The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT Information Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation

P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 / telephone: (415) 821-2090 / fax (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity); Europe: Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe. The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 from EuroKIT to UK and Europe. KIT is staffed by volunteers, and a100% of all subscriptions/donations pay printing/mailing costs and assist ex-members.
For those of you who access the newsletter on the InterNet, we expect you to be willing to continue on a honor system and mail in your subscription regularly. Please give more or less, as you can afford. Thank you.

November 1996 Volume VIII #11

-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------

Greetings to faithful KIT readers everywhere as we approach the winter holidays, at least in the Northern climes! Several KITfolk are in the hospital, including beloved Buddug. We're not sure of her address, so perhaps cards should go either to Joy MacDonald or Ben Cavanna, both of whose addresses were listed recently. Also Marlena Wegner's dear husband Bernard Gelman is seriously ill, and we wish many beams of love and support for them both. We also are pleased to report that the "false teeth fund" has done very well, peaking currently at $1045. This is very welcome because it turns out that it's going to cost $2,000 instead of the original estimate of $600 because the patient cannot make the long journey to the clinic. Family members have promised to make up the difference, and Balz and Monika also chipped in $200. Thank you, one and all, for a strong showing of concern and support! And perhaps it's time again for a reminder that although it's normal to have occasional angry feelings towards specific individuals, let's avoid ad hominem attacks in KIT as much as possible and not burden your loyal editors with having to censor your choice phrases!

-----The Whole KIT and Kaboodle-----

-------- Table of Contents --------
Miriam Arnold
Margot & Blair Purcell:
Evie Pleil
KIT: Dave Maendel in jail
Ramon Sender
Michelle White
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe
Andy Harries
Charlie Lamar
Norah Allain
Norah Allain to Joe K. & C. Domer
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe
Hilarion Braun
Luke Staengl
Mike Beck,
Worpswede Euro-KIT Article
Mat Hadder
Carol Beels Beck to Joe K & C Domer
Hans Joerg Meier
Clara Arnold
Konrad Kluver
Connie Grener
Ramon Sender to Connie Grener
Connie Grener to Ramon Sender
Ramon Sender to Connie Grener
Lee Kleiss to Connie Grener
Barnabas Johnson
Jere Bruner - "John: The Eagle" poem
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe - "The Singles"
Marva Satyre Petrifido
John & Ruthie Arnold - Wheathill Bk Review
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Miriam Arnold Holmes, 10/31/96: Buy your Christmas presents from KITfolk! I am offering my handmade , colorful, one-of-a-kind sox for U.S. $12 a pair. After expenses, the money goes to The XRoads Fund. I need to know color preference and approximate size. My sox are very popular with the young set around here, who say they are "so cool!" [although they are very warm - ed].
ITEM: Our dear sister Lee Kleiss is having considerable health difficulties just at her 70th Birthday. Belated congratulations, Lee! We all wish you the best.
Margot & Blair Purcell, 11/1/96: As many of you know, we run the Snow Goose Gallery. Most of the art we sell is landscape and wildlife with some children's stuff plus an occasional maritime piece. We specialize in wildlife, marine, western, aviation and fantasy art. Major artists we represent include Robert Bateman, Bev Doolittle, Carl Brenders and Charles Wysocki. Normally, a single piece retails unframed for anywhere from $100.00 to $350.00. We have great color catalogs which come out monthly and many pieces, not all, become collectors items which have a slim chance of rising in value.
If anyone is interested in decor for their homes, our art is very high quality and reasonably priced. You may also wish to get a catalog to show to friends and sell them on buying something for themselves. We will donate 100% of the profit from all sales to you or to friends to the Peregrine Foundation. If you reach the right people, this couldresult in a fairly hefty fund-raising effort. Just let us know if you'd like to see the catalogs and how many extras you need for your friends.
We can also offer bargain framing of family photos, diplomas, awards, almost anything up to 8"x10" for a maximum cost of $25.00 + $3.00 shipping. Call 1-800 672-9089 for details or catalogs of art.
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Evie Pleil, 10/17/96: Dear Bette, you really did an outstanding job in your research of all the German reparations money. It was excellent, and I am surprised anyone would criticize your hard work. Dear Susanna L: It was so good to hear from you! It must be a big challenge for you, and I am sure it needed courage to write this down for all of us regarding your husband. Thank you,
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KIT, 10/29/96: Dave Maendel was arrested October 12 after a meeting at the New Paltz diner with Christian Domer. He had met with Domer and Joe Keiderling a week earlier to discuss a cash settlement in lieu of Dave's going public with his allegations of his childhood beatings and other abuse at the hands of the Bruderhof leadership. They taped the conversation, which ended with Dave agreeing to a lump sum payment of $35,000 and also remaining silent for six months. When Dave returned a week later, Domer handed him a suitcase of cash and then 8-10 policemen jumped them with drawn guns. Dave had the impression that if he had made one false move, they could have been shot. As of this writing Dave is still in jail on a third-degree larceny charge (extortion) and $45,000 bail.
At the preliminary hearing, according to Dave, Keiderling stated that previous to the recent meetings with Dave, he and C. Domer personally 'had no prior knowledge' of Dave's situation, and also that the Bruderhof practices an Open Door policy that would have allowed Dave to come up at any time over the previous years and discuss his concerns with them.
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Ramon Sender, 10/29/96: On Saturday, October 26, Dave Maendel phoned me from prison. His conversation with me, reconstructed from my somewhat fallible memory, went something like this:
"I see myself as a political prisoner," he said. "My main reason for going to the Bruderhof was to ask them to let my people go -- the Hutterites living up there, including my family. I first asked for three-and-a-half-million dollars so that I could help the Hutterites get resettled or else I would sell my story to a magazine. Christian Domer offered me ten thousand 'to keep quiet for a year.' I wondered what he meant by that. What does a year have to do with it? Well, I said ten thousand dollars wasn't enough, so we talked some more and I agreed to his offer of thirty-five thousand for six months, although I wanted some move towards letting my people go."
What followed was described above. I had a phone call from Joe Keiderling shortly after Dave's arrest accusing KIT of encouraging Dave in his behavior. I stated then, and will state again as we did some years earlier in KIT, that neither I nor any KIT staff person condones violence or threats of violence of any type. I also believe that if some loving actions had been taken towards Dave earlier, none of this would have been occurred. His uncle Josh has retained attorney Thomas Petro in Kingston on Dave's behalf.
Despite various letters of reference written for Dave, Judge Bruhn has refused to lower his bail. Meanwhile a friend of KIT in Kingston has visited Dave three times in jail, and has been very helpful.
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Michelle White (gnome de plume of Ace cub reporter) 11/2/96: Beaconsfield, England - A group of ex-bruderhofers was seen entering the Bulstrode Estate, now owned and operated by the World Ecumenical Council, at approximately 11:00 Saturday, October 19, 1996, or in local parlay-vous-ance, 19 October.
When asked what their purpose for meetings was, low rumblings were heard regarding a possible class action suit for pain and suffering against those Mistaken Ones on the Top of the Hill. Little credence was given to these rumblings, regardless of the backlash caused by "The Lawsuit" and subsequent head-rollings the Mistaken Ones had instituted shortly thereafter.
Under the guise of a barbecue, about 20-25 people were observed spreading gossip about the Mistaken Ones, as well as just catching up on each others' lives, and even showing more "unity" then the Mistaken Ones are in their quest for perfection and building some sort "kingdom here on earth". Much jocularity, hugging and kissing was observed, along with a the imbibing of alcoholic beverages and assorted meats and sweets.
Following the eating and drinking thereof, several parties made their way to the burial grounds on the property, upon which some discussion was made about the rearranging of plots due to the fact the those in less favor had been interred on the far side of the grassy knoll, surprising this reporter that even in death the "Mistaken Ones" could not relinquish their control systems.
After small groups had paid their respects and wondered at the identity of an unmarked plot, the group gathered on the verandah for a spot of tea and further discussion and needless gossip. One member of the group even declared that the written word was gospel, but was soon beaten senseless by those writers of fiction of which he had become disturbed. Even in diversity there is a unity of purpose that is both swift and ruthless.
Overall, the tone of this gathering seemed way too calm and laid back to be labeled a KIT gathering, so it was decided not to label it as such, but instead call it a small gathering of friends. This reporter was struck by the fact that despite the evil intent of certain KITfolk, this particular aspect of the "KIT process" will live on long after the KIT newsletter ceases to be in print.
This reporter will miss all the new friends made and old ones reaffirmed, and was surprised at the outpouring of love, warmth and friendship extended one's way on one's trip to "merry old". Cheers to all,
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Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 10/16/96: Together with all of you, Hans and I are very shocked about what happened to Dave Maendel. For us who were raised on the Bruderhof, it seems an impossible idea that brothers should set up a trap to catch one of their own children by the police force!! Like Nadine, we are in a state of shock about this matter! Even if I knew, that the Bruderhof had taken a bad turn, I never thought of such a thing possible. I agree that we should be very careful in dealing with either Christian or Joe -- they cannot be trusted and, as the Hutterites would say; "have given both their hands to the devil to do his work amongst men."
I do not think that we should quickly and easily respond to their wish to meet with us and a third party at this moment. At least I feel that the whole situation with Dave Maendel should be clearer, before we actually talk about a better relationship with them. I feel that anything Dave might have made himself guilty of is the fault of the Bruderhof leadership and now is the time that this should come out into the open!!!
I only remember Dave as a little fellow in 1961 when I nursed Bertha. He would come up to her room when all his brothers were asleep, give her a good-night kiss and ask me questions about sickness and death. Whoever ruined this child's spirit is the guilty one in this matter. I do remember from that same time, that Heini was afraid of the Hutterites. He asked his wife Annemarie to arrange the living quarters for the Maendel family in such a way that he could watch them from his own house. So the family of Anna and Dave moved into the house he could see from his bedroom window, and Sarah and Johnny Maendel's he could see from his living room window. When I questioned this, he said: "They have broken their word once -- to the Hutterite Church -- so they might do this again. We should keep an eye on them, just in case!" I remember feeling a kind of relief, that the days I was being watched, were over.
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Andy Harries, 10/10/96: Here I am again. After reading through the last August-September KIT Newsletter I find myself wanting to write as well. Reading the different letters gets my mind working and opens up new lines of thought. Why does anybody write in KIT? For me it is just that I feel strongly about things and I want to write them down. It is not to criticize the Bruderhof or anybody else. For one thing, by writing things down we help to sort things out in our own minds. I do not share a lot of sympathy with those who read KIT for months or years without contributing and then write in that it is a lot of trash, that it is all too negative and cancel their subscription. They say that we should stop writing negative stuff and forget the past. If anybody does not like KIT, then stop getting it. It is there for those who want it. It is and has been there to serve a very useful purpose.
For me it has meant firstly a lot of very useful information which I would otherwise not have been able to find out about. It has also meant I have made a large circle of friends whom we can meet when we want and if we want, or can contact on the phone. That is worth a lot. Writing in KIT has also helped me come out of my shell a lot. First I hardly dared write anything. Then surprise-surprise, a few people said they liked what I wrote and that encouraged me to write more, and so I have become more confident. This has helped build my self-image which I have learned is so important for us to live a healthy, satisfied life. I am not ashamed to say that I am proud of what I have written in KIT and I feel good about it. When I read KIT, I always enjoy reading my own letters again. I thank those people who have said they like what I have written. I think we should do that a lot more. I probably should have done it a lot more myself. Also people who have not written in KIT will not realize how much thought, time and effort is involved.
I did not intend responding to Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer's letter in the last KIT, but I just have to say one or two things. Firstly, KIT does not have any leaders. You compare KIT to the B'hof where you are part of the leadership. Neither Ramon Sender or Blair Purcell nor anybody else leads us. How can they? They write what they want; I write what I want. They have no power over me and cannot influence my beliefs; how can they have when they are thousands of miles away on a different continent? You really must accept that simple fact. It's quite different on the B'hof where people rely on others. If there you disagree with something, then you will be punished or sent out. The leaders there have complete control of the people, because they are then afraid to step out of line.
You write "Is there no one who can bring forward constructive criticism?" Well, I have tried. I wrote you a letter on September 2nd and have had no reply. I asked you a number of questions. I asked why you have stopped my sister there writing to me. I had written to her four times without getting a single reply. I know it is you people stopping her. She has no say. You people, you leaders, are holding her and many others in a prison. You don't like to hear that and you won't see it like that, but that is how it is. If people there are cut off from the world outside, if they cannot even communicate with their own family outside, then you are controlling them completely. You are controlling all the people also by censoring what they can read, what they can write and by what contacts they have with other people.
