This is an exciting time of year for homeschoolers all over the world. Boxes arrive in the mail with books upon beautiful books. Home libraries are reorganized with great care—to make room for all the new books, of course. An assorted array of extracurricular activities, music and art lessons, living literature and history co-ops are all firing back up again. Fun, new apps have been installed on the iPads. Each child’s learning goals for the impending school year have been measured out with great care by the two people who love him the very most, his parents. Updated chore lists and daily schedules are posted and alarm clocks are set. Everybody’s recharged and ready for a new school year. Life is good.
But for one homeschooling family in the sleepy village of Darmstadt, Germany, life is not so good at the moment. Last Thursday morning, August 29, 2013, just as the Wunderlich family was starting their school day, they were literally invaded by an army of 20 German government officials, several of whom were armed. When this brigade assailed upon their doorstep, father Dirk Wunderlich questioned why they were there, at which point three armed police officers readied a battering ram to storm the home by force. Mr. Wunderlich opened the door and was rewarded by being shoved into a chair and told that his children were being taken away. “At my slightest movement, the agents would grab me as if I were a terrorist,” Dirk revealed. Within the hour, the four Wunderlich children, who are between the ages of 7-14, were viciously removed from their home and placed into the custody of the German government. Fourteen year-old Machsejah refused to go quietly, so two robust armed officers forcibly removed her, reportedly treating her as if she were a criminal. When her mother tried to hug her goodbye, one of the special agents literally elbowed her away from her daughter, spitting out the words, “It’s too late for that!” with neighbors looking on and crying over the traumatizing scene. When the parents asked when they would see their children again, they were briskly told that it would not be soon, that essentially their children needed to be deprogrammed from their parents’ narrow way of thinking. Left in the home without their four most precious treasures, the Wunderlichs lamented over the surreal and horrifying experience, “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.” Perhaps a more accurate comparison would be a WWII film. This scene is eerily reminiscent of Nazi-occupied Europe.
Interestingly, it was none other than Adolf Hitler who ensured the passage of the 1938 compulsory-attendance law, “driven by animus toward faith-based [read: Jewish] homeschoolers.” In a speech given on May 1, 1937, Hitler gave this grim proclamation:
“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.”
Lest you think this cannot possibly be the mentality of the modern German State in 2013, it should be noted that the first sentence of the official manual for high schools across Germany still reads to this day that “the German school is part of the National Socialist Educational order. It is its obligation to form the national socialistic personality in cooperation with the other educational powers of the nation, but by its distinctive educational means.” Now don’t get me wrong here: this is not about the legitimacy/illegitimacy of the German school system (or any other school system, for that matter). I have absolutely zero experience with their educational system, and besides that, the quality of a school system is simply irrelevant to this argument. I am simply reporting here that according to the instructional manual used at every public high school in the nation, the expressed core objective of the German educational system to form the personalities of German children, ensuring that they grow up to be loyal, nationalistic, socialistic Germans. What if German parents want a different kind of education for their children? Well, that’s just too bad. Nearly eight decades later, Hitler’s law against homeschooling still haunts German families.
There are reportedly up to 800 families in Germany who are illegally educating their children at home, despite this oppressive leftover law from the Nazi regime. Perhaps it is not surprising that most of the parents who choose to homeschool in Germany are Christians, who seek to provide their children with a different type of education than the statist version offered by German public schools. Ironically, it is precisely these God-fearing, church-going Christians whom the German government fears. In a very recent court ruling against the Romeikes, another German homeschooling family famously under fire, the court admitted that “the general public has a justified interest in counteracting the development of religiously or philosophically motivated ‘parallel societies…’” Essentially, the German government is afraid that devout Christian parents, if given free reign over their childrens’ upbringing, will raise their children to be fanatical religious nuts, incapable of integrating into normal, secular German society. Consequently, parents are forbidden from educating their children at home, even if they deem that the objectives and curriculum of the public school system are grossly opposed to their religious beliefs.
This prohibition against faith-based homeschooling in particular is nothing short of religious persecution. These parents are being denied the very basic right to educate their children according to their own religious convictions. It is inarguable that both freedom of religion and parental rights are among the most basic of human rights. Article 26, Section 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), adopted unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly, recognizes that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” Michael Farris, founder of the Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) and international law expert, gave a compelling speech at the 2012 Global Home Education Conference in Berlin:
“Germany is a party to all of these treaties. It has promised the whole world that it will never violate these rights, even if the future of the nation is at stake. Thus, there is no balancing test that can be employed to justify a denial of these human rights. Germany’s contention that it must ban homeschooling to stop religious minorities from homeschooling lest they become a parallel society is not only insufficient to justify an exception to Germany’s human rights obligations, it is a confession by the German government that its actions are a per se violation of human rights standards.”
At the heart of this international debacle is whether or not it is truly a universal human right for a parent to choose how their child is educated. Do children belong to their parents or do they belong to the community, to the government? Again, Adolf Hitler minced no words on the matter:
“When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side, and you will not get me on your side,’ I calmly say, ‘Your child belongs to me already. A people lives forever. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants however now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community.'”
Hitler’s chilling declaration may seem extreme, but the notion that children belong to the collective and not to their parents has lingered far too long in Germany. The ultimate ururpation of the German government over parental rights on where their children will spend the better part of their childhood is absolutely unacceptable.
Petra Wunderlich said her heart was just shattered. “We are empty,” she said. “We need help. We are fighting but we need help.” But what can you and I possibly do? Maybe you’re all the way across the western world in America. Or maybe you’re an American living in Germany like me, and this hits especially close to home for you, as you have met some of these courageous underground homeschoolers face to face. Samuel Adams said it perfectly, “It does not take a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” I urge you, brothers and sisters, do something for this family and for hundreds of other German families homeschooling in secret, terrified of the nightmarish reality that has befallen the Wunderlich family this week.
Go to the following link on the HSLDA website and use the contact information in the column on the right side of the article to set a brushfire or two or twenty: http://hslda.org/hs/international/Germany/201308300.asp?src=slide&slide=Wunderlich_map_Aug_30_2013&pos=1
Absolutely fabulous essay…I was blown away by it. I came across you blog because we both commented on a Facebook post sent by HSLDA. God has stirred a passion in my heart for the Wunderlich family and other persecuted homeschooling families in Germany and Sweden (i.e. families like Annie and Chris Johannson.) My name is Elisabeth and I live on the East Coast, U.S.A. I’ll send you a friend request through Facebook…I would love to join with you somehow and work toward this cause. Loved your quote from Samuel Adams about the “tireless minority.”