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KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
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The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
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Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
Autumn has come to the northern hemisphere, leaves turn gold, the harvest rests in barns or is stored on shelves. If this KIT issue has a theme, perhaps it is to give thanks for our KIT elders, the ones who remember the Cotswolds, Primavera, Wheathill and El Arado. They built the early communities stone-by-stone, field by field, house by house, only to be thrown away, out into the world with nothing. Yet now many can laugh together and say, "We survived! We went on to make a good life for ourselves!" So let's honor those in their harvest 'prime of life,' whose labors we respect and remember.
The Whole Kit And Caboodle
Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
For ongoing discussions between ex-members, members and other interested parties, access the newsgroup alt.support.bruderhof
use "alt f" on keyboard to search by name for the following
------ Address Corrections ------
Phil Hazelton's home address is, 1801 Calvert Street NW #401. His home tel: 202 265 7445
Ben Zablocki's area code: 732 828-6589
August & Nadine Pleil: 724 222 0189
Zuster Paula Thijssen needs inclusion on the address pages:
Bachtensteene 1, kamer 019
4331 AB Middleburg
Belinda Manley will reach her 90th birthday this December 10th, and well-wishers everywhere will be celebrating at various glorious events. Her favorite cathedral mice, the Holy Squeakers -- and sacristy rodents of all types are invited to attend. We all wish her a very especially happy and healthy ongoing celebration of her marvelous life!
Leonard Pavitt, having just married off his favorite daughter, now astounds everyone by turning 80 on 12/2/98! How can this be, that our energetic beekeeper has achieved such an elevated pinnacle of serene wisdom and arcane knowledge? Many happy returns, Len! Please show us that polka step again.
Monica & Balz Trumpi will celebrate their Golden Anniversary Plus One on 12/31/98. Many happy returns to this ever-youthful couple, and a Happy 84th Birthday to Balz on 12/4/98! [See photo on. p. 3]
William (Ingmar) Bridgwater, 10/27/98: Friends, yesterday I received from Bette a fax of 'In Memoriam Eberhard Claus Arnold.' My part in that story is exaggerated. What happened was that I visited Claus together with a friend. Claus was in bad shape and had an appointment to see a specialist at a hospital in Asuncion. As we were going back to Asuncion anyway, I gave him a lift. That's all there was to it. Best regards,
Elisabeth Kaiser,RoseMarie's older sister, known as "Detta" in Primavera, died sometime in August at the Darvell Bruderhof. Elisabeth was 67 years old. According to someone who knew her well, Elisabeth was a little backward, but the Servants always classified her as mentally ill. At some point they did not want her on the place anymore and had her placed in a home. "I do not believe that she was mentally ill," our source commented. "Elisabeth was a very straightforward person and often came to our family, obviously feeling very lonely -- lonely in a place of so-called brothers and sisters."
A younger sister Sara was left in England when the Bruderhof moved in the early 1960s. She was also placed in a home, despondent and depressed and lonely, and suffered a tragic death.
Melchior Fros, 9/29/98: How very sad about Elisabeth and her sister Sara! Elisabeth was a person of value. The very least we can do for her now is to tell her story. I hope we can gather the details from those who knew her and are willing to speak.
I had thought of their father, Manfried Kaiser, lately. I have a colorful letter he wrote to me many years ago. I loved the man! A hard worker, hard-of-hearing, warm, inquisitive, a man of detail, and yet simple in his own way. Machete in one hand, cigarette in the other, Manfried cleared the brush in swampy Evergreen. If I stopped to talk to him, he would often say, "Ja......so..." with a kindly wave of the hand for emphasis, evidence to me that he hardly knew what was being said.
Day after day he labored and toiled. Toward the end of his labors, Jake Maendel hopped on an ancient tractor and cleared away in minutes what Manfried had labored to do in days. The contrast between the raw power of a tractor and the loving manual work of an older, simple brother has remained etched in my memory to this day.
George Burleson died in mid-August of cancer in the Bruderhof at 70 years of age. He leaves his wife, Vonnie, and eleven children.
Ernst Arnold to Miriam Arnold Holmes, 9/21/98: Dear Muschie: I am sorry to hear of your brother, Eberhard Claus, passing. It must have come to you as quite a shock, since E.C. was not one to complain, and more than likely shrugged off the symptoms as insignificant. I suspect that by the time Ingmar took him to a doctor, it was more than likely far too late. He probably considered that the symptoms paled in comparison to what he had suffered before with his tumor operation, and the memories of that operation made him wary of hospitals in general.
My memories of Eberhard Claus are mostly from a short visit at his home in November, 1982. I was working and living in Bolivia with my family at the time, helping build a new village, Jinca, in the jungles of Santa Cruz for a group of Ayoreode natives who had been lured out of the jungles in the 1950s to be 'saved' by North American Evangelical missionaries with the promise of machetes, sugar and other trinkets. Unfortunately, they were neither saved or assimilated into the greater society. Indeed during the first two decades almost all their children and many adults died due to the grippe and other common colds to which they had not been previously exposed and thus had no immunities against. When I asked one of the missionaries how they justified their activities of bringing these people out of the jungles only to walk away from the problem they had created, he said "Well, at least they were saved before they died!"
Through the efforts of many, they now have their own villages, a title to roughly 40,000 acres of jungle land (which was theirs before liberation), a co-op, school and a sawmill which they operate when they need cash. Most importantly, they can hunt and grow their own food again.
While down there, our family also took our vacation in Paraguay. We flew into Asuncion, took a boat up the river to Rosario where we were stuck at a pension (a most basic Hotel) for four days, as the ruta was closed due to heavy rains. We did a short tour of Isla Margarita (in a drizzle) but took the next bus out as more rain was coming. We were stuck at another road closure further on due to the storms. Finally we made it to E.C.'s home in Paraguari with the help of curious children who ran ahead of us, enjoying every minute of that walk, giggling and pointing at us every inch of the way. We must have looked quite the sight, muddy rucksacks and all. They were surprised that I understood them, which triggered more giggles.
We had a great two-day visit. We were all really impressed with the whole family, and enjoyed getting to know them. It must have been a weekend, because everyone was dressed in their finest that evening as they, especially the young ones, strolled up and down the streets to admire and be admired by other passers-by. The picture was made complete by radios blaring their owners' favorite tunes at the distortion level (something I never quite got used to while in South America).
E.C.'s wife Rocio is a gem. The children are particularly attractive, polite, friendly and helpful -- quite a contrast from what seems to be the norm in some other parts of the worlds where the "in your face" type attitude seems to be becoming the rage. I got the impression that they were well-liked in their town. Rocio operated a small tienda at the front of their house (corner store) which they took turns attending to, even the smallest family members active in the family duties. Within a very short time my youngest ones were walking around arm-in-arm with their new relatives and also inseparable friends.
Shortly after arriving, E. C. announced that finally a real relative had come for a visit and that it was time for a celebration, which we indeed had, sampling a very good local beer in the shade of their fruit trees on their patio. A memorable occasion, indeed! The children kept drifting in and out, and during the evening many friends and neighbors came over to meet the 'relatives from Canada.' The word spread like a grass fire, even without telephones. Our children sat with theirs on the front step, watching the world go by. It was such a relaxed atmosphere that I could see why so many moved back to Paraguay. In fact, the temptation to move back for me is still very real.
The next day we went to the campo with E C. He was giving us a tour when we met a friend of his who had fought in the Chaco War and was severely injured then. Anyway, when E. C. told him that we worked in Bolivia, he became very hostile because of his hatred of Bolivians. I was very impressed how E. C. handled the situation. Incidentally, the Chaco War with Bolivia in 1932-35 cost Paraguay 20,000 men for 20,000 square miles of borderland gained in the wilderness of the Gran Chaco! I learned not to mention Bolivia again!
I'm sorry you weren't able to get to know your brother again after his return to Paraguay, his new life and his great family. I would like to encourage you to make that effort, even if only through the mail. Who knows? Maybe it will be "given" that you make the journey down there! Best Wishes,
Jay Ortiz, MD, 9/14/98: Hello, KIT readers, from the Bushlands Game Lodge situated in the heart of Zululand -- surrounded by the more than 300,000 acres of South Africa's national parks including Hluhluwe, Umfolozi, Mkuzi, Ndumu, St. Lucia and Sodwana Bay! Here, as I promised in the last KIT issue, is an update on Chip Wilson's and my adventures since Chip bailed out of the communities.
Unfortunately, things have taken a tragic turn on our trophy-hunting safari, because our dear Chip was recently trampled by a rhinoceros. I had warned Chip not to light a campfire while we were in rhino country, but he was feeling a bit of a chill and went ahead while I was busy adjusting the Howitzer for our morning elephant shoot. Suddenly out of the bush charged this three-quarter-ton furious beast and began to stomp out our fire. In the process he also stomped out Chip! Well, as you can understand, I am devastated! I had to witness the whole gruesome scene from where I clung precariously to the nearest date palm tree, and I must tell you that to remain all night up in a palm tree is not easy. Then in the morning I had to gather up -- well, I won't go into the gory details, but suffice it to say that Chip, my dearest boy, was scattered in a most far-flung manner -- gnawed-on bits were basically all that was left, because the jackals had gotten to him first.
In the midst of this terrible tragedy, I can only console myself with the fact that all of Chip's correspondence and literary output escaped with him instead of being 'deep-sixed' in the famous deep-sin archives. His daily journals, his poems, his love songs to his Betrothed (oh dear me, how devastated she must be, despite her harsh words at his departure!) are safely in my possession. I plan to apply for the Klapsmuhle-Horntooter Fellowship so that I can devote my remaining years to elevating a literary memorial to Chip in perpetuity by publishing a number of volumes from his vast creative output.
How he somehow managed to keep such detailed notes during busy daytimes on the sanding machines I will never understand -- literally thousands of pages written just after brotherhood meetings as well as in-depth and freudian-analytical observations of various leaders' strange behaviors. Chip may have been a virtual zero-naught-nothing on the physical plane, but on the intellectual he was a prime number, a Numero Uno, an alpinist of intellectual Matterhorns that can be scaled only by the most hardy!
