After a series of sprawling incest scandals grabbed international headlines, the world wondered: How can the birth of multiple children of incest occur in a community, without anyone noticing or lifting a finger to stop it?

Sometimes the answer is "dungeon." Other times, slave-like power dynamics. In a new case from Germany, however, "everyone" noticed the suspicious sexual dynamic—and proceeded to spend 34 years laughing it off. German magazine Süddeutsche Zeitung reports,

A 69-year-old man from the village of Willmersbach had incestuous relations with his daughter over the space of 34 years and fathered three handicapped sons by her. The woman's fourth child was fathered by her uncle—the father's brother. The information was given to Süddeutsche Zeitung by the father's lawyer, Karl Herzog, who stressed that his client—who has been charged with rape—claimed that the sexual relations with his daughter were consensual.

[Mayor Jürgen] Mönius conceded that, along with the startling resemblance of the woman's sons to their grandfather and absence of a known father, there was the one sighting that could have pointed to something. "Ten or 15 years ago" a hunter in the woods some 10 km from Willmersbach reported having seen father and daughter in flagrante in a car.

"Everyone talked about it," says one village resident. "And everyone joked about it," says a woman standing next to him.

So why didn't they do anything? Just your usual combination of fear of negative repercussions, and the bystander effect:

And through all those years it hadn't occurred to anybody to report this? The mayor, who lives in Willmersbach, says that he knows of no one who might have informed authorities. He and others "actually weren't under the impression" that the daughter was being forced to do something against her will. [...] "You don't want to be sued for libel," Mönius says, and anyway the family had a lot to do with local authorities.

Mönius notes that "a lot of people here" are now wondering why they never bothered to "ask some hard questions" about their hometown's most perverse punchline. So, in case you are in the mood to ruminate on the eternal human marvel that is collective inaction in the face of evil! There you go. [WorldCrunch, video report via DAPD]