Letter Re: The Wild Boy of Germany–Fact or Fiction?


There has been a lot of news about an English-speaking boy who claims to have been living for five years along with his father, camping out undetected in the forests of Germany, south of Berlin. Is this fact, fiction, fantasy? – Calvin D.

JWR Replies: I was also contacted by ABC News about this, seeking an interview. I reminded them that this was actually a nine month -old news story, dredged up by Huffington Post. I did provide ABC with some background, which I will repeat here, to explain why I’m quite dubious of this boy’s story:

1.) A five day hike north to Berlin would have meant that he had been living in either the Federal state (“Land”) of Brandenburg or Sachsen (Saxony.)  As for “living in caves”, that is not karst (limestone) country.  No limestone means no extensive caves. There would just be a few rock fall (“slippage”) caves.  You mainly find limestone caves in central Germany and Southern Germany, and a few in Westfalia.  There are very few caves in Brandenburg or Sachsen.

2.)  The forests and wild game in Germany are extremely well-managed.  The notoriously observant Jagermeisters (game wardens) and land owners would have soon caught on to anyone illicitly camping out and harvesting game in forest lands for an extended period of time.  The over-managed monocultural nature of their forests (spruce and pine) do not lend themselves to supporting a high density or diversity of small game.

3.)  German forests are not like ours in America. Most forest lands are consistently kept looking downright park-like. Any dead fallen trees are almost immediately removed. The lack of deadfall and dead-standing cavity trees in German forests provides very little cover for small game.  This keeps the rabbit population relatively low.

4.) The same lack of deadfall and dead-standing cavity trees also provides little habitat for wood grubs and other edible critters. It is fairly difficult to “live off the land” in that sort of forest unless you are an expert with traps and snares and can set them across a wide area.

5.) The climate of northeastern Germany is fairly cold and snowy–usually around 120 days of snow. It is unrealistic to expect someone without substantial shelter to survive these winters without gathering large quantities of firewood.  (And again, how could that that done quietly without a copious supply of deadfall?)  A tent set up on warm ground near hot springs might be an option, but all of the springs (“Bads”) are well-known and frequented almost year-round by German hikers.

Note: The forests are not as well guarded or well-managed in the western reaches of the Czech Republic.  Perhaps if the boy claimed to have walked from there (five days of hard hiking, 20+ miles per day), then his story might have a shade more credulity, but even that would be a stretch.

The bottom line:  I think that the boy’s story is mostly fantasy.