Transcription of the February 28, 2000 "Report from Mainz" broadcast, (German Television)


Paul Spiegel Reinforces Investigation By ARD's "REPORT Mainz" Broadcast
Association of Free Waldorf Schools Defeated in Crucial Points in Legal Battle with "Report Mainz"


Let us leave politics for the moment and turn to another topic: Waldorf schools. These schools have no grades; in their stead they offer much other schools do not: foreign languages after the first year, an ecologically friendly garden for the school kitchen, woodworking for girls, knitting for boys and passage to the next grade for everybody. For eighty years, Waldorf schools have been synonymous with gentle learning.
Now, however, they are in the spotlight.
In France, the Parliamentary Commission on Sects is examining Waldorf schools and their anthroposophic teachings. In Germany as well, criticism of concepts and teaching methods grows ever louder.

Barbara Siebert and Eric Fiedler report.


Waldorf schools in Germany. Twelve years without pressure, no grades, no ranking. Plenty of time for music and art.
The key figure is the class teacher, who over eight years is the children's sole guide through the curriculum - without books. This educational method is tied to a man whose picture hangs in nearly every Waldorf school: Rudolf Steiner. His teachings form the basis of Waldorf education. But the façade is beginning to show cracks.
We speak with disappointed mothers of Waldorf students from across the Federal Republic, ask them why they removed their children from the school.
Today they are afraid. Many have been cursed as traitors. They are willing to speak only anonymously.

Mother of a former Waldorf student:
"There is no accountability, no transparence. We don't know what actually took place. Generally speaking, parents do not receive enough information about the education."

Mother of a former Waldorf student:
"A school imbued with racism and with a very one-sided philosophical orientation on Steiner. He's really the kind of leader figure I never wanted my children to have. In history class they discussed races. Peoples were assigned categories and the whole evolutionary theory seems somewhat peculiar to me."

Sybille Jacobs speaks openly before our cameras. She woke up much too late, she says, and did not remove her children from a Waldorf school until the mid-1990s. For some years she has headed an association for parents of former Waldorf students.

Sybille Jacobs of "Initiative zur Anthroposophie-Kritik, Augsburg (Initiative for Criticism of Anthroposophy):
"In my opinion the children are clearly exposed to racist thought. It's subtle and done in such a way that the parents don't necessarily notice right away. We didn't notice either, because I never looked at their school materials that closely, because the children never got much homework. They I finally did look at the materials and I was really shocked."

Recent fifth-grade history workbooks from different Waldorf schools. We discover teaching about human development unknown in the history lessons of public schools. The Aryans, Waldorf curriculum declares, left the sinking continent of Atlantic to found many high cultures. Terms like "Aryan," "sacrificial fire" (Opferfeuer) and "Aryan wanderings" are used without comment.
Outside observers may see only the teaching of a little-known myth. Experts see it differently. The contents of the workbooks show, they say, that the children are being taught mythology as historical fact and that a development theory placing special emphasis on Aryans is pedagogically untenable.

Klaus Prange, educational specialist at the University of Tübingen:
"This construction serves to create a consciousness in the individual that all of history, as Steiner reads it, with all it peculiarities, is present in every human
being. With a clear advantage to our belonging, or supposed belonging, one must say, to the Aryan race, which Waldorf continues to treat as something that really existed."

Some books describe the characteristics of entire peoples, teaching that Russians are undisciplined and unpunctual, the French superficial and so-called "bush men" have forward-curving spines and large posteriors.

Hildegard Ernst trains history teachers for public schools. We present her with the Waldorf teaching materials.

Hildegard Ernst, historian at the University of Mainz:
" In some chapters peoples are depicted with exaggerated stereotypes that must lead to racist ideas if left uncommented."

In the opinion of some parents, these attitudes can also be found in daily school life, with dreadful consequences.

Mother of a former Waldorf student:
"Handicapped people, foreigners and everyone else who doesn't fit their preconceptions, fit certain preconceptions, are discriminated against. And our children had a lot of problems with that because we're very cosmopolitan and tolerant. In the final analysis it was one of the primary reasons for removing our child from the Waldorf school."

Samuel Althof, "Aktion Kinder des Holocaust" in Basel:
"For the past two years or so we have been hearing stories from the Federal Republic of Germany of anti-Semitic incidents at Waldorf schools. These incidents vary greatly, sometimes they include violence against children, including verbal violence, as in: you're not allowed to be Jewish, you should stop learning Hebrew. And generally: Don't go to Jewish religious classes, the Holocaust was necessary in order to counteract/remove/disperse/atone for karma, the sacrifices were necessary -- and thus the Holocaust is legitimized."

Racism and anti-Semitism in Waldorf education?
A look back.

1919. Rudolf Steiner founds a school for the children of the Waldorf-Astoria Cigarette Factory. Hence the name Waldorf. Steiner developed a new pedagogy for the school. Its basis to the present day is anthroposophy. Reincarnation and karma play central roles.
Athroposophy and Waldorf education are supposed to elevate humans to a higher intellectual level in their next lives.
But Steiner's teachings also contain the following: "The white race is the race of the future, is the race of intellectual achievement." "The Negro has a strong libido." "Thus, the Jews could do nothing better than be absorbed by the rest of humanity, so that Jewry as a people would simply cease to exist, that is would be ideal." Three of many statements of this kind from Steiner's oeuvre. Researchers and parents criticize the fact that to this day the Waldorf movement has failed to distance itself from such statements.

