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Magically Disappeared?

DW staff (jen)March 22, 2007

A school in the eastern German city of Chemnitz has taken the Harry Potter books off its syllabus, after Christian parents objected on religious grounds.

The Potter books are undisputably popular -- but offensive to some ChristiansImage: AP

Parents of two fifth-graders at a school in Chemnitz complained that the depiction of religion in the Harry Potter books offended their Christianity and asked to have them removed from the curriculum, school principal Stephan Lamm told ddp news agency.

Buchcover Rennschwein Rudi Rüssel von Uwe Timm
The school's replacement choice: well-loved, but a different book entirelyImage: Nagel & Kimche

The junior-high class at the Johannes Kepler high school agreed. It replaced the book with Rennschwein Rudi Rüssell (Rudi Ruessell the Racing Pig,) a well-known children's novel by German author Uwe Timm that has not been published in English.

The Harry Potter series is about an apprentice magician who fights an increasingly dark and evil world. It has emerged as singularly popular in the world of children's literature, and made the author, Joanne K. Rowling, a billionaire.

Classroom compromise

The decision was made after open discussion of the problem with the parents and in the classroom, Lamm told ddp. What most disturbed the parents about the Harry Potter books was the depiction of magic and mysticism, which play a major role in the story.

A compromised was reached to allow children whose parents don't object will to work with the Potter books in small groups, he added.

J. K. Rowling mit Harry Potter
The Harry Potter series has brought an unimagined degree of success to its writer, J.K. RowlingImage: AP

But the education-policy spokeswoman in the legislature's Left party parliamentary group criticized the school's action as "an act of self-censure."

'Inviting interference'

"(By acquiescing to the request,) the school director is essentially inviting religious fundamentalists to interfere with the educational and academic goals of state-funded schools, according to their discretion," Julia Bonk said.

"The lesson plans of state-funded schools should not be subject to approval by people who hold all possible religious convictions," she said.

The deputy chairwoman of the teachers' union for the state of Saxony, Ursula Kruse, refused to take an official stance, telling ddp it was hard to do so at a distance. But in general, she said, children should learn to deal with diverse points of view -- something that can be done using the Harry Potter series.

Potter: not obligatory

Harry Potter für alle
Real Harry Potter fans tend to be devotedImage: AP

The state's education ministry also refused to take a stance. But ministry spokeswoman Manja Israel noted that, while fables and fairy tales should be taught in school classrooms, no one is obligated to put Harry Potter on the curriculum.

A representative of the Lutheran Church of Saxony, Harald Lamprecht, told dpa news agency that in his opinion, the Potter series were "magnificent books" and "highly respectable" stories that depict the fight of good versus evil.