My sister there is allowed no contact with me because I am evil and might be a bad influence on her; that is how you see it. Actually you are afraid she might see things differently and understand what I am saying if she has contact with me. You think you are protecting her from bad. You are actually using that fear of us outside, of our or my bad influence, to control her and hold her there. I have no interest in attacking you or the B'hof, but I do care about the people there. I care very much how they are treated and controlled by the system; I care very much how my sister is treated and that she is controlled so much by you, that she is not allowed any influence from outside of which you do not approve. That is complete mind and physical control. My other sister who left recently has told me a lot about what is going on there and how people are treated. If I wanted to attack and damage the B'hof, I could say a lot. Actually, I often wonder why you react so much to criticism. If there is no truth in it, then you have nothing to worry about.
I found the letter from Judy Tsukroff in the August-September KIT very very good. It opened my eyes to a lot of whys and wherefores, and helped me sort out some thoughts that have gone through my mind in the past. I do believe this one concept is so very important: that we must learn to think of what we want, what we need, and to stand up for what we believe. This should not be done in a selfish way, but in actual life if we do not consider what we need and look after our own needs, then who will? Nobody will, because our needs will then not be met. If we go through life without our needs being met then we grow up being deprived. We will become unhappy, unsatisfied, emotionally unhealthy people.
This is what happened to many of us who grew up on the B'hof, By the time we left or usually were sent away, many of us were emotional or mental wrecks, and I believe much of it was due to this fact. We were not allowed to think or express our needs or wishes, therefore these needs were never met and we felt we were worthless. We did not feel valued or appreciated, therefore our self-image was very low. Now this is just what the B'hof wants. We should not value ourselves nor should we value other people. Only the Community and "The Life" are important. Then they have control over us. If I do not value myself, then they have power over me and can mold me to the type of person they want: a good, obedient Bruderhofer who does what he is told without daring to consider whether it is right or best for himself. So the system makes us feel worthless, and then they try to control us more by "loving us" and to control us by saying that if we behave in the way they want and are demanding of us, then we will be all right, and then they will give us love. So they are controlling us by first denying us love (fear of stepping out of line, punishment, exclusion etc.) and then offering love if we cooperate. That's very powerful stuff when you realize that as children who grew up there, we were completely under their control. We could not go anywhere else for advice or comfort or anything. We were shut in there as if there was a fence around or like in a prison.
They say "We love you!" But their love is conditional. They will only love you if you go along with what they say, agree with what they say and in the end do what they say. In this way they hold a great deal of power over people. I did not feel loved on the B'hof. I think some families were different and the parents were able to show love despite all, but they were not supposed to show love and affection to their own children. Children need a lot of love; they can never receive too much love and affection. Showing affection means we value them and that is what all children need most: to be valued. If we do not feel valued as children, then we grow up not valuing ourselves and then we feel worthless, and that can bring on all sorts of problems such as depression.
This reminds me of a friend we have who often comes here to talk, a young woman who found out about 20 months ago that her husband was seeing another woman. He left her for this other woman about 16 months ago. She is completely devastated because she thought he loved her, but for years even before all this came out he would constantly run her down and tell her she was useless. She never knew her father, and her mother never wanted her, so she has never really felt loved, but craves to be loved. Her self-image is so low that it is really painful to see her doubting her own worth when she asks "Am I worth anything, am I really any good?" She needs reassuring constantly again and again, sometimes a few times in a day, that she is worth something, that she is a valuable person. Well, her husband still uses this self-doubt and her weakness to control and intimidate her to get his way, so she lives in constant fear of what he might do or demand next. There are similarities here with how the B'hof likes to weaken us and then control and manipulate us. Thank goodness I left -- or rather was thrown out -- when I did. Greetings,
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Charlie Lamar, 11/2/96: On the last Sunday of September I received a call from far away. Joe Keiderling was telling me that my mother had died the previous morning. She was ninety. I said that it was not unexpected, found out that she had been alert up to two or three days prior, thanked him and got right off the phone. I did not inquire about the burial.
There was a time when I used to dread my mother's death, but I find I am at peace about her passing. People who have been to KIT conferences may remember me describing my relationship with her as "declared nuclear war." But I've written in KIT about how in recent years there was a sort of truce.
The last time I saw my mother was just after the KIT conference in 1992. Ramon and Judy wanted to try to visit their grandkids and I wanted to visit my mother. So we traveled together and looked for a motel near Woodcrest and Pleasant View. After considerable difficulty we found one late in the afternoon in a swampy wooded valley behind a tacky pink stucco lobster house. A great big moon hung in the humid air over the valley. We drove down, only to find the motel half burned up, frogs, snakes and algae in the little pool, and the office deserted. It was the Motel from Hell. We looked for someone to help us.
Then from the swamp came Gloria. She had a green polyester blazer and a wan smile. She gave us rooms and thankfully they had air conditioning. Ramon and Judy wanted to call to find out about seeing their grandchildren. Presently I heard them laboring on the phone. Judy was telling Dick Domer how bad he made her feel. It crossed my mind that that must have been just what Dick wanted to hear. Anyway the upshot was that Dick Domer and their son-in-law wouldn't let Ramon and Judy see the children. So Ramon dropped me off at the railroad tracks near Pleasant View. No one saw Ramon driving the car. I walked on the 'hof, soon was spotted, and invited to wait for my mother on the lawn under a tree.
"What's the plan?" I asked.
"You're going to take your mother out to dinner." (My last visit to the hof had resulted in a KIT article.)
"We'll give you a list of local restaurants and you can pick one."
Oh boy, I thought. They're bound to include the lobster house near the Motel from Hell. I'll pick that one.
Sure enough. We were driven to the lobster house, dropped off, given a table. I asked my mother if she wanted a glass of wine. There were a few things I wanted to find out about and I thought some lubrication might help. It did.
And then, right on schedule, who should roll in but Ramon and Judy. Judy was piloting, because Ramon, having improved the very brief and shining hour in his upset over the phone call, was three -- well maybe two-and-a-half -- sheets to the wind. [Nothing like pure spirits to clean the dirt off your glasses -- or out of your brain, as my sainted Amerian mother Julia used to say - RS]
"Oh, Lois! You were in my preparation group!"
My mother drew a bead on Ramon through her trifocals, realized she was in the presence of the enemy, and declined to discuss her preparation group -- but I don't think she realized that he was loaded. Ramon and Judy took the adjoining table.
"There was ____, ____, ____, and Mary Worth." Ramon began to reminisce, possibly planning an article for KIT.
My mother fired a warning shot across his bow:
"If we don't change our conversation we may have to change our table."
Judy and I exchanged astonished glances. My mother's remark had the intended effect, and the topics drifted. Presently Judy tried an initiative she probably thought was safe but still potentially interesting.
"I understand that Heini's wife, Annemarie, studied the child development theories of Frobel, and that you use these ideas in your approach to early childhood education."
But my mother recognized her opening for just what it was and fired back point blank: "If you want to find out about Frobel, you can look him up in the library." Then embarrassed at having obviously used much, much too large a round, she added: "-- Anybody could."
Once again stunned by my mother's conversational skills, Judy and I exchanged glances. We then looked on in utter amazement as Ramon and my mother, now both under the influence, began to chat happily about such miscellaneous matters as how naughty little ponies like to hold their breath when you cinch up the saddle so they can exhale later and make the saddle slide down sideways to dump you off. Judy, sitting opposite, was struck by the cinematic quality of the whole situation. She tried to call my attention to a woman whose image she could see nursing a baby through a large aquarium behind me, but I could not tear my attention away from the spectacle of Ramon and my mother even for a moment. Then Ramon and Judy made their departure and left us alone so that my mother and I could have a chat.
Anybody who met her for even for two or three minutes knows my mother had a very smart mouth. Even my grandmother said so. I thought it was one of her more charming qualities. She came from Vermont. They have a style of wisecracking up there which is very, very terse. I wanted to find out what awful thing my grandma remembered her saying to a bus driver who had bounced them around too much in Boston some forty years ago. To my delight she did remember. It was something about him being a cowboy.
We left the restaurant and walked down to the motel to call the 'hof for my mother to be picked up. My mother blamed the whole adventure on Judy. As we walked down the hill she said, "She asks too many questions."
I told the whole story of this visit to someone who had a telephone wiretap planted by the Bruderhof under his porch. So unless the joker from the Bruderhof hadn't changed the tape when I called, they found out all about this visit by means of their wiretap. Anyway, a few months later, my mother was moved to New Meadow Run where it was not convenient for me to visit, but I don't really know if the two events were connected.
I believe my mother was happy and well-cared-for at the Bruderhof in her old age. She certainly was one of their loyal foot soldiers, one of their flat-footed moral enforcers. I do find that I am at peace about her passing. Those in the Bruderhof who make it their business to read KIT may pass along my greetings to Sharon Melan?on and to the family with whom she lived in New Meadow run if they wish.
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Norah Allain, 10/4/96: I'm just re-reading most of the August-September KIT and finding myself most in agreement with Charlie Lamar [p. 2 - ed]. I also find it good to read Judy Tsukroff's letter and see how she draws the right conclusions from her experience. The letter from Stephen Button is rather sad, but let's see how he gets on. It does make one mad that people should have to choose like that [between visiting their Bruderhof parents and reading KIT - ed]. I find myself really wanting to deliver a sermon to Anthony Harries. What on earth does he think he is talking about? No one reneged on any promise -- they were just chucked out, and a few who decided to go, like Roger and I, went because we saw that the group were themselves betraying the teachings of Christ.
I'm absolutely aghast about this article by Danny Meier concerning the MOVE group, which the B'hof is apparently supporting, and thankful for the nameless writer who gives us some information. And how could Danny M. make such false statements about what happened to his own father as well as to the rest of the group in Germany? We all knew about that. I like Hannah's little take -- I'm afraid they just ask for that sort of thing. The rest of KIT is all in a lighter mood, which one really needs in order to offset the rest. But how Joe and Christian are going to hate us if they read it, and I suppose they will, as it seems they still continue to get hold of KIT.
Now I myself have decided to go on writing some sort of answer to them. It was nice to read what an enjoyable time people had at the two conferences, and good that some stopped off to see Belinda. Best wishes to all the KIT editors,
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Norah Allain, to Joe K. & Christian D., as representatives of the B'hof leadership, 10/4/96: After your last letter appearing in the Aug-Sept KIT, I feel compelled to take a clear stand with regard to the ongoing and ever-worsening conflict between the B'hof and its ex-members. You also don't seem able to let it alone, and with very good reason.
I am not one of those who are obviously much involved, being too far away and, above all, not having any of my own family still on the B'hof. But I do have a number of old friends there, and just over two years ago, when I visited Darvell in order to see Buddug, I was prevented from saying "Good-bye" to Johnny, a very great old friend of mine. Previously we had been allowed to meet and talk freely, and some other old friends had been glad to talk to me as well. It is now 35 years since I left the B'hof and went on my own way, continuing the same search as before, just as everyone does during their life. Those friends with whom I talked did not confront me nor did I confront or accuse them. We just naturally respected one another and felt the bond that still existed between us, in spite of differing ideas. To my mind, such continuing relations between us could only be good for us all. And six years ago, when Roger had his operation and was very ill, the B'hof agreed to allow Stan and Hela to come down and visit us, and I welcome them with open arms. Roger was not in a state to do much serious talking, but Stan, Hela and I seized the opportunity to try to understand what separated us since it was obvious that we still felt such a strong bond. However, via the intellect, we were not able to get anywhere. The difference remained and we only could respect one another and believe in one another's integrity. However, now I have been put beyond the pale, and no one communicates with me anymore.