As you may notice, I write these words through a veil of tears, caught up as I am in an abyss of grief for having lost my virtual son. Unreal as Chip may have seemed to others, he was all I had in the way of family, and thus precious to me beyond words. His unique literary gifts, his turns of phrase, shone like veritable laser beams to illuminate the most obscure and murky communal corners. More will follow in future KIT issues! Sobbing sorrowfully,
Christoph Arnold, 10/19/98: Dear Ramon and all... We really enjoyed the October issue of KIT. That probably was the best issue you ever published. It is amazing how actually we think the same and are working together without realizing it. We sure think of Eberhard Claus and it is tragic how he died and we are thinking what we can do for his wife and family.
Ramon, I cannot thank you and Ernst enough for joining me on the Peter Warren show from Winni-peg. You could not have done me a greater service of love. Because you two were on I have gotten many phone calls and letters from brothers and sisters in the West. It just seems like everyone listened to the show and they were amazed how actually without wanting it we are working together.
Congratulations to Nadine Pliel [sic] and her relations for getting into the coffee shop without the young people realizing it. That was quite the coup de etat [sic]. By the way Jay Ortiz and Chip Wilson are not dead.
Ramon, I thank you for saying on the CJOB show that the book Seeking Peace did not sound like me. For some reason since this show, sales for this book has jumped at least by 20% -- something must have whetted the appetite of the listeners. Perhaps it is that people like you, Tim and Richard Domer, Blair, Paul Fox and Wayne Chesley are so entrigued [sic] by the message of peace and forgiveness that they must be buying boxes of the book from the book stores and selling them. Tim & Richard Domer have been known to be such good salesmen that they could sell ice to the Eskimos. Anyhow I thank them for their help.
You know, it surprised me that before publication Seeking Peace has sold over 9,000 copies. A lot of this I credit to you and to KIT for so kindly promoting it, and I really look forward to the next talk show where we can work together...
By the way, Ramon, be sure to thank Bette for her excellent contribution and response to Seeking Peace. It is this kind of input that makes the book so intriguing to potential readers.
Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that we think of you and want to continue working with you and the message of peace, reconciliation [sic], and forgiveness. There is an old saying, "If you can't beat them, join them." So let's thank God for what we have in common rather than that which divides us.
Ramon it is completely okay with me if you do not publish this letter in the next KIT as it might increase the sales of Seeking Peace and Seventy Times Seven. Really, the decision is yours.
Anyhow, this is just a sign of our love and wishing you all the best and most of all wishing you the peace of God that passeth all understanding.
Johann Christoph Arnold
PS: We actually got rid of all e-mail, but so that you can reply if you so desire, we opened up an account in case you want to respond. (not to my mail, but someone else's.)
PSS: Ramon, it would be helpful in the next talk show that you would share with the listeners that you "masturbated yourself out of the Bruderhof community." These are your own words. All this would give the listeners a much greater understanding for the work together between us.
KIT: Quoting Ramon's own words in correct context from KIT VII #8-9: "After a year of celibacy, I suddenly felt a compulsive urge to masturbate. I was fully aware that within the context of Bruderhof teachings, I was committing a sin that, if confessed, would result in immediate exclusion and/or banishment from the community. However it never occurred to me not to confess immediately to the nearest available witness brother. Over the next week or so, I basically masturbated my way out of Wood-crest, and the irony was that I didn't even enjoy it -- just sort of wham, bam, excuse-me-I'm-sorry. Never during that time did anyone ask me what was wrong or show the slightest empathy or concern for what I might be feeling...
"Summing up, masturbation removed me from the Bruderhof in 1959 when my brain, paralyzed by an anxiety attack, refused to function. I always have remained very grateful for my body's innate wisdom and unique rescue method. Recently I was reminded of the Bruderhof's abusive attitude towards masturbation when I heard how young men in Woodcrest are forced not only to confess "self-abuse" to their fathers, but then have to make the soul-wrenching climb up the Carriage House stairs to the elder's office and confess to him also. Lucky are those who then are not compelled to stand before the brotherhood (or all the brotherhoods listening in on a conference phone hook-up) and stumble through an embarrassing public admission! What a horrible nightmare for a Bruderhof young person to endure for a pleasurable act that nowadays is accepted as totally natural!
During earlier times, the Bruderhof allegedly employed methods that included tying a child's hands to the bed frame, placing their body in a sack with a drawstring around the neck (hands outside), smelling a little girl's hands in bed and slapping them if they retained any telltale odors. Despite questions I have asked as a concerned grandparent as to whether such physical restraints are still used, I have not received an answer.
"It bears restating the obvious: at least for the past fifty years, the view held by various puritanical, old order or orthodox religious groups that masturbation is 'sinful' has been totally discredited by psychiatrists and doctors everywhere as extremely damaging emotionally. Old wives tales such as "Self-abuse destroys the mind," or "Eek! You will grow hair on your palms!" terrified adolescents for generations. The abuse comes from others trying to control you, not from yourself!"
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 10/21/98: As a follow-up to our little excursion and visit to the Plough Coffee-shop, I thought you would all like to know that my son Alvin Pleil did not receive the requested Community Playthings catalogue. It was supposed to be mailed to him because they did not have a copy on hand when we visited. I would say the fact that he did not receive the catalogue is bad business and very unprofessional. The Plough Coffeeshop staff should think again. You ignore a business request just because you found out that Alvin Pleil is the son of Nadine who wrote an autobiography? Shame on you!!
We have been told by C. Domer to buy a peace book. I have vowed not to pay good money for bad literature. I call it 'bad literature' because the Commune does not practice what they write or preach, or shall we say Johann Christoph and C. Domer do not practice what they preach. And I would like to add, for C. Domer's benefit, "since when is peace a commodity?" To my mind, peace can only exist if opponents get together and openly discuss what hinders, and then peace and forgiveness and reconciliation can take place. You, C. Domer, have turned down such talks of reconciliation. That is a great pity, and one should take into consideration that life is very short! After all, peace is something that is right around the corner if we all really want it!
There have been many times in my life when I have experienced peace, or have been given peace. However, never ever before in my life have I had to buy peace, let alone pay $15 for peace! I have never been offered peace for a price. In any case, I would never consider buying peace for any price. Even if it is a bestseller! To my mind peace is peace and cannot be bought! I do not pay for peace, but I gratefully accept peace when it is given to me.
One last thing: Christoph, I wish to thank you for helping increase the sales of my book, Free From Bondage.Every time you appear in public or on the radio, I sell some copies. Greetings to all,
Name Withheld 10/18/98: I've been digesting J. Christoph Arnold's attempt to reconcile with the Hutterites by going on CJOB in Manitoba. It's amazing to me that they can be so successful in their businesses, yet so inept in their public relations department. They are clearly lacking in that area. To me, the most revealing exchange was the following:
"JCA: ...I've tried to ask his (Jakob Klein-sasser's) forgiveness again and again and again, and I still ask for forgiveness.
"PW: Forgiveness for what?
"JCA: Well, you know, Peter, um to tell you the truth, I really don't know, but there's always chances that we hurt one another, even unknowingly. Apparently I've offended him, and I want to clear it up, and I've asked to come but he doesn't let me come!...."
It looked to me as though JCA is getting ready to do the same repentance/exclusion/forgiveness/reuniting routine with the Hutterites that his father performed.
Now we hear about the alleged rewriting of the history of Eberhard to justify the Bruderhof's activism and their fascination with revolution. I don't see how this can help their cause with the Hutterites.
It looks to me like JCA is walking a fine line, straddling the fence between a rock and a hard place! (to mix a metaphor or two).
Wayne Chesley, 10/20/98: Greetings Christoph, welcome to alt.support.bruderhof news group. It would be nice if some other Bruderhofers could participate in this forum. Let's hope that will be permitted some time.
You wrote: "...I really look forward to the next talk show where we can work together..."
If you are being honest, perhaps you will post your speaking and book promotion schedule here. Better still, perhaps you can arrange for Ramon or some others to appear with you in a discussion of the Bruderhof on the air?
You wrote: "Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know that we think of you and want to continue working with you and the message of peace, reconciliation, and forgiveness. There is an old saying, "If you can't beat them, join them." SO let's thank God for what we have in common rather than that which divides us."
Does that mean the Bruderhof is finally willing to sit down and discuss matters with ex-members and family members "outside", as was proposed through the Mennonite Conciliation Service?
Christoph, if you really believe in seeking Peace and in reconciliation and forgiveness you would take actions in that direction. Perhaps your participation in this forum is one such step. If you don't want to appear hypocritical and cynical in public (this is a public forum) then put actions to these words. Actions speak louder than words.
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 9/14/98: August and I were able to participate in the August KIT gathering held at Friendly Crossways just outside of Boston. To our great surprise we met Joseph Idiong, one of the excluded Nigerian brothers. Joseph married Anthea, daughter of Roland and Lotte Keiderling. We were able to talk several times with Joseph and he conveyed his very sad story to us. He often had to fight back tears when talking about his three-year-old daughter Adina, who he thinks is probably in Eng-land with her mother.
The ever-persistent question arises in our minds: why is JCA so cold-hearted? Who gives Joe Keider-ling the right to tell Joseph he will never see his wife and daughter again? This same thing, "You will never see your parents again," was said some years ago to one of our daughters. Two Servants of the Words told her that, and she was not even outside in the world but was still living at the Deer Spring Bruderhof. In the Bible it states most clearly, "Honor thy father and mother." If a parent is dying, should one not go to see the parents, or at least go to the funeral in order to give support to the surviving parent. If there is no surviving parent, then one should go out of love and respect for what the parents have done in bringing up the child.
The Bruderhof has a very callous way of managing tragic happenings. All the books which have recently been written by the Bruderhof stress family and the importance of family. Again and again we hear/read how important family is. How does the Bruderhof justify their disregard of their own writings on this subject? Is it justified to separate families? I am personally very grateful that the Bruder-hof did not manage to break up our family. We became a true family after having been sent away from the Bruderhof! It actually was a blessing in disguise that our family was told to leave the communities. I stress the fact that we were told to leave as a family. We did not sever the relationship. Apparently, it was already anticipated by the Bruderhof that we would fail to bring up our children to be upright men and women! It was already felt, when we had to leave, that we would have to come crawling back without the majority of our eight children. It all turned out very differently! We are very fortunate that we had all our children with us, and that not one stayed or had to stay in the Bruderhof.
