The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT Information Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation
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KIT Staff U.S.: Charles Lamar, Editor; Vincent Lagano, Assistant Editor; David E. Ostrom, research.
EuroKIT: Linda Lord Jackson, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Benedict Cavanna
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K e e p I n T o u c h
Here we are with the first KIT of the new millennium. If you missed your December KIT, it's because you didn't write anything for us to publish, and not necessarily that you had not paid your subscription, although the lack of a December issue seems to have stirred a number of readers to send checks. At the same time, the alt.support.bruderhof newsgroups and the Hummer connection have been very active, and perhaps some of those postings will appear here in future KIT issues. Meanwhile, a Very Happy 2001!
Table of Contents
Rhoda & Francis Dorrell -
Elizabeth Bohlken Zumpe
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Migg Fischli Life Story (continued)
AFF May Conference
The Whole Kit and Caboodle
Rhoda and Francis Dorrell, 12/14/00: KIT folk may wish to know that Bernhard Dyroff passed away on Sunday, 10th. December 2000, very unexpectedly. The funeral was held on Monday 18th December at 11:00 AM graveside, in Wyoming, New South Wales near Gosford.
He ran a small crops farm in Peats Ridge about an hour north of Sydney, since he came to Australia in the mid '60s. He leaves his partner of twenty-eight years, Gwenda, and her son, and two sons from his first marriage. Greetings,
Ramón Sender, 12/8/00: We learned today that Jim Dunlop's mother, Gladys, died in April. I presume his dad, Ed, is doing fine. These are wonderful early Woodcrest folks.
KIT, 1/14/01: KIT has learned that Sam Withers passed away on the Bruderhof over the Christmas/New years time. He also is said to have had Alzheimer's. Sam and Daisy joined in Paraguay. They had three children.
KIT: Congratulations to Bob and Joy MacDonald on the birth of their first grandchild, Megan, to parents Jonathan and Genevieve MacDonald. Josh and Else Maendel are also first time grandparents, with a little healthy boy, John Christopher, born November 22nd weighing 6 lbs and 4 ounces.
Name Withheld, 11/29/00: Dr. Cyril and Margot Davies both have not been well. Margot, 92 years old, is very frail. Dr. Cyril is barely hanging on, unable to eat because of esophageal ulcers. He who has helped so many other people in his lifetime has now to let his colleagues help him. Recent visitors report his condition is very serious. Please write to Margot to support her in this very difficult time.
Gerty Holland, 12/4/00: Dear KITfolk, thank you so much for the many comforting messages we received from you, And thank you to those who managed to come to the service the singing at Peter's resting place was magic. And thank you also for the contributions to the Myeloma Research Fund, which helps to fight that cruel illness to which Peter finally succumbed.
A good New Year to you all, and greetings from Leslie and Gerty Holland and all of Peter's family.
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 12/14/00: I was saddened to hear that Bernhard Dyroff died. He was born on the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1939, the third son of August and Gertrud Ziehbart Dyroff. He was only a few days old when his mother passed away suddenly, while the nurse was attending to her. It seems she had a sudden cardiac arrest. Bernhard was Kilian's age, and as my mother was taken away with tuberculosis after Kilian's birth, both babies were placed in the Mütter Stillstube, the room where the mothers nursed their babies. Every mother who had enough milk left over would take on either Bernhard or Kilian! I think Kathleen Hasenberg was also one of the "feeding" mums.
Gertrud Dyroff died in late 1938. August married Winifred Bridgwater soon thereafter. Avila, their daughter, was born on the Avila Star, the vessel that brought the largest group from the Cotswolds to South America in the 1940s. I believe they had another six or eight children. I know Martin Dyroff, the oldest son of Gertrud, lives in Paraguay. His address is: Martin Dyroff · Portrea Poi, · Ita, · Paraguay. The second son Paul(i) used to live in England, but I have lost contact.
The three boys somehow always got into trouble, as children; I hope the three of them did find joy and fulfillment in their lives after.
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 12/30/00: Christrose's 50th Birthday Hi Friends, Yesterday we celebrated our sister Christrose's 50th birthday. Her special wish for the day was that relatives and friends join her for a day-long walk stopping for a leisurely pub lunch halfway and then spend the evening celebrating at her home.
There were about twenty-five of us, mostly relatives, including Megan on her first outing, but also friends of Rosie's including some KIT friends. We couldn't have had more perfect weather (and the company was great too!). Snow had blanketed the U.K. two days previously and the day was very sunny, crisply cold but not windy. It reminded us of Wheathill winters.
The countryside around St. Albans starts about twenty metres from Rosie's door and is typically gentle rolling hills and fields with hares, water meadows with ducks which the dogs tried to chase, streams with fords and semi-wild woodland with many different birds and animals. The snow and hoar-frost covering the branches was dazzling, gradually turning gold as the sun set and we were rewarded with a magnificent sliver of crescent moon and bright Venus close by.
We were fortunate to have Barnabas and Lowry with us, they will continue their travels in about a week's time. An altogether wonderful day and joyful evening which continued until well after midnight! And now that we're at the threshold of the real millennium, I'd just like to wish everyone a very happy and peaceful new year. Love,
Kellie Obong, 12/12/00: Dear Friends, today is the day for Ebong to take his US citizenship test. He has studied, and I know will do well. There are one-hundred questions, and they only ask you ten. Out of those ten you must get six right. He knows all of the questions, and, I am sure, will do just fine.
I will let you all know this evening how he does on the test. I would like to hold a party for him to celebrate when he gets sworn in. He would love that very much.
12/13/00: Hey folks, Ebong did it, as I knew he would. I am very proud and excited for him. It was funny. He was in the back taking the oral exam, and I saw all of these people strolling out, and no Ebong. I began to get a little worried as to what might be going on. All of a sudden, out of the EXIT door he came. Smiles and dimples were really flaring high. He threw me a thumbs up, and smiled, and there was a sigh of relief on my face.
Now he just has to wait for the swearing in ceremony. The officer told him that his will probably be on the 27th of this month. When we find out when the swearing in will be, I will make a public invitation to his US Citizen Party. I hope that everyone can attend and join in the fun. He would be happy to see as many faces as possible.
Hans Zimmermann, 12/25/00: A happy and healthy New Year to all KIT folks. Hearing about Pete Holland was rather shocking. He was always such a cheerful fellow had a lot of spunk even as a boy when I knew him in Primavera. He was very competitive and fun to have around as a playmate or fellow worker. I can only think that he was the same in his adult life. My sympathies go to his wife Jeanette.
Arnold Mason was a fixture on the Bruderhof. Did not know him personally, but heard only good things about him from those who had constant contact with him.
Just heard through Bill Bridgwater that Bernard Dyroff passed away in Australia. We grew up together in Isla Margarita, were classmates and good friends. We missed each other when he was visiting the USA 12 years ago, but were able to chat on the phone for a while. I was in the process of loading a truck for our move from New Jersey to Vermont.
My best wishes for a speedy recovery to Joerg Mathis and Christine Rimes Mathis! I can appreciate Joerg's problems, as my wife Bettina had to go through three different hip operations, with the last one having major complications. She is now on her way to recovery. Getting rid of the constant pain is the biggest relief.
Enclosed is my modest support to KIT. Keep up the good work! We owe the KIT staff much appreciation and thanks. Your friend,
Hilarion Braun, 12/12/00: Hi Everyone! We recently talked to my sister, Grace Pfeiffer, in London. She received a card from Johnny and Biene, which was full of happy chit-chat. Not a word of Arnold's passing. Grace read of his passing in KIT. She's furious.
