DARMSTADT, Germany — The four homeschooled children of a couple in Germany have been returned to their parents upon the condition that they attend public school as per German law.
As previously reported, approximately 20 social workers, police officers and special agents swarmed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich last month and forcefully removed all the children. 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 outlined. “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 had 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 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?”
On Thursday, following a court hearing about the matter, the Wunderlich children were returned to their parents after Dirk and Petra agreed to send them to a state school.
“It’s a small victory, but it’s still a victory,” commented Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Chairman Michael Farris, who urged the public to contact German officials and express disgust following the raid. “When the parents told the authorities that they would send their kids back to school during the raid, they were told it was too late. What we’ve seen today is a reversal in the German courts caused by the mounting international pressure from human rights advocates. This is a promising start to what will hopefully be a reversal on Germany’s stance on homeschooling altogether.”
However, Farris said that there is much work left to be done in the fight for the right to homeschool in Germany.
“The way the parents were forced into complying with the government’s wishes is only part of how Germany mistreats its citizens,” he said. “The German government loves compromises as long as they ultimately get their way. They were fine with a Muslim teenager wearing a swimsuit with a head covering as long as she took part in co-ed pool activities despite her objections. And now they’re fine that the Wunderlich family gets their children back as long as they attend a state school. The attitude of ‘Our way or else…’ is still very much alive in a supposedly tolerant society.”
The Wunderlich case has been unfolding 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. Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are currently waiting to hear whether the United States Supreme Court will accept their appeal, as federal circuit courts have ruled that the family has “not shown that Germany’s enforcement of its general school-attendance law amounts to persecution against them.”