Hitler’s Ghost Haunts German Parents

Of all religious groups Baptists were among the most fiercely persecuted in the Soviet Union. They were not just Christians but they also distrusted the state, preaching an institutional secession from state-run institutions. Many Baptists belonged to the German-speaking minority in Southern Russia and Kazakhstan. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, they emigrated to Germany, the land where their forefathers had originally come from. Today, these Baptist immigrants from Russia, as well as the Low-German Mennonites, are being prosecuted in Germany because they are unhappy with what their children are learning in the German public schools, which they consider too secular. Children are not allowed to opt out of classes or school activities and homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Adolf Hitler outlawed it in 1938.

Last week, a court in Paderborn in the German state of Westphalia ruled that two Baptist couples lose their parental authority over their own children in educational matters. The court said it was interfering “in order to protect the children from further harm.” It stated that the parents had shown “a stubborn contempt both for the state’s educational duty as well as the right of their children to develop their personalities by attending school.” The court appointed the local Paderborn social service as guardian over the children to ensure that they attend public school.

The two couples belong to a group of seven families with a total of fifteen children of elementary school age who do not attend school.  The parents were brought to court by the local education board of the county whose director, Heinz Kohler, argued that homeschooling cannot be allowed because it is “a right of the child not to be kept away from the outside world. The parents’ right to personally educate their children would prevent the children from growing up to be responsible individuals within society.” Kohler was backed by the Westphalian minister of Education, the Socialist politician Ute Schäfer, who stated that the obligation to attend a government approved school follows from the “right of a child to free education and maturation.”

Last January, a court in the Westphalian county of Gütersloh sentenced a couple to imprisonent, six days for the mother followed by six days for the father, because the parents had refused to let their children attend a Christmas school play after Grimm’s fairytale “König Drosselbart” (King Thrushbeard), which they considered blasphemous. The prison sentences were demanded by Sven-Georg Adenauer,  the Christian-Democrat Landrat (governor) of Gütersloh county, because the parents refused to pay the fine of 150 euros which they had received for not sending their children to the school play.

Upon the conviction Hermann Hartfeld, a Baptist preacher from Cologne who is also an immigrant from Russia, wrote to Adenauer: “These parents did not give in to the intimidations of the Communists. Do you really believe that they will give in to you?” However, Germany’s Christian-Democrats, who are likely to win the coming general elections in September, are as opposed to homeschooling as are the ruling Socialists. The German mentality, even among its so-called conservatives, is very statist. Parents are considered to be incapable of schooling their own children. In this respect the German mentality does not seem to have changed much since the days of Adolf Hitler, when the Germans were expected to look upon the state as a caring parent. Ironically, Sven-Georg Adenauer is the grandson of Konrad Adenauer, the first post-Nazi Chancellor of Germany.

The initiative of the Paderborn Baptists to establish their own private school was rejected by the authorities, who argued that such a school is but a cover for homeschooling and that “the living room is not a class room.” The Baptist families received the support of Hermann Stücher, a 68-year old Christian pedagogue who from 1980 to 1997 homeschooled all his seven children, despite a government prohibition. Stücher runs the Philadelphia School in Siegen, another Westphalian town. The Philadelphia School, which is not recognised by the German authorities, was established to assist homeschooling families. Stücher called upon all Christian parents in Germany to withdraw their children from the public schools which, he says, have fallen into the hands of “neomarxist activists propagating atheist humanism, hedonism, pluralism and materialism.” Manfred Müller, the Christian-Democrat Landrat of Paderborn county, has threatened to take Stücher to court on charges of “Hochverrat und Volksverhetzung (high treason and incitement of the people against the authorities) – a charge which the Nazis also used against their opponents. Müller considers homeschooling to be high treason because “die Schulpflicht sei eine staatsbürgerliche Pflicht, über die nicht verhandelt werden könne” (the obligation to attend school is a civil obligation, that cannot be tampered with).

The total number of homeschooled children in Germany is estimated to be only some 500  in a country of 80 million inhabitants. Unlike in its Western and Southern neighbours, however, homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Last year the police in Bavaria held several homeschooling fathers in coercive detention.  They belonged to Christian groups who claim the right of parents to educate their own children, but they are not backed by the official (state funded) churches.  Reinhard Hempelmann, a spokesman of the Evangelical Church in Berlin, maintains that the homeschoolers “isolate themselves from the world and the traditional churches.” Alfred Buss, the president of the Evangelical Church in Westphalia, has said that “freedom of religion does not justify opposition against the obligation to attend school.” Six decades after Hitler, German politicians and official church leaders still do not seem to understand what true freedom implies: that raising children is a prerogative of their fathers and mothers and not of the state, which is never a benevolent parent and often an enemy.

