At least 547 children in Germany's world-famous Regensburger Domspatzen boy's choir have been confirmed as victims of sexual and physical abuse, a report on one of the biggest Catholic abuse scandals in the German history showed on Tuesday.
There was for decades a "system of fear" with beatings and sexual abuse, Xinhua news agency cited the report, released after a two-year inquiry that spanned cases between 1945 and the early 1990s, as showing.
Seven years after the first cases became public, the report put the number of incidents of physical abuse at 500 and incidents of sexual abuse at 67.
The Roman Catholic diocese of Regensburg and the choir had subsequently assigned lawyer Ulrich Weber to conduct an inquiry into the scandal.
Some of the victims described their membership of the choir as the worst time of their lives and likened the experience to a "prison", "hell", and a "concentration camp".
An intermediary report in early 2016 had contained a much lower estimate of 231 abused children. The number of victims in the final report has now more than doubled.
Cases of abuse were particularly concentrated in the choir's pre-school. According to Weber, 49 suspects who stand accused of having perpetrated the crimes were identified after two years of investigation.
"The content of the documentation is hard," Ulrich Weber said. "Many affected former students described the period between 1945 and 1992 as the worst of their life, marked by violence, fear and helplessness."
Hundreds of former choir singers responded to requests for information. Those affected are to receive around 20,000 euros ($23,115) of compensation payments.
The bishop of Regensburg, Rudolf Voderholzer, apologised to victims in 2016. "I cannot make it undone, I can only ask the victims for forgiveness," Voderholzer then said.
Voderholzer's predecessor, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, was accused of having obstructed investigations into the scandal and claimed that the media was exaggerating the extent of abuse.
Former choir director Georg Ratzinger, the brother of Pope Benedict XVI, had denied any knowledge of sexual abuse.