- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 14, 2003

BERLIN — A German couple deemed too stupid to bring up their toddler daughters have been reunited with their children in time for Christmas — almost seven years after social services first took them away.

Last week, Annette and Ingo Kutzner were celebrating the return of Corinna, 12, and Nicola, 10, to their rambling farmhouse, and the end of the family’s ordeal of forced separation.

During the years the family was parted, the Kutzners were permitted to visit their children for less than two hours a month and banned from giving them so much as a hug.

“We are putting up a Christmas tree and buying presents for Corinna and Nicola for the first time in seven years,” a happy Annette Kutzner said.

“During all the years of separation, we never became completely estranged. They always thought of us as their real parents even though we weren’t allowed to touch them or kiss them. We hope we can all get used to each other again.”

Volker Laubert, the head of Germany’s Rights for Children action group, which helped to reunite the Kutzner family, described the scene when the children — who had been placed with separate foster families — first arrived home.

“The girls virtually dragged their parents to the floor when they saw them,” he said. “They ran through the house like a couple of whirlwinds. It was as if they had been away for only a week. They spent a lot of time saying ‘hello’ to their old toys.”

The Kutzners’ attempt to regain custody of their children was rebuffed by the German courts and a written appeal to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder failed.

It took two rulings by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which concluded that the German authorities were in flagrant breach of the European human rights convention, and a further 18 months of wrangling with welfare officials, before Corinna and Nicola were allowed to return home from their foster families last week.

Mr. Laubert said his organization deals with about 40 cases each year involving children separated from their parents by the German authorities in questionable circumstances.

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