Tuesday, September 3, 2013

URGENT homeschooling alert

If you are a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), you may already have heard about the persecution of the Wunderlich family in Germany at the hands of the German government. If not, read on below:

HSLDA Founder and Chairman Mike Farris meets with the Wunderlich family during the Global Home Education Conference held in Berlin, Germany in October 2012.

Children Seized in Shocking Raid

At 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in what has been called a “brutal and vicious act,” a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, forcibly removing all four of the family’s children (ages 7-14). The sole grounds for removal were that the parents, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich, continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education. 

The children were taken to unknown locations. Officials ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing their children “anytime soon.”

HSLDA obtained and translated the court documents that authorized this use of force to seize the children. The only legal grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Moreover, Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education. The law ignores the educational progress of the child; attendance—and not learning—is the object of the German law.

Judge Koenig, a Darmstadt family court judge, signed the order on August 28 authorizing the immediate seizure of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich’s children. 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” if necessary, 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.


State Custody

In October 2012, state youth officials had been granted formal legal custody of the Wunderlich children by a German court based solely on the fact that the family was homeschooling. German lawyer Andreas Vogt sought appellate relief on behalf of the Wunderlichs and was able to forestall immediate removal of the children. But, yesterday, as the family quietly began their homeschool day, a ringing at the door signaled the interruption that turned their lives upside down.

Dirk Wunderlich described the frightening turn of events.

“I looked through a 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,” he told HSLDA.

“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” he said. “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.”


Looking for a Home

Over the past four years, HSLDA has reported on the Wunderlichs’ saga as they have moved from country to country in the European Union looking for a place to call home where they could freely homeschool their children. Although they found refuge from homeschool persecution, Mr. Wunderlich was unable to find work, and last year the family had to return to Germany. 

The family resettled near Darmstadt, just 25 miles south of Frankfurt, with some trepidation. It is mandatory that all residents of Germany register with their local municipal authorities. Within days of the family registering their presence in the town, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later the “Youth Welfare Office” was granted legal custody of the children. However, the court left the children in the residence with the parents since they were being well treated and otherwise cared for by their parents (see also: “Come Peacefully Now or by Force Later”).

Authorities even took the children’s passports, making it impossible for the family to escape—a violation of a number of human rights guaranteed to them by the European Convention of Human Rights, said HSLDA Chairman and Founder Michael Farris.

“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said Farris. “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.”
 
The right of parents to decide how children are educated is a human right of the highest order, said Farris.

“The United States 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 that so that children may be educated according to the parents’ religious convictions. Germany has simply not met its obligations under these treaties or as a liberal democracy,” Farris said. “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.”


“Devastated”

Following the raid, Dirk Wunderlich told HSLDA Director for International Affairs Mike Donnelly that he and his wife were devastated.

“These are broken people,” Donnelly said. “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. 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.”

“I’ve been fighting for German homeschool freedom for years,” he continued, “and I had hoped that things were changing in Germany since it has been some time since brutality of this magnitude has occurred. But I was wrong.”

“Mike Farris and I spent time with the Wunderlichs at the first global homeschool conference in Berlin in November 2012,” Donnelly went on to say. “They are a delightful family with precious children. They are really just regular people who are doing what millions of people here in the United States do every day.”


“How Long?”

“My question to the political leadership of Germany is: How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families?” said Donnelly. “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?”

Wunderlich said that his 14-year-old daughter Machsejah had to be 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.’ What kind of government acts like this?”

After the children were taken away, the family was “invited” to a meeting with the senior social authority in charge at the scene, Mr. Behnis. The Wunderlichs agreed to the meeting and were joined by their attorney, Andreas Vogt, who came as soon as he was notified, traveling hours by train.

When the parents asked when they could seek a hearing to contest the seizure of their children, they were told they would have to wait until the regular judge returned from vacation. Vogt told HSLDA that the authorities had displayed little sympathy. Vogt has become a key lawyer in the German homeschool movement, representing many active cases. He has taken some to the German Supreme Court with no success to date.

Petra Wunderlich said her heart was shattered.

“We are empty. We need help. We are fighting, but we need help,” she said.

If you are as outraged about this as I am (and you should be), the HSLDA offers the following contact information:

Contact German Officials


Talking points:
  • You are shocked and dismayed at the German actions in sending a SWAT team to remove the Wunderlich children.
  • A UN rapporteur has criticized Germany for its harsh treatment of homeschoolers in his 2006 report on the German education system (see paragraphs 62 and 93 (g) of the report).
  • Germany authorities should immediately release the Wunderlich children to their parents.
  • Germany should promptly change its law to permit homeschooling to comply with its obligations under international law.

