October 15, 2004 in Pfäfflingen, Germany
A few words about myself: I am married, my wife is American. We have four children of which the two older ones are of school age. Being an American, my wife certainly cannot comprehend the German jurisdiction, just as little as Mr. Guenther. Americans have a concept of freedom that is very different from that of Europeans and especially Germans, because of their tradition. On the license plates of the state of New Hampshire it says, for example, “Live free or die.” So this is the American concept of freedom which almost no German can comprehend.
So, now we have been introducing ourselves a little bit. We are families, we live together. We are not out of touch with the world. We run an organic farm; we supply health food stores and restaurants in the area. We are one of several organic farms in the central Ries area. Every year, we have several hundred guests with us on the farm estate who either work with us or only stay for the day. Some stay for a week, some for several weeks straight. We are not afraid of people by any means, we enjoy meeting people. We enjoy showing anyone our life.
Two weeks ago, we had a Thanksgiving celebration here where several families from the neighboring villages participated. It was very nice. We had activities for the children. Last year, we celebrated three large weddings. At some of them we had more than 100 guests. We want our way of life to make God's love a little bit more real to people, and we want people to be able to find something here which they do not find in society at large — something that you do not really sense there.
Are we really out of touch with life or the world? Our children speak fluent English. Very many of them grow up speaking English, just like my children since their mother tongue is obviously English. But all our children grow up bilingually. They have all sorts of cultural experiences. We have a lot of international contacts. My family and I have lived in France for a year, in Israel for half a year. And one year ago, a Brazilian family spent several months here. Also, an American family lived here with us for a year. These are real-life experiences. Our children do not need to have them in classrooms or get them out of books. There are Americans, Hungarians, Dutch, and Swiss people living in our Community in Klosterzimmern. All these afford us with cultural enrichment. We are not interested in isolating ourselves. On the contrary — we like interacting with people.
We have our own income, our own industry. We have a crafts business. We do not receive any unemployment benefits or welfare money; we support ourselves. We do not have a whole lot of money; we live a simple life. And whatever children's benefits we do receive, we use for special projects which profit our children and youth, e.g., training projects, special jobs that we do with our children where they can really learn something. [The money] actually goes where it is supposed to go, that is, to our children.
We did not desire or cause the current escalation or the pending coercive detention. The school law, or the punishment for non-compliance with it, really was designed for truants — for the parents of children or youth who simply do not feel like going to school, but who would rather hang out in gambling dens or department stores, wasting their time. This is what the law was made for. The purpose of the compulsory education law is, was, and should still be for children to get an education — that their education would not be neglected, but that they would get prepared for their adult life and become a productive element of society, so that they would not have to say afterwards, “I cannot do anything, I do not know anything, I cannot read. State, please help me.” However, if this law is satisfied otherwise, e.g., by our daily classes, in the parents' own initiative, if our children are going to reach the level of a basic secondary school, then the purpose of the law is fulfilled.
If I think of Konrad Adenauer for example — most people are aware of this — Konrad Adenauer was home-schooled. Konrad Adenauer did not go to public school. The great statesman from America, Abraham Lincoln, was taught in a log cabin and wrote speeches which the average American today can hardly understand, so beautiful was the style in which he wrote English. Albert Einstein was a brilliant failure in school. So compulsory education is not a guarantee for success in education. We do not belong in the mainstream; that means we are a small society within the larger society.
And we have different values. This morning, we have heard of a few values that we live for and which our life is all about, which also we want to pass on to our children foremost of all. And we do not want to get sucked into the mainstream values. Society at large has to be able to tolerate minorities and must not just impose its own values on small minorities and dictate these values and educational goals to parents. You do not have to live with us in Klosterzimmern; you just have to keep your eyes peeled and your ears tuned, and you are quickly going to realize that there is a lot in public schools that is going awry. For months and even years there have been reports in the media about the public school system almost every day, and most of the time it is bad news.
