Wild revelations about Herlufsholm: ‘It is almost a sadistic culture’

“I wake up to being held down. “Someone is holding my eyes, and then someone is holding my legs and arms, and then someone is sticking a finger in the back of me.”

This is one of the shocking descriptions in TV2s new documentary ‘Herlufsholm’s Secrets’, which gives an insight into a gruesome and harsh side of the elite boarding school Herlufsholm, which is accused of trying to put a lid on things. Now the principal is responding to the accusations.

The above account comes from a former student at Herlufsholm near Næstved, who for many centuries has attracted the absolute elite.

Among the former students are bumblebee director Christian Stadil, the former baroness Caroline Fleming, the royal family’s friend count Bendt Tido Wedell and Prince Nikolai, while the crown prince couple’s son Prince Christian is the current student at the school.

Herlufsholm School and Estate.

Herlufsholm School and Estate.
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen

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But the school is not only distinguished by providing young people with a good education. It apparently also hides a dark secret. An environment where children and young people for decades have been humiliated, bullied and exposed to both violence and sexual abuse.

The student behind the said statement would like to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. And so will the majority of the almost 50 former students that TV 2 has spoken to as well.

Several of them tell how their former classmates have now become big and significant people in business, and how it can hit them hard if they stand out.

“There is almost a sadistic culture at school. It’s piss fat to make each other cry and demean each other, ”says another anonymous student.

'Herlufsholms Hemmeligheter' will be shown on TV2.

‘Herlufsholms Hemmeligheter’ will be shown on TV2.

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The documentary shows how there is apparently a tradition at school for the older students to more or less systematically beat the younger students.


For example, a student recounts how the older students could pick out a random younger student and play ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’. And if you answered wrong, you got a bank. In one case, the student was so beaten that he could not even crawl into a corner.

Two former students named Peter and Christopher have chosen to come forward with name and picture and tell about rough episodes that they have witnessed in recent years. Peter, who only appears by first name, calls Herlufsholm’s environment ‘very destructive and very exclusive’.

Herlufsholm School and Estate at Næstved.

Herlufsholm School and Estate at Næstved.
Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen

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Bullying researcher Helle Rabøl Hansen, who has a PhD. and lawyer and among other things is a member of the Mary Foundation’s expert panel, has for many years heard shocking stories from Herlufsholm. She is shocked by the new stories:

‘It paints the picture of an exclusionary hierarchy. If you do not adapt, then you are doomed, and then you get a position that can be called social death, “she says in the documentary, where she also says that the cases you have heard about are probably only the top of the iceberg.

In the documentary, several of the former students accuse the management of knowing about the problems of violence and sexual assault without doing enough about it.

According to several students, several episodes have not been reported to the police in recent years, although the school has otherwise been criticized by the supervision for bullying for not reporting the violence and assault cases to the police.

Rector Mikkel Kjellberg.

Rector Mikkel Kjellberg.
Photo: Tobias Kobborg

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Among other things, a rape report of a girl from 8th grade caused a stir in 2016. The school failed to report the case and let the girl have a medical examination until several days later. The charge ended up being dropped due to lack of evidence, and the girl’s mother complained about the handling, as she thought more traffickers were protecting the school’s reputation than her daughter.

According to the documentary, it seems that Herlufsholm is still trying to put a lid on some of the cases.

However, the school’s principal, Mikkel Kjellberg, rejects this to BT

“I can deny that we should have hidden at all or have an interest in hiding, concealing or even cheap if there are violations or violence at school. We are only interested in the students thriving. We will never accept violence or abuse or negative culture at school. And we do not recognize the image that the documentary is trying to paint. And we know that there are many examples that appear from past times. But having said that, one offended student is one too many, “says Kjellberg, who has been principal since 2019.

He states that the school is now launching an independent investigation into the conditions at the school.

In the documentary, several of the students’ experiences are described as some rituals that have taken place on Herlufsholm for many decades. What do you think?

“I do not recognize the image that violence should be part of the culture at school. We have had a few cases, and we have also had difficult cases, which you are just referring to, this school year, and there we have acted resolutely. And there is no one who should be in doubt that you will do the same in the future if there are difficult cases, if there are cases. “

“If I get my will, then there should not be a single one of these kinds of cases at school. Every student should feel safe at our school. “

Mikkel Kjellberg will now look at whether some traditions need to be changed.

Mikkel Kjellberg will now look at whether some traditions need to be changed.

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Why have you not been able to put an end to this before? There have been cases before, and now there are some cases again?

‘We will now examine how the culture is at school. We have asked an external consulting firm to uncover the culture as it is now. They started in January immediately, they became aware of these conditions that appear in the documentary, “says Kjellberg and explains that since his inauguration as principal in 2019, he has launched a lot of initiatives to ensure well-being for ‘ to make a final showdown against the harsh culture of the past at school ‘.

He adds that the school will now also look at whether there are any of the old traditions that are too cross-border and need to be canceled or changed:

“There may be something where it suggests in the current cases here that we need to do more. We embark on a process where we revisit our traditions for the school to see if there is anything that needs to be done differently in terms of being aware of whether there are things that can support a perception that should be a violent culture or something inappropriate at our school. “

So you do not think we will hear about similar examples from Herlufsholm in the future?

“I certainly do not hope so. It must be the case that the school must be safe, but we are also ready to act decisively if cases should arise. There should be no doubt about that, “he says.

The documentary ‘Herlufsholms Hemmeligheter’ can be seen on TV 2 Play and on TV 2 on Thursday night.

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