I say again: it is very callous of the Bruderhof to separate families under the guise of it being done "out of love!" Such separations cannot be done or orchestrated out of love. Nobody has the right to separate families and then blame the father for not caring for his family. I will not forget Joseph's story and the agony he and the other Nigerian men are going through. Joseph, if you have been named 'a rebel,' then you are in good company! I was/am known as "Nadine the Rebel." So that makes two of us! It was a pleasure to meet you, Joseph, and I hope we will meet again. Sincerely,
Melchior Fros, 10/6/98: Bruderhof leader Christoph Arnold is described by himself or his PR-aparat variously as: "best-selling author"; "the world's most famous ex-Hutterite"; "possibly the most hated man in Manitoba"; "an internationally recognized peacemaker who has helped bring reconciliation in the Middle East, Central America and Northern Ireland"; "senior minister"; the Elder responsible for all that happens on the Bruderhof.
Recently this "distinguished" Bruderhof leader appeared on Canadian Peter Warren's CJOB Action Line radio show to talk about the latest book appearing under his name. A few days after the show, a "mysterious" e-mail was sent to the Hummer, a private discussion group of which I am a part. It failed to reach the chat group. The anonymous author says, with his spellings retained:
"It is one thing to do something that creates titillation, another thing to be effective.
"As a trained advertising/pr listener of the radio program and the Hummer post-radio show dialog, I would offer the following view:
"1. Christoph kept his cool. He never appeared to lose it. An outside listener to his comments on buying a guy [sic] would see that as humor, not as yet more 'dumb Chris-tolph [sic], insert foot' remarks.
"2. Without question the program will lead to increased book sales. And thus increase the credibility of the Bruderhof. Controversy sells books!
"3. Christolph has obviously been trained by some pretty good PR people. Ex-Bruder-hofers know him and their knowledge of him colors their view of his statements.
"3. Everything seemed to be an attack on him personally rather than an attack on the organization. This engenders sympathy in the listener.
"4. Some really bad accusations were made about his conduct and he apologized in every case.
"5. A listener would wonder why people that are in the outside -- who are supposedly schooled in how to make changes in an organization or have justice served -- do not resort to the institutions that are there to protect them. Departments of Social or Child services, the police, the FBI are all organizations that either seek to prevent some of the crimes mentioned or will act to bring those to justice who are responsible. Again if the charges, which sound awful, are true, why are those on the outside not working with the proper authorities to redress them?"
I have reason to believe this document was authored in the corporate office of the Woodcrest Bruderhof, and is an attempt to legitimize the efforts and the aura of Christoph Arnold. The use of the term "outside" to describe non-Bruderhof persons is well-known to those within the Hof, but is certainly not an expression likely to be penned by an "outsider". And the misspelling of Christoph's name is comical in that a listener would not likely mistakenly "hear" an "L" where there is none to begin with. But point #5 gives it away. These are familiar words I have "heard" before (yes, folks, sometimes the deaf do "hear").
Apparently, a "responsible" Bruderhofer felt a need to defend the public performance of his Elder. I'd like to offer a different perspective:
1. It seems rather strange that the famed, Anabaptist- pacifist "peacemaker's" comment about the gun was to be taken lightly. Later in the show, Christoph suggested that it might be time to arm himself yet again, "because I want to see again how it feels like". These comments add to my growing suspicion that it is difficult to take anything Christoph says seriously, in the manner Jesus taught.
2. Controversy does sell books! At least the author of the e-mail is honest about that and does not try to pass off the book as a work based on Christ-inspired faith.
3. There was no "attack" on Christoph. Just good, hard, honest questions testing his veracity, some of which he had difficulty answering forthrightly, in my opinion.
4. The apologies seemed very shallow to me. I will have more to say about the matter later.
5. "Those on the outside" are working with the authorities. Mama Bruderhof's skirt can only hide so many matters. It is simply that a person of faith in Christ steps out boldly when a wrong has been committed. He does not "skirt" the issue! He seeks sincere forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation.
Let me get back to the radio show. I feel compelled to lock horns with Christoph over what appears to be dishonesty, insincerity and a mockery of the way of Christ. I shall therefore address Christoph in person.
You stated that "we are very much like the Hutterites, of which Manitoba is full of". And, "our Help is really the same as the Hutterite colonies in Manitoba, so we have a lot in common, Peter."
Whatever flaws the Hutterites of Manitoba may have, I know for a certainty that they try to pattern their lives after that of Christ. Is this the Help you ascribe to, Christoph? My limited interaction with the Hutterites leads me to believe they are, by and large, decent and truthful Christians who take the following words of Christ seriously: "Simply let your 'Yes' be Yes and your 'No' be No; Anything beyond this comes from the Evil One." (Matt. 5:37; italics mine).
You, Christoph, by contrast, seem to exhibit behavior that is completely at odds with Hutterite faith and practice -- and you seem proud of it! On the radio show, you make light of your concealed weapon registration, you skip around the issue of jet ownership, and try to evade the question of a lawsuit that one of the listeners brought to your attention. You also make a blanket statement about the supposed marital infidelity of all four Nigerian brothers now in America. Of them you said, "These men, apart from Yusef, are involved with other women and have left their wives". You should be ashamed of yourself! I'd like to suggest you go over to Joseph Idiong in particular, and apologize for your errors. Joseph did not leave his wife and he is not involved with another woman.
Only one of the men has a woman companion. Unless you have spoken to them about personal matters, why not assume she is his interpreter? A chaste friend? Why is infidelity foremost on your mind? Let me quote some of your words regarding the issue of communication with loved ones living on the Bruderhof, be it by phone or by mail. Peter Warren reminded you that "allegations remain and have been repeated by two or three callers, that you don't allow letters through and you don't allow telephone calls through." To this you responded, "Well, that's not me! I allow every letter through."
I am curious to know why so many others I have talked to express the same concern about communication. Some even talk of censored mail. Your own friend, Dr. Tim Domer, has documented this concern quite well for our ASB readers. Is it not perhaps because you give specific instructions at brotherhood meetings? You set the tone and your followers dutifully obey? If this is so, then you are -- as you stated plainly on TV's 48 Hours -- the Elder who is personally responsible for all that occurs on the Bruderhof?
Ernst Arnold, your cousin, raised the concern about open communication yet again, because you have not answered his letters nor taken action on an urgent phone call he placed with his Bruderhof-residing brother. This brother assured Ernst he would take the matter up with you. "Ernst, forgive me," you responded, but then "explained" away your remorse by saying you had traveled a great deal this year, "and I get a lot of mail and sometimes mail slips through. And I would love to write you a letter." Christoph, was every one of Ernst's communication attempts made during your busy time? If you are sincere about your remorse have you taken pen in hand since the radio show? Who is being truthful?
Forgiveness And Reconciliation
You stated several times that you love people, love relationships and wish to communicate with others. You also stated, "I love talk shows and to make new friends". It is one thing to make friends; quite another to keep them. I personally still believe deep down in your heart you desire to seek peace. What person in your shoes would not want peace?
Being an "internationally recognized peacemaker" requires taking personal risk. You stated on the radio show that you were "scheduled to go to the Middle East on Sunday" but that political tensions caused you to cancel your trip. And yet earlier this year, you sent Franzhart, Veronica, and others on a mission to Iraq that could very well have led to their deaths. Do you see the irony in this? Do you recognize your lack of courageous leadership? Of setting a good example? Are you ready to risk your reputation for Christ-centered peace in the way Franzhart and Veronica were willing to risk their lives in order to make a stand for world peace?
Recently I have become more aware of how you envision creating peace specifically with those who once were yours. A letter from Bruderhof resident Gary Stanaway to (former member) Christine Mathis speaks of a forgiveness that can "wipe away every 'issue'." Issues, Gary states, prevent real forgiveness.
And what does Jesus say about the matter? I beg you to read Matt. 18:15-18 once more. It is very familiar to most Christians. Do you not see the step-by-step approach Jesus endorsed so that "every matter (every issue, if you will) may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses"? Look up once more the less familiar story of St. Paul's visit to the Jerusalem Church and the issues that needed to be resolved so that peace could be restored among the churches.
I have stated this to you a number of times and I would like to say it yet again: A show of meaningful goodwill and sincere, humble seeking for peace will do far more good than any controversial, worldy public appearance designed to sell your books. I don't personally need your forgiveness for every offense you have committed against me. However, in the interest of "seeking for peace", you will have to demonstrate far more than a shallow "forgiveness" extended over the airwaves. You can do it. With Christ at your side! Sincerely,
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 10/10/98: In August, Augusto and I drove Renatus Kluver to the New Meadow Run Bruderhof. His sister Christel lives there. She suffers from Multiple Sclerosis and, as Renatus was staying with us nearby, he wanted to visit his sister. We drove to Farmington, where we parked at the gas station while Renatus walked to the commune entrance. Renatus's own account of how he was received and how he was treated was published in the October KIT issue.
In light of how horribly Renatus was treated, the question has occurred to us: how it is possible for Johann Christoph Arnold to write books about forgiveness, reconciliation and peace? He gets religious organizations to endorse these books and these said books become religious bestsellers. Now how can a group like the Bruderhof publish and promote such books when they do not act on what they preach?
Renatus was not allowed to see his sick sister and might never be able to see her again. At the same time, Johann Christoph Arnold writes and preaches about peace and forgiveness! JCA says that family members make the decision as to whether they want to see outside family members. Who made the decision in Renatus' case? Christel was not even asked or told that her brother had come to see her. He had to leave without even knowing whether the five men who turned him away would pass on his greetings! As Christel is ill with MS, Renatus really does not know if he will ever have the chance to see his oldest sister ever again.
Now, does this attitude of the Commune speak of peace, reconciliation and forgiveness? I would like to observe here that it truly was a blessing in disguise that our whole family was kicked out of the commune eighteen years ago. August and I do not go through the agony of not being able to see our children and grandchildren! We have really and truly been blessed, and perhaps we can safely say that the commune did us a great, great favor by making us leave their "Holy and Hollowed Ground" -- and I don't think it is so holy, if it ever was.
