DARMSTADT, Germany –– German officials raided the home of a homeschooling family this week and seized all four children, declaring that the parents would not see them ‘anytime soon.’
The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reports that the incident took place on Thursday morning, as approximately 20 social workers, police officers and special agents swarmed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich. A family court judge in Darmstadt had signed an order that day authorizing officials to immediately seize the Wunderlich’s children for failing to cooperate “with the authorities to send the children to [public] school.”
“I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed,” Dirk told HSLDA. “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.”
“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” he continued. “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.”
The Wunderlich family has been aware, however, that German officials were seeking to take away their children. Last year, the government was granted legal custody of the youth, but the matter was stalled in court. In the meantime, reports state, officials took their passports so that the family could not leave the country.
Dirk said that one of the most horrific and heartbreaking aspects of the seizure on Thursday was when his wife tried to say goodbye to their 14-year-old daughter Machsejah.
“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,” he recalled. “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?”
The seizure of the Wunderlich’s children occurred as the battle rages in the United States over another German couple that has been seeking asylum in America so that they may have the freedom to homeschool.
As previously reported, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike fled to the United States in 2008 after German authorities demanded that they stop homeschooling their six children. The Romeike children were taken from their parents for a time before fleeing for refuge.
In 2010, Memphis immigration judge Lawrence Burman granted the family asylum, stating that he believed the Romeike’s would face persecution for their faith if they returned to Germany.
“[The law is] utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” Burman ruled. “[H]omeschoolers are a particular social group that the German government is trying to suppress. This family has a well-founded fear of persecution … therefore, they are eligible for asylum … and the court will grant asylum.”
However, the United States Department of Justice soon appealed the hearing, and every court has denied the family asylum ever since, asserting that they are not facing persecution for homeschooling as the requirement applies to all German citizens–not just Christians.
“[T]he Romeikes [have] not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them, whether on grounds of religion or membership in a recognized social group,” the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this past May. “There is a difference between the persecution of a discrete group and the prosecution of those who violate a generally applicable law.”
“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?” asked Michael Donnelly of HSLDA. “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?”