Four children, ages 7 to 14, have been forcibly taken from their Darmstadt, Germany, home by police armed with a battering ram, and their parents have been told they won’t see them again soon, all over the issue of homeschooling, according to a stunning new report from the Home School Legal Defense Association.
HSLDA, the world’s premiere advocate for homeschoolers, said the family of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich has battled for several years Germany’s World War II-era requirement that all children submit to the indoctrination programs in the nation’s public schools.
The shocking raid was made solely because the parents were providing their children’s education, HSLDA said. The organization noted the paperwork that authorized police officers and social workers to use force on the children contained no claims of mistreatment.
“The children were taken to unknown locations,” HSLDA said. “Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children anytime soon.”
The raid, which took place Thursday at 8 a.m. as the children were beginning their day’s classes, has been described by observers as “brutal and vicious.”
A team of 20 social workers, police and special agents stormed the family’s home. HSLDA reported a Judge Koenig, who is assigned to the Darmstadt family court, signed an order authorizing the immediate seizure of the children by force.
“Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate ‘with the authorities to send the children to school,’ the judge also authorized the use of force ‘against the children’ … reasoning that such force might be required because the children had ‘adopted the parents’ opinions’ regarding homeschooling and that ‘no cooperation could be expected’ from either the parents or the children,” HSLDA said.
Dirk Wunderlich told the homeschool group: “I looked through a side window and saw many people, police and special agents, all armed. They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me. I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.”
His narration continued: “The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first. It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist. You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie. Our neighbors and children have been traumatized by this invasion.”
Human rights violations
Michael Farris, HSLDA founder, said in a report the actions violated a number of established European precedents, including provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.
“The right to homeschool is a human right,” he said, “and so is the right to freely move and to leave a country. Germany has grossly violated these rights of this family.
“This latest act of seizing these four beautiful innocent children is an outrageous act of a rogue nation.”
Farris said the U.S. Constitution is “not alone in upholding the right of parents to decide how to educate their children.”
“Germany is a party to numerous human rights treaties that recognize the right of parents to provide an education distinct from the public schools so that children can be educated according to the parents’ religious convictions,” he said.
“Germany has simply not met its obligations under these treaties or as a liberal democracy. HSLDA and I will do whatever we can to help this family regain custody of their children and ensure that they are safe from this persecution. This case demonstrates conclusively why the Romeike asylum case is so important. Families in Germany need a safe place where they can educate their children in peace.”
As WND reported, the Romeike case has been submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2010, an immigration judge granted asylum in the U.S. to the family, which fled Germany because their children were forced to go to public schools.
The Obama administration, unhappy with the outcome, appealed and obtained an order from a higher court that the family must return to Germany. The Obama administration has argued in court parents essentially have no right to determine how and what their children are taught, leaving the authority with the government.
See a report on the Romeikes
The German government already has confronted the Wunderlich family several times over homeschooling. Less than a year ago, a German court granted custody of the children to state youth officials.
However, government authorities at that time decided to leave the children in the family home because they were well-cared for.
WND reported the government told the family it had failed to meet the government's demands for "integration." The decision came from Judge Markus Malkmus, who ordered the children into the custody of the states' "child protective agency," called the Jugendamt.
The family earlier was subjected to an ordeal in France when police snatched the children from their home there, accusing them of "being alone."
At the time, two French social workers and two police officers appeared without notice at the home of Dominique Chanal in St. Leonard, France, where Dirk and Angela Wunderlich and their children were living.
The family had fled Germany because of a series of fines imposed for homeschooling. The children were released a short time later. But Dirk Wunderlich was forced last year to return his family to Germany because he could not find work elsewhere.
Wunderlich told Mike Donnelly, HSLDA director for international affairs, that he and his wife were devastated.
"These are broken people. They said they felt like they were being ground into dust. They were shaken to their core and shocked by the event. But they also told me that they had followed their conscience and the dictates of their faith," Donnelly said. "Although they don't have much faith in the German state – they have a lot of faith in God. They are an inspiring and courageous family.
Donnelly said his question to the political leadership of Germany is: "How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families?"
"Why is it so important to you to force people into your state schools? The echo of this act rings from a darker time in German history. When will leaders stand up and make changes so that brutality to children like the Wunderlichs no longer happens because of homeschooling? Isn’t there any German statesman willing to stand up for what is right anywhere in Germany?"
Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA his 14-year-old daughter was forcibly taken out of the home.
"When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched. I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen. They weren't being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said – 'it's too late for that.'"
After the children were taken, authorities "invited" the parents to a meeting with social workers. They were told they were not even being allowed an immediate court hearing on the status of the children.
Germany has a long history of persecuting homeschooling families.
It was in 1937 when Adolf Hitler 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."
Just a few years ago, a German government spokesman, Wolfgang Drautz, emphasized the importance of socializing children through public schools.
His statement followed a response from the German government to another family that objected to police picking up their child and delivering him to a public school.
"The minister of education does not share your attitudes toward so-called homeschooling," said a government letter. "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."
HSLDA previously has documented in the Konrad and Plett cases how the German government considers homeschooling to be child abuse, even though it is recognized as a right by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
HSLDA has warned that the behavior of German authorities is a foreshadowing of what American parents should expect if the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child ever is ratified in the U.S. Its concerns are detailed at the website Parental Rights.
In nearby Sweden, WND also reported a case in which authorities snatched a 7-year-old child from an airplane as the parents were moving to India so they could homeschool.
Swedish courts have ordered Dominic Johansson to be permanently separated from his parents, Christer and Annie Johansson.