He who throws a stone into the water may at least expect some ripples. In its broadcasts of February 28 and July 10, 2000, "Report" politics magazine from Mainz (ARD) threw two stones - the result was a wave of lawsuits and a flood of protest.
The first broadcast was about very extensive anti-Semitic incidents at the Waldorf schools, the second was about racism in the book, "Atlantis und das Raetsel der Eiszeitkunst" - a little volume authored by Ernst Uehli, the first Waldorf teacher, which is on a list of literature which is put at the disposal of Waldorf teachers as preparation for history instruction - in the meantime the Waldorf schools have distanced themselves from the book after the Federal Families Ministry filed an application for classification.
The book contains a racist ("Today's Negro is childish and has remained an imitative being") and esoteric mixture ("The seed of genius has already been placed for the Aryan race in their cradle of Atlantis"). The "Report" broadcast ended with the unusual comment, "We will not let ourselves be intimidated."
Now lawsuits and notes of protest are legitimate means of defense - but the content of many of these letters are not, as Eric Friedler reports. Letters and telephone calls which the editor of the controversial broadcast received allegedly certified that he was the "reincarnated anti-Christ" and that he belonged "behind bars." Even the friendlier instructions sounded gruesome: "If you go along with Steiner's ideology of repeated life on earth, then the souls of the Atlantans are still among us," said one, and another, "As far as the Negroes, name one who has founded a university." The mother of one student was surprising with her fatal logic, "We are not racists, that is all Jewish propaganda!"
Apart from the quality of many reactions, the quantity was also surprising. Frey sensed a concerted action behind the stereotypes and identical reactions, even down to word selection: "There are indications that the schools sounded the cry to harass us."
Actually, on the home page of the Alliance of Free Waldorf Schools (www.waldorf-schule.de) no protest is being called for, but the defeat in the legal dispute with "Report's" SWR is being sold as a victory.
Counter-presentations and demands to cease and desist were completely rejected by the Frankfurt State Court and Stuttgart Superior State court. Only the statement that Jewish parents "increasingly" took their children out of the school may not be repeated, as per temporary restraining order - SWR has filed appeal.
SWR may be well-provisioned for a cost intensive legal dispute. But not independent investigative journalists like the Austrian, Angelika Walser, who had published a critical article in the Christian conservative weekly paper "Die Furche": "There was a storm of protest such as "Die Furche" had never before experienced. I was threatened with lawsuits and accused of having falsified much of my information." The affair was then "amicably resolved," as they say so wonderfully in Austria: a preliminary hearing occurred with the Graz Waldorf school, as Walser reported, and her bosses. The journalist gave up the theme out of necessity: "If you investigate them you need broad shoulders."
Austrian television producer and journalist Petrus van der Let had broad shoulders. In a five-part series on the roots of National Socialism, in the "Savior" sequel, he got involved with the role of Rudolf Steiner and the esoteric, occult promises of salvation of Anthroposophy. In a subsequent live discussion, the theme was "energetically and controversially" disputed; soon afterwards the usual officious letters hailed down on van der Let's employer.
A board member of the group association of Waldorf schools, Raoul Kneucker, had described the film as a "successful, post-modern collage" during the discussion - but four weeks afterwards in December 1996, before the General Secretary of the Council of Europe he raised an "objection against the promotion of the film project," not only that, but he said that was because of "crass violation of the fundamentals of objectivity."
Arnold Seul, today employed as an MDR television editor, investigated "unusual disciplinary measures" at a Waldorf School for "Fakt" magazine (of 9-9-96: "Mythos Waldorfpaedagogik"). "Even before airing," he said, "committees like the Broadcast Council were involved, there were letters to television directors from Westdeutschen to Saarlaendishen Broadcasting. I continued with the filming, but got no more voiceovers from Anthroposophists. Instead of that, dozens of letters and complaints."
At a presentation which was supposed to have calmed things down, he found himself "confronted by a tribunal of from 30 to 40 people" who all put pressure on him. "I don't do yellow journalism," Seul reassured the excited Anthroposophists - only to find that sentence repeated later as a confession to parents in a newsletter, but "don't" was deleted.
"Normally one experiences something like that only when one is dealing with Scientology," said Seul - but had two possible explanations for the remarkably thin skin of the Anthroposophists. For one, he thinks the real financial interests of the Alliance of Free Waldorf Schools may be at risk: "After the turn in the GDR, they marched right in as free supporters of schools and were welcomed with open arms. Now one deals with high figures in figuring out what kind of money is involved." Associated with concerns about subsidies, however, is a "persecution complex befitting that of a cult-like association." Seul: "Part of it is they are too alienated from the world to know how to appropriately react to criticism. They have no kind of experience with the culture of the media.
Anthroposophist Stefan Leber, in contrast, not only has experience, but a very flexible picture of what a journalist does - they remind him of "dogs, sniffing from scent mark to scent mark, leaving their own scent behind. They follow a trail, they smell urine and droppings; they have no interest in smelling roses or violets. There is an internal connection between their sniffing and their own excrement," according to Leber, as can be read in the Flensburg volume (63/IV/98) - he is a board member of the Alliance of Free Waldorf Schools and docent for Waldorf academics at the free high school of Stuttgart.