Here are some thoughts on SOB recovery issues. One of the probable side effects of our SOB brainwashing regarding the evil outside world is our damaged ability to accept reality with all of its imperfections, and love it. I think we've developed an exaggerated need to cling to unrealistically perfected images of the past, and this prevents us from engaging in robust discussions, lest these images be shattered. It's as though we have built a glass house around our less-than-realistic icons, and view anyone who questions these icons as a flying rock.
Because of the intense, unhealthy, unrealistic and sexually perverse SOB piety we practiced, we had to, to the extent possible, develop a realistic self and spirituality after our departure. To some, this self realization had to be developed in terms of a coalition of like minded friends. In others, it had to come through the realization that we are alone, and that the only enduring, unconditional friends we have are cosmic. The fact that we are sometimes lucky, and have a real Mensch as a friend also, in no way changes this fact.
If I were to die alone in some Phoenix street, hit by a stray bullet or other stupidity, I would in my last moment know whom I truly loved, and who has loved me, and would have no need for confirmation.
Many of you were able to take with you shreds of SOB culture, such as the songs. To me these songs now are insufferable. I had to let my SOB self die to become a whole Mensch. That part of me that loved some of those haunting songs didn't want to die, so I chose to strangle it. I knew that if that part of me had been important, I would have been able to enjoy those songs later on. To me, the self that in some sentimental way hung on to those songs, represented a lost dimension , and I wanted to be truly free. By the way, I don't begrudge anyone the ability to enjoy those songs, as long as I don't have to listen to them. I'm a far happier person than I was when I still insisted to myself that I had to enjoy them. Love,
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 1/7/01: Joerg and Christine's New Millennieum Gathering. Dear KIT, Charlie telephoned Joerg and Christine's home yesterday while a whole bunch of us were helping them celebrate Twelfth Night and he asked me to do a little write-up to put into his next KIT Newsletter.
Joerg and Christine and their children, Geovanna, Marcella and Jonathan had prepared a fantastic feast so there was a never-ending supply of delicious food and drink. We soon got down to the serious business of singing many much-loved Christmas songs, evoking many memories of Wheathill where we had all spent a significant period of our lives.
Little anecdotes interspersed the songs, and often a particular person was especially remembered. Then Leslie suggested "Up My Neighbour," not of course a Christmas song, but after initial surprised laughter, we did indeed sing "Up My Neighbour" and when we got to the end Leslie started another verse, with a strong, musical voice belying his 93 years!
That song started a string of country, seasonal, bird and wild creature songs and we amazed ourselves at how often we knew all the words, even giving exactly the same emphasis and tempo. Thank you Gladys Mason, teacher of hundreds of wonderful songs to many, many children.
Then on to those funny Easter Hare songs, many of them written by Belinda, who just happened to telephone to join in! Timothy also telephoned and would no doubt have liked to be transported 4,000 miles northeast to spend a few hours with old friends. Dieter's wife Rose has just telephoned to get my e-mail address to send a bunch of digital pictures taken mostly by the Mathis kids so I'll forward a few to Charlie in case he wants to include any in KIT.
We had a great afternoon and evening in Joerg and Christine's lovely house, just a few miles from the old Cotswold Bruderhof, in a beautiful part of the English countryside. A wonderful way to start the New Year and New Millennium. Love from Joy
Christine Mathis, 11/23/00: Hi everyone, You don't hear much from me, as I find it quite difficult writing to so many at once! But I'll make an effort as I have things to share.
Firstly, I thank you all from my heart for the wonderful kindness, encouragement, and love that came flooding my way after my mother died. This came in the form of e-mail, snail-mail and phone calls! I am SO happy that we are all Kept In Touch with one another, and I treasure each one of you, as you all are like real family to my heart. I believe the KIT starting and ongoing was an inspiration, and although started out of your pain, Ramon, has brought healing and happiness to many of us, in varying degrees.
As I think of my mother, then of my dear friend Arnold, (for that's what he truly was) and now of Aniekan, and the help and love poured out for him, I am quite full of emotion. It is so great to know that friendship and real love put into action from so many when it has been so sorely completely lacking from our dear folks on the Bruderhof (at least in my case).
Some of you have asked a bit about my mother and father, so here goes.
My parents joined the Wheathill Hof in 1943. They were twenty-six and twenty-seven years old, so can maybe be forgiven for being rather idealistic in giving up a happy home, a business and all the close family ties they had at that time. In fact my father was in business with his father in a village about six miles away from Ashton Keynes where the Bruderhof was before sailing off to Paraguay and then starting up in Wheathill. At that time he got to know the community as his mill provided the grain for the 'hof farm.
I was coming up to five years old when my parents went to the community, and it was an awful shock to me when one day two "Giants" appeared in our house and started packing up the contents of the house with great enthusiasm and loading up a strange lorry with it all! What an insult!! However my mother and father weren't protesting so any protest of mine would no doubt be like spitting against the wind! After a while I realized that the two "Giants" were two BFGs as in Ronald Dahls book! They both had slightly reddish long beards and one of them had a name, he was called Arnold!! Soon to be known to me as my dear Mason friends' father!
All my life I have known Arnold as a man who could befriend anyone and he didn't seem capable of being judgmental moralism is a trait in adults that deeply worries and hurts small children, and over the years there was plenty of that to be swallowed on the Bruderhof, but Arnold, bless him, couldn't be moralistic if you paid him to be. I was blessed in that both my parents shared this freedom from moralism with Arnold. My mother was by nature a very happy lighthearted spirit. She was always dashing about at work and she loved dancing!! She had been a ballet dancer as well as ballroom, etc. but seemed quite content and even happy to teach the more acceptable folk dancing.
After ten years in Wheathill my family was sent to Primavera. We were there in all for about eight years. For part of that time my parents were posted to Asunción to be house parents to the young people who were at college, medical school etc. They both really loved being with young people and were I believe very good in understanding children and youth. My parents were flown back to the UK in 1960 with the huge group, and they ended in Bulstrode at that time. Later they were to move over the ocean several times in and out of disgrace. I like to remember the many times that they both had a good laugh in our family home! I don't know if parents realize how happy and secure a child feels when their parents laugh. I can hear them as I speak!
There is lots more I remember of my parents, Arnold and Gladys, very dear and treasured memories, but I must go and pick my children up at the coach station. Oh by the way the other BFG , I found out later was called Stanley Fletcher a lovely man!. Greetings to you all,
Ramón Sender Barayón,12/16/00: KIT: Letter removed as a courtesy per request from Bruderhof
Ben Cavanna, 1/13/01: Dear KIT, In December I travelled to the Slovak Republic to be with my son Paul for his birthday and Christmas. He is out there teaching English in his "Gap year" before University. I e-mailed letters to various people, mainly Charlie and Mel, while travelling, and have put them together, slightly edited.
12/3/00: I will be setting off on my journey across Europe tomorrow. I will be travelling by coach to Vienna (24 hrs), staying a few days, then on to Bratislava, and onwards to Trencin in Slovakia to meet up with my son Paul. He is out there for six months teaching English at a secondary school. I will stay with him with the family he is with and do some sightseeing at weekends. We will be together for his birthday on the 18th, and then we will travel together to Budapest in Hungary and spend Christmas there before we both travel back to Vienna. I will catch the coach back to London on the 26th arriving back on the 27th. Paul will go back to Slovakia to meet up with friends and go skiing.