Ever since my parents Victor and Hilda Crawley have departed this earth we have not had to visit the Commune again. We have been able, as Renatus did, to virtually shake the dust of their place off our feet. Sincerely,
Blair Purcell, 10/6/98: The one, single thing that struck me in reading the transcript of the CJOB radio show was the lack of peace that surrounds Christoph Arnold. He speaks and writes (?) of peace -- and the most constant theme of the callers was that families have been torn apart by the actions of JCA. What peace? A Hutterite husband who can't see his wife and children, Nigerian fathers who can't see their wives and children. And JCA spreads vicious gossip and lies ("These men, apart from Yusef, are involved with other women and have left their wives.") on the show -- when those accused are unable to respond. Takes courage, that.
He lies when he says that the wives have made this choice without coercion and pressure from Christoph himself to hew to the line he himself has drawn. Yet another example of passing the responsibility for his own actions to others. Takes courage, that.
Christoph Arnold was challenged about the threat of a lawsuit by the Bruderhof against the Hutterites and danced around the question as skillfully as the president in front of a grand jury. What peace? Let me quote what he said about getting a gun:
"And the more people claim that I carry a gun THE MORE TEMPTED I AM TO GO AND GET ONE BECAUSE I WANT TO SEE AGAIN HOW IT FEELS LIKE!"
These are the words of a man of peace? This book is nonsense because the words mean nothing to the "writer." If they mean nothing to the writer, how can they mean anything to the world for whom he thinks he writes? He is not at peace with the world, with the Hutterites, with his own members or with those who have chosen to leave the Bruderhof. Most of all, and sadly, he cannot be at peace with himself or with his God. Get a grip, Christoph.
Betty Chesley, (10/7/98): I sure hope that the Bruderhof leadership, JCA, CD, JK and anyone else reading here will take Mel and Blair's comments to heart. I'd hate to think of such pearls falling at the feet of mocking critters during Servants' call. I'd hate even further that more innocent outsiders will be duped into spending their money for a book on peace that clearly has no meaning.
Christoph -- you said on the radio show that you loved us. You (or your "representatives") turned down two mediation efforts with highly respected groups that we were personally involved in to help reconcile some of the very same family issues that were brought up on the radio show. You said on the interview that you love people and relationships -- then do something about it! You're not in anything so deep that God can't help you or anyone else -- unless you have given up on Him first. In hope of peace,
ITEM: It's no wonder that the Bruderhof keeps buying more passenger jets. According to a recent newspaper article, they rent for $3,000 + per hour and their meter runs in the air and on the ground, until the trip is over and the jet is back home. They are a money-maker, like Hobson's horses were for him in London some years ago.
Andy Harries, 9/30/98: It's me again. I had not intended writing at the moment, my life is busy enough already. I do not really have time, but I just have to put pen to paper after reading the latest Aug-Sept KIT, even though I have not finished reading it yet. To read from so many different people about how they [the Bruderhof] are splitting families up is just terrible. It makes me feel angry. What right have they got to treat people like that? What right have they got to mess people about like that, to treat people like dirt, to treat people as worthless? What right have they got to keep on splitting up families?
They really think that in the name of "Love" or "Their Way" or "The Way" or "The Bruderhof" or "unity" or whatever they want to call it, they can treat people however they want? Then to preach Christianity, and that they are doing it in love for that person or that person's family -- that is just unbelievable. They really think that they are judge, jury and executioner. In reality Christoph is the dictator, like Stalin was. Then he has his henchmen and his security department to carry out his dirty work for him -- (the KJB and the Secret Service). The rest are just happy to survive under this regime of fear, and know it is best just to keep quiet and cooperate. The more you cooperate, the better and quieter life will be. So why do any different?
The Community life has become in effect the Communist State where dissent is not permitted. Those who dissent are punished in various ways, leading ultimately to expulsion and disgrace. This is bad enough, but then when this is used to drive a father away from his own wife and children, it is just wicked. As Paul Fox wrote in the last KIT, the father's desperation to see his own children or family "is used again and again in order to force the men into submission to the leadership."
Nothing can be more damaging to him and also to the rest of the family. The most important thing for which most people really live and work hard in their lives is to marry and have children. That is how all nature works, and that is true for humans too. If you take that away, it can be completely devastating and soul-destroying. Of course marriages can go wrong anyway, and families split up; but for it to be done like on the Bruderhof for no real reason, or for reasons of ideology or politics or whatever, is just wicked.
It is no good talking or preaching about family values. It is not what they say that matters, but what they do. They do not value people. They only value 'their way of life.' Individuals are unimportant, are expendable. We who grew up there were probably not aware of it at the time -- what children are? -- but the result was that many of us were left with all sorts of problems that we have been struggling to overcome ever since. In my case, it is 37+ years. I spent the first 23-1/2 years of my life on the Bruderhof, and I have spent the last 37 years working on dealing with the problems with which I came away.
I feel especially sorry for the Africans from Nigeria who were encouraged to go to America and marry there, start a family and then were sent out into a completely foreign continent. It seems as if the Bruderhof tried to force them into their straightjacket of a controlled life. I am sure it will have been even harder for them than for others from a western culture. I am not a racist, but I have been to Africa and my son has lived and worked there for many years, so I know quite a lot about the differences, and I know that the African way of life and culture is so very different from ours.
In African society, the family structure is much more important. All members of the family, and that includes the extended family, have certain roles and positions. In their culture, traditions and spirits play a big role in the family structure. Different members are expected to behave in certain ways and have certain roles to play. It must have been even harder for them than for most others to fit into the strict control system of the Bruderhof, and even more stressful also to be then banished on their own, outside in a modern western society where basically each is for his own.
When they send a father away and tell him that he will never see his child or children again, they are not only destroying him, but they are destroying the whole family. How is the mother supposed to cope emotionally with the fact that her husband, her supposed chosen one, the one whom God united with her for life, has now become so evil that they must never see each other again? And those children, they will also be damaged for life because some power-hungry people have taken their father away. I am sure that this sort of thing has been going on right through the existence of the Bruderhof, but has become progressively worse since the Heini era. We know from our own experiences that if we grow up there, we are not really aware of what is going on. And if we do have questions or doubts, we will suppress them for fear of getting into trouble. That is what gives the leadership so much power.
This whole business of sending fathers away and then prohibiting them from seeing their wife or even their own children makes me wonder. This may in fact be the reason why they have some communities so far from others and why they have started up communities in England. It makes it so much easier if they want family members to be spirited away -- or to just 'disappear.' If a family has relatives outside in England who are not allowed to visit, then they can just spirit their people to America and vice versa, and make it impossible to visit them. Greetings, October 20,1998: I just had a rather interesting experience. A cousin of mine rang me a few evenings ago. He has been a member of the Methodist Church for many years. He has been a local preacher for 18 years and a Lay Preacher in the Church for 12 years. He was disturbed to see an article and a book review in the Methodist magazine. The article named Joe Hines from Plough Publishing. It described how this group has been promoting their latest book The Lost Art Of Forgiveness by Christoph Arnold. They had a display on World Book Day at Victoria Station in April and again there in May and then also at Waterloo Station, both in London, because it was so successful. They even used a billboard of the famous photograph showing a burned and naked Vietnamese girl fleeing her napalmed village. I must say that I am quite amazed that they will go so low as to use something like that to play on people's emotions. In the article they then boast about how many books they have already sold and how successful it has been. Then there was also a book review by Ray King.
It just seems amazing what trouble they will go to, to promote their books and literature and of course their way of life. It is really sad that they are able to continue deceiving people again and again. I do not know my cousin (who rang) that well because he used to live in Yorkshire, so we have not been able to share so much with him about our past as with other relatives. But he obviously realised that things were a bit different than portrayed in this literature. Some of my other cousins and an aunt of mine have often asked questions about the Bruder-hof over the years, and when they heard that Nadine Pleil had written a book about her life, they asked if they could have a copy. That is partly because Nadine is related to our family. Nadine's parents were Victor and Hilda Crawley who lived on the B'hof since about 1937. Hilda Crawley was the sister of my late uncle Ernest on my mother's side.
Anyway, my cousin Martin rang me because he felt that his information on the Bruderhof was quite different. He felt strongly that it was not right what had been written, and he wanted to write to the editor of those publications with his concerns. He rang me first to verify the doubts and concerns he had. I could, of course, support his concerns. He since has written to me and also included copies of the articles he talked about and a copy of the letter he has written to the editor of the Methodist magazine publication.
Something different -- I just thought this might interest some people: we in the Western World are good at complaining, as I suppose most people are. I get a monthly letter, News From Zambia, which writes briefly about many different things in the people's lives and about some of the problems they have. One paragraph talks about the statistics of life for the people of Lusaka, which is the capital of Zambia. Some of the statistics are: 75% live in abject poverty, and that is in a very poor country in Africa where all standards are anyway much lower than in the West. Child malnutrition is about 28%. Under 5 years old, child mortality rate is 215 in 1000. 0nly 8% have access to refuse collection, 36% to reticulated water -- I presume they mean piped water, and 70% only have the use of pit latrines. Lack of security means residents live in constant fear. Greetings,
Hilarion Braun, 9/25/98: For some time now I have tried to communicate with JCA, and finally received a very strange answer. He did not respond to any of my points but launched into a tirade about people whom I hardly know, and then accused me of using the Internet to say bad things about him. I will attach here my two letters to him.
The main reason for my attempts to deal with Christoph is that I keep seeing the Bruderhof claim that KITfolk refuse to deal directly with the Bruder-hof. For my case that is a lie. I have repeatedly dealt directly with the Bruderhof while at the same time informing KIT about what was going on. (Note: I was going to state here that after my second letter to JCA, the harassment in Phoenix, AZ, stopped, but as of October 13th, I can no longer say that)...
My Phoenix business venture has taken a turn and I am no longer part owner. My employment contract runs for the next three years, after which I am also free of intellectual property limitations. I did quite well financially, but still am working too much. This should change next week when my assistant comes on board. When I say that I did quite well financially, I say that honestly and in ignorance. The whole experience taught me how stupid I am about money, etc., and that I should stick to physics and hardening rather than venture into business. Mostly, I am in awe of all of you who after leaving the Bruderhof had to begin a new life with many children. You are real heroes to me, and proof of what a collection of talented and able brothers and sisters there are out here. My guava harvest was great, but all of my mango trees are dead except one, and even that one looks sick.
