The case of the German family whose children were forcibly removed from the family home – by special tactics officers armed with a battering ram – for being homeschooled is attracting hate mail from members of the German public, according to the international homeschool advocacy organization working with the Wunderlich family.
WND reported when four homeschooled children, ages 7 to 14, were forcibly taken from their Darmstadt, Germany, home and their parents parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, were told they won’t see the children again soon.
“Unbelievable. This could reasonably be viewed as terrorism by the state against its own citizens – something I know you yourself would decry and condemn in any other nation on this earth,” Mark Romanowitz told German embassy officials through the social media page.
But now the other side is voicing its displeasure with the family – and those trying to help them.
According to officials with the Home School Legal Defense Association, they received an email from a German resident who suggested that the parents, in fact, should be jailed until after their children finish their schooling.
Michael Farris, founder of the organization, said the email came from Stefan Schmidt, and said: “It is absolutely shocking and unacceptable what has happened here. Sorry, but I do NOT mean what happened in Germany, I meant your article. I have never read an amount of arrogant, ignorant and stuff like this.”
He continued, “It seems it only was written to gain attention for your questionable ambitions. It is absolutely unacceptable that you try to misuse, limit and influence the freedom of independent countries for your disputable goals.”
He explained what he thinks of concerns expressed over the parents’ rights and the family’s situation.
“Germany is NOT the United States of America. Homeschooling is ILLEGAL by German law. We do neither want to know nor appreciate your opinion on our laws. It is legal in the U.S. so stay there and fight there,” Schmidt wrote.
His outrage at the German family was clear.
“The only thing the Wunderlichs, these so called parents, want is to prevent their children from a free and open minded view on the world. They want to force them into their own little world regardless of what the children want or not and only for religious reasons!” Schmidt wrote.
“From the very beginning theses so called parents drummed their opinions and believes (sic) into these poor children. They never had a chance to build up their own opinion. This can be called torture and if (sic) for sure harms the children in their development to [be] free, tolerant and open minded members of the society. Only to please the parents and only to spread the parents strange ideas, disgusting.
“For my opinion these parents should be imprisoned and they should not be released before all of their children have finished school. Anyone, regardless of the reasons who harms his children, in whatever respect, should be removed from them immediately. If it happens for religious reasons the person should be jailed.”
Farris noted that while Schmidt called for members of society to be free and tolerant, at the same time he wants homeschooling parents jailed.
“Schmidt has it backwards,” he wrote. “A true liberal and democratic society or government does not kidnap children to enforce state-mandated education. In fact, basic human rights principles make the rights of parents to decide how children are educated more important than the very survival of the state itself.”
And he warned that if the free and tolerant society in a democracy like Germany can violate parental rights, other nations can too.
“I want the American homeschool community and other friends of liberty to take note – this mindset isn’t limited to Germany. Many U.S. policymakers and academics agree with Mr. Schmidt’s views. They are even working to see them realized here. So far, thankfully, homeschooling isn’t a legitimate reason (anymore) for the government to kidnap your children if they don’t go to state approved schools,” he said.
But, he questioned, “How long will that last? When a democratic government like Germany can get away with this kind of human rights abuse – and it is a human rights abuse – without so much as a peep from other free governments, how safe is our liberty? This battle is not just about homeschooling and not just about this family. This battle is about liberty.”
The criticism of the German government was on the Facebook page for the German embassy in Washington.
There, Amy Escobar took a succinct approach to counseling the German government: “You guys are making a big mistake.”
The Wunderlichs have 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.
HSLDA said the children were taken to unknown locations and government officials “ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children anytime soon.”
The raid, which took place Aug. 29 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.
HSLDA lawyer Michael Donnelly said that when child protective systems in countries such as a Germany– which “claims to be a ‘liberal democracy’ committed to pluralism and human rights – allows for police raids to take children from otherwise good families who are providing a home education, liberty is at risk everywhere.”
Even the United States?
Of course, he told WND.
“There are already too many voices in the United States that want to advance the idea that the state must control education for the safety of the state or other reasons,” he said. “And this is the same rationale of the German government in perpetrating deplorable acts like this. Why should we think it couldn’t or won’t happen here?”
Donnelly continued: “Can’t a government that can order you to get health care tell you that you don’t qualify for certain life-saving treatments, tell parents they can’t allow their children to get certain kinds of counseling or that they must have a particular kind of medical treatments or that certain religious speech is intolerant and may not be permitted or must be punished, or that only national curricular standards are acceptable for all children, etc. – can’t a government like that order you to send your children to school? And then punish you if you don’t?”
The German judge authorized the raid because the parents didn’t cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to school.”
HSLDA said 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.
There have been no significant changes in the status of the family members since the raid, but HSLDA continues to monitor circumstances.
The group has posted online a list of contacts for various German officials linked to the case, including the telephone number for the German embassy in Washington.
How to contact
It was on the embassy’s own Facebook page where the government action’s were being blasted into bits.
“This is happening all over and people will NOT stand for this!” wrote Lindsay Ashby Hall. “Governments everywhere need to know … you don’t own our children!!!”
“I am amazed that Germany is still enforcing an anti-homeschooling law enacted by Hitler by sending a SWAT team to remove the Wunderlich children,” added Timothy J. McMahon. “A UN rapporteur has criticized Germany for its harsh treatment of homeschoolers way back in a 2006 report. … German authorities should immediately release the Wunderlich children…”
Said Bob Schmitt: “We are appalled at the shameful abuse of misappropriated power in your government’s kidnapping of the Wunderlich children.”
He added: “I only wish someone would send in an extraction team to rescue both the kidnapped Wunderlich children and their parents from this shameful totalitarian regime. Maybe the Isrealis can do it.”
One commenter, Sybille Brinson, who apparently knows the family said: “Those kids are some of the happiest children I have seen growing up in our neighborhood! … I am horrified by the way this matter developed. The kids must be returned home!!!”
Another noted that the German embassy in London, under pressure, was busily deleting comments as they were posted.
“Shame on German authorities,” wrote Ingo Breuer.
Jayme Metzgar noted: “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that ‘parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.’ Furthermore, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, of which Germany is a party, promises ‘respect for the liberty of parents … to choose for their children schools, other than those established by the public authorities.”
“I think it’s a shame that almost 70 years after the end of WWII, the German government is still knocking down the doors of families in order to deny them their civil rights. May God bless the Wunderlich family,” added Megan Boniface.
“There are no words to describe how disgusted I am by your treatment of the Wunderlich family This type of intolerance has no place in a free society. Shame on you,” said Jill White.
To several of the criticisms, the embassy referred people to an online description of German schools.
Dirk Wunderlich described the attack: “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
Farris said in a report the actions violated a number of established European precedents, including provisions of the European Convention of Human Rights.
“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.
He continued: “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 Wunderlich 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 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.
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.