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German SWAT Team Storms Home of Homeschooling Family

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In an early morning raid last week, a SWAT team stormed a residence in residence near Darmstadt, Germany. “I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed,” says Dirk Wunderlich. “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.”

Wuncherlichs_Farris_GHEC2012_1“The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first,” added Wunderlich. “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.”

Social workers forcibly removed four children, aged 7 to 14, from the home and put them in state custody. “When I went outside, our neighbor was crying as she watched,” said Wunderlich. “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?”

The Wunderlich children were taken away because their parents committed a serious crime in Germany: homeschooling.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a Darmstadt family court judge, signed the order 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.

HSLDA reviewed the legal documents and found the only grounds for removal were the family’s continuation of homeschooling their children. The papers contain no other allegations of abuse or neglect. Germany has not even alleged educational neglect for failing to provide an adequate education; the law simply ignores the educational progress of the child.

“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said SLDA Chairman and Founder Michael 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.”

Unfortunately, both the German and American governments disagree with Farris’ claim that homeschooling is a human right. In a similar case of German homeschooling family that sought political asylum, President Obama’s Justice Department argued that asylum should be denied based on their contention that governments may legitimately use its authority to force parents to send their kids to government-sanctioned schools.

“My question to the political leadership of Germany is,” says HSLDA Director for International Affairs Mike Donnelly, “How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families? 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?”

Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • gspowers51

    The German Federal Government on its webpage, in a story criticizing the NSA, states in the headline that, ” Germany is a country of freedom. (Perhaps that should read, “some freedoms”. On the webpage the German Government calls on Egyptians to “end the violence”. But I’m not sure what you would call an armed 20-member German SWAT team with a battering ram to knock in the family’s front door (the police were also called storm troopers) as being anything else than violent. The German Government is talkingnout of both sides of its mouth and hoping no one will notice. In yet a third story the German Government congratulates German and other EU youth for peaceful meetings–something which the German authorities are apparently unable to do when meeting with homeschooling families. Perhaps Germany enjoys having a remaining thread of Nazism by retaining and observing this law from 1938 against homeschooling, and in doing so Germans are really not really willing to face the sins of their past under Nazism.

    • Richard Wolfe

      This is really a pretty insulting statement about Germany and Germans. I lived in Germany for a number of years–the Germans are pretty zealous in facing their national sins. Those living in Germany have a number of options of schooling–including Christian schooling at government expense. I suspect the government is wary of some extremist groups such as the neo-Nazis in opposing home schooling. We need to get the facts before we paint with such a broad brush the way in which other countries operate. By the way, the current Chancellor of Germany is a Christian, the daughter of a Lutheran minister in the former East Germany.

      • gspowers51

        Neo-Nazis in homeschooling? Oh, please. Being Christian is nothing by itself. After all Luther drowned boatloads of Jews. But in sending armed police with a battering ram to a house bearing parents teaching their children, just who is being insulting? The German Government, who claims it represents freedom while trodding on innocent German citizens. As for Christian schools, they must follow a government-approved curriculum, but I can assure you that tuition there is not paid by the government. My church for one, which is second to the Catholic Church for university and hospital systems internationally do not take any government funds. Perhaps brave Canada would take German homeschooling families, as the Obama Administration has been hypocritical on the issue as he thinks he needs German international support, but it is not worth the trouble to have Germany as an ally as long as it abuses its citizens in this way.

        • Richard Wolfe

          I missed the part in my history books about Luther drowning “boatloads of Jews.” And “Nazis back in power”? Come on, people, get a grip. And while we are talking about countries “abusing its citizens”–have you compared Germany’s abortion laws with ours?

      • trustandobeyalways

        then she should step in immediately,.there is a terrible international witness here to freedom and faith

        • Richard Wolfe

          So are our abortion laws, especially compared to Germany’s. Our abortion laws are a terrible witness to life and faith. But we do have constraints here about our leaders stepping in, don’t we?