4/21/98 to J. Christoph Arnold: The threat that allegedly Lucas Arnold and Joe Keiderling instigated has still not been withdrawn. The harassment of me and loved ones in Phoenix is criminal, and to date no suspects other that those associated with the threat come to mind. I will send you a copy of the threat if you are interested. Mr. Hayes was advised by my attorney to withdraw his threat forthwith since it constitutes attempted obstruction of justice. He, nor you, have responded to that. I have studied libel law carefully and understand it very well. It is clear that I did not libel Lucas.
Now to the point of better relationships between the Bruderhof and KIT, I wish to make a proposal. My proposal is as follows: you submit a list of grievances with factual basis, and I in turn will respond to each point as best I can. You will then answer my answer, and we will see where that might lead us. I don't believe that where there is love nothing good will happen. I respect your right to your beliefs, and expect the same respect from you.
My basis for this proposal is Paul's Corinthians letter on love, and if you agree to the same basis, a resolution should be possible. We do not need to agree on many things to be ale to have a mutually beneficial dialogue. What I will tell you from the beginning is that my loyalty lies with all decent men, and will always be there. The great spirits such as Bach, Schweitzer, Jesus and the power of law are guides and lovers that keep me alive. I feel very sorry for all the pain that has been needlessly brought about by arrogance, stupidity and indifference.
You and I must be of the same age, and so have lived long enough to know well how power corrupts even the best of us, and how we have to stay away if we hope to die with a decent conscience.
I greet you as a Bruderhof child who was never afraid of commitment, but was unwilling to bend to the hysteria of the destructive forces in 1961. Let's promise each other tat this effort will have no other purpose than constructive dialogue, and that when we are tempted to strike out at each other with painful crap, that we resist it with all our might. Sincerely,
5/16/98 to J. Christoph Arnold: Thank you for your letter of April 28, 1998. You did not go into the matter of your lawyer's threat, and it is this that is sad. If you believe that I am on the Internet, you have been misinformed. I am not on the Internet since 1996, and will probably not be there for quite a while. Also, please let me know what you consider nonsense by me. Let's try to stick to specifics. I'll gladly be corrected when wrong.
If, during this correspondence you wish to have my silence in KIT, I will agree to it provided you deal justly and clearly about your Daniel Hayes' threat. Now to your plea to tell you what you might do to reach KITfolk. It is a simple matter.
Just as you did in my correspondence, please don't ignore key questions. KIT is not out to destroy you or the Bruderhof. It is after the truth. Leaders by definition are reviled and criticized and tested. They must stand very tall and be beyond reproach. You have so far refused to be engaged in discussions about specific issues, and have made yourself look like someone who is shifty and cowardly.
You and I grew up in the same paradise, the jungles of Paraguay. I ended up a romantic socialist, you in turn act like a bitter capitalist. Nothing in your letter sounds Christian or humble, or even remotely calm. Believe me: if and when you engage in really worthwhile dialogue on specific issues, you will get the response that will go a long way toward decency. For example, what would you say to my publishing Daniel Hayes' letter in The New York Times?? Is it the kind of image you want for the Bruderhof? Why are you persisting in this obviously false accusation?
Clara is going well and is quite happy. She is a tremendous artist and her drawings are fabulous. Susie is making great strides on the cello, violin, recorder and piano. She had no home in Hartford except the home of strangers. We will continue to help those abandoned by you, not because we hate you but because we have no choice.
Blair et al. are not trying to anger you. They are trying to get you to face specific issues, as I am. Please try to overcome your pride, and try to listen to the whisper of your conscience. Remember how cicadas started making music at Christmas time in Primavera? The big ones sounded like organ music and we knew Christmas was near. Remember how hard we worked and how tough things were? Were we not better off then than now?
Why don't you fly to Phoenix and sit down with me and talk? Christoph, it is possible where there is love.
As to the comments about Tim Domer et al. who were visited by parents, I can't really know what moves them. For myself, if you sent Biene to visit me, I would not allow her into my house until all KITfolk are welcome to the Bruderhof. How can you expect us to welcome you into our homes when you send for the police when we try to visit? In view of the fact that you engaged the police against us, I would consider the Domer et al. event as rather wild.
Now to the Internet issue. Recently Susie Zumpe was libeled by someone claiming to be off the Bruderhof. He called her 'a whore,' etc. You have not even bothered to address the vile, obscene crap that comes from the mouths of Bruderhof products while you complain about Tim Domer's trepidations. Christoph, the tide has definitely turned, and if KIT were out to destroy you, several large advertisements in The New York Times would long have been had with what your fruits have done.
My daughter Cassandra would not dream to write obscenities about anyone on the Internet. On the other hand, Bruderhof children, not KITfolk, write the most vile and disgusting lies on the Internet. Since they have no assets, a lawsuit would not be effective.
The whole world will now know your shame. The only way you can distance yourself from it is to publicly disown all those who are involved. In your next letter to me, please address the issues I have raised specifically, as I have done with you letter. Sincerely,
ITEM: The Canadian newspaper, Christian Week, reported in their August 4th issue that a 31-year-old Hutterite man was sentenced to four years in prison for "a string of sexual offenses against his young daughter and a woman in his home colony." The girl had been "regularly attacked by her father and at least ten other colony men. The attacks began when she was 11. At one point her father testified to whipping his daughter on colony orders because it had been discovered that she had been the victim of a sexual assault by another colony man... This case came to light when the girl, who said she became fed up, told her teacher about the attacks."
In an earlier trial, four other Hutterite men who were 12 to 15 years old when they sexually abused six and eight-year-old girls were placed on six months probation and ordered to do community service in nearby towns. The judge urged colony elders to teach sex education to their young people.
"Sex is a part of life, and the sooner you address the question, the more available the answers will be," said Mr. Justice Gordon Clozza. "Young people may not then have to go out and explore the questions on their own."
The court cases are unique because few cases involving Hutterites have reached a Canadian court. The men refused legal counsel because it is against their belief system, although some were advised by a lawyer during their trial. A RCMP investigation led to a total of 84 charges against residents of two Hutterite colonies. Six other men who pleaded not guilty to sexual assault are awaiting trial.
---- Remembering Fran and Pearl Hall ----
Melchior Fros, 10/10/98: Fran and Pearl were our "parents" in Primavera while Mama and Papa were in Buenos Aires for Mama's back operation. It was 1955. I recall the first time they were with us for Vespa (snack time).
Big Fran sat down on one of our homemade stools and it collapsed below him, sending him tumbling to the floor! Not exactly the kind of welcome he had expected! We laughed! Fran then proceeded to teach us this song. He was not gifted at carrying a tune, but somehow we learned the melody.
Peace, I ask of thee, O river.
Peace, peace, peace.
When I learn to live serenely,
Cares will cease.
From the hills I gather courage.
Visions of the day to be.
Strength to lead and strength to follow,
and faith to follow
All are given unto me.
Peace, I ask of thee, O river.
Peace, peace, peace.
By sheer coincidence, I happened to be talking to a lady of Quaker background some years ago. I mentioned my Primavera days. She replied that she knew of a couple who had lived in Paraguay a long time ago. In their old age, they had joined her church in the midwest (Indiana). Sensing that his days on earth were numbered, Fran had seen to it that all of his and Pearl's possessions were disposed of. True to his vision, Fran died shortly thereafter. I do not recall what happened to Pearl only that she died at about the same time. It is interesting how these threads of life intertwine with our own and make us part of the wonderful fabric called Life!
Lee Kleiss, 10/12/98: I knew Fran and Pearl Hall well. When I returned from my first work camp in the summer of 1949 I was obsessed with starting weekend work camps in Harlem. Fran then worked with the FOR (Fellowship of Reconciliation). For those first two years of graduate school, I still lived in the dorm at Columbia University.
To observe Dave Richie's weekend work camps I went to Philadelphia one weekend, staying in the Cope Residence where I lived when I first came to the States a decade before (1939). Old Eliza Cope was dead and the house was currently occupied by two young families back from the Quaker China mission. On the way back from the weekend work camp, about 9:30 or 10 PM, I was attacked on the street. My instinctive reaction was to push him away, as when something comes too close to you. He had not expected a woman to have my strength. (I had been building a stone house, including helping to quarry the stone.) I was thinking over what self-defense I could use, like knocking him on the side of his head -- he could do it more powerfully to me. My strength baffled him, and when the headlights of a car came by, he ran.
I was thankful both families were asleep, as my face was a bloody mess. He must have been quite powerful as he tore the 1-1/2 inch wide leather strap on my Brazilian purse. At least I now knew I was a pacifist -- at least in this situation I did not wish to cause permanent injury.
When I came to the kitchen the next morning I apologized that I could barely talk because the inside of my mouth was pretty torn up. She asked me. "Did you talk to him?" No, I hadn't. It never occurred to me. That stood by me well in future tough situations. The next person down, upon hearing of the happenings asked instead, "Did you call the police?" What a blessing I got the other message first.
Through organizing the weekend work camps I got to know Fran & Pearl well. They vacated Mt. Morris House (which was in the middle of Harlem) to move to the country with the McWhirters, Hazel Bronson, Jim & Mary Neuhauser, and (I forgot his name) to found the Kingwood Community around 1950. A new and younger group moved into Mt. Morris House, gently mothered by Margot Hirschen-hauser. Most of the rest of us were in our early 20s.
I escaped graduate school and the heat and oppression of NYC in the summer to spend time at Kingwood, including helping to build and wire the McWhirter house. Ruth and Lee Stern came by one weekend on their way to their wedding at Ghandi-gram community in the midwest. Just as they were leaving, Ruth asked me if I knew Maya Rothert. We had eyed each other all weekend. Because I again wore pigtails, I was more recognizable. We had played together as 8-year-olds and Maya was our best friend. Just now I can visualize the walls we climbed and walked on, some 6 or 8-foot-high walls.
While I've lost touch with many of the other inhabitants of Mt. Morris House or the workcampers that came, there is one couple that met and later married and still later came to the Bruderhof -- the [Charles & Deborah] Huleats.