The situation right now is very much worse, and its worst aspect is just that which brought the KIT letter into being, namely this attitude on the part of the B'hof that even family relations must be severed in order to protect the "purity" of the Church. Purity needs no defense whatsoever because nothing can assail it. Ideas, ideals and even beliefs should be used as stepping stones, left behind as one grows and replaces them with better ones. We don't need anything more to guide us than the words of Jesus to his disciples, "Love God and love one another." What sort or love could possibly be telling you to separate families and close your doors so that no one can enter who might pollute your flock? Does it not enter your heads that you are the ones who are stirring up all the conflict by putting yourselves on the defensive? Your fear of evil is actually inviting it in. In a free world where people are not afraid of one another, it doesn't even exist. So now you view the havoc your own attitudes have caused and start trying to distribute blame elsewhere! I tell you this, but it costs me a good deal of pain. For many years after leaving the B'hof I still had dreams that showed me the pain of the separation, but later I began to dream rather differently, and this is the outcome of those dreams, for I see that I am still involved. Don't make the mistake of thinking I am an enemy. One's best friend can appear as an enemy if he offers unwanted criticism. Wishing you the best,
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Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 10/20/96: Greetings to all of you from Holland! The October KIT was varied and good, I think, and I do feel that those who actually sit down and put this letter together need our special thanks more than ever. Somehow I feel that everything that has happened in these last weeks in connection with the Bruderhof and those who have established a life outside -- and those who are just starting to find their feet -- finds its way to a table in San Francisco which puts a great burden on one pair of shoulders, and we should be very thankful that he is doing his best to sort out what should go in the KIT letter, what needs immediate attention, making choices between faxes, newspaper articles, KIT contributions and so forth! So here again: a big thank you for what you are doing!
I was a bit shocked to read in the Aug-Sept KIT that only as of now, USA and Canadian readers will be expected to pay an annual subscription. I was under the impression that all of us paid if we could. Ever since I had my first KIT copies from Leonard in 1989 we have paid our contribution. On the other hand, if people have trouble paying, then it has been made quite clear from the beginning that this would not exclude them -- what a nice word!! -- from having a copy. So Hans Joerg, don't you worry. We all know what the Paraguayan Guarani is in comparison with the $, and I think we are very very happy to have you on our list again! Having said all that, let me emphasize that it is important that a subscription be paid if we want to go on having contact with each other!
The CONFABS petition is simple and clear, and most certainly you have all our families' signatures, that is me Bette, Hans, Anneke and Gert, Hayo and Tineke, Jurgen and Hanna! I do hope that it might just have some effect, although so much has happened this month that it just makes you wonder what steps we can or should take to get into contact with our families on the inside.
The letter from Inno Idiong to the Bruderhof gives a very different picture from what we read in The Plough about the reasons the Bruderhof left Palmgrove at the time. Also I very much agree with him about the [Bruderhof's] reasons for wanting to help free Mumia Abu Jamal from the death penalty. Inno Idiong's reasons about why the Bruderhof got themselves so very involved in this matter gave me a lot of food for thought.
Susanni L, thank you very much for sharing your life story with all of us. It really touched me deeply as we too have an Alzheimer patient in our family, and the choice to have to put her into care and out of the immediate family care is such a difficult and heartbreaking choice to make, but the only one to keep your own health and sanity and be of real help and able to give more love to the person involved.
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Hilarion Braun, 10/5/96: For a long time now I've been wondering about how much of what we do today is a representation of our character, or our Bruderhof submissiveness. In all my jobs I always work harder and much more than my fellow workers. When I ended up in management, I continued to work in the lab as a second job never realizing that I was doing the job of two people. It was only in management that I discovered I had been underpaid all along. It took years to bring my pay into line with that of others, and I resented the exploitation, but I continued to work harder and much more than others. Now that I am a partner in a business, I have ended up investing far more time and money in the business than have the other four partners, and again I resent deeply the exploitative nature of it all. Clearly I am the one who volunteers to be exploited because I assume others will share equally, and they in turn are happy not to share equally in the labor and expense. Does anyone out there have a similar problem? Is it an overdeveloped sense of work ethic?? If many of you have the same problem, it is probably a Bruderhof-induced condition. How does one get out of it? Or how does one get into a partnership that is fair? Is it possible that we, as overly socialized beings, can't function well in a capitalistic system? I distinguish between free enterprise and capitalism. In capitalism, capital rules. In a free enterprise system, the freedom to choose rules. What we have in America is capitalism with a slowly disappearing free enterprise system.
Another question I've been wanting to ask about is television. Am I wrong in thinking that most television is meant for morons or worse? I've tried repeatedly to watch this stuff and it seems to come from another world. There seems to be a loss of soul, a loss of contemplation, a loss of quiet. It is as though we are not listening to the music of nature any longer, and somehow this is leading to a strident dogmatic return to pietistic babble instead of a search for the quiet, the contemplative, the spiritual. I am frightened by it all, and it makes me sad to think of human history as being cyclical. The theocrats seem to wait like vultures to eventually feed on the carcass of a hedonistically exhausted anarchy, only to be driven out again by a people tired of dogmatic non sequiturs that are more oppressive than hedonistic addictions.
10/15/96: The new "Christian right" in the U.S. appears to have a strange alliance with capitalism and fascism. By fascism I mean a system in which laws are written according to a moral code rather than according to the legitimate needs of society and its governance. For example anti-homosexual statutes have nothing to do with the needs of a democratic State, but are based on Judeo-Christian codes or myths. Likewise, anti-fornication laws, and laws that spring from racist views or myths, are fascist. By capitalism I mean a system in which wealth gives political power.
Here, for example, one can cite the very odd morality that maintains that a homeowner has the right to kill an intruder, and yet a woman has no rights regarding the functions of her uterus. The odd possibility of an intruder being a pregnant woman poses a strange dilemma for the Neo-christian. Has the homeowner a right to kill even when such an act ends the life of a fetus simply because of the right to defend property? Would such a "Christian" be considered an abortionist??
I'm giving this example only to show how irrelevant the present politicized piety is, and how dangerous it is for the religious to meddle in that which is clearly a secular arena. 'Render unto Caesar...' was not just a warning regarding taxation, but a wise statement concerning the separation of church and the secular State. All of the non-secular states are in upheaval and seem to be destined to remain so unless they can separate the sacred from the secular.
I, as a non-believer, find the proselytization of the religious right as offensive as they would find a campaign that would advocate atheism as the official creed for our society. The constitution clearly grants the right to freedom from religion and mandates the government to be 100% secular. This mandate is under constant threat by the religious right and, if amended, will ultimately lead to oppression and revolution.
There is nothing I see in this as evidence of a redemption of society, or a leading toward a Godlike image. If Christianity were the lone representative of the Messiah, it would have demonstrated that by now. Instead it has been oppressive, narrow, mean-spirited, and the basis of anti-democratic elements that find it "Christian" to "murder when God commands them" to do so. Strangely the Christian right has no use for conservation of our natural resources, public schools, civil rights, or reduced military spending.
Another strange attribute of the Neo-christian is his penchant for super nationalism. Flag-waving and the mixing of hymns with the national anthem is, for me at least, a very sad attribute of the Christian Right.
I have no doubt that this movement is genuine, and that its followers believe in their contradictions the same way Bruderhofers believe in their contradictory stuff. What is missing in all of it is a tolerance of others, or even the belief that tolerance of other views or beliefs is "Christian."
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Luke Staengl, 7/26/96: It has been along time since I have written to KIT. There are various reasons for this, among them my perception that much if not most of the opinion expressed seems to revolve around rehashing the latest terrible thing the Bruderhofers have done, or remembering those good times or bad times from the past, most of which I can no longer relate to. I suspect that I am in a very small minority with my perceptions and beliefs, but I have decided to take the risk of saying what has been on my mind all along, and here it is:
I believe that the primary purpose of our brief sojourn here on earth is to learn to know Ourselves, and thereby know God. Everything that happens to each one of us is designed to help us in that pursuit, without exception. So what does that mean? There are basically two ways we can interact with events as we experience them. One is to try to manipulate the exterior circumstances in such a way as to increase the experiences we like and to reject, escape from or change those we don't. The other is to just witness these events and our inner reactions without acting, to experience them, then let them go.
Each of us has a vast range of experiences throughout our lives, some terrifying, some ecstatic, and everything in between. Most of us spend most of our time and energy trying to control outside circumstances and other people to create what we believe will be a secure, better reality with as little pain and as much happiness in it as possible. What is interesting is that we don't seem to realize that this does not work. If we do notice, we just think we need to get better at controlling events or people to succeed, so we work with redoubled effort. Even when we think we are succeeding, what we have gained is just a little respite, a moment of OK, and we know that soon we will need to get to work again. Something will happen, or someone will say or do something, and our "doing OK" will fall apart again. It's like the hamster in the wheel: the faster we run, the faster it turns.
So what alternatives exist? Some simple realizations: it does no good to blame circumstances or people for the way we feel, or for what we are going through. If we blame someone else, then we actually also need to blame whomever made them the way they are and the ones before that, and so on. And how is that going to help us? This is how feuds and wars begin. We want to exercise our rights to freedom and happiness, and woe to them who stand between us and our rights. Some of us want to help others, to decrease their suffering, to shield them from pain, by influencing outside circumstances and people to that end. And is it not interesting what a mess we make in that attempt? We usually end up hurting ourselves, the people we are trying to help, and others as well.
We all need to know how to become clear witnesses of our inner world rather than continuing to act out our reactions. Rather than causing more alienation and miscommunication, we need to learn to experience our pain and then let it go instead of running from it or projecting it on others. Far from being easy, this is very difficult because it runs counter to eons of habituation and conditioning. However, it is the only way in which we can truly grow, and just possibly [in the process - ed] we will experience "The Peace That Passes All Understanding." And where is God in this? Everywhere! Bless you all,
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Mike Beck, 9/21/96: In the year of our 10th wedding anniversary, I thought I'd like to drop KIT a line. It's not been all beer and skittles married to an ex-bruderhofer, but taking the chance and getting spliced those years ago was certainly the best thing I ever did. I was lucky enough to have found Carol and I guess I owe it to the Bruderhof to have booted her out at just the right time in both our lives. Any earlier meeting and we probably wouldn't have given each other the time of day. As it was, the first time we met and got speaking, I told Carol that I was doing Transcendental Meditation and she told me that she was a Christian and that was virtually enough for us to give each other a wide berth from then on!
When we first got married, it was back in the good old days when at least some KIT members (as they were then), were getting invites to the Community. We made several trips to Darvell and went to visit Carol's parents and her brother and his family in New Meadow Run. I was struck by the friendliness of the community members. Their whole attitude was the personification of kindness. I felt like royalty as large numbers of people queued up to shake my hand and make my acquaintance. At one level, I felt close to them. I even gave a slide show of my Amnesty trip to Central America in Darvell. Here were people who really cared about the injustices in the world. On another level however, I felt quite distanced from them. Living in community was something beyond my own capabilities. On one occasion, after a particularly protracted international meeting, when it was time to depart I felt like going for a good old 'knees up' somewhere with plenty of wine, women and song. Whoops, I'm a happily married man now, of course!
The thing that really intrigued me was what did the Bruderhof members do with their primitive feelings? When I bordered on this in conversation, there was no pretense on the part of community members that they didn't have a shadow side. On the contrary, in best Christian tradition, they were keen to point out that they were as sinful as anyone. They reinforced the view that just because they were in community didn't make them 'better' or 'higher' than anyone else. Since the development of KIT and the Bruderhof's attitude towards KIT, I'm left wondering whether the sinful behavior that the Bruderhof members readily admitted to was only their theoretical shadow and that their real shadow was of course, KIT itself. As we know, the shadow is that part of ourselves which we would rather disown, that part which is kept hidden whenever possible, that part which is projected out onto others and is that part which is the most difficult to accept. Personally it took me many years to admit that I even had a shadow at all! ('What was on the surface was the genuine article'). Once identified and accepted, however painful, the shadow is full of potential energy to use constructively, as Carl Jung reminds us. Our shadow side doesn't have to be acted out. All that it asks is to be identified and negotiated with.
One can imagine the healing that would take place once the Bruderhof accepts its shadow and brings KIT into its collective psyche. Obviously, KIT members are seeking wholeness and completeness. The human mind gives the greatest priority to that which is unresolved. Although the Bruderhof may believe that it can disown KIT indefinitely, it won't achieve the wholeness and completeness that I believe that it is seeking just as much as KIT members are. In the meantime, by acting as a mirror and reflecting back to the Bruderhof its own shadow, KIT is performing valuable work. It is a reminder that such characteristics, whether they be contempt, detachment, jealousy, anger narrow-mindedness or whatever, are to be found in us all
One attraction I have always felt towards Carol (apart from her simply being herself!) is her whole Bruderhof history -- the whole mixed bag of good qualities as well as psychological suffering inherited from the Bruderhof. I never cease to be interested in those amongst us who aspire to the extraordinary. Perhaps virtually all of us experience sooner or later that our journey has to include something more than simply working through our own psychological process. The increasing deprivation of our planet demands that we do. However, to work 'up there,' we have to work 'down here.'