The targeted parents are all Christians, whose faith encourages them to act upon their principles, but the fierceness of the authorities’ reaction is telling. The dispute is not about religion (though that alone would be bad enough) but about the hearts and minds of the children. In Germany schools have become vehicles of indoctrination where children are brought up to unquestioningly accept the authority of the state in all areas of life. It is no coincidence that those who have escaped from indoctrination under the Soviets discern what the government is doing in the schools and are sufficiently concerned to want to protect their children from it. What is worrying is that “free-born” Western parents accept this assault on their freedom as normal and regard the Christian parents who want to opt out of the state system with suspicion.

What is one to make of modern-day Germany, a country which happily appoints a former marxist fanatic and condoner of terrorism to the post of minister of foreign affairs  but accuses ordinary citizens of treason when they voice concern about what the schools are teaching their children? Clearly they have learned nothing from their experiences with state totalitarianism in the last century.

Define "real faith-based school"

"it is quite possible that these Baptists can establish a real faithbased school with full State subsidies."

Define "real faith-based school".

"Some small Baptist sects and such groups as the Jehova Witnesses indeed have a record non recognition of, and of opposing to the extreme each and every co-operation with any wordly government."

Care to give examples?

Homeschooling in Germany

We had to homeschool our son there. There are no courses for foreigners to learn German and he could not speak it or write it. The school suggested he see a psychiatrist instead of offering him instruction. The American school cost way too much money. We had no problems because we kept it under the radar. Germans also are unable to imagine that anyone would be homeschooling. Narrow-mindednessness can be a help sometimes for those trying to do something unapproved.

A confessional school must follow the same sex education program as in non-confessional schools. There was the infamous case of the Auerbacher religious sisters who were removed and reprimanded for removing pages from a biology textbook. The sisters did the right thing. I also removed pages from the German biology textbooks which my other children brought home. No impurity and deadly lies about it are allowed in my house!

We are homeschooling in Germany

We live in what was the old commie side of Germany, and people here do not care what we do. Of course, I am sure the authorities would, so we rent a furnished place by the month and do not give the authorities a second thought.
Germany is so incredibly secular, that I cannot believe parents are so sanguine about the public schools.
Here is an example of the German mentality. Next to the Happy Meals at McDonalds, a smutty daily called Bild is sold. Bild always has naked women on the cover and lots of frank sex and gore related headlines.
Homo-erotic calendars are always sold next to the stuffed animals at stores...It is as if pedophiles were in charge of product placement in this country!
There is just no excusing the un-family friendly atmosphere so, of course, the government has to resort to forcing people into public schools to maintain the status quo.
Let us not forget the Greens have been in power for 7 years. Kids are taught in school to be non-consuming-tree-huggers. For that reason water costs 10 times what it does in Texas. It costs $3 to put out one bag of leaves for the trashman to take...
You cannot keep this sort of thing afloat without brain-washing.
God bless those wonderful parents in Paderborn, they are the best parents in Germany.

Germany and home schooling

To give a proper judgement of this particular case we should know more about the laws and regulations on non-public or confession based schools in the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Nordrein-Westfalen.

To call this particular case a totalitarian crime of the government or something like that, similar to Communist or National Socialist dictatorships seems to me rather extreme and probably wrong.

Most continental European countries have full subsidies for private and faithbased school if these schools answer to certain general criteria.

Germany and Nordrein-Westfalen oppose homeschooling, but it is quite possible that these Baptists can establish a real faithbased school with full State subsidies. Protection of religious autonomy has been traditionally quite strong in German law.

Compare the favourable situation in most continetal European countries is full subsidy of faithbased schools with the American situation, were (for the most part) only the secular-humanist governmental school system is supported by taxpayers money.

Judging the American or the European schoolsystems on level of respect for freedom of the citizen and parent is in the eye of the beholder.

Some small Baptist sects and such groups as the Jehova Witnesses indeed have a record non recognition of, and of opposing to the extreme each and every co-operation with any wordly government. It demands a lot more exact information on this particular case before one can equal the duty to send ones children to a real school (including private and faithbased school) to totalitarian repression of parental rights.

As far as the reference to Hitler is concerned, Godwin's law is relevant here. Please use google if you do not know Godwin's law. Invoking Hitler in this case is plain silly and formulates an unjustified criticism on the governments of the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Nordrein-Westfalia.