What Happened to Kalinka Bamberski?
The story begins in October 2009, with the kidnapping of Dieter Krombach, who was suspected of murdering his French stepdaughter, Kalinka Bamberski, 27 years earlier, in Germany. Krombach, a German doctor, had been convicted in absentia in a French court in 1995 on the basis of tissue samples that indicated Kalinka had been raped and then given a fatal injection. But the German government claimed the evidence was inconclusive and refused to extradite him. - Joshua Hammer
This piece is an excerpt from “The Kalinka Affair” by Joshua Hammer. The full ebook single is available for sale from The Atavist, through Kindle Singles, iBooks, The Atavist app, and other outlets via The Atavist website.
The abduction of Dr. Dieter Krombach began in the village of Scheidegg, in southern Germany. His three kidnappers punched him in the face, tied him up, gagged him and threw him in the back of their car. They drove 150 miles, crossing the border into the Alsace region of France, with Krombach stretched out on the floor between the seats. The car stopped in the town of Mulhouse. An accomplice called the local police and stayed on the line just long enough to deliver a bizarre instruction: “Go to the rue de Tilleul, across from the customs office,” the anonymous caller said. “You’ll find a man tied up.” A few minutes later, two police cars arrived at the scene, their red and blue patrol lights illuminating the street. Behind an iron gate, in a dingy courtyard between two four-story buildings, Krombach lay on the ground. His hands and feet were bound and his mouth was gagged. He was roughed up but very much alive. When the police removed the covering from his mouth, the first thing he said was “Bamberski is behind it.”
The French septuagenarian André Bamberski to whom Krombach referred was, on the face of it, an unlikely kidnapper. Until 1982, he had been a mild-mannered accountant and the adoring father of a lively young girl, Kalinka. That year, Kalinka attended a French-language high school in the small German city of Freiburg as a boarder and spent most weekends and summers in nearby Lindau, with Bamberski’s ex-wife and her new husband, Dieter Krombach. On the cusp of 15, she was extroverted and pretty, with full lips and blond hair falling in bangs over her blue eyes. But she was also homesick; she barely spoke German, though she lived in Bavaria. She was looking forward to August, when she would move back in with her father in Pechbusque, a suburb of Toulouse.
On Friday, July 9, 1982, Kalinka Bamberski windsurfed on Lake Constance, the sweep of clear blue water edged by the Alps and shared by Germany, Austria and Switzerland. At around 5 o’clock, she returned home, tired and, according to her stepfather and mother, complaining that she felt unwell. The family sat down to dinner at 7:30. Kalinka went to bed early, rose to drink a glass of water at 10 p.m., and, according to her stepfather, read in her downstairs bedroom until midnight, when he asked her to turn off the light.
The following morning, at around 9:30, the 47-year-old Krombach, wearing equestrian clothes for his morning ride through the nearby mountains, came downstairs and attempted to wake his stepdaughter. He found her lying in bed, on her right side, dead—her body already becoming stiff with rigor mortis. Krombach would later tell medical examiners that he attempted to revive her with an injection, directly into her heart, of Coramin, a central-nervous-system stimulant, and doses of two other stimulants, Novodigal and Isoptin, in her legs. But he was hours too late. An autopsy would put the time of death at between 3 and 4 a.m.