Of course it would be painful for the Bruderhof to open up to KIT. It's understandable that its leaders would feel hurt and angry, but surely this is better than pushing one's disowned material back underground. For more years than I care to remember, I totally relied on the image I wished to have of myself being the only one that others got to see (except of course when I slipped up which was all the time!). I could never believe that anyone could love me if they found out who I was. I can imagine how much more intense this must have been for those with a Bruderhof upbringing. What must be just as difficult is to be in the Bruderhof now and admit to a shadow because not only would you be admitting one's own shadow but also that the leaders (some of whom may now be dead) also had a shadow. Given that much of the history and culture of the Bruderhof is built around past leaders would make this particularly difficult. Hopefully the time will come and those within the Bruderhof will be even more loved rather than less loved, and when a whole community does this en bloc, surely there will be much joy and ringing of bells in the heavens. /DL>
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Translation by Wolfgang Loewenthal of an article on the Worpswede Euro-KIT conference that appeared in a Bremen newspaper (sorry, but the name was blurred on the copy) on Aug 1, 1996:
It All Began With Joy and Idealism
Former members of the Bruderhof community arrived from all over the world to meet in Worpswede.
By our correspondent Donata Holz
Worpswede - "The idea of my grandfather was to do something for mankind to work for a more loving life together," said Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe. But our newspaper found out a bit about what happened to those ideals when one of our correspondents met with former members of the Bruderhof. Even though they have not been part of that community for many years, they meet from time to time with their former friends, and this year it happened in Worpswede.
They came from far and near -- from England, Holland and America, these former members of the Bruderhof, in order to meet old friends in the youth hostel in Worpswede. They met and exchanged ideas and sang many of the songs that had enriched their youth.
"Our grandfather Dr. Eberhard Arnold, who studied Theology and Philosophy in Berlin, was shocked by the situation in Germany after the First World War," his granddaughters Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe and Miriam Holmes told me. It became clear to him that it was not enough to preach about love, but to do something about it. Therefore the rather well-to-do man opened his house to everyone. Anybody who was in need of food was fed.
Later on, Arnold bought a farm in the Rhoen area where he lived with his friends and relatives in one big brotherly community. It was Arnold's philosophy to find a way of peaceful, friendly exchange with other people, near to nature. This group was strongly influenced by the Youth Movement of that time. They earned their living by the sale of books which Arnold published.
With time, the community grew larger. This caused Arnold to believe that this free, unstructured life was no longer possible. He traveled to Canada in order to study the way of life and rules of the Hutterites, and on his return introduced many of their forms in his own community. Meanwhile, National Socialism came to power in Germany. The Nazis made life hard for Arnold and his group. They were called communists and threatened by the Gestapo. Arnold died in 1935, and the group was forced to leave Germany. "We fled via Liechtenstein to Germany," Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe relates.
In the meantime, the rules inside the community had become very strict. The structure was similar to a monastery. Anybody who wanted to join had first to go through a novitiate before he was baptized. Daily life was subject to strict rules. Men and women ate at separate tables, and the women had to cover their heads with a kerchief and wear long skirts. The men had to wear wide-legged pants [ordinary pants as opposed to shorts or knee-breeches, which we had worn previously - translator's note].
The leadership was in the hands of the religious leader, who was supported by Servants. "The union with the Hutterites brought much misery to the Bruderhof," says Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe. "Many of their rules were against man's natural inclinations." Even musical instruments were forbidden. This led later to a break with the Hutterites, but that happened only after the Bruderhof had to leave England in 1948. Their neighbors had been skeptical towards the Bruderhof from the beginning. Now they feared that the Bruderhof must be in league with Hitler.
"At this time it was hard to find a country that would accept us," Elizabeth remembers. "The only country ready to take us was Paraguay. There we found refuge in the middle of the jungle." While a new life was begun, life also became freer: dancing and singing and laughing were allowed again, and people freed themselves from the strict and almost inhuman rules of the Hutterites. The early ideals returned. They lived in and of nature, by means of agriculture. We built a hospital that also served the local population.
"We enjoyed a beautiful and free childhood," is how the two granddaughters remembered it. However what happened then was to prove most hurtful for many members. In order to enable their children to have a better education, the Bruderhof emigrated to the U.S. They left everything behind that had been built up in Paraguay. Elizabeth still regrets that the large library of her grandfather was left. The low value given to these cultural treasures was symbolic for the further development of this group, which more and more lost its original philosophy.
Once settled in America, Elizabeth's uncle Heinrich Arnold became the supreme leader of the organization and arbitrarily decided who would remain in the community and who was to be sent away. Suddenly many families were kicked out without work permits or any human support. "At that time, more than 600 people were expelled," Elizabeth said, who was among those expelled. Today her friends from those days are scattered all over the world. But something of their past experience ties them together. They are deeply saddened by the present development of the Bruderhof, which today exists mainly in the USA. Many of the ex-members still have relatives inside the community, either parents, siblings or children. But any contact with their relatives is forbidden. Those left behind had to sign a letter that in case of sickness or need, no communication with their outside relatives should be sought. In the meantime, the present leaders are not only ever more despotic but also very wealthy. All compensation moneys from the German government were kept by the Bruderhof. Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe sums up with disappointment, "It is sad that a cause that began with so much idealism and joy, has led to nothing but fear and terror in the fourth generation."
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Mat Hadder, 9/23/96: Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to make a fool of myself. I smugly thought I had made a home run, but (in case you wondered) much to my chagrin I have to admit I was popped out at third base.
I would also like to express, on behalf of the Official Total Tea Party, my sincere appreciation of the page 9 [Aug-Sept KIT - ed] contributions: classical KIT! My faith has been rekindled! Encore! I do also particularly enjoy your motoring correspondents; well-stocked Ladas and laid-back Ford from exotic locations. Crooningly Y.O.B.S.,
P.S. You won't believe this, but last week I bought a Stealth bomber complete with two Cruise missiles at the army surplus. The naughty salesman assured me that it was the latest Lear jet fitted out with bowling alley and swimming pool. Obviously as a weapon of mass human destruction, it was inappropriate for the needs of my core business of luxury air travel for Porno Stars and purveying marital aids to the mentally handicapped (or perhaps 'intellectually challenged' or 'underintelligentsia,' 'underachievers,' 'jolly nice people with low IQ's -- please choose one or none PC). Providentially, it all turned out well and I managed to turn a quick megabuck selling it on to a Middle Eastern client 'S.H' (you know who) through an arms dealer buddy of mine. I think I might diversify. Oops, I seem to have dozed off -- it must be time for my tea. Best Regards and Wishes,
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Carol Beels Beck to Joe K. & Christian D., 9/21/96: I am writing via KIT because that way I'll be sure you get it and read it, and maybe more likely give it some thought. (Another important point, it saves me the postage! ) I have sadly, after years of money, time, energy spent in the pursuit of "bridge building" and addressing concerns with various dear ones (this includes your parents, Christian, and other "brothers & sisters") come to the point of resignation. There is nothing more I can do communicating directly with people in the Community. But by writing to KIT I know you will read it and know it`s gone all around the world!
In the past when letters of mine weren't answered, your sisters & brothers (they are still mine too as far as I'm concerned) had all the power by not answering. Now I don't mind if I don't get an answer. It gives me enormous support knowing others in KIT have read it, even if they may have other views on the matter. I feel supported in my motives to protest when what we were brought up to believe as Divine values are not being put into practice, but are just empty words.
So you are asking 'Is there anyone left among you who still wants to work toward reconciliation? Sincerely,".... sincerely indeed! I just went 'yuck!' when I read that request. How have you got the gall to write that, after the appalling way in which you responded to the Kingston press conference in the summer of 1995? The difficulties you made over even meeting with representatives that summer in Kingston were amazing in my view. Ben Cavanna and others worked hard to get that meeting off the ground. There seemed to be so many hindrances. I know only too well how fast the Community can work when they are keen for something to happen. This was the opposite -- a dragged-out arrangement!
What about the offer of two years ago to involve a 'Mediation Service'? Brilliant idea, blocked by leaders in the Brotherhood! What about the legal action you two instigated last year against COB? A blatant misuse of power! What I heard is that the concern about using the name "Bruderhof" was mentioned to COB negotiators, but before any discussion could take place, you two had used Big Brother tactics. What has that got to do with reconciliation? How can you say you 'reluctantly arrived at this drastic move...' when you had not discussed it with those wishing to set up COB?
What about the endless attempts of various individuals to work at reconciliation through their families and loved ones in the Community, blocked by a few sentences said in the Brotherhood by powerful 'brothers' like yourselves? I shudder every time I think, that if I had made it into the Brotherhood I would probably sit there and believe every word you say about how evil KIT or Ramon are, etc., with no means or wish to prove its correctness for myself. When I had finished reading your letter in Sept KIT '96, I once again had this picture of you two sitting on the mountain top appealing to all of us sheep in the valleys to come to see how we have been deceived by KIT editors. I had this same picture of you Christian speaking from the mountain top of all righteousness when you directed such a personally intrusive attack at Ramon in your letter to him, printed in KIT (May 96 pps. 3-4.)
What right has any human being got to do what you did in that letter? It brought to mind the story in the New Testament where Jesus asked the Pharisees and onlookers "Who is willing to throw the first stone?"
One of the things I feel most ashamed of that I learned in the B'hof and that has been painful to unlearn is judging & finding others wanting, based on my values & beliefs. I feel your organization is riddled with self-righteous judging and disregarding, especially dissenters of your 'cause.' The response -- Ramon printing the complete interview with Sibyl and your parents -- I found so beautiful ( KIT May 96). It just is puzzling that if you are so keen for reconciliation, why to this day haven't we read anything in KIT of your response to reading in full that taped meeting between Sibyl, Ramon and your parents! Your angry, unfeeling, cruel, untruthful accusations, especially against Ramon, were totally exposed by the printed dialogue. I do not necessarily agree with Ramon or any other KIT editor's sexual/moral values, but that does not give me the right to judge them and then publicly denounce that person as having no ethical or moral values. All that I know of Ramon tells me the opposite. I don't really like quoting from the Bible, but I can't resist, given your letter written from the mountain top of Christian respectability and morality. "We on the contrary experience the true liberation and joy of living a life of sexual purity and fidelity." The latter may be so, but who did Jesus denounce, the prostitutes or the spiritually and morally smug Pharisees?
What about your father? Did he know of your letter and Ramon's response? Why was he not able to write to KIT? Did he bless your letter in the first place? If you are as much of a Christian example as you seem to suggest from your letter, Christian, of May 96, why not show a little humility in KIT towards Ramon for that letter. I thank God I am not part of that kind of Christianity anymore, that can accuse and talk down to another human being without the slightest hint of compassion for what that person has gone through at the hands of the leadership of "Christ's true Church" for so many years. Has your mother ever read your letter to Ramon?!!
I do want to know from you KIT editors the response to Jonathan Clement's letter in Aug.-Sept. KIT 96. Thank you, Jonathan. Why was it not printed (even if the person regretted it ) the phrase, "Yes we are out to destroy the Bruderhof. We are out to destroy the Bruderhof as it is currently governed"? I do agree with Christian and Joe raising this question. That was not addressed in Blair Purcell's clear and detailed response (thank you, Blair) as far as I remember [KIT Aug-Sept 96 p. 6 - ed].)
I was also shocked to learn through KIT that elderly relatives of KIT readers are being asked to sign a will on visiting rights at or near their death. No doubt my parents have already signed this. The Brotherhood or my "inside" blood family have nothing to fear. I have no wish to force an entrance, knowing it would cause my parents great pain and distress because of the Brotherhood "decision," put forward, probably by yourselves. I know how much my parents love me (and probably miss me, even though they could not admit it, even to themselves at present.) Maybe I (and others) could start to believe you are sincere about longing for reconciliation when you from your side make a few simple moves, like allowing my parents, now in their late 80s with a tragic B'hof family saga, to at least be allowed to communicate with me without fear of disobeying "God's will" as decided by a few men like yourselves with the hotline to the B'hof God of....? I look forward to your reply, Christian and Joe, via KIT. Thank you,
10/20/96 Thank you to everyone who continues to make the effort to send in communications and, of course, most thanks to the continued dedication of Ramon and helpers to get KIT to all of us. I never cease to feel a thrill when I find KIT on the doorstep, even if it's my only means of communication with loved ones in the Bruderhof! So Joe and Christian, what can you do about this? Since writing the above, I see in the Oct. KIT that Blair has fully owned up to having lost it for a short while about wanting to destroy the B'hof. So Christian, as you seem to suggest in your May letter that Ramon, Blair, Julius and Co. "will never understand what Christ taught," maybe Blair without this "understanding" is actually setting the example, (for you regarding your accusations against Ramon) with his unreserved apology in KIT! (Thank you for this and your October letter, Blair. You do clarify things well!