This will be the first time since Paul was eight years old that we will spend any length of time together. I am looking forward to it a great deal, but also with some small nervousness. Wish me luck. I am also looking forward to travelling and having some time to reflect on the last years' happenings.
12/7/00: Isn't this modern technology wonderful? The keyboard in this internet café is a little different than the one I am used to with the z and y transposed plus a few other little quirks.
I am having a few quiet days here in Vienna and found a very nice hostel near the centre after a couple of miles schlepping my heavy rucksack around other full hostels. My German seems to be sufficient so far and quite a few people speak English well too. I am looking forward to seeing Paul on Saturday and having him show me around Slovakia.
12/7/00: Well I eventually found this lovely internet cafe, apparently the only one in Vienna. I had a good coach trip, and the coach drivers both Slovakian seemed to make two unscheduled stops in little towns along the way to pick up un-ticketed passengers who appeared to be friends. It was a good and fairly relaxed way to travel. I think a cross US trip with you would be fun.
The Catholic churches here are quite something. I had nice quiet half-hour in the church of St. Antonius and lit a candle for Pete. This afternoon I will go to the Jewish museum and try to see the Lippinzaner horse museum too. My German still seems to be adequate; I have already been stopped on the street for directions.
12/07/00: Tonight I decided to take a walk and see Vienna by night. As I was passing the beautiful Votiv Cathedral, I heard what could only be described as a din coming from within. I stumbled round the side in the dark and found a door open and went in to find the cathedral packed full and the place rocking to an American Gospel group with high amplification.
I did not meet anyone called Zaccheus or see any Sycamore trees, but there were people climbing on the pews and pillars to get a better view. They had us all jumping up to Amazing Grace and many other Gospel favourites. People of all ages were standing up and cheering and singing their hearts out. Old ladies in their smart Austrian hats, couples in their long furs and students, all having a fantastic time. The sound booming around that glorious masonry shook the whole of my body.
12/10/00: I am sitting in a nice little internet cafe in Trencin the town where Paul is living. Paul met me at Bratislava station off the coach from Vienna yesterday morning. The crossing from very tidy and affluent Austria to Slovakia was quite a shock.
You definitely know you are in a different world. The public transport is very good and cheap by our standards, but expensive by Slovak wage standards, I guess. The trams and buses seem to be vintage 50s and 60s, and are very basic, but run frequently and to a very accurate timetable. The train from Bratislava to Trencin was interesting, passing through rather dingy and dirty factories and then farmland and small holdings. The weather has been cold and damp, although the locals say it is unseasonably warm; there usually would be snow on the ground. They are great skaters and I hope that it will freeze while I am here and that I can brush up on my rather rusty skating.
The family that are hosting Paul are very nice. Vlado, the Dad, is a fireman at a nearby military airfield, and has the whole of the plot of land surrounding the house in productive use: vegetables, fruit and chickens. Anyone with land, however small, seems to grow on it. Mum works in a nearby office, and speaks good English, as do the two daughters at home, 20 and 13. Vlado makes rather good and powerful alcoholic beverages which he insisted on us trying last night. They are not sure if the separation from Czech Republik seven years ago was a good thing, as there is much higher unemployment since they got rid of communism ten years ago.
I look forward to the rest of my stay. This is certainly a look at a very different world than I am used to. Paul is enjoying his teaching here and the students seem to be quite keen too. I have been invited to a school Christmas concert on Friday so will meet some of his pupils and other teachers.
12/16/00: The Internet Cafe in Trencin caved in to "technical difficulties," and seems to be permanently off line, so I have waited till our little trip to Wien to read all the backlog of messages.
Today We rose at six from our hostel in Bratislava and took the tram and bus to the coach station for the bus to Wien. We have ridden the Riesenrad [a ferris wheel] and seen the palace at the Schoenbrunn and perused the Christmas market there. For anyone who wants to be highly re-stimulated about the Bruderhof I can recommend this, but otherwise stay clear. There were singers in the square singing many of the German Advent and Christmas songs familiar to those of us blessed with a Bruderhof upbringing.
Tonight I am treating Paul and his other English teaching friend, Maria, to a concert of Mozart and Strauss. It is fun hanging out with these youngsters and seeing the world through their eyes.
This week in Trencin Paul and I attended a fantastic Performance of Carpathian folk dance and music by the premier Slovak folk troupe. Lovely to have a live band on stage, and my first experience of a cymbalom or hammer dulcimer. Everyone was very interested in our reaction to the folk music and dance, and were very pleased that we liked it. Even the young people are really into the folk traditions. Then a little down market, on Thursday, to see Slovakia play Belarus at ice hockey in the Tatra Cup. Slovakia scored the only goal in a very exciting game, and my first encounter with ice hockey other than playing it. The fighting in the third period was quite entertaining too.
Half way through the second period all the lights went out, apparently a common occurrence, as everyone started cheering and lighting their lighters, which was quite fun for a few minutes. No rush to the exits.
Friday I was invited to Paul's teacher's Christmas dinner, which was a very formal affair with speeches, lovely singing performed by some of the school pupils, including a very beautiful rendition of Silent Night in Slovak. Then skits by some of the teachers, and after, a sumptuous feast, a lively disco to well loved ABBA and Christmas hits. We all had fun, somewhat helped by copious amounts of local wine.
12/19/00: Today I am writing to you from Krakow, the home town of Pope John Paul II. The city is quite stunningly beautiful. It was largely preserved from destruction in 1945 because the Soviet army overran the Germans, and there was not much fighting in the city. The streets are wide, with trams bustling up and down. The very centre of the city is the old city wall, with a lovely wide park around it. It is, of course, a mix, now, of ancient Poland, Big Macs and Internet cafes. Street traders are on every available piece of pavement, selling food, drinks and all sorts of handicrafts. Street music is all around. I have spent some very relaxed moments enjoying a balalaika and accordion duo, and a five-piece brass band. The temperature is below freezing, and there are iced over puddles everywhere, so walking is done with a watchful eye on the ground ahead.
I took the overnight sleeper train from Bratislava on Monday night, having celebrated Paul's 19th birthday with him in Vienna. We had a very relaxed time together, shopping for shoes and looking around the city. The Christmas markets are in full swing, full of food stalls and handicrafts of all types. Hot punsch seems to be the thing to drink while chatting to friends, and bratwurst and bread is the delicious fast food. Paul took me to some of Vienna that he had visited previously, including the Schoenbrunn palace with the thousands of flocking ravens coming to roost for the night. It was rather relaxing to have him be in charge.
The Riesenrad, which is a very large wheel affair with cabins, took us high into the Vienna sky for a very dramatic view over the city and the Danube River. This thing was built over a hundred years ago, and is very scary, but worth the gorgeous views.
We had lots of quiet time in various Baroque churches. I actually feel very comfortable in these ornately decorated Catholic churches, relics of saints and all maybe a rebellion against the austerity of the Bruderhof. I lit a candle for Pete Holland. It seems unreal that I will not be able to go and tell him about my trip when I get home.
Buying the train ticket to Warsaw from Bratislava was a silent film comedy of the clueless Englishman abroad. The only thing missing was the piano accompaniment. The very friendly ticket woman could not speak English or German, and I could not speak Slovak, so we waved arms and wrote things down on bits of paper. I confused her, because when she seemed to be asking how many tickets I wanted I held up one finger. Unbeknown to me, in Slovakia one is a thumb held up, and two is a thumb and forefinger, so a forefinger is always assumed to mean two. Eventually I realised this, and we established I wanted one ticket from Bratislava to Warsaw, and then I introduced another complication, in that I wanted a sleeper. After miming sleeping, she said, "Ok," and issued me a ticket. All seemed to be well, as the ticket had the carriage number and "Bettplatz" marked.
