Home school familyGerman police have raided the home of a German home schooling family, taking their four children and sparking outrage from advocates of home education.
Dirk and Petra Wunderlich have been fighting a protracted battle with the German government over the right to home school. Germany bans the practice.
Their case has been followed by the American-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which said on its website that the children were seized in a "brutal and vicious act."
The HSLDA reported that a team of 20 social workers, police officers and special agents stormed the Wunderlich home near Darmstadt, Germany at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday as the family was beginning its homeschool day.
The HSLDA obtained the documents authorizing seizure of the children, and learned that the only justification given was that the Wunderlichs were continuing to home school.
The order was signed by Damstadt family court judge, who authorized the use of force to remove the children, who were aged from seven to 14.
They were taken to an undisclosed location.
Dirk Wunderlich expressed dismay over the treatment of his family during the raid.
"I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed," according to the 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 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."
German authorities removed custody of the Wunderlich children last year, but they were allowed to stay with their parents since they were well treated.
The family had returned to their homeland after short stays in France, Norway and Hungary. However, they returned to Germany after Dirk Wunderlich, a gardener, found it difficult to find work.
While in France, German social workers contacted their French counterparts and the children were removed from the Wunderlich home for a short while. However, they were returned by a French judge, who said the family had a right to home school.
RETURING TO GERMANYbased Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA),
Once the family returned to Germany, the passports of the children were removed by the German government, an act which HSLDA president Michael Farris said is a violation of a number of rights guarantees by the European Convention of Human Rights.
"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."
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."
"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?"
Farris's group has been representing another German home school family, the Romeikes, who moved to the United States to avoid what they say is persecution by Germany's government.
The Romeikes teach their children at home so they can emphasize their Christian values.
Their case has a high profile in the U.S., a nation with approximately two million children who are home schooled, many for religious reasons.
The administration of President Barack Obama has been fighting a legal request by the Romeikes for asylum. The case has been working its way through the courts.
Currently, the family has lost every court battle and the HSLDA intends to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on their behalf.