What bothers us a lot as parents is the moral decline of modern society; that very few values are being passed on to children and youths, that values have become optional, that there are no more standards. As Mr. Markeli already mentioned, we take offense at sexual education in the classroom. For instance, Sigmund Freud spoke about early sexualization, and sexual education by the state is an early sexualization. If seven- or eight-year-olds may not even be interested in such things yet, if they do not even have those kinds of questions yet naturally, but they get stimulated, then it sets a process in motion. This is how Sigmund Freud explained it: “Children who get sexually stimulated are no longer educable. The destruction of natural shame causes the breakdown of inhibitions in every other area. Brutality and disrespect for the personality of man.” This is Sigmund Freud saying this. The result of this moral decline is that nowadays, every third child that is conceived in Germany gets aborted — every third child. Over the last 30 years, eight million children have been aborted in Germany. And these things are interconnected; they are not independent from each other. Among youth there has been an increase in the readiness to resort to violence. This is documented in studies by the Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigation. These are available on the Internet. The misuse of alcohol and drugs also is on the increase. Why is it that laws are being tightened more and more? Because the government realizes that [the situation] is sliding out of its control.
Fines and coercive detention are the wrong methods. You cannot change a true conviction with fines and imprisonment. The word fine [in German] connotes penance, repentance, change. The district court judge of Nördlingen wrote that coercive detention became necessary if a fine [in German carrying the meaning of penance, repentance, change] did not accomplish a re-education with a view to a future lawful behavior, meaning that we parents would send our children to school afterwards. This is the purpose of the fine. For reasons of conscience we could not, still cannot, and never will pay these fines. Fines connote change. We are not going to sell out our conviction. And the state, the Government of Bavaria, knew this. That we were going to be true to our conviction is what we already told them years ago, and we re-emphasized it time and time again and testified it in court. And nevertheless, the state has acted in this way, knowing that this would result in an escalation. This was calculated.
It should all be about our children, about their wellbeing. This is why we teach our children at home. It should all be about our children, but unfortunately they are the ones to suffer. As I said at the beginning, it is not only about fathers or men going to prison, or [mothers or] women going to prison, but it is about families. It is about children. There are a lot of parents, and of course a father and a mother want the best for their child. But there are many other families in Germany in desperate straits; they know they will be able to pass something of greater value on to their children by teaching them at home. Here you can see a map. It is well-known that more than 600 children in Germany are being taught in this way. So there are many more than the thirty or forty children we have. And these families are in desperate straits. And we will not give up our conviction. The government needs to see how it treats people who are able to think for themselves and want to pass something on to their children in their own initiative. We will not give in to the state's threatening us with imprisonment to make us pay the fine. We will not do that.
We are not looking to be martyrs. Some accuse us, saying, “Well, now you are just letting it all happen to you.” This is not what it is about. This is a conscience-based decision. It is not about an opinion we have, or about obtaining a privileged status, or about what we might prefer. It is a matter of conscience. We cannot act any other way.
From the beginning, the state adopted a hard line. And from the beginning, we sought a dialog. In the other states [of Germany] we had found sensible officials, especially in Lower Saxony and Baden-Württemberg. Here in Bavaria the doors to the Ministry of Education have been closed to us so far. The state of Bavaria insists on its monopoly on education, and really it wants to scare off other citizens. After all, who wants to go through what we are having to go through right now? Who wants to go to prison? [Some may say,] “All things considered, I'd rather send my child to school, even though it hurts in my heart and in my conscience, because I do not want to risk my job, my income, or my house.” The state of Bavaria wants more than 150,000 Euros' worth of fines from us — unjustly. It wants to get rich. And I want to make this very clear — the youth department in Donauwörth knows that our children are doing well and that this coercive detention is against the wellbeing of children. If anyone thinks that our children are not doing well — and you have just seen them — you are welcome to visit us and get your own idea of our children. Our children are happy children. They grow up secure, they have confidence, and they are looking forward to their adult life; they are not afraid of the future.
