Home-school Germans flee to England to Escape Hitler’s 1938 Law

Guardian
24.02.2008
Charlie Francis-Pape and Allan Hall in Berlin

A 1938 law designed to ensure state control of all children has provoked a family exodus to Britain.

Families are fleeing to the UK from Germany to escape a law introduced by Hitler that could lead to their children being taken into care if educated at home. One father, who arrived in Britain with his wife and five children last month, has told The Observer that his family had no choice after being warned that their children would be taken into foster care unless they enrolled them at local schools. Another, who fled in October, said he believed the 70-year-old law was creating hundreds of refugees and forcing families into hiding to protect their children.

Home-schooling has been illegal in Germany since it was outlawed in 1938. Hitler wanted the Nazi state to have complete control of young minds. […] Klaus Landahl, 41, who moved in January from the Black Forest in Germany to the Isle of Wight with his wife, Kathrin, 39, said they had no option but to leave their home, friends and belongings in order to educate their five children, aged between three and 12, legally and without fear. ‘It feels like persecution,’ he said. ‘We had to get to safety to protect our family. We can never go back. If we do, our children will be removed, as the German government says they are the property of the state now.’ […]

Jonathan Skeet, who is British-born, said that he, his wife and five children, aged between two and 11, were driven from Lüdenscheid after the authorities froze their bank account, removed money from it and confiscated their car. […] ‘It was crippling,’ he said. ‘When we lived in Germany we wanted to live a very inconspicuous and quiet life. But instead we ended up in direct confrontation with a very powerful state.’

About 800 families are believed to educate their children at home illegally [in Germany]. Stephanie Edel, who runs the Schulbildung in Familieninitiative, a German organisation that aims to support those who educate at home, said that last year some 78 home-schooled children fled Germany with their parents. ‘It is very dangerous to home-educate here,’ she said. ‘Home-educators have to learn to expect anything and have to be ready to leave overnight.’ […]

Last year, in an extreme example, 15-year-old Melissa Busekros was removed from her family. […] Both domestic and EU courts have ruled in the German state’s favour on numerous occasions in recent years.

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