I whiled away the two hours till train time, reading and kept an eye on the platform for the train, as I could not understand the station announcements. As soon as the train pulled in, I went to get settled, but the sleeping car attendant would not let me on. She was asking for some other documents. My passport was of no interest to her, and I eventually understood, after we established that we could both speak elementary German, that the ticket I had was only for the bed place, and not for the journey itself. I dashed back to the only open ticket booth to get in the long queue. When I got to the front, the original ticket woman immediately understood what the stupid Englishman needed, and I got the ticket, and dashed back to the train, just as the guard started to wave the flag. Panic relieved, I boarded the train, and found I was the only one in the whole sleeping car.
The very nice attendant looked after me, and our German meshed quite well, as we were both of a similar (poor) standard. She warned me that I would be woken at 1:30 AM for passport checks, but did not warn me that the train line jinks into and back out of the Czech Republic before going into Poland, so we had six passport checks over the space of one hour. I kept going back to sleep thinking that we were done, only to be roused again by a different set of border guards.
This happened four more times, and I was beginning to feel quite disorientated by the time the attendant came to tell me that I could now go back to sleep. Apparently the train line passes through a small section of the Czech Republic and back into Slovakia before entering Poland and there are checks at both sides of each border making six in all. But I did have a good nights sleep, and woke rested in Warsaw Central. I had a bit of a look round Warsaw, which has many big new office buildings, and then caught the train to Krakow. The train was very fast and comfortable and the countryside is very beautiful, with many small farms bringing in the last of the cabbages and other produce.
On Arriving in Krakow station I could not find the tourist office. The woman in the train ticket office said there were no trains to Auschwitz, even though they showed on the board, and she would not sell me a ticket. I wandered out of the station looking for the bus station, and while wandering around lost was accosted by a nice gentleman asking me if I spoke English. I said yes, but that I could not help him as I had just arrived. He said, no, he was here to help me, and wanted to know if I wanted a taxi to Auschwitz.
I usually brush these sorts of offers off, but something about this man seemed warm. I asked him what his price was, and he told me along with what he was offering which was to take me there and also Birkenau, and then bring me back to the hostel, which I was also having trouble locating. We got to bartering, and eventually agreed on a price. He said I could not be English as his English clients always pay his asking rate, and are too polite to haggle. He was satisfied when I told him that I was born in Paraguay.
Kazimierz was rather a sympatico man my age, with two daughters slightly older than mine. The only thing was, he had a penchant for overtaking in tight spots, and had even normally relaxed Ben hanging onto the door handle. When he noticed my white knuckles he explained that he was getting me to the 1:00 PM showing of the English version of the intro film, and that his old Mercedes was very safe.
We shot through some rather pleasant countryside with many new houses being built. Kazimierz showed me the old style houses that are built with one end for the people, and the other end for the animals, all the while keeping an eye out for overtaking opportunities. He did get me there just in time for the film, rushed me through the entrance, and showed me where he would be waiting for me.
The film was very low-key, but with many shots of the liberation of the camp and many scenes of emaciated and dying people, and heaps of corpses. There were about a dozen other people there, but most had apparently already gone round the camp and were now leaving.
I walked over to the entrance to the camp, and there it all is, just as it was during those horrific times. The guard house and the entrance gates with "Arbeit Macht Frei" in wrought iron lettering over. The weather had turned even colder and was damp with very light snow falling. It was an eerie, rather frightening feeling walking through the gates that so many had walked through only to perish.
The whole camp is pretty much as it was found when it was liberated. The stark rows of two story brick barracks with the original numbers still mostly visible. The rusting, electrified barbed wire fences encircling the whole terrible place. A number of the barracks have been used to exhibit the whole story of the camp, and for various displays. As I wandered around, it was impossible not to feel the terror of life there and picture the terrible conditions those people lived in.
The exhibits are stark and simple. One of the barracks has piles of the belongings of people murdered there that were found by the liberating forces. There is a whole room full of shoes, and another of suitcases stacked to the ceiling with the names of the murdered owners painted and stencilled on the side, ready for their last journey.
There was a whole industry at Auschwitz and Auschwitz II (Birkenau) that processed the hair, gold from the teeth, and all belongings of the murdered victims. These items were all sorted and then shipped back to the Third Reich for use. Hair was sold by the Kilogram and processed in factories. Hair shorn from precious human beings who were then murdered. There were huge warehouses at Birkenau to sort and store these items. What struck me in the pit of my stomach was the meticulously organised mechanisation of the murder, disposal of the bodies and the processing and reuse of the belongings.
Everything is minutely and carefully documented. There are cases and cases of documents in German, the records of the camp. Everything was recorded to the last detail in the first three years of the camp. There are documents that record the time, date and nature of death that all look quite normal, till you notice that the times of death all follow each other at five minute intervals for pages and pages.
Later in the war, as the murder was mechanised and became a torrent, they could not keep up the document keeping; there are no records of the millions murdered in the latter stages.
There is something about actually being in the place where this vast crime took place. I was on my own. I was very scared. It was not difficult to imagine the terror of entering that awful place. It was impossible to be unaware of the vast terrible crime that took place there less than a decade before I was born. There is a huge, pressing feeling of doom and despair in the walls and bricks of that place. What is there in human beings that could make such a vile crime possible?
But then you come across slivers of light and human triumph amidst the terror. There is a rolling pin, hollowed out by prisoner kitchen staff, used to smuggle out stolen documents that recorded the horror which was taking place. Prisoners risked their lives to get information to the outside world so that this crime could not be covered up after the war.
Block 11, the punishment, detention and execution block, was a most chilling and fearful nightmare crawl into the depths of human evil. It is all still there: the cell with no ventilation, where people were locked up to suffocate over three days, the coffin cells two foot square upright where people would be locked in for days, unable to sit or lie and might or might not survive. Then the execution place between block 10 and 11 with a backdrop of processed rubber blocks to catch any stray bullets. The ground was covered with bunches of flowers, and the cracks in the rubber blocks are filled with pebbles left as tributes and memories of all those murdered in various ways at the camps.
The last place in the camp is the gas chamber and the crematorium. Everything has been either preserved or, where the SS tried to destroy the evidence of their evil as the liberating forces neared, the structures have been rebuilt as they were: the rails in the floor for the trolleys to carry the bodies from the gas chambers to the ovens, then other rails joining for the oven trolley to take the bodies into the oven. This was not some aberration of war; it was the purposeful attempt to destroy whole races of people, carefully and meticulously mechanised murder, and the destruction the remains of human beings.
The gas chamber is underground. The steps down are a very frightening descent into horror and terror. I stood in the gas chamber alone. No one else was there. There is no hiding in that cold, damp, echoing chamber. The tubes down which they poured the poison still protrude through the ceiling. Here, beautiful, frightened people were murdered. Their fear is completely evident. Here, other human beings gassed them to death, then systematically organised the destruction of their bodies. There is no hiding from the fact that people like me were twisted until they could commit this heinous crime on a regular and relentless basis.
