The parents of four homeschooled children forcibly removed from their home by police armed with a battering ram have now been threatened by a judge with criminal sanctions if they move forward on a plan to move out of Germany.
As WND reported at the end of August the children, ages 7 to 14, were forcibly taken from their Darmstadt, Germany, home by law-enforcement authorities who told parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich they wouldn’t see the children again soon.
The children were returned to their home three weeks later after the parents, given no choice by the federal bureaucracy in Germany, agreed to allow their kids into public schools despite their objection to the decadent social and religious instructions present there.
Since then the family has considered its alternatives, including emigrating from Germany where authorities stand today on a Nazi-era law banning homeschooling to a friendlier nation.
However, according to a report from the Home School Legal Defense Association, which has been working on behalf of the Wunderlich family, a judge slammed that door.
The organization reported a judge who has a hearing scheduled in December for the family “said he won’t let the family emigrate to other European countries where homeschooling is legal.”
According to the HSLDA, “The father of the children, Dirk Wunderlich, has told HSLDA that his lawyers requested confirmation from social workers that they wouldn’t interfere if his family emigrated to a neighboring country where homeschooling is legal.
“But the judge told his attorneys if he left the country before a scheduled December hearing he would make sure that they were brought back to face criminal sanctions,” the report said.
Because of the anti-homeschooling law in Germany, adopted under the guidance of Adolf Hitler, German courts awarded custody of the children to social workers in 2012, but they were allowed to remain with their family because they consistently test high on academic and social scales.
But in August, a different judge authorized the armed SWAT-team raid to seize the children.
“The children were placed in a group home where tests showed the children were doing well socially and academically. The judge then made the family promise to send the children to school before he would allow them to go home,” HSLDA reported Tuesday.
“What other choice did we have?” asked Dirk Wunderlich in an interview with HSLDA. “They had our children. We feel ravaged by the government. We don’t want our children in school but we have no choice – we can’t leave and if we don’t comply they will take our children away. We will make the best of it because we know if we tried to leave, the authorities would separate us and we might never see our children again or for a very long time.”
On Monday, the four children spent their first-ever day in a government school, HSLDA reported. They came home to report they were tired of it.
“Now the little ones go to school from 8-12:30 and the elder until 1:00. We are home together for lunch. Then they have homework to do,” Wunderlich said. “The children find it strange and have commented on how confusing the school environment is. They tell me ‘Papa, the teacher takes a lot of time explaining what we must do and telling the other children to be quiet. We don’t get to actually do most work until we got home.’ My youngest son says he misses working on his projects.”
He continued explaining the family’s concerns:
“I think homeschooling is much more effective because you can actually do the work and don’t have to lose time on all the other things that go into school. We hope with all our heart to get back to homeschooling somehow. In the weeks before, it was terrible to think of my children going to school. I’m trying to have a more practical view. We will have a court date in December and hope we can get the full custody back and perhaps be able to go where homeschooling is tolerated. Our lawyers have made emergency requests and we hope perhaps an answer will come sooner. We don’t think we could do this for years, but for a few or more weeks we can. Anyway, we don’t really have any choice.”
Michael Donnelly, the director of international affairs for the HSLDA, said in a report that the organization will continue to help.
“We are working with the family’s attorney and we hope we can bring international pressure to bear on this situation. For example we are now waiting and hoping the Supreme Court will take our Romeike asylum case. And we have other plans to bring international attention to Germany’s human rights abuses in this area,” he said.
The Romeike family earlier fled Germany because of threats from the government over their homeschooling. They were granted asylum in the United States, but the Obama administration was unhappy with that, and appealed to have the family members forced back to the persecution they would face in Germany.
A request is pending now before the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
Donnelly continued, “As a federal republic the hope for homeschooling is in the state legislatures. We need some German statesman to step up and do the right thing here. As a nation the culture has been hostile to homeschooling for some time. Our strategy has been to try to change that.”
A German attorney, Andreas Vogt, is working with the family, and a Facebook page called “Free the Wunderlich Kids now” has been created.
Donnelly said it’s not easy to change a culture.
“It’s a big job to try to change the mindset of an entire country. Germany is 80 million people with a long history of educational and cultural conformity. But we fought similar obstacles in the past in the U.S. and today homeschooling is legal and flourishing in all 50 states. Americans have helped rescued the German people from totalitarianism once before maybe we can do it again.”
HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris, who holds an LLM in Public International Law from the University of London, said Germany simply is violating its treaties and internationally accepted human rights with its anti-family agenda.
“Germany has signed numerous treaties that recognize that the family has a superior right to make educational decisions vs. the government. Germany’s treatment of homeschoolers is a clear human rights violation. It’s not physical violence but lots of human rights are not physical like free speech and freedom of religion and political opinion,” he said.
“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in direct response to what happened in Nazi Germany. It recognizes that parents have a prior right over the government to decide how children are educated. That’s because German Nazis took over the country’s educational system and used it as a weapon of social dominion.”
In an earlier report from HSLDA, Vogt said the seizure of the Wunderlich children by the government reminded him of the harsh policies of the former communist East Germany.
Vogt said he discovered the challenges Germany poses for homeschoolers when he read about the case of Rosemary and Juergen Dudek in 2008, a case on which WND reported.
The Dudeks live in the same state as Vogt, who said he was shocked when he learned that they had been sentenced to jail for homeschooling their children. Vogt offered to represent the Dudeks, saying that it wasn’t right that parents should go to jail over the issue of homeschooling.
Although the homeschooling ban dates to Hitler, the current German government has endorsed it fully. In 2003, the German Supreme Court handed down the Konrad decision in which “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling was banned.
Four years later, the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.” In that same year, the case of Katerina Plett, a homeschooling mother who moved with her children to Austria while her husband maintained the family residence in Germany, made its way to the highest criminal court in Germany.
That ruling said “the general public has an interest in thwarting the development of religiously or motivated parallel societies” and “integrating minorities in that regard.”
The court, stunningly, said homeschooling was a form of “child endangerment,” so authorities were justified in using force to take children.
Farris said although the case is in Germany, others should be concerned.
“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. … 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,” Farris said.
Donnelly said 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.”
“And this is the same rationale of the German government in perpetrating deplorable acts like this,” he said. “Why should we think it couldn’t or won’t happen here?”
Donnelly asked further: “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 armed raid on the children, 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.
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.
The HSLDA 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.
Farris added: “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:
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.”