In 1960, on their return to the States from Primavera, Fran Hall was offered the development of Powell House as a conference and retreat center. How well I remember Pearl showing off their new house, specifically built for them. If F Xways ever fails us, we should certainly approach Powell House because it's about the distance from Albany as F X is from Boston.
I sought advice from Fran. He encouraged me to join the developed Friends Meeting at Ann Arbor rather than the floundering Meeting in Detroit. He was unable to help me over my guilt of breaking my vow, even though they had kicked me out against my will. (I probably was the second one expelled from Primavera in 1960. The first was a single English girl, who returned to England, soon married and we lost sight of her.)
Later Fran and Pearl moved to Richmond, Indiana. Through inheritance they acquired quite a bit. I can visualize their house. But can't remember when or how I visited them. It must have been before 1983-4 when I spent a year at Earlham College in Richmond. Pearl died first. After all, she was 17 years older than Fran. He was visiting a friend in another town. Took her dog on a walk and never returned. Probably had a heart attack right there on the sidewalk. Heavily involved in Quakerism -- they were surrounded by Friends!
------ from alt.support.bruderhof ------
Blair Purcell, 10/10/98: Not much new has developed in regards to the four black fathers who have not yet been reunited with their children at the Bruderhof. The only statement from the Bruderhof itself on this matter was made by Elder Johann Christoph Arnold during a talk-show interview (CJOB-Winnipeg 9/30/98) promoting, ironically, his new book titled Seeking Peace.
Interviewer Peter Warren challenges Elder Arnold:
"I warn you, when you mention Nigeria, Mr. Arnold, Wayne Chesley specifically says "There are (four) Nigerian-born men who have been expelled and separated from their children."
Arnold replies: "Not quite true. These men are involved with other women and have left their wives."
As spoken, this statement is a complete prevarication and offers no legal justification whatsoever for preventing these men from seeing their children.
The clear implication is that the four men became involved with other women and, as a result, they left their wives and now live outside the Bruderhof. This is totally untrue and Elder Arnold knows it. I accuse him here of purposely lying about this issue.
Each of these men was expelled by the Bruderhof, one to Staten Island, NY with $50 in his pocket (the famous $50 Woodcrest handshake for those kicked out similar to a Mafia kiss on both cheeks) into an unknown culture. Another was dropped off in Uniontown, PA with equally inadequate resources. The last two men were disposed of in a similar manner.
One man has since met a young woman and they hope, one day, to marry -- when free to do so.
Such "involvement," by one of the four men, cannot be used as a legal argument to prevent visitation with his children nor as an argument against visitation between the other three fathers and their children.
The challenge is again presented:
The Bruderhof should seek each of these men out, apologize to them, and make permanent, on-going arrangements for all to have access to their children on a regularly scheduled basis. If the toddlers have been taken to England, bring them back NOW.
And, an aside to the Elder, don't spout more clap-trap about this being the decision of the wives. It is not their independent decision; it is yours. Even if it were their decision, it would not be morally correct -- and you should be guiding your flock along moral pathways. You can make this happen.
It's called "seeking peace".
Betty Chesley 10/9/98: It will change. The deeds of darkness are exposed in the light. And someday, the "plain" brothers and sisters in the Bruderhof will realize what has been done against people like the Nigerian men, former members, their own children and parents. That will be the start of a true revolution -- when someone will stand up in a brotherhood meeting and say "NO!" against the drones of "Yes...".
Melchior Fros, 10/11/98: Christoph must be put on notice that we will not sit back silently while he spreads false information and makes himself out to be that which he is not. No well-oiled PR aparat can take the place of obedience to the Truth. And you, Christoph, an Elder of the Church, should know about such matters.
Do keep him in your prayers. And the rest of us also. Jesus sees these things... and weeps: he did it then... he does it now.
Blair Purcell, 10/12/98: Thanks to you both for your support. The courageous leadership of the Bruderhof has really outdone themselves on this issue. What they have accomplished is absolutely disgraceful, a continuation of their coercive, immoral, and unethical tactics which cause immeasurable pain to former members as well as those who remain behind.
I guess it's the suffering they create that gives them control. How many more innocent families will the leadership tear apart before they are stopped?
Margot Wegner Purcell, 10/22/98: I recently have thought more about how ill-prepared the children of the Bruderhof are in living in the "outside" world. I experienced this first hand and with my four siblings who have left the community life. Recently several young folk and couples have been in touch with us who are going through the difficult adjustment. Some after many years "out" still are struggling financially, emotionally and spiritually.
Like other children who leave the confines of their home and parents for the first time, Bruderhof children find themselves suddenly having to cope on their own. But bruderhof children lack the ability to get answers from their parents, as many are themselves raised with lack of "outside" knowledge. Many bruderhof children have no "home" to go to once they leave and have decided not to become members. They lose so very much all at one time. We grow up totally trusting individuals which does not always fare well once away from the hof.
We are not taught to think for ourselves, to make decisions without approval. We are not taught how to handle finances, budget, credit cards, checkbooks, banks, taxes, how to make careful purchases. As Bruderhof children most of us never deal with money, so the first paycheck is often spent on all those worldy possessions forbidden on the hof. Many of us also "feel" that any extra money we make upon leaving should be turned over to the steward. In my case I was thanked for the money I brought home, but never told to keep it safe and if and when I decide to join then hand it in.
Can you imagine the fear of a young bruderhof-raised couple who may be asked to leave who have several young children. Very likely neither of the couple have much training or further education. If they did get into college, they would have returned to the community before completing their schooling. Now they are OUT and don't know how to function. They are emotionally drained and overwhelmed at the change they are ill prepared to face. In this precarious state, they will do anything to get back into the good graces of the bruderhof, so they will be welcomed back into the secure home.
Usually the move away is very sudden, no time to prepare in any way. Upon leaving, parents would have to learn how to take total care of their own children. They now have to learn to make decisions, they were never faced with. They will leave with very little money, no credit history, no employment history or references. At the same time they may feel they have failed the membership and their vow to God. (in that order). They struggle with their own emotional problems making this change in life even more difficult. The kids may not be happy to be away from all their friends. Family life is disrupted and families are torn apart.
I find it very sad that so many who leave, experience such great difficulty. After all, the group they belonged to all these years is "such a loving group". Each one of us felt we belonged to a life that was exceptional in its existence. We lived to show the world that life as Jesus taught, could exist. When asked to leave, or leaving of your own choosing, the values remain. Most of us leaving feel we have failed. We are "not worthy".
Contact with other former bruderhof members is strongly discouraged. I recall when I left, the only contacts I had were my two sisters and a brother. I also had some cousins who were out, but I did not feel I could contact them because they had left and were "evil". All others I knew who were also living outside the hof, had left because they had "wronged the church". They were evil. Imagine my surprise years later to find some of my old friends and find they were wonderful people. I felt more love from them than in my years on the hof. They are now my substitute family and I thank God every day for their friendship. I do miss my bruderhof family and friends, but at this time they are not available to me.
Melchior Fros, 10/25/98: Dear Margot (and Bruderhof readers): I deeply appreciate what you have written. It is no secret that you are known as a mother/friend to many, and I thank you for shouldering the burdens of others and helping them as much as you are able. No one is in a better position to help B'hof outcasts and leavers than those of us who have experienced the events you describe and have -- by God's grace -- come through our own difficulties; if not completely, then at least to a degree that we are no longer controlled by our past.
I left the home and the Hof that I loved when I was 25 years old. Fortunately, because I had been sent away in my early teens, had gone to college, sought and found work and housing, I was familiar with the "real world" and knew what to expect and what sacrifices I would have to make in order to survive. Among the sacrifices I most struggled with were the loss of security: the love of family, of communal brothers and sisters I had known for so long. In my case, dealing with loneliness was manageable because life as a person who does not hear is a long and lonely walk anyway.
For some time I have wondered how my own connections to the Bruderhof. I once loved so deeply would enable me to help others, especially the young folk. I find myself drawn to the young people primarily because I still feel youthful myself. I now have the opportunity to assist several young persons who grew up on the Bruderhof. My hope is that providing work, financial and moral support or a patient, listening ear, will enable these young persons to slowly shed the excess baggage that makes them feel weary, lonely and hopeless and, at times, very angry. By focusing on the present and assisting them in establish sound work, health, financial, and -- if they so choose -- spiritual goals, I hope they will one day be able to see some good coming from their B'hof heritage. And perhaps, as they establish their own lives, they will be less angry and more forgiving toward those who hurt them so much in the past. Margot, as those of us in the KIT network assist others, we can keep the Prayer of St. Francis close to our hearts.
To the present Bruderhof leaders I offer these words. If it is true that you want your children to have a free choice in the matter of their own future, then I would kindly encourage you to let them make informed choices. A year's stay in a non-Bruderhof mission is not sufficient "experience" by which to choose. Placing them in drug and crime-infested inner city establishments, as death-row advocates for example, is not helping them to experience the "real" world. In fact, it only reinforces their dependency on "home" by artificially enhancing the extremes between what they have experienced in the past and what they are supposed to experience in the present.
I once offered to take on one or two of your young men, giving them hands-on experience in the construction trade, while also requiring them to do some studying. I offered to help them find housing and get them settled in. This kind of experience, I believe, would be far more valuable to their future than the aforementioned example. If they then choose to return to the Hof, they do so with valuable work experience "under their belt". If not, they have a skill with which to take on gainful employment. And I have the satisfaction of knowing that I was doing for them that which you once did for me under a different set of circumstances, by allowing me to come from out of the world back into your life, to build your Woodcrest dining hall.
For some reason, my offer has not materialized. Perhaps a future day will come when that is possible; but hurry the day, for I am not as young as you may think I am. In the meantime, the work of forgiveness and reconciliation must become much more than mere words in a book… much more than a silly radio show. In hope,
German Pleil, 10/14/98: The occasion for my writing the following is an essay, "A Trip on the River," written by my brother August Pleil [in 1937] on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Colony Nueva Germania [see note that follows]. The essay appeared in a new book, Paraguay, edited by Mr. Victor Martens. Frau Elfriede Eitzen asked me to write something about the Pleils, because this is an unusual name, for possible publication in The Mennoblatt. Here I would like to add that my great grandparents on my mother's side were involved in the founding of the Nueva Germania Colony in Paraguay under the leadership of Doctor Forster, husband of the only sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, arriving in the jungle in July, 1882.