Being in Auschwitz alone was a most horrible and frightening journey, but one that was important for me to undertake. In the past I have viewed this most horrendous crime from the perspective of the Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies and other "undesirables" who were murdered. Being there made me brutally aware of the connection I have with the SS guards. In the gas chamber at Auschwitz, I felt very powerfully the common roots of Nazism and the Bruderhof. They both sprang from the same time and place in the awful aftermath of the Great War. The SS guards were not some monster race, but human beings twisted by a horrible system to become the perpetrators of immense evil.
It is not only the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, disabled, and other groups who were deemed fit to perpetrate this crime upon, who need to heal from this horror. The SS guards, who were part of that murderous machinery, also need to heal. Otherwise, how can we rise up from those depths if we leave behind these others, who I now realise, were my brothers too?
I am very glad that I did go with Kazimierz, rather than catch the train or bus. When I came out at the end, found him waiting and got in the car, I burst into tears when he asked me what I thought. He was very relaxed and did not mind my crying at all. He seemed used to it. We discussed the horror of it all. He had earlier said he would take me to see Birkenau or Auschwitz II, but I told him I had seen enough. He said, "Let me just show you one little part of it." So he drove off. It is only about a mile, and then the scale of that place really hit home and set me off again.
Birkenau is about ten times the size of Auschwitz. Where Auschwitz had one gas chamber and crematorium, Birkenau had four, much larger ones. The scale of the horror at Birkenau was too much for me to be able to go in. He was very gentle, and showed me all around the outside of that huge, horrible place. The train line that went into the camp is still there. So this very nice Polish taxi driver who did a wonderful thing for me and let me cry my heart out.
On the way back home he told me that everyone he takes there is moved in some way, and each person reacts differently. He told me he took an elderly gentleman, five years ago, who told him he was a Jew who had escaped Nazi Germany, but whose family had all died in the camps. The man told him that he would only be fifteen minutes, and sure enough, after fifteen minutes he returned, and said he had done what he came to do. He said he had come to walk through the gates with "Arbeit Macht Frei" over them, and walk back out. His family had never walked back out; he wanted to just do that.
Well, I thought of the Bruderhof all the while I walked around that place. I do not know quite how they connect. I will ponder awhile. I really do not think that I can adequately convey the feelings I went through while there. I may be able to tell you face to face someday.
It was lovely to have a sympathetic man to chat with on the drive back to Krakow, and he did indeed take me right to the hostel I wanted.
12/21/00: I am just about to catch the train back to Slovakia to meet Paul before our trip to Budapest. The snow is gently falling and everything is very Christmassy here. Yesterday I took a bus two and a half hours south to Zakopane and from there a cable car ride up into the mountains. There was a lot of snow and it was very cold up at the top. 6 thousand feet. Minus 18 Centigrade. The views were fabulous and it was great fun walking a little in the fine powdery snow. Today I have been walking around Krakow, and in the next few minutes I will walk to the station for the train.
12/23/00: Greetings to everyone, I have liked keeping up with you all while travelling. I am writing from icy cold and sunny Budapest. The city is very beautiful in spite of the encroaching Macdonalds and other tentacles of the consumer west. This morning Paul and I went ice skating on a frozen lake near the hostel we are staying in. I was a little wobbly at the start, but the muscles gradually remembered what they were supposed to do. Evergreen pond 1971 seems a lifetime ago. Paul is quite a good skater too from his visits to Brighton ice rink and we had a great deal of fun. My legs are rather achy now, so I will have to see if I can manage some more ice time while we are here.
We visited the National Art Gallery, and saw a very nice collection of drawings Durer to Dali. They also have a rather nice collection of Spanish masters with some good El Grecos. Then, a very chilly minus 5 centigrade walking tour of some of the town and bridges.
The hostel is a most fantastic place. You approach a very imposing building with marble columns and a huge door. Into a huge lobby complete with classical statues and marble staircase up to a stairwell with cast iron balustrades and wonderful polished doors to various apartments. On the third floor is the "Hostel Catarina" which turns out to be about twelve beds in two large rooms of Catarina's house. Share the kitchen and bath etc. It is very nice, and not at all hostel like. Plus the benefit of living in the gradually delapidating splendour of old Pesht. We will spend till the 26th here exploring before our train back to Bratislava, my journey to Wien and then home, with Paul returning to Trencin.
Mel, with regard to Kazimierz the taxi driver, I agree that angels come in all shapes and sizes. I also remember you telling me about the Jewish and Nazi conciliation thing. I do think some more water needs to flow under the Bruderhof-Exbruderhof bridge before the time is "ripe" for that. What struck me very strongly at Auschwitz was the importance of preserving the forensic evidence for future generations.
In the Bruderhof context, that is what KIT is doing.
In a small aside, they caught the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, in 1947. He was tried, and sentenced to hang. They took him to Auschwitz, and hanged him there. The gallows are still there as part of the exhibition. I was brought up as a pacifist by the Bruderhof, and continued to hold that belief up to the day my first child, Tamara, was born, at the moment of whose birth my first though was, "I would definitely kill to protect my daughter." So I have realised that I am not a pacifist, but that I will attempt all other avenues first if possible. I think they did the right thing with the commandant of Auschwitz.
There will be a time when we can set up a "Truth and reconciliation commission" for the Bruderhof and ex-bruderhof people. That will be very painful for the Bruderhof, and, of course, for us, but it will be a necessary part of the process of all our liberation.
Migg Fischli Life Story
Continued from November 2000 KIT
by Emil Fischli
(Translated from the German by Susanna Alves Levy)
So now a completely new and quite different phase began for me. Fritz Kleiner was the work distributor. In those times the women, or Sisters, had equal votes and carried equal weight in the Brotherhood. Unfortunately under Hutterite influence this changed with time, to the detriment of the Sisters.
Fritz told me that the communal kitchen needed me as kitchen boy. This meant hauling firewood daily from the shed and lugging two large buckets with potatoes from the dark cellar. In a trough full of water and with the help of a scrubber I washed them and put them in a large cooking pot on the hearth. Ria the dextrous cook and two further Sisters kept a happy rule. I had to centrifuge part of the milk from the cow-stall. In the cellar, a duckboard hanging on wires from the ceiling held the weekly supply of rounded rye bread loaves; here they were safe from mice. There also were two enormous stone vats of 1.20m diameter; one of them held winter provisions of Sauerkraut under a clean, well sealed wooden lid, and the other held sour beans. Oh, those sour beans -- beans are actually my favourite vegetables -- but those sour beans!? (Memories of certain gustatory sensations remain intact for decades.) Yes, if hungry enough, one will eat even these. A bit of bacon would have made those beans so much more palatable but because of the reigning poverty there wasn't even a distant aromatic trace of such delights.
There were long shelves fixed along the walls of the cellar. They held ten-litre tubs of blueberry, blackberry and raspberry jam. The green tomatoes that hadn't managed to ripen were also made into a bread-spread. As the climate in the Rhön was too harsh for apples and pears, we collected windfall fruit outside the lower villages. Once they had been prepared, chopped and cooked they made for a good winter supply of pureed apples.
After a few weeks of kitchen duty I helped Waltraut in the pigsty. Waltraut was a professional domestic animals breeder. The flock of leghorn chicken, the four goats, four breeding sows, the magnificent boar and a few fattened pigs and porkers were all placed under her command. I learnt much about animal keeping from her. After a while the nightly care of the babies -- oops piglets -- those tiny pink ones -- was entrusted to me. Sometimes a sow gave birth to thirteen piglets despite having only twelve tits to suckle them. That does trigger the fights for the milk-spouting tits. If one doesn't make sure that justice is done then the strong will only become stronger and the weak weaker. We raised the weaklings with goat milk out of a bottle.
