Author 'incited hatred' of teachers

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
GERMANY. A complaint of "incitement of the people" and "incitement to hatred against a particular group" - charges usually reserved for neo-Nazi groups in Germany - has been lodged in a Munich court against the author and publishers of The Teacher-Hater Book (TES, February 24, 2006), which has shot to the top of the bestseller lists.

Axel Stommel, a teacher at a Berlin vocational school, lodged the complaint against journalist and author Gerlinde Unverzagt and her publishers Knaur Verlag, based in Munich.

According to Mr Stommel's official complaint, Ms Unverzagt, who wrote the book under the penname of Lotte Kuehn, was "disturbing public peace and is inciting hatred against a professional group".

Legal experts say it could be several months before the Munich court decides if the charge is admissable.

Mr Stommel, who freely admits he has not read the book, says his complaint centres on the title, which he says could awaken "latent violence" in schools. "The title of this book is really dangerous," he said. "Think of Erfurt."

In Erfurt in 2002, 16 pupils and teachers were shot dead by disaffected pupil Robert SteinhAuser who blamed the incompetence of teachers for his woes.

Mr Stommel has the tacit backing of the powerful teachers' union GEW. The union said that once Gerlinde Unverzagt had revealed her true identity, the identity of her children's schools and the teachers criticised in her book were identifiable, which laid her open to charges of defamation.

The GEW revealed it was also providing legal advice to an unnamed female teacher at the school of one of Ms Unverzagt's four children, who is preparing a libel suit against the author and her publisher.

Klaus Fricke, editorial director for non-fiction at Knaur, said: "Of course it is a very provocative title - we chose it because it was provocative.

The public uproar shows that the problem of teachers is much broader than any one school or particular teachers who can be identified."

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