Let me tell something about my great-grandparents on my mother's side. My grandfather Emil Schubert and my grandmother Maria came with the first group at the same time from Saxony. At this time the ship was propelled by steam and sail. On the way over my grandmother lost four of her five children. I was not told what they died of. In Paraguay they were given another seven children. My mother Dora was the next to the last of these children. My grandparents were involved for about a year in the settlement of Nueva Germania. After that year the supplies were just about exhausted and everything went wrong, due to their inexperience in living in the tropical primeval forest.
When the food was almost gone my grandfather took his rifle and went into the woods to hunt some meat. In the woods he saw a big black bird sitting on a branch. He fired, and the bird dropped. He took the bird and promptly went home, believing that he had shot a wild turkey. He gave the bird to my grandmother to cook. She put him in hot water and a strong nasty smell rose up with the steam. She went ahead and plucked him all the same, put him in the pot and cooked him. But that old boy didn't get tender and couldn't be eaten. It turned out this bird was an old vulture. Along with everything else that went wrong, the little boat called 'Hermann' that was to bring them food and other necessities, sank because it ran into the shore of the Jejui River. The story goes that the crew were drunk.
Around this time they left the Colony simply to survive. My grandparents moved to San Pedro where my grandfather found work as a blacksmith. Here my mother was born in the year 1905. The land and some of the buildings are now the hospital in San Pedro. My grandfather donated them for that purpose. I would like to add that those who remained behind in Nueva Germania later experienced financial success, because one of them, I wasn't told exactly which one, discovered how to make Yerba Mate seed sprout by letting the seed lie for a number of days in ash water. Up to that time this process was done in the bellies of birds and so the only Yerba to be had was what grew wild in the woods. That made it pretty expensive, since the trees had to be hunted up to one by one and the leaves transported out of the forest. Through this discovery, Yerba Mate could be cultivated in big fields. And since those in the Colony were the first to do so, they enjoyed the high price of Yerba and achieved considerable prosperity. For example they were among the first in Paraguay to buy automobiles. There was just one problem: there were no roads for these cars to drive on. But the prosperity didn't last long, because everybody began to cultivate Yerba Mate, and when they began to do it in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, the price dropped so that Yerba Mate production in Paraguay went bankrupt.
I'd like to write something about my parents and family. My father Otto Pleil was from Berlin. He emigrated to Argentina before the first World War. He had an uncle there, named German Pleil. When the First World War broke out, he went back to Germany to fight for his German Fatherland. There he ended up in a French prison camp, where the prisoners suffered terribly from the cold rain, they had to sleep in the mud, sometimes had nothing to eat for days on end. Many of his comrades perished.
When the war was over and Germany was in terrible shape, and there was no work to be had, he went back to Argentina, and then Paraguay, where he met my mother, and married her. They bought a Yerba Mate plantation in Yatebo, where I was born as their third child. When I was five years old, we moved to Rosario Loma, where my father had a position as teacher in the German school for nine years. When World War II ended, and all the German schools in Paraguay were closed down, and all German activities were prohibited by the government, we moved back to Yatebo to our plantation, and spent four years there, building everything up again. Then we moved to join the Hutterians in Primavera, called "barbudos" by the Paraguayans because they had beards, or "the Hutterites" or "Sociedad de Hermanos," or in English the "Society of Brothers." On the west side, Primavera bordered on Friesland, where the Mennonites have their villages.
Now I would like to say something about the reasons why we joined the society -- not financial reasons but social reasons. At the time, as I already mentioned, German activities had been prohibited and we older children were coming into the age when we wanted to have contact with other young people. Since we had had a German education and German culture, we did not fit into the Paraguayan society. My parents felt the same way -- we felt like Robinson Crusoe on his island. We were also very much interested in community life, and we often asked ourselves why people couldn't live in community, that would be so much simpler and would be more fun. Then one day a German by the name of Fritz Muhldrechsler came and visited us and told us about the Society, and we were very much interested. So my father wrote the first letter and then there was a correspondence back and forth.
Finally my father, my brother August and I went to Primavera on the visit. We were very much impressed by what we found, that so many people from various countries could live together in peace, and we were impressed with what they had been able to accomplish during their six years there. For example they had a sawmill, a modern carpenter shop, a wood turning shop, brick works, and all the various children's departments, and every house had electric light. My brother simply stayed there, but my father and I had to go back to finish off everything at home. Brothers and sisters from the Bruderhof came to visit us, to talk with my mother before we gave up everything, and I knew that it was a serious decision for us to give up everything. My mother and my youngest brother, Arthur, who is now living in Paraguay again -- he was at the time only a few months old -- went with a married couple back to Primavera. When we had sold everything, we followed them. I can still hear are neighbors saying, "You are crazy to give up everything now that you have enough to eat."
Others asked us, "Have you found a gold mine that you're able to give up everything?" I simply said that it was a matter of a much higher calling.
Now something about my life in the community. I was 17 years old when we moved to the community and I spent the total of 14 years there, one year as a guest, which meant that I could take part in the household meetings just as the children did. Then I entered into the novitiate. If you were a novice then you were able to attend all the church meetings, but you had to ask for that and the brotherhood then determined whether you were ready for it. I was a novice for one year and then I asked for the firm novitiate. If you were a firm novice, then you could take part in the brothers' meeting where work questions were discussed. I was a firm novice for a year. After that I asked to be baptized. To take that step, a person had to go ask the Servant of the Word -- that's what they called their preachers -- who at the same time was the boss of the village, and everything had to go through him. He had perhaps six brothers that people called "witness brothers" that he could also ask for advice. Every request like that the Servant brought to the brotherhood, and the brotherhood then determined what was to happen.
During my time only baptized members could take part in the brotherhood meeting. I was 20 years old when I was baptized, and gave my life to God in faith in Jesus Christ, who showed me the way. It was a great joy to me that my parents were also in my baptism group along with others, and Hans Meier baptized us. With that I became a full member of the brotherhood. From then until the shutdown of Primavera it was 11 years. In those 11 years I had responsible positions in various work departments, and I entered into the state of marriage with Ruth Martin when I was 28 years old. Ruth had been born in the community. Two boys were given to us in Paraguay, Arno and Karl, and a third, Alfred, was on the way at the time Primavera was dissolved and my wife and I left the community. We decided to go to Germany. The reason I left the community I will soon explain in detail.
The society paid for our journey to Germany. Later we were supposed to pay back with money received from the German government, emergency Compensation Money paid by the German government to those who had suffered under the Nazis. Basically we left the community with nothing apart from four bags mostly filled with diapers for the two children, who were one and two years old at the time (at that time diapers were always made of cloth). We had nothing else, apart from a check for four hundred dollars that they sent us from the USA, which was for our beginning in Germany.
When we arrived at the airport in Frankfurt, my parents-in-law came and fetched us, they were at that time still at the Sinnthal Bruderhof in Germany. I gave the check to my father-in-law to cash, and when he came back he gave me DM 50 and said, "That will be enough for the next week. After that you're going to have a paycheck because I've found a job for you at a sawmill, and also a place to live."
They brought us to Euerdorf, that was the name of the town. The rooms were in an old bar that was closed, two rooms in the second story. No heat, no bathroom, only a water faucet in the foyer, and the toilet down on the first floor. At first it wasn't too bad because it was July, but by September, as Autumn came on, and our third son Alfred was born, it wasn't so nice anymore. Then when winter came it was quite unbearably cold, with three little children, no heat and only a stove in the kitchen. Ice formed on the walls and under the beds, because the walls were not insulated.
I spent any spare time I had trying to find a place for us to live. No use. At this time in Germany there was a severe housing shortage, and it was even harder to find somewhere to live for a family with children. In December 1962 I managed to find a place for us in Elfershausen, and I changed my job and got work at Kugel Fischer FAG, a ball-bearing factory. I worked there for seven years until we migrated to Canada, Ontario, Stratford, where I got a job with the same company that had a subsidiary there. After that, I got myself an independent living in rental real estate, and at the present time we still have rental property in Florida. So we spend the winter in Florida, and the summer in Ontario on our five acres on the Maitland River. Oh Heart, what more could you desire?
At this point I'd like to mention what I was remembering when we had to begin in Germany with practically nothing. When we had been in the process of joining the Society, the Mennonites emphatically advised us not to do it, or gave us the advice to stay with them. They said that if we joined the Society we would have to give them everything we had, and then if we were to leave, we would leave with empty hands. In the end, that's the way it was, but I was concerned with something higher than earthly goods. Even now we're not bitter that we had to leave with empty hands. After all, we gave everything we had to God and his church, including our lives, to serve God and his church. If then people came to interfere or, to put it better, robbers came and destroyed everything, that is their business. One day they will have to give account to God for what they did.
Personally I never regretted that we had joined the community. The wonderful time of my youth that I spent there is something that few people in the world enjoy, with our activities, the plays we put on, the singing and the folk dancing and so on. I'm often sorry that my own boys can't have it as good as we did, including all the things I was able to learn there. Mennonites will understand what I mean, because it's like that with them too.
Now I'd like to come to telling why the bruder-hofs in Primavera, Paraguay, were dissolved, and how that came about. I would like to add that at that time I was a full member of the brotherhood and I was present in every meeting up until the dissolution. What I'm writing here I am writing especially for Mennonites, who fundamentally are our brothers in the faith. The Mennonites who were our neighbors used to say that we were a step ahead of them, because we lived in community and shared everything with each other. Many of them asked why we left Paraguay, and made inquiries, but in my opinion the correct answers were not given. The Mennonite journal had a story about this a few years ago.
The heavy emphasis was placed on economic reasons, and then a bit of mention made that there also had been inner difficulties. There was mention of Hans Meier, who at the time the community was dissolved had just been made a witness brother again. I still remember exactly why he had to leave the community and was sent to Buenos Aires, and was there for years alone. Later he said "Yes and Amen" to everything so that he could get back together with his wife, Margaret, at the Bruderhof. After all, Hans Meier was the father-in-law of Heini's son, who now has taken over his father's position as elder.