Staughton Lynd: I have always valued your contributions very much in KIT. I welcome this one (Oct. '96) with open arms. Including the names you suggested, I would like to put your name forward if you are in agreement. Anyone else agree? I have to admit that I haven't realized that KIT was "demonizing" the leaders by believing that Christoph, Christian and Joe and probably a few others have far too much power for their own or anyone else's good. What I learned in the B'hof was that anyone who misuses their power is controlled by evil forces. I am aware that I see clearly where the B'hof has demonized Ramon and the KIT process, but until I read your letter I hadn't clicked that we might be doing that in return about B'hof spokespeople! I am open to thinking on this.
Hans Joerg Meier: I was glad that Hilarion brought up in April KIT about financial contributions. I totally agree with him, although I would not have used the word "pathetic" I read it as Hilarion's frustration and even annoyance (and why not?) that so many seem happy to "sponge" off others.
I came out of the B'hof 35 years old thinking everyone outside had far more than we Community people had. It took me a while to realize, even if I have far less than some others financially, I have a responsibility to pay my part. Why are some KIT readers so unwilling to help pay a small amount towards such an important means of communication, when Ramon and others are giving not only an enormous amount of their own time to make it happen but also left with the debt? Wasn't 'to share' the basic thing that we learned in the B'hof? I think it a good idea about "sponsors" or selected advertising. What about it, KIT readers and editors? But I can't understand from your letter why you feel so strongly about not contributing. KIT has always had a very generous policy towards people who really can't pay and long may it continue. But I hope the repeated appeals in KIT are pricking those consciences that can! (Even a phone call to clarify a news item for KIT has to be paid for by somebody. Too many, it seems, are still being paid for by those doing most for the KIT process!
No offense intended to you Hans Joerg, or anyone else. Thank you for continuing the reminders for financial help. And THANKS again to all, especially the editors for continuing to produce KIT in spite of financial hardship!
P.S. Brilliant, the letter from 'Naim Mispelled' (Oct KIT p 1). Thank you,
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Hans Joerg Meier, 9/17/96: Let me express a serious concern I have in reference to the actual KIT and Bruderhof and vice-versa situation. It seems to me that the louder KIT gets against the B'hof, and I include myself on the KIT part, the more popular the B'hof gets in the world's view. They actually profit from our what-they-call 'lies,' which anybody reading KIT or any B'hof literature against KIT but don't know any of the two parties, actually begin to believe! This observation I made watching the whole thing from a big distance. Thus, maybe, I get a better view. For example:
The B'hof managed to make a joke out of the JCA 'Pistol Episode," a joke not for us but for the rest of the world's understanding. They say, "KIT is not lying, no! They are just joking about a serious matter. Can anyone believe a 'God-guided Elder Pacifist' and religious leader buying a murderous weapon to carry concealed? That is just a joke!" Jokes are things you laugh about -- you don't take it for being the truth, but not always! If you tell a joke often enough about your victim, things begin to stick. Look at the jokes about the Polish in the USA, in Germany about the Ost-Friesen, in Brasil about the Portuguese, and in England the Irish. They all are, at least in face of justice, harmless? Laughable! No one has ever been hauled in front of a judge about them! The problem is that we in KIT didn't joke about the "Pistol Episode" and, by taking it seriously, we managed to turn the episode against ourselves by being accused of lying!
I have one hell of an idea to propose to KIT: why don't you, KIT, open a "Joke Column" about the SOB? Call it, maybe, "The ABC of SOB Jokes!" Any joke would be valid as long as it is about the SOB. Just make sure you put in the phrase, "Any names coinciding, etc. would be pure coincidence!"
For instance -- this just as a taste -- Joke #1: JCA bought himself a shooting device; someone advises him to carry it when on a bear hunt. Bears are dangerous! Although he never goes on a bear hunt but reads in the device's manual clean and oil yearly," he calls in a brother-mechanic to help dismantle the device and clean and oil it. When they are finished, JCA puts the exit end to his eye to look down the barrel and orders the mechanic, "Let two or three shots go through, but very slowly!!!" Another two or three jokes about the gun and I bet he gets rid of it quick!
Another idea: why doesn't KIT open a "Joke Contest" about the SOB? Let every applicant to the contest send in, along with his joke, shall we suggest U.S. $2. At the end of the contest, a KIT jury could select the joke of the month or year and offer the winner a book prize!
I myself don't like jokes told about me, which is proof that it works! The more jokes the better for KIT financially, and it would be a good joke for all of us! Bye-bye for now,
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Clara Arnold, 10/16/96: Hellooo...huh!!!! My name (and this next little bit of info is mainly for those who have not yet had the pleasure of meeting me) is Clara Hanna Arnold. I say I was named after my great-grandmother, Clara Kurtz, otherwise known as "Mom Kurtz" or, very simply, "Mom". Wife of "Pop". However, a certain family member, still inside the Commune, insists that this was not the case, I was in actuality named after my great-grandfather Eberhard's two sisters, Clara and Hanna Arnold. Or something like that. I'm not sure I got the relations right there. I am the eldest daughter of Lukas and Linda Arnold, now residing in Pleasant View. I have two brothers, and two sisters, all younger than myself, all still currently entombed in the Society of Brothers. I myself managed an escape at the age of 16. I thank my fate. And the result of my own clever (or not so clever?) scheming. I am now happily 18, turning 19 in just two months. Life is good.
I had a fabulous time at the last KIT conference at Friendly Crossways. Great meeting all you folks! I look forward to next time!!! I must say the meetings were a tad intimidating for me. But, after I realized that people were actually interested in what I had to say and not there to interrogate me, I was perfectly at ease with the situation. May I say that you are all truly wonderful people.
I returned home from KIT to get a letter from my father dated the day before KIT's meeting started, 8/8/96, that accused me of joining the enemy of the life, and that if I didn't make a break with the enemy, then I would destroy all of their chance to surrender their lives in service to god and his church on this earth. Or something to that effect anyway. Absurd, to say the least! Enemy???" I grew up to believe that you were to be a friend to your "enemy". Therefore, enemies couldn't really exist. A child's assumption, I suppose. Jesus never named any enemies. He called his persecutor his friend, for chrissakes!! Oh, yeah, and the Bruderhof sings this song: More like Jesus is my song, in the home and in the throng.... I would be like Jesus..." Something like that, anyway. Poor Jesus! He's really getting a bad name there!
I am not sure how many knew of my little mission trip to the Pleasant View Commune on the return trip from KIT. Susie Zumpe and Dieter Arnold accompanied me. Purpose: to deliver a letter personally to my father. Let me tell you folks that returning to familiar territory, especially that which surrounds the Bruderhof, can be a truly trying experience!! "...Ohmygod!!... I remember that... that house!.. Holy bejesus! We ate pizza there once!! Yeah, all us BOCES students..... oh my GODDDD!!?.. There's the drive!... ooooops!!!.. OH JEEEEZZZ!!... Here we go!!!" At least that's how it was for me. Can anyone out there relate?? Anyway, so we're coasting down the hill of the old drive at Pleasant View -- you know, the one all the High School students have to hike up at 7:00 A.M. every morning. God! I remember doing that too!! Halfway down there's this truck with a bunch of young boys and a couple brothers working around it. One of the brothers was recognized by me as Joel Zim -- short for Zimmerman. Why "Zim?" Sounds to me like the sounds bugs make when they fly up to one of those blue electric lights the S.O.B. so often keep in their trash houses, and go "ZZZIM ZZZIM" But then, why Zimmerman?? That sounds like he's the guy who "ZZZZIMS" bugs, or something. Beats me why I just wrote that.
Now I'm not even sure I'll send this letter in to KIT. Maybe I will anyway. So anyway, now that I'm completely off the subject, we continued driving, over the railroad tracks, through the gate (which, by the way, was closed as soon as we made our entry) and up to the main hof, parking in front of the Parkview house. Susie and I got out of the car while Dieter remained inside behind the wheel just in case he needed to get the hell out of there. Kidding. Just kidding. Sue and I made our way into what was to me the all-too-familiar mail room and, in there, met a woman. She was a great help to us, and after I'd asked her where we could possibly locate Lukas Arnold, took us to David Moody who was in that front room where they used to keep copies of different Plough publications for the guests that came through. So, David calls -- or rather pages -- down to the Shop and we are told that my father will meet us down at the Shop parking lot. We climb back into the car, (Dieter obviously hadn't felt the urge to shoot out of there yet, but given a few more minutes....??) and drove the distance to the prearranged meeting place. I delivered the letter to my father. The conversation that followed was none too pleasant, but what more can be expected? Has anyone else received such crap -- like they're manipulating family members away from the life because they sent a birthday card to a sister? Anyway, it was this sort of bullshit he argued about. Pretty soon a brother comes up and says we should be leaving now. We say that we've finished what we intended to accomplish, and left. Simple as that. The whole atmosphere of the place was pretty foreboding, and the brothers we met, coldly tolerant. In all fairness though, considering the fact that we are seen as the enemy, we could have been treated worse. Boy, but it was good to get out of there!! And it's good to back here at home in West Bloomfield, Michigan!!!! Until next time....
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Konrad Kluver, 9/22/96: Reading the report of Mr. D. Meier "Rally for Mumia Abu-Jamal" reprinted in KIT Vol VIII #8-9 again leaves me at an utter loss in respect to 'Reality or Fiction' (to say the least) of B'hof "thinking," from its outset up to this date... When leaving the SOB in the early 1960s -- after being indoctrinated from cradle till age 23 -- I told people there: "Either I'm crazy or the whole lot of you are! But only 'outside' will I be able to find out!
And I found out! Yes, I at least, am not and never was crazy!
By the way, Mr. D. Meier, did you actually personally witness these actions in Germany which you described? Or isn't all this rather just hearsay? Your short account may sound quite misleading to somebody who doesn't know B'hof history. And can't you do justice to those few hundred thousands (in not millions) of Germans who stayed in Germany and "went underground" in order to more effectively help others in need or those who openly spoke out only to get shot or imprisoned, or put to hard labor in concentration camps rather than run off like the Bruderhof did, at that time? Who no mention of the Real Heroes? Haven't you talked to even one of them? Who are your informants? Maybe the "Chaco Indians?"
This brings me to a somewhat related subject. It has been repeatedly stated that computers are stupid, only able to respond to 'go' or 'no-go' signals, equal to 1-0. Supposedly computer only "spit out according to what they are fed." But are we human beings nor very nearly the same? Are we not the products of our environment, meaning that we act according to outside influences?
To my understanding, we humans -- some to a lesser extent than others -- are being manipulated and programmed in much the same way as computers are. Or what is the difference between: go/no-go, good/bad, profit/loss, advantageous/disadvantageous, intelligent/stupid? Where does genuine and independent decision-making come into play, which everybody always harps about? Subconsciously or semi-consciously, everybody is being programmed and manipulated by way of diverse mass-media communications systems. Individual and corporate values may be warped or changed according to the directions desired by 'the power that be,' There exists only a slight difference between computer programming and mind programming, which is: a computer program can be killed, utterly and completely, whereas the programmed human mind may be re-programmed but never will it be possible to completely erase a successful program from the human mind! It always will be present in the subconscious. How much more powerful will be this programming in the case of the concentrated environment of religious or similar groups? What is it that radical groups are doing? They program themselves to totally ignore and bypass earlier programs. Anything differing from their new program is automatically an 'error' and must be erased - 'killed!' So probably the only way to introduce changes into these 'human' programs is by way of introducing 'viruses!' And these 'viruses' shall 'stealthily' change the programs without the 'system watchdogs' noticing anything.
