I suspect that my readers thought that the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. Well, apparently not if you are a Christian homeschooling family. On these pages, I have written a number of blogs regarding the plight of the Wunderlich family of Darmstadt, Germany. Dirk and Petra Wunderlich are the parents of four children, aged 7 to 14, who were taken forcibly from their home in Darmstadt, Germany, last August by a SWAT team of twenty police, special agents, and social workers as the children began their morning home school classes. The children were taken into custody because their parents insisted on the children being homeschooled, which is illegal under German law. (It continues as a law held over from the Nazi times.) Following an international outcry, a Darmstadt court returned the Wunderlich children to their parents, but only on the condition that the parents promise to send the children to a government school. The parents complied with the court’s order. Thus, the parents were granted guardianship of their children, but not legal custody. But rather than disappearing into the night by crossing German borders, the Wunderlichs petitioned the court for permission to emigrate from Germany to another country where homeschooling is permitted. (I am unsure I would petition the court to do that. Would you?) This hearing was set for December 18, 2013, at which time lawyers for the Wunderlichs asked the judge to return full legal custody to the parents because they have complied with all of the court’s orders that the children go to government school, and because they wished to move to France where homeschooling is legal. However, at that hearing, Family Court Judge Marcus Malkmus slammed the door on the Wunderlich emigration hopes. The order by the Honorable Judge Malkmus compared homeschooling to a straitjacket for the children. While the Honorable Judge Malkmus acknowledged that the Wunderlich children were well cared for, and did not have any educational deficiencies, he refused to return full legal custody to the parents, or to allow the family to leave Germany. He stated that it was necessary to keep the Wunderlich children in German government schools to ensure that they were integrated into society. If they were allowed to be homeschooled in Germany or anywhere else, the consequences might be that “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue who those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.” (I would bet that almost all of today’s German neo-Nazi skinheads attended government schools for at least a portion of their “education.” How is that working out, Herr Marcus? But I digress.) Finally, Judge Malkmus concluded that homeschooling creates “concrete endangerment to the well-being of the child.” (Homeschooling parents, did you realize that? After all, it must be true since a judge said it!) However, the judge failed to cite any evidence before the court in support of his proposition. (Just in case you think I am making this up, Judge Malkmus’s written orders are available here in an unofficial English translation, and in the official German-language version here).
Dirk Wunderlich told Home School Legal Defense Association that he was shocked by the harshness of the judge’s decision. Mr. Wunderlich said:
I had really hoped the judge would just let us leave Germany peacefully. We don’t isolate our children. They are well adjusted and doing well academically. We are happy for them to be connected to society. We just prefer to homeschool them because we believe it is better for them. It is so sad that my countrymen are not able to see that homeschooling should be allowed. It is legal in many other countries, and I believe is a human right. Judge Malkmus has erected another Berlin Wall apparently designed to prevent all parents who might leave to homeschool from leaving Germany. This is no different than what happened in the former East Germany under communism and before that under the Third Reich. We need help from others around the world to help our country see this terrible violation of human rights.
Please continue to pray for the freedom of the Wunderlich family, and for wisdom for the attorneys representing the family. In the coming days, I will be sharing my exchange of correspondence with the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., regarding the Wunderlichs. Yes, Judge Malkmus, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Let The Wunderlichs Go!