German Embassy in Washington, D.C.
(202) 298-4000
Online contact form
If you receive an error message in Google Chrome, please try a different browser.
 Other German Consulates in the US



School Office—Frau Christa Lettau
Staatliches Schulamt
z. Hd. Frau Christa Lettau
Rheinstr. 95
64295 Darmstadt
FR GERMANY
Tel. (+49-6151) 36 82-411
Fax (+49-6151) 36 82-402
Email: Christa.Lettau@da.ssa.hessen.de

Youth Welfare Office—Mr. Behnis
Der Kreisausschuß. des Landkreises Darmstadt-Dieburg
Jugendhilfe
Erziehungshilfe
z. Hd. Herrn K. Behnis
64276 Darmstadt
FR GERMANY
Tel. (+49-6151) 881-14 42
Fax (+49-6151) 881-14 62
k.behnis@ladadi.de (email address closed due to volume)

Herrn Harms
r.harms@ladadi.de
Tel. (+49-6151) 881-22 74
Fax (+49-6151) 881-42 74

Family Court—Judge Markus Malkmus and Judge Koenig
Amtsgericht Darmstadt
Familiengericht
z.Hd.Herrn Markus Malkmus
Postfach 1109 51
64224 Darmstadt
FR Germany


Resources

Farris: Germany Breaking Pledge to Protect Rights
For ideas on human rights arguments visit TheBerlinDeclaration.org.
You can support our fight for the Wunderlich family by donating to the Homeschool Freedom Fund.

Like you, my time is very limited and valuable, yet I have, and will continue to, beat down the doors of the above contacts. Don't be afraid to call the above offices in Germany - they all are supposed to speak English, or at least understand what you are saying. If you use Skype to call the land lines, your call will cost very little (2.3 cents per minute). Depending on where you live, there is a 7-9 hour time change between the US and Germany. You can search "local time in Germany" on Google to find out what time it is there. The above offices will be open only during typical business hours, roughly 8 am to 3 pm local time. In Arizona (MST), that is between our hours of 11 pm and 6 am.

You could get your children involved, and teach them a very important civics lesson.

I would like to ask any and all of my friends and family in Germany, that are reading this, to likewise contact the above officials. Whether or not you personally homeschool, which would be against the Hitler-era laws still in effect, does not determine whether it is right to forcibly remove children who are well cared for and educated, simply because they refuse to be a part of the German brainwashing institutions known as public schools, the ONLY school option available in Germany (every private school must still accept and abide by state-wide and federal public school standards).

Germany's violation of human rights is not only shameful and embarrassing, but downright criminal. This is a disgrace to anyone of German nationality, myself included, and should swiftly be repealed.

Please contact the above officials NOW. 


12 comments:

  1. I actually live in Darmstadt. It is against German law to home-school, so without judging whether homeschooling is right or wrong, it makes it illegal here in Germany. Same as one would not carry a gun here because it's illegal.

    Calling the people at the Jugendamt, Schulamt, Familiengericht and any other institutions takes away the time for them to help children who are truly in need of support.

    This family has (from reading the local press) not been cooperative with local courts and denied the Schulamt to assess the children's level of education which, if I recall correctly, is even something certain states in the USA choose to do with home-schooled children.

    Where possible children should live with their parents, which I think they should in this case. Why can't they just send their kids to school and in the meanwhile search for a job in a country that welcomes home-schooling? This family should stop complaining and do everything to get their kids back because they deserve to live with their family even if that means going to school for a while. Which takes them out of the home for a shorter period of time than living in a foster or comparable environment.

    S

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  2. This is shocking. Unless the authorities in Germany can prove that these children are being denied an education or that their lives are in danger they have no right to do this. Class sizes in schools tend to be too big so why would anyone be bothered if some parents opt for home schooling.

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  3. Thank you for all the contact information. I can say I was devastated for the family as well as for all homeschoolers when I saw this the other day. I can say that this is not a new sentiment, as when my husband was stationed in Germany and we homeschooled our oldest as the others were too young, we lived off base. My husband's company commander got in contact with us and told us that we were not in compliance and in order to homeschool we would have to move to base or send our son to public school.

    I was shocked as I loved my stay in Germany and had never considered that homeschooling would not be allowed. After about 30 days of back and forth research and meeting with AG we were given base quarters in Giessen. When we arrived in the states it was not as accepted as it is today to homeschool and we had to align with the local elementary school on base in California, then in Nevada. By 2006, in New Mexico...all we had to do was register our intent to homeschool~no need to meet standards etc.