Thanks to you, KIT staff, for publishing my concerns,
8/6/96: Excerpts of statements by one of Hitler's closest contemporaries (Dr. Joseph Goebbels) about Adolf Hitler, the language of which seems to parallel shockingly the Bruderhof's language and state of mind now as under the 'leadership' of the late Heini Vetter:
"All opposition breaks down from the 'magical effect' of his words, when he speaks. He divides the hot from the cold. The lukewarm he spits out. There are many who might have visions, even more who may organize, but to forge futuristic (political) mechanisms through divine intuition with the power of the word, of this only he is capable at present... Many are called, but few are chosen. We're all unshakably convinced that he is our 'leader of the word,' therefore we believe in him.
"We see the grace of divine providence effective above his exhilarating human personality and cling to his ideas with all our hopes, so as to be a part of this creative spirit which drives ahead him and all of us.... We must acquire spirit out of his spirit, we shall receive light from his light, we shall be flesh from his flesh and blood from his blood. The Fuhrer is always right! Only one gives the orders, the rest has to obey! His mystical playacting has kindled trust in the peoples. They fully accept his piousness... For us he wracked his innermost being and through his power, honesty, his faith and his idealism did the Saviour find his way to us. We do sense today that the Saviour has come into our midst. Thanks to Hitler, Germany has experienced a Second Pentecost. Innumerable hopes and nostalgic longings of the disappointed and betrayed Germans converged in Hitler's person and bestowed on him an intoxicating, gargantuan impulse..."
From an unknown commentator: "The dictator, charged by the dark demon, insinuated as pseudo-religious revelation his illusory ideologies into believing, receptive souls."
You never expected justice from a corporation, did you? They have neither a soul to lose nor a body to kick! Saludos,
9/5/96: In a special edition of Der Pflug (The Plough), periodical of the Bruderhoefe at a time when the word 'Bruderhof' had not been registered and trademarked as yet... in remembrance of Eberhard Arnold's 70th birthday, of July 26, 1953, here are some excerpts from Dr. Arnold's lectures which show so clearly and unmistakably the B'hof's Weltanschauung then, to be compared to the B'hof's Weltanschauung now:
"...War, competitional envy and mutual business damages are derived from the state of affairs of private property. Business lies as well as all other kinds of untruthfulness in mutual associations are private-property-born. Our entire economy is based solely and alone on the greed for profit, the egotism of self-preservation and power-expansion of the individual...
"Collective egotism remonstrates as follows: I don't want to have my property for myself... I don't want to defend my personal property, but I do want to stand by everybody else...
"Not only love for family is collective-egotism, but the self-serving interest of the tribe, the faithfulness towards the gang, the community amongst itself, the defense of the tribe or state. Yes, even more so, the revolution and the struggle for one's own caste or class, as well...
"I want to state this categorically: I am an opponent of nationalism and patriotism, I am an opponent of the proletarian class struggle, I am an opponent of the class supremacy of the wealthy, and even more: I am an opponent of the birthright!
"I maintain that egotism is present wherever protection of common interests is involved.
"I am opposed to party systems. The entire public life has fallen prey to this curse. What is the military for? What are the courts for? What is the citizen's militia for? Without doubt, all this only serves to support ownership of property, for the intangible, that which has been dedicated to sacrificial death, to control the individual... The curse of the ruined life has become an actuality. It is indispensable for us to wake up and listen to the Gospel which shall free us from the curse of this lackadaisical and atheisized (anti-religious) life. In their writings, the Old Order Hutterites state: 'In case the sun didn't hang that high, it would long ago have been claimed as property by somebody to the detriment of all others who wouldn't be able to get even a glimpse of it anymore. The possessiveness that acquisitions that which is none of its business would not even stop short at the sun.'
What is happening with the air? Already it is being partially bought. Health resorts now charge a 'resort tax,' which implies that they charge for the air. How does this rank with water? With water power? And how does this rank with the earth? Is there any rationale that the earth has to be shared out for private property? Is by chance the earth something different than the sun? No! Just as with the sun, the earth belongs to mankind for whom God has destined the earth. Nowadays, the earth is found in private hands. What is private? What does this mean: private business, private property, private road? Private is a word derived from the Latin 'privare' meaning 'to rob, to steal,' thus meaning 'stolen.' But from whom is it stolen? It is stolen from God and mankind! It is taken away from God's creation and the individual has appropriated it, or inherited it, which is not different."
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Connie Grener, 10/7/96: Hello! Let me introduce myself. My name is Connie Grener. I live with my husband John and our five children. We've been married for 16 years, moved 12 times; and after the big 12, actually had a house built in a little country corner of a small, rural town called Interlachen, FL. We have lived here for 5 years. I homeschool our four children, and our oldest girl just entered the public school system, now in high school. My husband, John is a computer aided draftsman. We have now been in our own business for one year.
Just a week ago, John and I came upon your KIT newsletter on the NET. We were curious to see if the Bruderhof had a page on the Internet yet. That's when we found Bruderhof and KIT.
Why the interest? Our family had lived on the Bruderhofs: Pleasant View, Deer Spring, and even Manitoba, Canada. We lived there for approximately 1 + years. It was quite an experience for all of us. At first, definite culture shock. You see, John and I come from New Jersey. I was raised in a typical hard-working, loving family. John was raised in a hard-working family also. They loved one another, but had some dysfunctions; yet stuck together through thick and thin.
John and I were raising our 4 toddlers (at the time), and went through the disillusions of life. I was homemaker, he was breadwinner. We lived week to week. John always loved to read, and I read only when I had to; like instructions on how to put something together, a sewing pattern, recipe, or a newspaper article or two, and of course, reading children's stories to our four precious toddlers. I remember John bringing home books from the library. I queried, "What are you going to do with those?" "Read them, of course!" Well, that's when my interest for reading started to bloom. John brought home book after book, and in our search for whatever our disillusionment was trying to fill, we began reading books on the Hutterites. We thought how wonderful it would be if this group of people were around today. John and I, in our heart of hearts both believed in the very same faith. Forgiveness, reconciliation, modesty, non-violence, brotherly community. Well, we read on, and soon found out. It led us to the Bruderhof in New York State! Very nearby! We called and oh my gosh! - actually spoke with someone. After the connection, we arranged to visit for a week. What an experience! The unity in song, communal living at peace with each other and God.
Well, soon after our visit, we decided to sell all of our possessions, which was not much. And then moved to Pleasant View with the rest of our "kit" and caboodle, and our four little children, wondering where on earth we were going to live, and what would it be like.
When we arrived, what a welcome!!! I'll tell you, I was raised in a loving home, but this welcome was like something that came out of a storybook. After settling in, which took longer for me, we were somewhat adjusting to this way of life. John and I certainly knew hard work. That was not new for us. I can say that in that year and a half, it was an experience of many good things, as well as many very human conditions. You see, my expectations of the Bruderhof were - yes, this must be heaven, a utopia. Well, reality set in real fast! I realized, after many years after our time lived here and there on the hofs, that my expectations were wrong. I expected everything to be done right, of course my perception of right. I wanted to do my part, and expected others to do the same. Yet I really saw how selfish I was. Aren't we all selfish? Are any of us perfect?
What I would like to say to all of you who are trying so hard to build this KIT organization is, are you really helping people through this? Or are you just passing on the bitterness and hate that you feel? As I understand it, KIT stands for KEEP IN TOUCH. Well, do just that! Keep in touch with those you love in the Bruderhof. Get a life that is better for yourselves. If it was not good at the Bruderhof, make your lives better. Forgive your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters. You cannot expect them to be anything but human.
Let me say that John and I could have become angry and bitter against our parents for things they did. Sincerely, it was not all roses! Your lives were no different in that regard than anyone else who lives outside! Thank God that your parents did their best, even if you don't think it was good enough, or they hurt you. Let me tell you, my husband John's father, who we dearly love was always right. To this day, no matter what you say to him, he is right. That's tough! Yet we love him!!!!! We choose to look for all the good things about him, and you know what? We find many.
Life is a choice! Dear KIT people, choose to live in forgiveness, and you make a loving path for your own children. Let your children see this in your life, even though you are not perfect. That's right, your children are going to grow up one day and have to deal with the hurt over some of the things you have done. For instance, why did mom and dad choose to dislike grandma and grandpa so much. Christ taught forgiveness because, I believe, He fully understands the human condition. I have much hope for you all. Us all. Sincerely,
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Ramon Sender to Connie Grener and John, 10/9/96: Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write your letter... I think what many who read KIT are concerned about is that the Bruderhof is punishing people for reading KIT and networking together by not allowing them to visit their relatives in the communities and also not letting them know in a timely manner when a relative is close to death or even allowing them to come to the burial. This is extremely cruel behavior and has nothing to do with Christ's teachings. If they see us as their "enemies," then they should sit down with us and resolve their differences, something most of us have been very eager to do (especially in a conflict negotiation setting) but which they refuse to do. I could go on and on about what are very real cruelties and abuses, some of them bordering on the criminal, but it is all spelled out in the KIT issues. Anyway, forgiveness must arise spontaneously in the heart of the injured person. It is not something that can be put on like a false smile of something. Until the abusive party truly shows how sorry they are for what they have done, then forgiveness is probably not going to occur. Isn't that right? Instead of showing their contrition and sorrow for their past deeds, the Bruderhof almost demands forgiveness. And then when one doesn't leap to forgive them, then again we are the bad ones, wallowing in bitterness and anger. That is nonsense! We all, for the most part, lead creative and fulfilling lives despite the wounds and pain that came from our Bruderhof experience. I am curious to know why, in your family's case, if you are so enthusiastic about the Bruderhof, why you did not stay? Do let us know if you intended your letter for publication. In the meanwhile, may your path be filled with truth and beauty,
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Connie Grener to Ramon Sender, 10/18/96: I received your letter. Thank you for responding to my letter, which was, in fact, just that. I didn't intend for it to be printed in the newsletter. You may share the letter, as you wish. I was sorry to hear about what you had written were real cruelties and abuses (whatever they may be). I myself have not experienced such things on the Bruderhof, yet there were some things that were very wrong. This is just what I am getting at. LIFE, no matter where you live, are full of injustices. We must go on! If , for instance, you have done your part, and have forgiven these, what you and others consider, and may very well be, cruelties and abuses; then you can say you have done your part. YOU can then be at peace with God and yourself. All you can do is pray for those you feel have wronged you.
I agree with you, Ramon, that forgiveness must arise spontaneously in the heart of the injured person. As you said, "It is not something that can be put on like a false smile of something". Although, I don't believe that you cannot forgive someone before HE admits to the wrong. You can certainly forgive them. Then you are free! Our anger towards someone for wronging us is only going to hurt US. Don't we all experience that? And yes, we all have been hurt and angry in our lives, yet need to work through to forgiveness. It may take a long time, yet it is truly the only way to free ourselves and the other person. Even if the other person hasn't admitted wrong or forgiven us.
I am not saying this is not hard, or the hurt you have felt is not real. Believe me, I have been there, and only through my own personal experience do I realize that the anger only eats at us, and does not do one ounce of good for ourselves or others around us.
You were wondering why, if we were so enthusiastic about the Bruderhof, why didn't we stay. Well, we were told to leave. I look back now, and see that it was best for all of us concerned. I am a real home person. As you already know, I homeschool my children. I couldn't handle being away from them all day long, and sometimes evenings for meetings.
There were other reasons, of course. For instance, John and I were going through a rough time in our marriage, and I believe that God used all of this to allow us to go through some hard times personally, so that our marriage bond could become stronger than it has ever been before. The Bruderhof is not for me. I am very happy with the life I am living, and have no regrets.
My daughter, just last week, was telling me of her Latin teacher's story. He tells his class this true story of his experiences growing up. To be brief, it was a story of pain. He was abused sexually, physically, his parents were divorced, and he had a stepmother. It was a painful story, yet he is a minister now, who had risen above his circumstances. He has his doctorate in Latin, English, Math, and is our high school's most outstanding teacher! The children love him because he truly cares about his students. This man was beaten by bullies in his school every day! Well, he had a plan. He planned all summer long to get himself out of his situation. He planned to study, study and become involved in many clubs and sports. He became one of the most popular boys in his school. This man rose above his circumstances. This story truly continues in victory!
I thank you for your response. I am sure we can learn from each other. I am sure we can all learn from the Latin teacher's story. Much hope for us all -- sincerely,
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Ramon Sender to Connie Grener, 10/19/96: Thank you for your reply. I shared your previous letter with some KIT readers, so you may have e-mail from one or two of them. I'll do the same with this one. And, of course, we'll respect your request that these letters are not for publication in the KIT newsletter. I don't think you and I will agree about forgiveness, anger, righteous anger, etc. I will just say that I am a happy person with a wonderful wife and grown children. I already feel very free in my own life from the past, and also feel that God led me to the task I am performing (creating a network/support group for ex-Bruderhofers). A week doesn't pass that I don't receive a letter of sincere gratitude for the service we are providing.