Although many of Steiner's contemporaries held similar views, only his teachings remain the basis of an educational system today. Critics thus see the danger that this content might be taught in Waldorf schools today.

The Waldorf movement trains its own teachers. Steiners works stand at the center of this training. The Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen (Association of Free Waldorf Schools ) admits that many Waldorf teachers teach such concepts as so-called "Aryan wanderings" and stereotypes about peoples.

Walter Hiller, Bund der Freien Waldorfschulen, Stuttgart:
"It is quite certain that we must make greater efforts to maintain discussion, or initiate discussion about what can justifiably be part of the Waldorf school and what can not be part of it, because it can really lead to confusion and perhaps also to distractions that have to do with a teacher's personal ambitions, but nothing to do with what Waldorf schools are supposed to be."

A teacher's personal ambitions?
Single incidents?

Norbert Biermann, former Waldorf teacher:
"Every Waldorf teacher feels obligated by Steiner's teachings and as long as they do not distance themselves publicly from these racist ideas, it is incomprehensible to me that such schools still propagate this ideology at the close of the 20th century and claim public funding in order to do so."

In the near future, Heiner Ullrich will begin the first empirical study of Waldorf schools. He wants to observe Waldorf education in practice. But even now he is calling for more plurality in the training of Waldorf teachers. A reduced focus on Steiner could mean, he says,
Heiner Ullrich:
"that (they) could free themselves for all time from the nationalist, racist and anti-Semitic biases in this pedagogy."

Moderator Bernhard Nellessen's closing remarks:
One should note that our intent is not to falsely ascribe fascist content to Waldorf schools overall. We believe, however, that it is high time for those responsible to undertake a critical examination of the father of Waldorf schools, Rudolf Steiner.

Bernhard Nellessen

Eric Friedler
Barbara Siebert

Helmut Hörber
Harald von Hellborn

Roland Rossner

Association of Free Waldorf Schools Defeated in Crucial Points in Legal Battle with "Report Mainz"

On February 28, 2000, the ARD news program of Südwestfunk (South West Broadcasting or SWR), "Report Mainz," broadcast a program segment with the title "Waldorf Schools: Disappointed Parents Report." The film presented a critical appraisal of the curriculum in some Waldorf schools.

Parents of Waldorf students reported they perceived teaching at Waldorf schools to have "a racist character." Beyond that, the segment showed workbooks from the history classes of individual Waldorf schools containing stereotypical descriptions of various peoples as well as terms like "Aryans," "Aryan wanderings" and "Aryan sacrificial fire." Experts criticized this content.

Additionally, Samuel Althof, spokesperson for the Swiss group "Aktion Kinder des Holocaust," reported that Jewish children were subjected to anti-Semitic discrimination in many Waldorf schools.

The segment elicited vehement reactions on the part of followers and official representatives of Waldorf schools. Immediately following the broadcast, the Association of Free Waldorf Schools took legal action against SWR, demanding the opportunity to present several rebuttals. The association also demanded that SWR refrain from making the following statements:
a) Racism and anti-Semitism are part of the pedagogy of Waldorf schools;
b) An increasing number of Jewish parents are removing their children from Waldorf schools; and
c) Anti-Semitic incidents take place at Waldorf schools, during which the following statements are made:
"You are not allowed to be Jewish, it would be better if you stopped learning Hebrew. And generally: don't attend Jewish religion classes, the Holocaust was necessary in order to atone for negative karma, the sacrifices were necessary and thus the Holocaust is legitimized." (Citation: Spokesperson for "Initiative Kinder des Holocaust"

For the most part, the Frankfurt Regional Court ruled against the peculiar demands made by representatives of the Free Waldorf Schools. In its ruling of 3/23/2000, the Frankfurt court rejected a petition by the Association of Free Waldorf Schools to issue a temporary injunction against SWR on points a) and c). The court found that the program segment had not claimed "untrue facts" about Waldorf schools. Following are excerpts from the Frankfurt ruling:

"Petitioner's opponent (SWR) did not claim that 'racism and anti-Semitism are part of Waldorf pedagogy.' Rather, SWR interviewed several mothers of former Waldorf students and the spokesperson for a Swiss group, 'Aktion Kinder des Holocaust,' during its report and then posed the question '(Is there) racism and anti-Semitism in Waldorf pedagogy?' The question was formulated in a neutral and factual manner and does not suggest that it is a purely rhetorical question to which petitioner's opponent already has the answer."

The court declared further that it saw no reason why "the statement by Mr. Samuel Althof should not be true." Additionally, the court stated specifically that it did not appear completely unlikely "that individual teachers in individual schools made statements like those reported by Mr. Althof. Since Mr. Althof's statements do not imply that the incidents he reports are daily occurrences, they cannot be objected to."

In the view of SWR Editor-in-chief and "Report" moderator Bernhard Nellessen, the court's ruling has given the "Report" investigation retroactive confirmation.

SWR has been temporarily prohibited solely from disseminating the statement contained in point b). SWR plans to appeal this ruling, however, because it has in its possession statements by representatives of Jewish organizations that prove the accuracy of the statement attacked by the Waldorf school association. The court was prevented from considering this documentation during the petition process of the Association of Free Waldorf Schools.


© Aktion Kinder des Holocaust