The pending coercive detention also has overtones of some other things, shameful details. I think there are other fathers and mothers here that are affected and might want to talk about these things themselves afterwards. But let me just mention the case of a young woman from our community. She is married by now, she is Portuguese, and as a Portuguese citizen she has filed for German citizenship. Her husband is German, was born and raised in Germany; she does not know Portugal at all, she speaks no Portuguese, so she is as German as German can be. However, her application for naturalization has been rejected because she did not go to German school for eight years. So much for that.
Also, the state of Bavaria is going to throw a mother in prison who is severely ill with rheumatism, whose doctor has attested to her unfitness to undergo detention. But the forensic pathologist does not agree, and so this woman is supposed to undergo detention. On top of that she has a five-month-old nursing baby.
[Mr. Krumbacher, father of three children, gets up and explains his situation.]
I think that what this is really about is to come to one's senses. Where is common sense? We are not lawless people. We pay our taxes. We abide by the law. We do not have anything against the state. We are not subversive, we are not hostile towards democracy — we stand firmly on the [German] constitution. The state does not need to fear us. On the contrary: Many policemen tell us, “If everybody lived as you do we would be out of work.” But in that one point, the law of compulsory school attendance, where it is about our precious children and their education and upbringing, we cannot make any compromises. Just as we do not pay and will not pay our fines for reasons of conscience, we parents are not going to turn ourselves in today [to begin this prison sentence].
What is the solution? What is going to happen next? Is the solution to send us to prison twice a year? Is the solution really to hit us with fines two to three times a year? Meanwhile, these fines amount to more than 150,000.00 Euros, which we could not ever pay. What shall we do? Shall we flee Germany? Do we not have rights anymore? Are we citizens with no rights in this country? This would expose Germany, Bavaria, and democracy. We like it in Bavaria, we enjoy living here. We enjoy living in the Ries area. We have met with a tremendous amount of support from the people here. But we cannot and will not give up our children's education. So, what is the solution?
We still hope that there is democracy — a democratic state under the rule of law. I have a map here which shows the educational landscape of Europe [see map here]. Yellow means there is compulsory education [in most European countries other than Germany], that means it is tolerated if parents teach on their own initiative unless it is explicitly ruled out by the constitution or the educational laws. Germany [in red] really is the only country in the European Community — and we did not just present it that way — that takes massive and brutal action against parents, even here in Bavaria. These are reprisals which are unworthy of a democracy. And it all fails because the Ministry of Education in Munich does not answer the many letters we have written over the past years, and some colleagues of Mrs. Hohlmeier's [the Minister of Education here in Bavaria] threw us out when we tried to talk to her personally early this year. Mrs. Hohlmeier has lost connection to the electorate, she lacks the sensitivity to deal with our situation. She takes a hard line and throws good sense overboard. We want to talk to Mrs. Hohlmeier. We want to find a way to live together and get along with each other. We are interested in having a good relationship with the authorities. We are thankful for the government which maintains order. We are thankful for the police who care for our security so that I can sleep in peace, without having to be afraid of dangerous people breaking into my house.
In the United States some of our communities are simply recognized as private schools — as initiatives of parents that joined together to teach their children. We offer the state of Bavaria to conduct transparent classes. We have always invited the Civil Servants to get to know us and our children, our teaching methods as well as our curriculum materials, and to view our students' records complete with our own tests and test results. We have nothing against constructive criticism, on the contrary — we are glad to increase in our learning. We invite the state of Bavaria to have a good conscience [about us] and supervise our classes. But we do not want them to determine what our children learn, or when, or how, because we as parents take responsibility for this. We want our school in Klosterzimmern to be recognized and legalized. We do not like being regarded as lawbreakers. This is embarrassing to us. We hope and pray every day to find Civil Servants here in Bavaria to whom children matter more than regulations.