Thank you for your concern, however. I have prayed constantly for the Bruderhof, that their evil, destructive attitudes may be transformed into the true love and the way of brother/sisterhood that they claim to follow. The 'bottom line' on this Bruderhof business is that until they allow free and open access to family members within the communities, and timely information regarding the health of family members, and permission to attend at least the burial of a family member, we will continue to petition for these rights that we consider inalienable in a free society. Also, I feel that the children there should have at least one teacher in their schools who comes from the 'outside.' The children did not take a vow of submission to the church authority; they did not ask to live without private property, to be held to the unusually strict (and some would say abusive) standards of the adults. Therefore their rights must somehow be respected and protected.
You mentioned that there were some things at the Bruderhof "that were very wrong." I would be curious to know what these were. Also, just in case you did not read it, I am attaching a memoir by John Stewart, who was a baptized brother in the early 1990's until he was asked to leave. Perhaps it will resonate with some of your own experiences... God Bless,
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Lee Kleiss to Connie Grener, 10/14/96: I for one strongly feel that your first letter ought to appear in KIT. It is a point of view not sufficiently expressed. I too sometimes feel that we seem to want to stomp on the Bruderhof (or rather its leadership style) at any opportunity, and in the process forget the love and experience we had with its peons, the humble folk.
But then, like you, I came from the outside as a disillusioned, but pretty mature adult (age 30) and stayed four years and though I was a fully baptized member I suddenly got into difficulty for no real reason and was asked to leave. It took me two more years to reach some semblance of recovery a regaining of self, living with the fact of a broken vow for: "If the salt has lost its savor what is it good for but to be thrown out and trodden under the feet of men." By that time I was able to contact Fran & Pearl Hall who I had known before and in Primavera and Margit Hirschenhauser who had been my roommate in Mt. Morris House (Harlem Ashram) in the early 50s as well as the McWhirters. All left under very different circumstance in the early 60s. While I do not fully understand Loy McWhirter, I slowly am beginning to understand the difference for those of us who join as adults, and children born into the community, with no knowledge of the outside, no real ability to make a choice and then forced to make a complete break with their past, their home, their parents. It ends up doing to those children and young adults what Hitler did to our family.
When Ben Cavanna told of his decision not to return, he dutifully had paid all his apprenticeship earnings as usual, only this time he did not receive money to live on for the next two weeks. All it shows is how even the householder, who holds the purse-strings is completely out of touch with outside life. How can a young person who has never lived on the outside, on his/her own be expected to manage? That's when young people most need the support of family and friends, people who know him/her and believe in him/her as well as enough financial support to get any necessary training or schooling. Maybe it is because I teach at the college level and see how vulnerable and uncertain that age-group is. How can a pacifist parentage refuse to send supportive letters for one of their young faced with the draft? How can a so-called Christian Leadership gang deny a son, an only child, the right to visit his dying mother? These to me, seem to be the things that need to be corrected. I too sat in the Brudershaft and said 'yes' and 'Amen' to decisions that were presented, very one-sidedly. I'm convinced that the majority are completely ignorant of these wrongs, and in their own right minds and consciences could and would not perpetrate them. But just like the Nazi Party would not let us listen to outside news, the Bruderhof Leadership censors any outside news coming in and they literally are afraid.
Please do feel free to comment and answer. I still feel your first letter needs wider circulation. You are right, bitterness only hurts the bitter, unforgiving person. I'm lucky, Johnny who was kind of house-master in the Asuncion House met me a few years later, himself outside now. He was really relieved to be able to apologize to me that he had followed through on orders I was to be expelled, when he could not see any reason why. That came from the heart. I wish I could have had a similar free talk with Marei Braun - but that wasn't given. Greetings,
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Barnabas Johnson, 10/31/96: I recently read a letter from Connie Grener, urging us KIT-folk to "forgive" our parents, etc. I appreciate her candor, and I think what she says deserves thoughtful attention. However, on balance, I think there is "another side of the coin" that needs to be stated candidly ... letting the chips fall where they may.
As I have previously stated in KIT, I have mostly happy memories of a Bruderhof childhood in Paraguay, England, and America -- and I certainly honor my parents' generation for their devotion to the best they were capable of. The problem, though, is that their devotion and best efforts were subverted, around 1960, in a cynical power grab. Thereafter, half the members -- mostly, the "conscientious objectors" -- were expelled, penniless. Many had large families. Some members or children, following years of poverty and loneliness outside the Bruderhof, or perhaps from genuine conviction, eventually returned. Some -- "unruhig wandern, wie die Blaetter treiben" (to quote Rilke) -- wandered back and forth, in and out, hither and yon, restless as autumn leaves. In the course of time, families were torn asunder, lovers separated, friends lost. Nothing that has a history can be understood without reference to its history. Past is prologue.
Our history is overlain by more recent events. We cannot close our eyes and ears to manifest evidence of great wrongs currently bedeviling Bruderhof life -- for example, psychological damage being done, especially to young people, in the name of "Church Discipline" ... to the point where, in recent decades, professionals in various mental hospitals around Woodcrest have apparently given a name to a cluster of dysfunctions that are unusual in the general population but common among patients from the Bruderhof. They call it the Society Syndrome. These professionals' concerns confirm our own "independent" observations, which are partly based on the reports of people who "escaped" -- as some do every year -- often following long periods of intense suffering that sometimes included forced confinement in, well, a madhouse. Our focus is prospective: we want to help reduce future harms.
However, past harms to ourselves are not irrelevant; they should not be swept under the rug in the name of "forgiveness" -- especially when they are probative of present and future harms. Yes, those of us who are denied contact with dear friends and family members suffer deeply; but, more to the point, we believe that our friends and family members "on the hof" are also being harmed through lack of contact with us. We do not merely "believe" this; we know it. We know our brothers and sisters, we know our mums and dads, we know our children and grandchildren. We know whereof we speak. Blood is thicker than water. Child abuse and elder abuse and spiritual abuse are wrong; they are not "forgivable" -- especially when the victims are our close kin and when the abuse is going on today and is likely to continue tomorrow.
We look at the past in order to learn lessons of value for the future. Consider the following: Ramon Sender came to the Bruderhof as a young man with a wife and little daughter. He was "kicked out" after a while, but his wife and child stayed. He was thereafter denied all contact with them, and efforts were made to "demonize" him in his child's mind and heart. He suffered. So did his daughter. Three decades later, he learned that she had died following a bout with cancer; he was informed of this weeks or perhaps months after his daughter's funeral. The Bruderhof "defends" itself on the basis that Ramon "abandoned" his wife, etc. That is a cruel charge to hurl. It is also, quite possibly, actionable.
In Fletcher v. Fletcher -- a divorce case decided on February 27, 1945, by Judge Denning, one of the greatest British judges of this half century -- the court held, in effect, as follows: If a couple is married, and thereafter one joins the Bruderhof while the other does not, the one who joins has "deserted" the one who declines to live "continuously in retreat from the world." Judge Denning further stated: "It seems to me that for a husband to expect his wife to go and live in that community unless she feels called to do so, is unreasonable." According to this case, and also supported by general precedents (including many from analogous cases in the United States), "Bruderhof life" was so far beyond the pale of what Stanley Fletcher's prospective wife could reasonably have contemplated as being part of life together with her prospective husband, that -- after he joined -- she was legally entitled to ask him (in her own words) "to come out into the world again and take part in the struggle, instead of holding himself aloof" in the Bruderhof; she was entitled to declare that he had deserted her when he refused this request; and she was entitled to obtain a divorce based on that desertion.
I knew Stanley; I also vaguely remember his wife. Stanley died recently, and I know he is missed by many, both on and off the hof. He was a good man, a fair man. I recall discussing "fundamental fairness" with him following my return from Lithuania in late February of 1991 (I was visiting Mum in Darvell); Stanley obviously found the subject of law-based governance and "democracy building" very interesting. And I believe that, if still alive, Stanley would be appalled to learn that a Bruderhof spokesperson has lashed out at Ramon for doing what a judge in England said Stanley's wife had a legal right to do. I think in his heart of hearts Stanley knew that Judge Denning was right in ruling as he did. I know for certain that my father, who served as the Bruderhof's lawyer on many matters, eventually came to the conclusion that the great Lord Denning had rendered a fair and proper decision as a young judge in 1945.
Fletcher v. Fletcher is not "binding" in the United States; but its reasoning is no less persuasive. And in light of this case, as well as in light of common sense and fundamental decency, it is outrageous for the Bruderhof to have publicly excoriated Ramon for "abandoning" his wife and daughter just because he decided not to stay and live with them in the Bruderhof -- or, in this case, because he left the Bruderhof when he was told to leave!
The Bruderhof knew or should have known that this charge was actionable under the relevant facts and law; it was made with reckless disregard for the truth; it is a lie. The question is, what should be my response? Do I have any obligation to "stand up" for fundamental decency? I think I do. I am not a conventionally religious person, but -- if I may use another's metaphor -- there is no hotter place in hell than that reserved for those who knew better, yet did worse.
Now, there is mounting evidence that Stanley's and my parents' generation of members are being told by the Bruderhof to sign a document stating that none of their "outside" children who read KIT are welcome to visit, and that none may attend their funeral; they must sign, or face being put into an old age home ... or possibly worse. This too is outrageous. Notwithstanding, the Bruderhof has publicly and repeatedly stated that it has no policy against contacts between those outside and inside, and that all the letters which those outside have received from those inside, saying they must not visit or attend funerals, etc., are purely voluntary. That too is a lie. Are we to remain silent while those we love are browbeaten into going along with wrongs that break their hearts, break our hearts -- wrongs which, in the name of common decency, ought to be identified and rectified?
This is a very difficult and sensitive problem we face. But let there be no doubt: We do not hate our grandparents, parents, sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, and all our dear friends who are on the hof; on the contrary, we love them, and want to help them. Many of us are "keeping in touch" mainly to try to understand what is right, what is good, what is necessary. Our responsibility to act -- where "inaction" is also action -- falls heavily upon us. We are trying as best we can to fathom what is best for all. We are told to "forgive"; and so indeed we should; yet we must never allow ourselves to let "forgiveness" become an excuse for the inexcusable: standing mute when our consciences tell us that our silence is truly unforgivable.
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-- Poetry ---
John: The Eagle
by Jere Bruner (1957)
Well, it is late, my son, put out the candle.
The moonlight on the roofs will be enough.
We have been writing many nights, and now
The book is finished. Ah, poor little book,
Daring to try to gather up his story.
So few the pages, and so pale the words
To bring new generations to the Word.
Perhaps it is enough. For who would think
Three crowded years could ever be enough
To bring the Light of God into the world.
He has his ways, trust Him.
I never understood,
Not then, I only knew I loved Him.
These hands touched His, this very head of mine
Lay on His breast at table, and I heard
His heart beat, felt the blood course through His flesh
And felt His human breath upon my face,
Knew Him and loved Him as our friend and master.
But there were moments when the Godhead flared
Like restless coals under a gust of wind
And almost burst in holy flame upon us.
That time high on the mountain when His flesh
Had nothing heavy in it, and was lit
Not by the sun, as things subject themselves
To being lit and seen; there was a light
From deep within him that proclaimed His body.
His very lips, eyes, hands, streamed holy force.
Peter wanted to build a tabernacle
To house that glory.
He was like that, Peter.
Prophet of Christ, with the eternal words
Of witness in his mouth, himself surprised,
And the next moment burning and dismayed
Because the Lord had had to call him "Satan."
Ready to go to death with Him that night,
And then: the crowing cock. I feared for him,
He might have taken Judas' way, except
His pride was small beside his headstrong will.
Peter the Rock. The church is founded on that,
For foolishness and love are saved at last.
We were a foolish lot, and Peter fit
To captain us with brave humility.
"And if it be My will that he stay on
Until I come again? You, follow Me!"
So the Lord said that morning. Fifteen years
It's been since he was crucified, head down,
Saying, "I am not fit to imitate
The death He died." And so he followed Him.
And I stay on. The time is drawing close.
--When we came down the hill, His hands wove gestures,
His footprints mixed with ours in the gray dust.
