The attorney representing the Wunderlich family, whose children were seized in an early morning raid on August 29, says that the actions of social workers remind him of the harsh policies of the former communist East Germany. The Wunderlichs have not seen or heard from their children since they were taken and only know that they are currently residing in some kind of group home.
Andreas Vogt learned about the challenges homeschoolers face in Germany when he read about the case of Rosemary and Juergen Dudek in 2008. The Dudeks live in the same state as Vogt, who said he was shocked when he learned that they had been sentenced to jail for homeschooling their children. Vogt offered to represent the Dudeks, saying that it wasn’t right that parents should go to jail over the issue of homeschooling. News traveled fast that there was a new attorney willing to represent homeschooling families; as a result Vogt now represents about a dozen German homeschooling families.
HSLDA Director of International Affairs Michael Donnelly suggested that the Wunderlichs approach Vogt.
“When I learned that the Wunderlichs were back in Germany in 2012 and that they were having difficulty with the courts, I told them they should seek out Mr. Vogt,” Donnelly said.
“I met Andreas through his work with the Dudeks and have great appreciation for the excellence of his work and the spirit with which he represents these families. There aren’t many attorneys like him in Germany, and the homeschool movement there needed his ideas and energy. He has a real sense that these families aren’t being treated with justice and that especially in a civilized country, like Germany, parents should be able to homeschool their children.”
HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris has condemned the state’s seizure of the Wunderlich children and called on homeschoolers worldwide to take action in support of the family and homeschooling freedom.
“The right to homeschool is a human right,” said Farris. “So is the right to freely move and to leave a country. The act of seizing these four beautiful, innocent children is a very serious violation of this family’s human rights.”
Sadly, this kind of persecution has been going on for quite some time in Germany. Over the years scores, if not hundreds of families, have left in order to pursue homeschooling in neighboring countries where homeschooling is allowed. Although there have been attempts, the German homeschooling movement has not had a single noteworthy judicial victory in its nearly 20 years of existence.
In fact, homeschooling has been handed setbacks that should have, and for many families did, extinguish the fledgling movement. Today homeschoolers in Germany are very few, and only the most committed dare to oppose the policy of the state.
In 2003 the German Supreme Court handed down the now-infamous Konrad decision. The case subsequently went to the European Court of Human Rights which refused to intervene in the German High Court’s approval of a ban on “religiously or philosophically motivated” homeschooling.
In about 2007 the German Federal Parliament changed a key provision of German child protection law, making it easier for children to be taken away from their parents for supposed “educational neglect.” In that same year the case of Katerina Plett, a homeschooling mother who moved with her children to Austria while her husband maintained the family residence in Germany, made its way to the highest criminal court in Germany.
Homeschooling as Child Abuse
The Plett court approved of Konrad’s ruling that “the general public has an interest in thwarting the development of religiously or motivated parallel societies” and “integrating minorities in that regard.” On these grounds the court found that homeschooling was a form of “child endangerment.” The Plett court also said that authorities were justified in using force to take children from homeschooling parents because the children’s mental and emotional welfare would be irreparably damaged if they were not sent to school.
Since Konrad and Plett, no homeschooling case has substantially had any impact on the national policy of Germany. In 2007, HSLDA launched a new strategy to help German homeschoolers with an emphasis on supporting legislative changes which would require more public awareness of the problem. HSLDA’s active work in publicizing cases like the Dudeks and Wunderlichs, along with our work on the Romeike asylum case and others, has resulted in increasing attention from increasingly mainstream news sources in Germany—and not all critical.
Nevertheless, the national policy against home education appears to be alive and strong, as demonstrated by the outrageous abuse of the Wunderlich family. HSLDA is now asking the global homeschooling community to maintain a strong advocacy for the family and to continue to contact local officials in Germany as well as the representatives of the German government here in the United States.
It is important to fight for homeschooling freedom in Germany and in other places where homeschoolers are harassed or oppressed. Those who oppose homeschooling are often united philosophically with critics of homeschooling in the United States. So, by fighting for homeschooling freedom abroad we are also strengthening our homeschooling freedom here as well as helping others who do not have the strength in number or resources to enjoy this fundamental human right.
HSLDA is standing with the Wunderlich family and persecuted homeschoolers worldwide. If you are able to stand with us we encourage you to support us with your thoughts, prayers, membership and financial support.
We need all homeschoolers to stand with us, and you can join today!
If you would like to contribute to supporting the Wunderlichs, the Homeschool Freedom Fund is supporting their fight!