"The Troubled Youth in Germany"

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    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 63, #3, 1994 - Erwin Weber

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Why are there so many troubled youth in Germany today, especially in the former German Democratic Republic? According to Dr. Johnsen, a high official of the Church in Germany, their problems begin first in school. The goal of educating the young under the Communist regime was totally different from West Germany. In the GDR, the emphasis was placed on becoming productive members of the Socialist-Communist fatherland, learning Russian, concentrating on the works of Marx and Lenin and defending the state against capitalism. When the Wall came down, the goals of education changed but not the teachers who had to change their philosophy of education. Furthermore, the youth in the former GDR became members of Communist Youth groups which kept the youngster from getting into trouble.

More than 150 years ago, August Hermann Francke wanted to help the troubled, uneducated children and built an orphanage which evolved into the largest educational institution in the world from nursery school to universities studies, including trade schools, and colleges of law, science, medicine, philosophy and theology. It flourished for 250 years until the East German Government assumed sole ownership. It was only a question of time before the buildings of the Foundation decayed and fell into ruin. Currently the Francke foundation with its fifty houses on sixteen acres of land in the center of Halle is being rebuilt under the leadership of Dr. Paul Raabe who insists that the problems of the youth today are not much different from those that roamed the streets during the days of August Hermann Francke. The end result for those youngsters were criminal behavior, hopelessness and despair. Through education and religious training in an institution they can achieve meaningful lives and become useful members of our society.

My cover photo shows Dr. Paul Raabe at the Francke Foundation in Halle addressing the crowd celebrating the anniversary of Francke's birth each March. Behind the speaker is the boys choir who resides at the institution.