I was as young as you then, I can't tell
Why I was certain, but the very day
He called us from the nets, I knew forever
That we had left familiar shores behind,
There were no more roads then, but only seas,
And we were sailing to tremendous dawning,
Whatever it might be. He is the Dawn,
He is the Wind, the Water, and the Ship.
And always my heart knows, beyond a cloud,
The presence of that Dawn, of a new world,
Longing to be, about to be, unseen.
I do not know, I only know I love Him.
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------ In Remembrance ------

Sam Arnold's story and memories of Heinz Bolk made me think a lot about the difficult life that a single person has to live in the Community. Whereas in the world a 'Single' -- a person who has chosen to give his life and love to God and his fellowmen -- is treated with respect and love, on the Bruderhof such a person has no place at all. They are given little responsibilities and often are made the laughingstock of us children! Somehow on the B'hof, status came with marriage and the 'Singles' were given the worst housing, minor jobs and were expected to fill the gap of any, and every job willingly and thankfully, even if it meant taking care of a large family while their parents were either out on mission, excluded or had had yet another baby. Sam asked what become of Heinz Bolk, and this made me think: what became of all the many Singles in the community?
Many Singles had joined in 1939-1940 just before we left for Paraguay. They left their homes, jobs, families and sometimes their wives or husbands and children, believing that they had been chosen to build the city on the hill, God's kingdom on earth. Many names come to mind when I think of the Singles of my childhood, although probably I cannot remember all of them. But I would like to mention their names because many -- or most -- of these single brothers and sisters were asked to leave the Community when the brothers from Woodcrest took over, completely ignoring the fact that these brothers and sisters had given the best years of their lives to a cause they believed in wholeheartedly, and gave very sacrifice asked of them for that. I would just like to remember them this way:
Friedle Sondheimer - went to Woodcrest and died there. Kasper Keller - went to Woodcrest and died there. Walter Bennet - was sent away from Primavera, and I have no idea where he is. Otto Kaiser - sent away from Primavera and lived with the Wiegand family in Germany until he died. Maria Ekroyd - sent away and died alone in an old people's home. Phyllis Hayes - ?. Opa Ludwig - committed suicide earlier in Primavera because he could not stand interrogation. Ridley Brown - died in Primavera of a cerebral hemorrhage. Fred Catton - sent away from Primavera and worked in Asuncion until he died. Julia Lerchi - ?. Ria Kiefer - sent to Germany at the age of 80, but returned to Darvell and died on the B'hof. Gunter Hohman - died a lonely death in Primavera while excluded. Hildegard Friedrich - ?. Vince Lagano - sent away from Woodcrest, medical librarian and KIT staffer (good going, Vince!)
From Wheathill and Sinntal and Bulstrode Bruderhofs
Gabriele von Borries - sent away, trained as a nurse and midwife, and has joined another sect in Germany. Paula ThØssen - sent away and now lives at the age of 90 in a home in Holland. Ver Denton - sent away, rejoined the Salvation Army, and died in the U.K. Bee Tribble - ?. Joost Dirksen - sent away and died in Holland still singing B'hof songs right until his death. Wheathill were the happiest years of his life and he never understood why he had to leave. Maggie Watkins - died a lonely death in Wales from cancer. Mary Bronkhurst - never understood why she was sent away and committed suicide. Harry Taylor - returned to Darvell after many years. Michael Caine - sent away from Wheathill. Fred Hutchings - put in a mental hospital in the U.K. John Puttick - put into a home for epileptics in the U.K. Trautel Ingold - never understood why she had to leave, died of cancer in Germany. Anneliese Ingold - still lives in Germany. Margareth Boening - died alone in an old people's home opposite the former Sinntal Bruderhof.
Some of the Singles made a better life for themselves.
Heinz Bolk was sent away by the Brothers for "not having the spirit," whatever that is! Luckily he had a brother in Germany, Eberhard Bolk, who with his wife Irmgard and two sons had lived in Wheathill for at least two years. Irmgard could not feel at home. Somehow the life reminded her of Nazi Germany, and so they left and Eberhard returned to work for the same firm he had worked before as a dental technician. When Heinz came, he lived with them for a while until he found his feet after all the commotion in Primavera. He then went into East Germany and became a convinced communist, married, and had one or two children. I have lost contact with him now, but he must be pretty old. He worked in his own profession as a "wheelwright" for farm wagons and was very happy indeed.
Albert Wohlfart was a heart patient, as some may remember. But without the stress of Community living he became much better although he could not work at a job anymore. He did get some of the German reparations money, and married a widow who lovingly looked after him until she died. After that he went into a home for the elderly and was visited by Herbert Sorgius until he died some time in the 1980s.
Arthur Mettler was the son of a millionaire in Switzerland -- little did we children know! -- and brought a lot of funds to the Bruderhof when he joined in the 1930s. He also had studied theology and was a fine violinist. On the B'hof, I remember him feeding the pigs and driving a horse wagon from one place to the other. I got to know him a little better when he came to Wheathill in 1956 to help my father with the German Wiedergutmachung. He then went back to Primavera to work on this matter from that end, trying to get medical record for the German State and so forth. Soon he found himself in exclusion and later he was kicked out. Not having broken his word "To serve Christ above all men," he was not sad to leave. His family had put most of his money into a trust to keep it safe, so Arthur could just start a new life. He married and was a parish minister in Switzerland for many years. In the beginning of 1970, a Dr. Arnold Pfeiffer contacted me because he was writing a book on "Religious Socialism." He wanted information about the Bruderhof, but Heini would not give him any. He contacted me through my father, who had just died. I have him Arthur Mettler's address and they became very close friends until Arthur's death some years later.
That will be all for today! Love,
Continuing later
I have written about the Singles as far as I could remember, but then there were also those who had chosen "the life" before the marriage vow or the calling of Jesus for a life in Community above the commitment made earlier to a man or a woman. These brothers and sisters had a very difficult life and were never fully understood. They lived like the Singles, with the difference that for them there would never again be a human relationship. Marriage was considered "holy," even when you partner had divorced you and remarried.
Maureen Burn joined the Wheathill Bruderhof during the war. Her husband was a medical doctor in Birmingham and even though he was interested in the life for a while, he decided not to join and took his three boys with him during the Wheathill crisis in 1948.
Eric Phillips joined the Bruderhof in 1939 and left his young wife and baby in the threatening war situation in England. She came to Wheathill in 1955 and Eric was given every chance to mend his marriage, but she was totally embittered -- it was too late for them.
Harry Fossard decided to join the Wheathill Bruderhof and leave his wife and children. He was sent to Primavera, same as Maureen Burn.
Stanley Fletcher married when he was a tramp preacher in England in 1935. He joined the Rhoen Bruderhof out of conviction. His wife also came to Wheathill in 1955 in an attempt to find a new way with Stanley as a couple. But she was horrified at the poverty and did not want to rebuild her marriage.
Margarethe Boening was divorced from her first husband who was a convinced Nazi. She remarried the father of Peter Boening who, when asked to kill a Polish family during the war, committed suicide.
Maybe there were more brother and sisters that came to the community married and therefore never had a chance to remarry, even though they fell in love! This really is what I feel: take up your cross! Looking back, I wonder if the Bruderhof was ever what I believed it to be -- a place of love!
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From Marva Satyre Petrifido
Hans Clar was a young man with a great need to express himself. He felt sure Aiga Mootlish would understand the things he thought needed to be addressed. All he desired was some place with the time to talk to her. But there was not way he could begin to find a discourse for what he was thinking.
Day after day they attended group meetings. When things seemed to get out of hand, meetings were where these things were all cleared up. One day he was at a meeting and he knew where she was sitting. He had noticed her sit down. When he felt her eyes on him, he couldn't move. He shot her a glance sideways. How could she sit there and just stare at him, showing she no longer cared if anyone noticed? Why so bold suddenly?
The notion he had was that such boldness -- he was at least under the impression -- was disapproved of by the elders of the meeting. What was going on here? Poor Hans! She was mesmerizing him with her boldness! He was a mere Novice, but she had fulfilled and constantly persisted in the social expectations of the Novitiate -- a full member. He wondered if this would cost her demerits -- such boldness. The thing he had wanted to discuss with her were issues touched on in meetings, but he knew better than to involve the whole group with his meandering thoughts.
One-on-one was the involvement he needed, but there never seemed to be any time for that. If he started talking to a fellow worker, it soon would be, "OK, let's get back to work now" from the other fellow.
So Aiga had noticed that he had cast his hopes in her direction. Could it be that she was willing to take risks for him? What was going down?
Really! What was going on here? It seemed the only people capable of having private and confidential conversations were the married couples. Or were they capable of verbal intercourse? Was there any time, even for them? Now that was a question. Maybe that was her question. Maybe she was only seeking to find the answer. Still, how could he do anything for her now that she had done this for him? She shouldn't have! And so he wished all the demerits on Aiga for her boldness.
Later, Hans thought he may have missed an opportunity to make a statement to the meeting. He still was angry with Aiga for confusing him. If she thought she was sending him the message of opportunity, she was wrong. She had blindsided him. Didn't she know that her public method could turn love cold? This was hopeless! It seemed she now had cleared the way for whomsoever to mess with him. On the defensive and quite outraged at all of them, disgusted with Aiga in particular, he was the 'what' (or should we say the 'who') that was going down. He felt himself in limbo, with nothing to hold onto.
When it was suggested that his leaving the group might help him, there was nothing more to say. For Aiga Mootlish, time was not the same as when every little thing was everything Hans Clar for her. Let's hope she is satisfied with her answer.
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Wheathill 1086 to 1986 by J. V. Hinton
reviewed by John and Ruth Arnold
Ruthie and I would like to tell about a book published in 1986. In August we visited Wheathill, Shrewsbury, Bridgnorth and the world's oldest iron bridge manufactured by the Quaker Abraham Darby. While visiting the plateau above Lower Bromdon where the Harries used to live, the caravan owner there gave us a book called Wheathill 1086 to 1986 , by J. V. Hinton. This is an excellent 900 years of history. The people of Wheathill, many who lived there for centuries, got together to collect the information. The Domesday Book describes Wheathill as a thriving community (1086), the Earl of Wheathill the cousin of King William. People who lived in the Wheathill Bruderhof will enjoy the fifty photos and illustrations.
The chapter headings are: 1) The Normans to the Middle Ages; 2) The Clee Forrest; 3) The Lords of the Manors in the Middle Ages; 4) The Civil War; 5) The Inventories; 6) The Development of the Road System; 7) The Deserted Medieval Villages of Egerton and Wadeley Rough; 8) Bromdon about the Bruderhof); 9) Wheathill and Loughton Enclosure Awards; 10) The Tithe Apportionment Rolls; 11) The Censuses of 1861, 71 and 81; 12) The Church Terriers; 13) The Church; 14) The Church Registers; 15) The Churchwardens and the Poor Law Accounts; 16) The Boyne Estate Rent Books of Properties in Wheathill and Loughton in the 19th Century; 17) The Inns; 18) The School; 19) The Malt House; 20) The Abandoned Crofts; 21) Wheathill and Loughton Today; Epilogue.
For those interested in history, Ruthie and I made a remarkable discovery. Ten miles from here is a little village church called Stoke Dry. It dates back to the 9th Century A.C. Here are paintings on the wall of American Indians shooting King Edward I. The authentic age is 200 years before Columbus discovered America. This brings us to the year around 1290. What is such a painting doing in the middle of England in Rutland?
If anyone wants to order the Wheathill book, write to: Mr. and Mrs. Fred Powell; Malthouse Farm; Wheathill, Bridgnorth; Shropshire, WV16 6QT. Tel: 01746 787 236, £7.50 + postage. There also is another book published called Aston Botterel, Burwater and Cleobury North.
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Books/Articles Currently Available:

Through Streets Broad & Narrow, by Belinda Manley
Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Free from Bondage, by Nadine Moonje Pleil
The Joyful Community, by Benjamin Zablocki
Each $17 postpaid U.S./Canada, $20 Overseas
KIT Annuals: 1989-1990 @ $17 $20 Overseas
1992 1993 1994 1995 each $25 / $30
All in larger type, spiral-bound with index
"Expelled Members Speak Out" by J. A. Hostetler $1/$2
"Open Letter To The Hutterian Church," by Samuel Kleinsasser, with added articles, 120 pages $5 / $8
"Our Broken Relationship With The Society of Brothers," by S. Kleinsasser, 16 pps $1/$3
"My Years In Woodcrest 1988-1990," by John Stewart (reprinted from KIT April 1995) $3/$5
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