      • maddustman

        Brainwashing in public schools was first introduced in Lutheran Germany, and spread around promptly. By not giving their people freedom of choice in a rather trivial matter of schooling/homeschooling, many governments, including German, show their true intentions: control, control, control. Locking children in public facilities for hours against their will and will of the parents, forcing them to do ‘homework’ (what would you say to your employer, if he requested of you to do some work at home for free?), and using rarely changing aged standards in both curriculum and teaching practice is something I can’t imagine to be a part of a really free society. Difference about Nazi and most EU countries these days? They don’t kill people now for disagreeing with governments, just completely ruin their lives by ‘peaceful’ bureaucratic means, using police on forcibly disarmed cattle, just for ‘our own protection’.

        • Richard Wolfe

          More mis-information about the German school system. It’s pretty sad that Christian conversation has degenerated into stereotyping.

          • maddustman

            I’m not a Christian, and while not familiar with German system first-hand, lived in Scandinavia long enough to know the system, which is quite similar. Btw, homeschooling is legal in the North.

          • Richard Wolfe

            I, on the other hand, am a Christian, and I lived in Germany long enough to know the system as well; in fact, my children attended German schools up through Gymnasium.

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  • Bob Pyle

    German Gustopo recently took children of the Hitler outlawed Homeschooling in 1939.

    • Dylan Pahman

      It really is offensive to make Nazi references just because the article is about Germany. It is unfortunate that homeschooling is against the law, but many comments on this article have been outright racist.

      • Seishin Namikaze

        Racist. You keep using this word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.

        • Dylan Pahman

          Categorizing people of a particular race in a negative way based solely on their race is racism. Just because the German government did something that upsets you does not give you or anyone else moral license to call them Nazis. Denying the holocaust is a crime in Germany. Of all people in all the world, the Germans have daily reminders of the horrors of Nazism (death camps still preserved as memorials, architecture build during Nazi rule that includes swastikas, and so on), and they have no intention of going back. It is the great shame of that people and nation and now two generations gone. Let me ask you though, wouldn’t it be racist anytime a white person in this country does something you consider bad to imply that they must be a member of the Klan? Or if a black person does the same thing to imply that they must be a member of the Nation of Islam?

          • Seishin Namikaze

            My position on the matter is at the top of the page under newest, it’s nothing close to what you’re representing. My point to you is that “German” is not a race. It’s a national, and perhaps cultural identity, yes. Not a race.

          • Dylan Pahman

            Ethnicity is a subcategory of race. German is an ethnicity.

            If you’d rather I be exact, I suppose I could say that many comments on this article have been outright ethnicist, but since the latter term is not actually a word and racist is commonly used in its place to denote such prejudiced statements, I’ll stick with racist. Many of the comments on this article have been outright racist.

            As for your position on the matter, it was written only three hours ago, long after I made my original comment a month ago, so obviously it was not directed at you.

          • Seishin Namikaze

            I disagree. We actually have racism here in the United States. Expressing displeasure at the actions of a nation, even if they all share a common genetic ancestry, doesn’t qualify as institutional oppression and slander. To call it racism is to cheapen the word.

          • Dylan Pahman

            I do not think expressing displeasure is racist. I think calling them Nazis is racist.

  • Seishin Namikaze

    While I think this is unspeakably wrong, I also think that homeschooling is by and large a bad idea. It -can- work out, but it usually is just a means of keeping children from ideas that scare their parents. Branches of science, like evolution in particular.

    Not that our nation is any better. Here in America we recently had an 80 year old man shot and killed in his home by police because someone said his house smelled like meth.

  • Brian_R_Allen

    Parteigenosse Angela – who not long ago, in an address to it, told the Europeons’ “parliament” that Germany was “liberated from the Nazis,” always was and always will be a fascissocialist Ministerium für Staatsicherheit (Stazi) “indoctrinee.”