Which person in history has had the saddest life?

I think the little boy in this photograph takes the cake. His name? Henk Heithuis. And I am warning you ahead of time, his story is absolutely gruesome and terrifying. Heithuis was born in the Netherlands in 1935 and placed in the foster system, to be cared for by Catholic priests. Now priests had a tendency to abuse young children under their care, and there have been many such cases… but Heithuis was not like most victims… he was about to go public.

Usually, the abuse was quietly pushed aside, shrugged off, swept under the rug. It’s been that way for centuries. Victims stayed quiet out of shame and fear. Not Henk Heithuis. He decided to make a stand. For himself and for all those others he had known who were abused, molested, raped. So he went to the police, and officially accused the priests of sexual abuse. This was revolutionary, and absolutely unheard of in the 1950s!

What Heithuis had not anticipated, is the absolute cruelty and the far-reaching power of the institution he was about to face. Since he was still legally a minor at the time of the abuse, and at the time he made his accusation, Heithuis was still a ward of the state, unable to make his own decisions, the court argued.

He insisted, however, that he was raped. The priests then came forward and denied this. Instead, they instead, Heithuis was a homosexual boy who had “seduced the priests”, can you imagine their audacity? The young victim vehemently denied the accusations, maintained he had been raped and that he was, in fact, heterosexual — he even had a girlfriend he hoped to marry as soon as he reached the age of maturity.

The church, however, had quite a bit of influence with the courts. They convinced them that Heithuis was, in fact, homosexual. And in the 1950s, homosexuality was still illegal in the now-so-liberal Netherlands. The treatment consisted of either years in an institution, chemical castration, or physical castration… with Heithuis, no rebuttal was allowed, no second opinion considered and no option given — he was to be castrated immediately. Which he was.

They drugged the teenaged abuse victim, drove him to a clinic down South and strapped him to a table where they surgically gelded him. After the operation they kicked him to the curb… Heithuis was broken. Mentally. Physically. He abandoned his friends and his fiancée and became a sailor. He made it as far as Japan, when he broke down and, when on shore leave, found his way to the Dutch embassy. Here, he told his story to a diplomat who took pity on his fate. He even showed his scars, and explained how his hormones were now out of control, his body no longer felt like his and he was suicidal.

“Please tell my story…” Heithuis insisted, “make notes, remember it. They may come for me. They may kill me.”

Surely it wouldn’t be so bad, his friend, Cornelius Rogge, assured him. Surely they would not have him killed. How could they? But Heithuis was sure of it. Arrangements were made with the shipping company to have him brought back home to his country.

When he returned, Heithuis, helped by his friends who knew his story, once again pressed charges. This time for forcible castration, lying about his sexuality and mental health problems as well as slandering his good name. Still a fiery chap, still refusing to surrender, he wanted justice, he wanted his good name restored.

But in 1958, shortly after pressing charges? Henk Heithuis got into a car accident and died on the spot. The police conviscated all his personal belongings and material provided to them by the deceased. All material was destroyed on the day of his death.

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