Parts of a brick wall

Dividing Wall

A two-metre wall of yellow bricks divided the playground, toilets and bicycle stands of the school built in 1960 in Ringenberg, today part of Hamminkeln in the Wesel district. One side was designated for Catholic children, the other for Protestant children. This continued inside the building, with separate classrooms and, until Year 8, different text books.

In the decades immediately after the Second World War, denominational schools were the norm along Rhine and Ruhr. Protestants and Catholics kept to themselves, inter-faith marriages were frowned upon and children were not allowed to play with their neighbours if one family was Catholic and the other Protestant.

The denominational school model was politically contested. At the urging of the Christian Democrats and the Catholic Centre Party, the state constitution of 1950 established it as a parental right that children receive a denominational schooling. The Social Democrats and Liberals rejected this. The divided school in Ringenberg became a favourite target for the liberal FDP. When the Social Democrats and Liberals won a majority in the state parliament at the end of the 1960s, they abolished segregated schools as regular institutions.

Nevertheless, as behind the times as the school in Ringenberg might seem today, in 1960 its new construction was a sign of progress. Even in a rural area, in a town with just a thousand inhabitants, it was intended that education should be easily accessible.