In the fodder kitchen by the pigsty was a large cooking pot, on a wood-fed fire, in which the small partly rotted potatoes and other edible waste was cooked.
I wasn't the only one who extracted the odd boiled potato in passing to satisfy a young stomach rumbling with hunger.
After three-quarters of a year I was entrusted with a yoke of horses, a pair of heavy, red-brown, coolheaded animals. The left one, that is, the near side horse, was a well behaved, obedient, always work-happy Pinzgauer. The right one was just as large, a rather coarse farm horse with a fitting peasant's slyness. Max was the name of the left one, and Hans of the right one. Hans always knew what to do so that Max got a bit more of the load. Whenever I would then call out rather more sharply, "Hanns!", the balance was immediately re-established. But whenever I stopped paying attention he slackened again gently, gently. Max was gentle as a lamb, and bore things patiently while Hans let his displeasure be known very quickly with laid back ears.
So I learned to be a wagoner, a beautiful, strenuous profession, one that is more and more disappearing nowadays. Later I drove a tractor for a few years. A wagoner's work is tougher but he is closer to life. This means getting out of bed an hour earlier, stuffing hay in the trough, mucking out, combing and brushing, watering, mixing chaff and oats and filling the hay trough once again. Then on, into the dining room for breakfast with the other young residents and the singles. The steaming jugs are filled with Muckefuck. How is this made? Take some barley, let it germinate, then roast it. Ground down and brewed it became our breakfast beverage. It could be compared with real coffee only by its colour. One or two plates of rye-flour soup without blobs of fat and two slices of rye bread thinly spread with margarine made up the breakfast menu. If I ate the bread straight away, I had nothing for second breakfast, as the midmorning tea break was called, which would make the mornings last so much longer until the ringing of the old steel ploughshare called for lunch.
In the meantime the two horses had eaten their rations and were waiting to be harnessed and hitched. Then it was time to get down to work. There was much to be done; ploughing, harrowing, transporting liquid manure, loading the dung cart and in summer ferrying the hay loads and loading the sheaves of cereals; once a week there was the trip to the mill and to the grocer's shop in Schlüchtern, twelve kilometres away. The provisions for this nine-hour long strenuous journey consisted of two double slices of rye bread and one German Mark for expenses. With this Mark I went to the baker and got myself Gestriges oder Zerbrochenes [yesterday's or broken pieces] for fifty Pfennig; with the remainder I bought sausage end-pieces and slices at the butchers. And I believe I didn't do badly at all with these purchases. I think the women behind the counter noticed my hunger and allowed themselves to be a bit more generous with the quantities.
So I was entrusted with quite a considerable amount of responsibility. After half a year of cooperation and communal work I asked to be admitted into the noviciate. This is the first step towards entering the Brotherhood, which is the carrying corporate body and responsible for everything in a Bruderhof. After a period of mutual examination of variable duration according to the person and circumstances, the baptism then follows, which confirms the entry into the Brotherhood circle.
For a better understanding of the organisation of the then Bruderhof the following must be considered: The expression 'organisation' actually doesn't really apply; the term organism would be more appropriate, as it is rather a matter of a living structure in which the most varied people lived together. Starting with the babies, they remain for the first six weeks completely and only with their mothers. Then they are brought to the baby-house, from there they progress to the toddler-house, then kindergarten and, after pre-school, to school.
Among the guests are the short-term and the long-term, the latter wanting to get better acquainted with communal living and working. They bring in a wealth of ideas and trigger interesting discussions during meals and in the evening meetings. Once a certain harmony is reached, they will participate in the Gemeindestunde. That is the time of inner collection which usually ends in communal prayer. So, during such a Gemeindestunde, I asked for acceptance into the noviciate, and it was granted. The noviciate is a time for the novice during which it should become apparent if the community wants to follow the same way through life with the novice as the novice with the community. During this period of time, all ownership matters are also clarified. Baptism follows the noviciate period, with subsequent entry into the Brotherhood.
Germany adopted compulsory military service in 1935. Those who refused to serve were sent away to concentration camps as fatherland traitors. This meant that our young men had to flee to Liechtenstein where on the Alm a small Bruderhof already existed.
I spent endless days in our smithy to patch up and repair the twelve bicycles with which the exodus was to take place. The night of the twelve young men's departure remains a vivid memory. That night I was the night watchman. In the busy kitchen, bread slices were being spread, sausages packed, and rucksacks laced tight. They left the Hof in twos and threes, with short intervals between each departure. It all had to happen very quietly and secretly because of old Valentin, the farmer who lived in the main house and had right of residence for the remainder of his life. Although he was very old, he was still quite fit. He was a sly old fox and no one was ever sure that he didn't actually spy on us. The fleeing young Brothers -- they passed themselves off as bicycle tourists -- arrived in the Alm Bruderhof a few days and adventures later, but all ended well. One of them had been our baker, so now I had to take over his job. A bit of prior intensive training by him gave me the required insight into the preparation and secrets of bread making.
Despite those dangerous times for the Bruderhof, new guests kept arriving and wanting to join, among them a number from Switzerland and a few from England. They helped fill the gaps left in the workforce. Among these were two young men from Switzerland: Balz, a freshly graduated teacher from the Glarnerland, and Markus, a medical student from Basle, both with firm intentions of joining the community.
One evening Balz took a yoke of horses, warm-blooded chestnuts -- the blind, sweet-tempered Bella and the stubborn, unpredictable Linda -- and hitching these light-footed animals to a lightweight, bouncy carriage, and accompanied by Susi, he drove to Neuhof, the nearest but quite distant railway station. The arrival of a girl named Hilde Hundhammer was expected. Hilde had been sent as a delegate by a small Christian circle that via the study of early baptismal history had discovered that even today there still remained descendants who continued living in community.
The moment of Hilde's arrival remains a vivid memory. The Gemeindestunde circle was about to break up when Susi and Hilde came into the room. After Eberhard's short and cordial welcome address Hilde said a few words, passing on the greetings of her study circle. It was clear to everybody that we were on the same wavelength. Hilde was warmly welcomed and made to feel at home. It was not long before she too was taken into the noviciate.
Also during that year a group of young folk from England arrived. Some of the new arrivals decided to join the community. Among them was a couple, engaged to be married, who wanted to go ahead with their wedding. A wedding in the Bruderhof was a high time, not only for the couple; for many weeks the whole community prepared for the celebrations. The kindergarten children practised songs and round-dances. The youth group rehearsed a fairytale play. Although I was leading a different fairytale princess on my arm, Hilde, who also participated, made a distinctive impression on me because of her natural unpretentiousness. As time went by this impression grew stronger, deepening quietly, imperceptibly and ineradicably during the following months.
The year of 1935 was a difficult year for the community. Due to the enforced separation into two groups, Eberhard Arnold travelled frequently between one and the other. During one of those trips, while in the Alm Bruderhof, he broke a leg.
The pressure from the Nazis through Gestapo and SS felt like a tourniquet. Sales of our books were forbidden by the State, likewise the beautifully handcrafted art objects from our turning shop and the finely crafted bookmarks made of ivory and Galalit, with many pretty motifs. The community went through a series of crises that resulted in the decision to postpone the planned baptism preparation period. We novices were therefore accepted into the firm noviciate, taking part in all Brotherhood meetings and sharing responsibilities with the Brothers and Sisters. These Brothers and Sisters, baptised as adults -- the Hutterites still call them Geschwistriget [Geschwister, or 'siblings'] -- embody the Brotherhood that carries the totality of responsibilities for the inner as well as the outer life; their decisions are at all times to be made in unanimity. Such decisions arrived at in unison were evidence of the workings of the Holy Spirit. That is, they could lay claim to a kind of un-conditionality and irreversibility. At the time I firmly believed this. Nowadays even the Pope is still elected like this. What remains valid though is that the Spirit moves at will, it cannot be coerced.
