Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A prosecutor demanded jail time for two parents accused by German authorities of homeschooling their children, and he erupted in anger when the Nazi foundations of the ban on parents teaching their children at home was cited.
Juergen and Rosemarie Dudek of Archfeld, Germany, were given 90 days in prison last year because they homeschool their children. They received the sentence after prosecutor Herwig Mueller asserted it was the only sufficient punishment for the family’s “crime,” appealing a lower-court order to issue a fine.
Ultimately, the sentence was thrown out on a technicality, and the Dudeks now are revisiting the court process and Mueller’s renewed demands, according to the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Spokesman Mike Donnelly told WND the trial, which began Nov. 16, is to resume Wednesday with testimony from another witness. A court decision is expected as early as that day.
The Dudeks’ trial has been monitored by the HSLDA, which advocates for homeschoolers internationally and has played a key role is several homeschooling cases in Germany, where the activity has been outlawed since Adolf Hitler was in power in 1938.
The HSLDA said reports confirm the judge in the case has been trying to reach a compromise, but Mueller has vowed to appeal any sentence that does not include jail time.
During the previous trial, the prosecutor told the family, “You don’t have to worry about the fine, because I will send you to jail.”
Armin Eckermann, chief of the homeschool organization Schuzh, has attended the trial. He told HSLDA the judge said he thought a jail sentence was too harsh for the Dudek family, but the prosecutor “took a hard line.”
In Germany, many Christian families object to the public-school system because it advocates for sexual and social activities that conflict with biblical teachings. The sex-education program, for example, is explicit.
Mueller also erupted when Dudek asked local school officials called to testify if they knew the current laws that criminalize homeschooling are based on laws from 1938.
“All those Nazi laws have been suspended, and this one is democratic, and you’ve got to accept it, and that’s it,” Mueller argued loudly, reports said.
Dudek said the facts don’t support the claim.
“The ‘Schulpflicht’ – the laws that require school attendance – are on the books in the German states,” he said, “and have been traced back to the ‘Reichsschulpflicht Gesetz’ [federal compulsory attendance laws] which was passed in 1938. Except for the removal of references to the Nazi party, these laws are identical or substantially the same as the laws passed by Hitler’s government, criminalizing parents who keep their children home for school.”
Practical Homeschool Magazine has noted one of the first acts by Hitler when he moved into power was to create the governmental Ministry of Education and give it control of all schools and school-related issues.
In 1937, the dictator said, “The youth of today is ever the people of tomorrow. For this reason we have set before ourselves the task of inoculating our youth with the spirit of this community of the people at a very early age, at an age when human beings are still unperverted and therefore unspoiled. This Reich stands, and it is building itself up for the future, upon its youth. And this new Reich will give its youth to no one, but will itself take youth and give to youth its own education and its own upbringing.”
Wolfgang Drautz, consul general for the Federal Republic of Germany, commented previously on the issue, contending the government “has a legitimate interest in countering the rise of parallel societies that are based on religion.”
Drautz said schools teach socialization, and as WND reported, that is important, as evident in the government’s response when a German family in another case wrote objecting to police officers picking their child up at home and delivering him to a public school.
“The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling,” said a government letter in response. “You complain about the forced school escort of primary school children by the responsible local police officers. … In order to avoid this in future, the education authority is in conversation with the affected family in order to look for possibilities to bring the religious convictions of the family into line with the unalterable school attendance requirement.”
Donnelly says the German characterization of homeschooling as a “parallel society” isn’t accurate, either.
“Homeschoolers are definitely a distinct social group but are not a ‘parallel society’ the way the German courts are trying to use the term,” Donnelly said. “The irony of German court decisions is their position that the state must teach ‘tolerance for diversity’ by forcing children into public schools and stamping out a diverse form of education recognized in all other Western democracies as a legitimate educational approach. Pluralism is supposed to stand for distinctive groups living peacefully together.”
HSLDA has reported the Dudeks believe homeschooling their children is the right thing to do, and they are determined to resist laws barring them from home education.
“The judge gave me an opportunity to discuss my reasons for homeschooling, for which I am grateful.” Dudek told HSLDA. “But he told us that the constitutional court has already ruled on the issue of whether homeschooling is allowed. However, our lawyers were able to show evidence that the state had not honored their commitment not to prosecute us while our application to become a private school was pending.”
The testimony that remains to be heard is from a former prosecutor who volunteered to suspend any action against the family while their application to be a private school was processed.
“God has given us the strength to see us through this,” Dudek told HSLDA. “We were grateful, and gave thanks at the end that there was still more to come with another day of testimony.”