Konrad Aigner: the curious death of the ideal Scientologist
September 23, 2010
Konrad Aigner, who died in Munich in 1997, aged 43, was one of the six children of a small farmer who lived in Weiler Ruhmannsaigen, Rottal, in southern Germany. The only unusual aspect of his life was his 23-year involvement with Scientology. The only puzzling feature of his life was the way he died. His family say, with good reason: ‘Scientology ruined his life, and ours’.
Konrad was not wealthy but in other ways he was the ideal recruit: ‘a naive, trusting, inexperienced farmer’s son, who had no idea of what the world was like’. He became a member of the Scientology cult sometime after 1976 when he moved to Munich to take up a job as a bus driver. His family knew about his connection with Scientology but never discussed it with him and had no idea how involved he was. In 1995 Konrad unexpectedly moved back to the family farm. He had given up his job and bought a second-hand bus. He told his mother that driving his own bus would enable him to earn more money and move up the Bridge more rapidly. To cross the Bridge to Total Freedom is the goal of every keen Scientologist. It is a very expensive process, currently believed to cost US$360,000. It is also a totally spurious process, leading not to Total Freedom but to Total Disillusionment, as several OT8s have stated in no uncertain terms.
Konrad’s bus-hire business thrived but in 1996 his family noticed that he had changed. Normally cheerful and easy-going, he had become tense, nervous and preoccupied. His family attributed this to the worries of self-employment but still did not understand how deeply involved he was with Scientology and or how auditing can raise spectres to haunt the most balanced mind. A friend reports that in 1996 Konrad tried to leave the sect. He had come to see what they were doing to him and he did not like it. Then things apparently improved. But again, early in 1997, he told his mother he wanted to get out of Scientology: he had learned something so terrible that it would kill her to hear about it. Bearing in mind that Konrad was a simple soul, not stupid but limited in his experience and education, this terrible secret was probably not a real event. It was more likely to be an imaginary memory of the kind created under the hypnotic conditions of auditing and presented, not as a nightmare, but as a real memory of some dreadful crime in a previous life. In fact the cult did not let him go. Konrad remained actively involved with Scientology until his death a few months later.
Konrad died in August 1997, after several weeks in a coma. There can be no question of murder or suicide but a great mystery nevertheless remains. He was only 43, he had very moderate habits, and he had always lived a healthy active life. On Thursday 17 July 17 1997, Konrad responded to a phone call, evidently from the CoS, and drove his bus to Munich. He was sweating and shaking but he stayed on in Munich until Monday July 21. By then he felt so ill that he cancelled a booking for the following Saturday. Nevertheless that same day he drove a party of Scientologists to Frankfurt to take part in a demonstration for religious freedom. On his return to Munich on the evening of 21 July he was at last taken to hospital where he fell into a coma. The Scientology center in Munich at first lied to the family about his condition, and then fobbed them off with ‘nice words’.
Whatever caused his death certainly happened within the Munich Org. No-one has ever doubted that it was his involvement with Scientology which, one way or another, led to his premature death. It may be significant that vitamins were found among his possessions after his death. Konrad died of multiple organ failure – his heart, lungs and stomach had all stopped working. The autopsy report notes that their condition was abnormal for a man of his age. No answer to this mysterious collapse has so far been offered. However it can be attributed directly to the notorious and dangerous Scientology practice known as the Purification Rundown or Purif. This unscientific process, invented by L Ron Hubbard, involves overdosing on vitamins and spending many hours for several consecutive days or even weeks, in a very hot sauna.
Prolonged exposure to abnormally high temperatures is known to cause ‘heat exhaustion’ or general soft tissue damage and ultimately death. Multiple organ failure is a feature of severe or repeated heat exhaustion. An individual can survive a single episode and be apparently in normal health if given the proper emergency treatment but he remains vulnerable to even a modest rise in body temperature, perhaps for the rest of his life.
A case in point is the death in 1998 of Army cadet Graham Holmes after several weeks in a coma. Mr Holmes had gone back into training only nine months after a previous collapse from heat exhaustion and died after collapsing without warning on a training run. In his case, also, the cause of death was widespread and irreversible organ failure. Up to that point he appeared to have returned to normal health.
I believe Konrad’s death resulted from a number of episodes of heat exhaustion following repeated Purification Rundowns. If he had prolonged his ‘purif’ or repeated it too often, this would produce exactly the symptoms found at his death. No other explanation has ever been offered. He was already sweating and shaking before he left for Munich, which suggests that much damage had already been done. As in other Scientology deaths we can point to the cult’s negligence, arrogance, irresponsibility, and a lack of the normal care due to one human being from another.
Worse was to come
Konrad’s bizarre death was a severe blow to his family but it was not the last calamity inflicted on them by the cult. If his experience of Scientology had taxed Konrad beyond his physical capacity, to the extent of eventually killing him, it had equally taxed him financially. This simple bachelor who lived at home, worked hard, lived frugally, and never went on holiday, left huge debts. His brother Bernard calculated that during the last few months of his life Konrad had paid the cult 70,000 marks and estimated that his total payments over the years had been at least 600,000 marks. Not only his own savings but those of his family members had been given to Scientology. To repay his loans his brothers and sisters had to sell their land. The only thing they managed to save was their parents’ house, and a useless e-meter for which their brother had paid 8,000 marks.
‘We cannot bring Konrad back to life, but maybe he can serve as a warning to others.’
Gerhard Huber ‘The Puzzling Death of Konrad Aigner’, Passau New Press, February 14 1998.
alt.religion.scientology 14 November 1998. http://cisar.org
Death of Army Cadet from Heat Exhaustion