance Act
(Bundesversorgungsgesetz), designed to financially
compensate victims of war for medical problems,
loss of work, or loss of living quarters. Victims
of violent acts are entitled to the same
compensation under this law as are victims of war.
It has largely been expanded by the Victim
Compensation Act (Bundesministerium for Arbeit und
Sozialordnung, 1992; 2).
b. The Victim Compensation Act
(Opferentsch„digungsgesetz), provides financial
awards to victims of violent crimes who have
suffered lasting physical and financial hardships.
Monthly pensions are paid which provide for
medical treatment and vocational rehabilitation
(Villmow, 1991; 69).
c. The Victim Protection Law (Opferschutzgesetz)
(BGBl. I S. 2496), passed by the government in
1986, requires judges to consider the attempt made
by the offender in providing restitution to the
victim when contemplating the severity of the
sentence (Jescheck, 1991; XIV).
Note: this work was completed in 1993
- Criminal Justice
- Legal System
- German Criminal Justice System
- Eser, Albin, “A Century of Penal Legislation in Germany” in Old Ways and New Needs in
Criminal Legislation, Eser, Albin and Thormundsson (Eds.), Max-Planck-Institut: Freiburg, 1989, pp. 26.
- “Federal Republic of Germany, The”, International Criminal Police Review, ICPO-INTERPOL, July-August 1987, Number 407, pp. 9-12.
- Heinz, Volker G., “Germany” in EC Legal Systems: An Introductory Guide, by Sheridan, Maurice and Cameron, James (eds.), Butterworth and Co., Ltd.: London, 1992, pp. Germany iii – Germany 60.
- International Criminal Police Review, “The Federal Republic of Germany”, Number 407, July-August 1987, Saint-Cloud, France; 9-12.