    I confess I am thankful all my kids have finished but I am ever so prayerful for my someday grandkids...as my kids have all said they desire to homeschool. With the UN Rights of a Child treaty and our liberal government~homeschooling may not be an option much longer.

    Thanks again for the contact info and I plan on something this week as every voice can make a difference.

    Jennifer

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  4. This family could homeschool their kids in many other countries, but they are unwilling to give up Germany's high standard of living. They intentionally moved back to Germany knowing they would be breaking the law. Is that good for their kids?

    Scripture does command us to obey the government.

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  5. If homeschooling is against the law in Germany, or if the parents were required to have their children assessed to see where they stand academically, then the parents have no one to blame but themselves. If it isn't against the law, then they should fight.

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  6. Dear Zsuzsanna,

    While I believe you wrote this blog post with your best intentions you are able to give, I´d like you to ask if you are sure all the sources are actually trustable and if there´s not more in that story as the informations from the article you quote here?


    Best regards,
    Alise

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  7. Because anonymous, someone needs to stand up for the fact that the government does not have ownership over your children. I have heard through people studying Social Work that they are trained to call and view Mothers and Fathers as parents. You parent your child. Seems harmless enough!? No. It is because they believe that is all you are. It takes away the intimacy of Mums and Dads and because the government believes they are the actual parents too with 100% more rights over your parental rights. Ugh. How do you know the outcome of a stint in public school would affect these kids too? It's one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't to most. I am glad I came across this. I'm glad I now know this goes on. It highlights for me another one of the worlds prayer needs.
    And good it takes away their time in ringing and contacting them if this is what they are up to.

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  8. Sad, so very sad! This shows us that the world of government is planning on taking over rights of people; especially when it comes to families, children, (that is evil). It is totally heart breaking to me personally knowing and hearing of families/ children of this happening around the world. If we are able to do something in any way, we should try to help others on this. And go to God first always to help us deal with this with His guidance of wisdom. Praying without ceasing in the Name of Jesus. Rosita Thank you Mrs. Anderson for all the information you have given.

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  9. Hallo Zsuzsa, die Familie hat ihre Kinder zurück: http://www.geiernotizen.de/eilmeldung-wunderlich. Ich habe auf deinen Post hin das Jugendamt 2 x angemailt u. ein paar markige Bibelverse hinterlassen. Vielleicht hat das ja was genützt. Außerdem haben heute in Berlin 4500 Menschen beim Marsch fürs Leben gegen Abtreibung u. Euthanasie demonstriert. Und in Wuppertal war eine Kundgebung gegen Christenverfolgung. Morgen sind Bundestagswahlen, deshalb ist hier grad soviel los. Aber es scheint sich in Europa doch einiges zu tun, auch in Frankreich sind sie massenhaft gegen Homo-Ehe u. gegen Abtreibung auf die Straße gegangen.

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  10. Living in Germany we unfortunately know about the German Jugendamt (child protection services) all too well. They do some good work. However, it appears that they focus on the wrong families a lot of times. There have been several incidents recently, where young parents had badly beaten or starving their children. Where was the Jugendamt in those cases? We only recently got a letter from the Department of Family and Social Affairs saying if we do not get the form they sent us signed by a pediatrician stating that we took our 2 year old son to the mandatory health check-up and get him vaccinated we would be contacted by the Jugendamt. We also were threatened by a pediatrician with the Jugendamt because we believed that a baby does not have to be able to crawl at the age of 4 month. Bringing up a child in Germany is starting to be regulated as badly as a lot of other parts of life here. The human beings and the family as a whole does not seem to matter anymore.

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  11. God bless these precious people... My parents have homeschooled me and my sister for all of our education years, but we were recently "attacked" by the child protection services with the accusation that we did not have proper education and knowledge. This was a rough time, but with the Lord's help and the HSLDA, we were able to successfully get out of this mess, and the crazy province which we were in! Christ is good!

    We will keep praying for this persecuted family in Germany, for God is stronger than any government! 2 Chronicles 20:15 "...For the battle is not yours but God's."

    In all sisterly love,
    -Noémie

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  12. The reason that these things are done in Germany is because the Jews have their claws sunk deeply into German as a result of the exterminationist propaganda developed during world war 2. The exterminationist propaganda became necessary to justify the firebombing of non military targets such as Dresden and Hamburg, and the mass abuse of German women by the Soviets and to a smaller extent by the Americans and French. The horrible crimes committed by the allies had to be covered over by propaganda, manufactured to prevent objections both before and after the fact to the horrible crimes committed against the Germans.

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Your KINDLY WORDED, constructive comments are welcome, whether or not they express a differing opinion. All others will be deleted without second thought.