Those were very difficult times. Eberhard's leg didn't heal and he was in a lot of pain. A well-known surgeon in Darmstadt operated on him, but Eberhard died during the operation. Some Brothers in the Alm Bruderhof blamed us in the Rhön for his death saying that we had not been in the right spirit. Now we all beat our chests and brooded over our guilt. We gathered stones for a one metre high and sixty metres long stone wall around the cemetery on the Küppel hill. This was self-inflicted forced labour. I helped digging the grave. I was so exhausted at the wake that night that I nearly fell asleep by the hearse.
Many years later, a nurse who was present at the operation revealed that Eberhard had not survived because he had been given a special injection. At the time, a lot of uncomfortable opponents of the Nazi regime were discreetly eliminated in that way. It came under the motto: "Operation successful ? patient dead."
The loss of the community's founder was a very heavy blow with repercussions being felt even at this day and age. Eberhard had believed in and hoped for theocracy-divine rule, represented and led by a leader who was inspired by the Holy Spirit. "Common folks are lazy and stupid," he used to say.
The group that came from Switzerland had to relearn things; we were being teased because of the unwieldy Swiss democracy. Sometimes rightly so -- and it is still valid. But oh, where was the leader, full of spirits and burning heart, standing up for the poor and fighting all injustices? Filling the vacuum created by his loss succeeded only after many crises and inner battles. Self-incrimination and mutual blaming marked those times. I experienced it at first hand.
All this was in addition to the incredible pressures by the Gestapo to dissolve the community. The Hof was twice raided by the SA and SS searching for weapons, and all books that had red coloured covers or contained words like 'commune' or 'social' were confiscated. The raids were planned strategically and cleverly and executed seamlessly, but they never found or were able to catch an enemy.
All our men of conscription age were in Liechtenstein in the Alm Bruderhof. This meant that it was my turn every twelve days or so to function as night watchman. As such I was responsible for the whole Hof while everybody slept. The watch duty began after supper. In the kitchen was the night watchman book, next to it the list of those doing early morning duties such as milking the cows, driving carts and preparing breakfast. It was obvious that the night watch man knew exactly where everyone lived. At last a happy Hasso, a sheepdog trained by the police, was let off his chain. The first round was through the stalls and around the barns, to check that everything was in order. Usually around ten o'clock, with Brothers and Sisters still in the dining-room, the watchman sang loudly:
Hört ihr Leut und lasst euch sagen,
Unsre Glock' hat zehn geschlagen.
Zehn Gebote setzt Gott ein,
Gib, dass wir gehorsam sein.
[Listen you folks and let me tell you,
Our clock has struck ten.
Ten commandments God put in place,
Give us that we may be obedient.]
A moment later many voices could be heard coming from the dining room, singing in support of the watchman:
Menschenwachen kann nichts nützen,
Gott muss wachen, Gott muss schützen,
Herr, durch Deine Güt' und Macht,
gib uns eine gute Nacht.
[Human watch is to no avail,
God must watch, God must protect,
Lord, through your goodness and might,
Give us a good night.]
As a rule this song ended the meeting. A moment later everybody emerged and went quietly to their quarters to find well-earned peace and sleep.
At each full hour during the night, in two or three places on the Hof, the watchman sang the respective verse of that song and its refrain.
If somebody lay restless, sleepless, maybe plagued by pain, it was comforting to be reminded that there was not only a night watchman but that we were all in the care of a power that was so much greater. Naturally -- and I knew it from personal experience -- this singing routine served also as a certain self-control in case one maybe fell asleep on the kitchen floor; it is said to have happened.
Despite the additional effort, night watches were often a special experience. For example, by the dim light of a lantern, in the middle of the night, seeing the dozing, snorting cows and cattle lying on their bed of straw and looking up at you with surprise. I removed any fresh cow-dung carefully; it meant that there would be less to clean up next morning. Or the unique sounds of the night; the gradual wandering of the shimmering stars; the bright edges of the clouds in moonlit nights, shadows chasing each other across fields. Then in the morning the awakening, the cockerel having crowed three times, first skylarks rising vertically in jubilant song. Four o'clock was the time to sing the last verse:
Vierfach ist das Ackerfeld,
Mensch, wie ist dein Herz bestellt?
[Fourfold is the tilled field,
Mankind, how is your heart prepared?]
I stretched the egg I was due as an extra treat at breakfast because of the night-watch duty by making it into an omelette, and ate it with great enjoyment. But now the fire in the kitchen range must be brought to a glow, water for the soup put on the stove and the wake-up calls of the early duty folks made. The night watchman's report in the appropriate book was quickly done. On its pages, the solitary and at times romantic hours of the watch were sometimes expressed in poem and rhyme.
Oh yes, something I did not report in the book, as it wasn't part of my night watchman's duties: On a number of occasions I secretly placed spring flowers and wild roses on the doorstep of a girl I liked a lot. Her name was Hilde.
It was early summer of 1935. One evening after the Gemeindestunde I arranged it that I casually came to stand next to Hilde. "Can we meet later by the fourth juniper bush on the Küppel?" I asked her.
There we then sat side-by-side, well behaved. I did not quite know what to say; how I wanted to and needed to say it. Finally I asked: "What do you think, could we go through life together?"
"Yes," she said without hesitation, and we shook hands. "Tomorrow we'll talk about this with the servant-of-the-word."
Once that was said, we went our separate ways, proceeding to our respective rooms.
The servant-of-the-word was pleasantly surprised by our confession. "Tonight you will bring your decision before the Brotherhood," he said. "It has the deciding say."
In the Brotherhood meeting we both stood up. "We want to go through life together," I said.
"Yes, that is what we want," Hilde said.
"Has anybody anything against it?" the servant-of-the-word asked.
"No," it sounded as from one mouth.
"In that case you'll have a day off together tomorrow and in the evening we will celebrate the engagement."
A most beautiful summer's day broke. The winter barley stood ready to be harvested, its ears nodding and golden yellow. It was the day I should have mown it but that was now going to be done by someone else. Hilde and I wandered away happily, holding hands. There was much jubilation and song inside of us, so we didn't talk much. We climbed the Steckelsburg, visited the spring in the woods in Sannerz and quenched our thirst in the local pub.
The way back through the vast beech woods seemed longer than anticipated, the sun was nearing the horizon so we quickened our steps. At long last we arrived, late by half an hour for our engagement celebration.
The dining room had been laid out prettily with flowers and green boughs, the tables were adorned with bunches of sunflowers. A freshly wound crown of flowers was pressed on Hilde's head. Love songs were sung. The youth group played a number of improvised sketches. Despite the care we had taken, our mutual attraction had not remained unnoticed.
My two horses, Hans and Max, looked on through the window. 'We wondered why our driver was so often so dreamy-eyed,' they let me know.
But oh dear, at the end of the celebrations Hilde collapsed in my arms in a fainting fit. I carried her to her room where with the help of the nurse she came to quickly.
Old Marie, who was looking after her, said: "Too much joy and happiness for this young heart."