And now I come to why Hans Meier had to leave. That was because in the joint brotherhood meeting in Ibate he said, "For us the important thing should be what someone said, and not who said it." That was all he said. Then Heini asked, "And do you mean Eberhard Arnold with that too?" Hans Meier repeated what he had just said and Heini decided that Hans Meier meant to include Eberhard Arnold among others. This was the entire reason Hans was sent away. Heini is the second son of Eberhard Arnold, the founder of the community. Many readers will find his decision quite petty.
I would like to mention here a few small examples, which can lead to exclusion and separation, if they are too big, or lead to ignoring the goal of the Christian life and service to God. For example among the Mennonites there have been exclusions because of tractors with iron wheels, or with rubber wheels and other things like that. Then among the Hutterites there are many other petty concerns such as buttons and buttonholes, or hooks and eyes on clothing. The main reason our community broke with the Hutterites in our time was on account of smoking or not smoking and so forth.
This petty thing that I mentioned with Hans Meier opened my eyes and let me see that this was about something else, and not about helping to deepen the inner life. After that I talked with one of the new Servants of the Word, since the old ones had all been fired from their service. At this time there were only newly installed Servants and their helpers. I asked one of them what was going on. He said he didn't know what was going on either. We just had to be open and hear what the brothers from the States were bringing us. So we just put our hands up and surrendered. And by the time we saw what was going on, it was already too late.
That economic difficulties led to closing down Primavera is absolutely untrue, because we had solved our economic difficulties already at that time. I will now tell what actually happened and why the communities in Paraguay were closed down, and also those in Germany and England. Primavera was for a long time the mother church. This mother church was responsible for founding a community in England by the name of Wheathill, and later three communities in the United States, one in Uruguay (El Arado), and then another one in Germany, called the Sinntalhof. All this was done with heavy sacrifices on the part of Primavera because we had to send our best people there. Many big families came from England to Paraguay, because in Paraguay housing for them was much cheaper and there was no problem about getting building permits. We also had the hospital, which was quite a financial burden, since the Paraguayan patients had no money (except those that were on Social Security) and would give us instead a few chickens or an old horse. But with such things we could not buy medicine, and the medical insurance didn't pay very much either. So we sent brothers to the United States to beg money for the hospital, and that helped us a lot.
Well that was just a small introduction, and now let me begin. One day we got a letter from the steward at Woodcrest, which was the main community in United States. Heini had been sent there from Primavera a number of years earlier to take over the position as Servant. So this letter was via Heini's order, and it said that we shouldn't keep begging for money. We should see to it that we finally were able to stand on our own feet. Our answer was, "Okay, then we cannot keep sending more brothers and sisters to you to help you out." Then we got busy in Primavera. We had many joint brotherhood meetings, with various suggestions about how we could mend our position. We agreed that we would reduce Primavera's population, at least by a third, shut down the hospital, and concentrate on growing rice. With this reduction in people the leaders in the United States were very much in agreement. In the first place they got more people, and Primavera got weaker.
In Primavera, too, the decision went quickly through the brotherhood meeting, because most of the people who came from Europe were homesick. So, some were sent to England, Germany and the USA to the communities there, and the community in Uruguay was closed down. A part of Primavera, where the Loma Hoby community was and the hospital, was sold to the Mennonites in Friesland. The Mennonites only bought the land. We tore down some of the buildings, while others were simply left standing. That's what happened with the hospital. As result of the reduction of our population, the closing down of the hospital and our good success in cultivating rice, our financial problems were solved. We had plenty of agricultural products. Here are a few examples. Through crossbreeding Zebus and Holsteins, and through the good meadows we planted, our dairy production was so high that some cows were giving up to 24 liters a day -- and that is in the tropics! The success of our cattle breeding can be followed down to the present day out in the Chaco. And our hens produced so much that we could sell eggs to foreigners in Asuncion and quite a few different kinds of vegetables. We didn't need to buy eggs and butter from the Mennonites in Friesland any more. It was the same with our hogs.
We didn't need to ask for financial support any more, but that didn't suit Heini, either. We received letters from the States criticizing us. They said that we were neglecting the inner life. Especially they attacked the rice project, that we were putting too much into the economic side of our life, and some other criticisms. So we sent our two chief Servants, Hans Meier and another brother, to the USA to clear up these troubles, so they could be got rid of. When the two brothers arrived at the airport in the USA, Heini put them straight into exclusion. They didn't even have a chance to present our point of view to the brotherhood -- and we put up with all that. That's how Heini became the top Servant.
After that, Heini came down with his new brothers who had just joined up. They came from various Christian groups who had also lived in community, and Heini straight off had given them leading positions. These people were supposed to bring us the New Spirit that they had experienced in the USA. At the start, we felt something of that spirit, too. We listened to what they had to say, put our hands up and surrendered. Heini took the opportunity to take power to himself. He even went so far as to say that there never had been the true church community in Paraguay, and that all the people who had been baptized in Paraguay had come in by the wrong door, and we had all served the Devil.
Nobody protested, because the least little remark would get you excluded. Even the new brothers from the USA had to watch out or they would have got in trouble too. Everybody was trying to save their own skin. Each individual was called up and cross-examined, but if they had the least suspicion that somebody was not on their side, that person had to leave the place -- because that person was 'dangerous.' To me it was like the Third Reich -- "Whoever is not with us is against us and must be destroyed."
People were suffering terribly. You Mennonites probably can't imagine how bad it was, but the ones who went through it, they know what I'm talking about and how terrible it was, especially for the ones who were born and grew up in the Community. Many of them had their own families by that time. It was their life, their home, their conviction about what life was. And suddenly everything was snatched away from under their feet. That happened to me, too, and my wife suffered particularly long.
My wife had a question to Heini. She mentioned a time when he was supervising recess in the school in Ibate and he wanted to slap two girls in the face, but he missed because they ducked. Because she asked him about that, Heini quickly decided that she had to leave. He called her a vampire that sucked the blood of the community. I looked him up an hour later and asked him if there wasn't some other solution so that she could stay in the village. No, he said, she must go. I told him I couldn't go along with that, she was in her fifth month of pregnancy, and had never been in the outside world. Well, he said, then you both have to go. That was fine with me, because I had lost any faith in the New Beginning. My fears were confirmed. It wasn't a new leading by God, it was a Heini-leading. He was the sole ruler, and so he took over the place of our guide and helper, Jesus Christ.
That was not all. He let himself be made a god by some of the people. What sort of New Spirit was ruling, you can see from two examples, among many others.
We had an excellent library, with thousands of books, most of them in German. The books that they could not sell, they threw down the outhouse pits instead of giving them to the Mennonites. Another example involved a lot of the furniture. What they could not sell, they piled up and burned, instead of giving them to the poor Paraguayans. I am just glad that I had no part in that.
It was at a joint brotherhood meeting in Ibate that Heini dissolved our brotherhood, so as to, as he said, found a new brotherhood. He had a list of his Chosen Ones. The new brotherhood consisted of thirteen people. Naturally, it was the people that totally danced to his fiddle. And then they really got going with getting rid of people. It was our turn, then. All those who had fallen from favor had to go to Ibate to wait to be transported away. We spent two months in Ibate, where Hanske Fros and I took over the dairy until we left, and then Peter Lowen, a Mennonite, took over.
Now comes how Primavera was shut down, and by whom. We had a house in Puerto Rosario, a place where our people used to stay before they went farther on their trips. The decision to shut down Primavera was made in that house, under Heini's dominance. The only ones there were a handful of his people, and of course they had to agree. The "new brotherhood" had no part in that. My brother Adolfo can testify to that because he and his wife Eva, Dreher was her maiden name, were the first who managed pretty quickly to get into the New Brotherhood. By the way, my brother is familiar to the Mennonites in Friesland, because he learned his trade as a blacksmith there and was known to them as the best truck driver of the Barbudos. Her father, Leo Dreher, will be remembered by Mennonites too because he worked for many years in Km 80, in the leper colony run by the Mennonites.
Primavera was shut down so that Heini no longer ran any risk of somebody disputing his place as the Number One Leader. For the same reason they shut down the Sinnthalhof in Germany, and Wheathill and Bulstrode in England. To do that, they used the same methods that they used in Paraguay. After Heini had managed all that, he was still not satisfied, so he joined up with the Hutterites again so that he could be the top Elder there, too. And that happened -- he was the top Elder of "The East Hutterite bruderhofs," as they called them.
In case anybody is interested in learning more on the whole subject, there is a monthly circular letter, called KIT (Keep in Touch) put out by ex-bruderhofers. And some books have been written: Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe , Free From Bondage, by Nadine Moonje Pleil, Cast Out In the World, by Miriam Arnold Holmes, and Through Streets Broad And Narrow, by Belinda Manley
What I particularly value in Belinda is the way she very clearly describes how the calling of God came to her, to follow Him, and to join in a Christian community. It shows that when a person follows God's call, you don't necessarily have to live in full community of goods. Everything she has written is very honest. I wish you all joy, and fun, and God's blessing,
Explanatory Note by Nadine Moonje Pleil: When my husband August was 11 (1937), two teachers of the Goethe Schule in Asuncion asked all the German schools in Paraguay to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Colonia Nueva Germania. August's grandparents were co-founders of that colony. The schoolchildren were to write little articles for a book that was to be published. There were to be prizes, etc., and August contributed something. Because of World War II starting, this book was never published. The two teachers (who were German) were interned in the States and then returned to Germany where shortly after, they both died. Their only child, a son, found all the little essays that his parents had collected. The paper had yellowed and some of the things had been lost.
The son felt that his parents' book should become reality. He took the material to his Mennonite friend Viktor Martens who compiled a book titled Paraguay, published last year in Asuncion in conjunction with The Mennoblatt.
Lux Meier found this book at her neighbor's house, saw August's childhood article and immediately thought she should send it to August. She also found out that her neighbor grew up with August and knew him well. So Lux sent us a copy via Danni Meier who visited Hans-Joerg before H-J died. We were very interested in this book because it is a wonderful collection of articles by teachers and students, all writing about Paraguay. Lux contacted Herr Martens and we ordered more copies to share with August's brothers and sisters.
The Mennonite Review in Canada contacted Hermann. They asked if he was August Pleil's brother and sent him August's little article. It is actually something very special. This book, meant to have been published so many years ago, has now caught up with August at age 72.