Actually Hilde and I and a few other young novices should have been baptised first, after Hutterite custom, but countless inner and outer turbulent circumstances left no time for thorough baptism preparations. We were in the firm noviciate and took part in the Brotherhood meetings and in all the important decisions that related to community matters. The Sisters wore a narrow open silver band on their heads and the Brothers a silver but open ring on their fingers, as a visible sign that we all belonged together for the rest of our lives. For couples engaged to be married, it was perfectly all right to go for walks together, or to meet in the evenings in a neutral room. We obviously still needed to get to know each other.
The name of my lovely, pretty lass was really Hildegard. Hildegard Hundhammer. Neither she nor her family ever liked the ...gard part of her name so she became and remained always Hilde. That is, in her family's Egerländisch that sounded more like 'Hülde'. That's because she came from Rossbach in the Sudetenland that was annexed to Czechoslovakia after the First World War. She was born -- saw the light of day, as it is said so beautifully -- on the 19th of December 1915. It was not a bright shining light that she saw at the time. Her father was far away and unreachable, in the war. Her mother, a tapestry-worker earning a miserable wage, now had two children to feed and care for.
Gerda, her older sister by four years, was not at all happy about the new little sister, and bullied her. The story goes that at one time little baby Hilde had to be rescued from a dung-heap. Some neighbour had made a teasing remark to Gerda, saying: "Why don't you throw the little thing on the dung-heap." To Gerda that seemed the perfect solution. For many years the two sisters had to share bed and blanket; it did not further the peace at all.
But the enmity of their early years had long been overcome and they developed a very close sisterly relationship.
Elsa was the name of little Hilde's mother. Her father's name was Adolf. The mother was a delicate woman, quiet and all too humble, with careworn features but with forget-me-not-blue, luminous eyes. Hilde's father Adolf was a cartwright by profession, an excellent and resourceful artisan. He was very musical, his voice contributed to the lively harmonies in the church choir. He could have violent bouts of temper for the most insignificant of reasons; he ruled the roost. He could not do without his cigarettes, even at times when his children were hungry and there was no money for bread. But he didn't have an easy time at all. Having been away during the war years he had lost his clientele, remained unemployed for a long time, then earned a very meagre wage as auxiliary in a sawmill. He came from generations of smithies, borne out by his surname 'Hundhammer'. In the old smithies operated by large waterwheels the hammer that weighed between one hundred and two hundred kilos was called the 'Hund'.
The German-Sudeten village of Rossbach lies in the outermost corner of Czechoslovakia -- today the Czech Republic -- surrounded by large forests. The three-country-stone that marks the borders between Bavaria, Saxony and the Czech Republic stands there. Hilde constantly enthused about the daylong forest walks with her grandfather, her mother's father, from whom she received most of the fatherly attention. They brought home many baskets full of wild berries, and mushrooms in autumn. Later her brother Karl, then her sister Elli, her brother Hans and lastly little sister Inge joined the family. So Hilde had plenty of opportunities to develop and rehearse her natural mothering skills.
As a little girl she had only one doll, a rather pitiful thing and soon quite dirty, but it had a head of genuine porcelain. This had been a treasured gift from her father. Curious as a child can be at that age, her little fingers bored into the doll's contents. The innards that came to light were a disappointment.
But when her father saw the damaged doll, his gift, he grabbed it and smashed the shiny porcelain head on a stone, throwing the headless body away. "This was your first and last doll!" he screamed at her.
It must have been a terrible and heartbreaking experience for Hilde. But despite all that, she loved and respected her father. It must be said that at some later date he made her a pair of skis from ash wood, with which she used to fly down the snow-covered slopes. He also let her use his bicycle. She was a gymnast and had plenty of stamina, in school she also found learning enjoyable and not at all a chore. She was about twelve years old when she suffered a long-term bout of rheumatic fever. It is quite possible that the deficient diet during the long war years contributed to this. In the end it affected her heart which caused her severe problems for the rest of her life. She was in such a bad state physically that with the help of a church organisation she was sent away to a spa on the Baltic Sea where she received treatment.
She learned easily so she came out of elementary school with good results. For years it had been her dearest wish to become a teacher but the economic situation did not allow it. Still, she was too frail for factory work. But there was a solution. She was allowed to move in with the minister's family to work as house-help with the minister's wife. She learned typing and stenography and helped the minister with administration and writing tasks. As far as her health went, this was a good time for her. She was really able to recover and develop.
Through his history studies, the Lutheran minister happened upon the Baptists, generally known as Anabaptists. He discovered that part of the Baptists lived in community based upon the example of the early Christians. It moved him to bring together a number of people who also occupied themselves with this issue; the Hundhammers belonged to this circle too.
Encouraged by a Viennese history researcher with whom Eberhard Arnold corresponded, the latter visited Rossbach and the minister's circle. Some time later the group sent Hilde to the Bruderhof to find out about the practical realisation of such a community.
For the Bruderhof community, times were extremely difficult just then. There were the political pressures coming from the NSDAP [Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - National Socialist German Workers Party], and innumerable pernickety hostilities from the surrounding villages; I used to answer their "Heil Hitler" salute with a "Good day" greeting. The reaction to this was varied, but usually it was of either surprise or unfriendliness.
Difficult too was the geographical fragmentation of the community with one small group of young students in Zurich, and the Alm Bruderhof, created of necessity, sitting at eighteen hundred metres above sea-level with next to insoluble worries of viability. But what undermined even more the essence of life in community were the constant inner crises. The founder, the inspiring pillar, Eberhard Arnold, suddenly wasn't there anymore. The young leader members, servants-of-the-word, were unsure -- at once either too hard, then with too much largesse, or too humanistic, or too pietistic. The Brotherhood members tended too often to fall into self-destructive penitence.
During one of these difficult moments Hilde and I looked for and found comfort with each other. In the course of these mutual consolations we happened to get too intimate. But it was indescribably beautiful, and unforgettable.
We did survive the cold winter weather and the brighter February days made possible a longer lasting joint walk. After a while Hilde took me firmly by my arm and said: "You know, Migg, I think I am expecting a child, my periods have stopped."
I dare not describe the powerful medley of feelings I was struck with. Enormous joy and painful remorse reeled in great confusion.
"We will stick together, whatever happens," we promised each other.
It was Sunday. A Brotherhood meeting had been called where we too participated. The meeting started. Hilde and I stood up and I said: "Something happened between Hilde and me that should not yet have happened. We therefore request a personal talk with the servant-of-the-word." Then we left the meeting.
We knew full well that according to Hutterite community rules premarital sex was forbidden. That's why in the Hutterian Bruderhofs they kept short engagement periods of only two to three weeks.
In those days two Hutterite servants had announced a long-stay visit in the Bruderhof. Our confession caused our young servant-of-the-word some distress, as he felt personally responsible for the good order and purity of the community he was in charge of.
Next morning we met with him to discuss our situation.
"There are two options," he said sadly. "As you aren't yet baptised members you can pack your bags and go back into private life; otherwise, you will have to behave like baptised members. In that case I must excommunicate you in the Brotherhood meeting because of your mistake and sin."
As we wanted to hold on to a life in community we decided to accept the latter.
"Then go and pack your things. After you have been banished in the Brotherhood meeting, you will both have to leave the Hof."
We were called briefly into the Brotherhood meeting. There we stood, we two sinners, with guiltily hanging heads. To our left and right sat the Brothers and Sisters with whom we felt at one for always. According to the Hutterite formula of issuing the ban, the -- oh so heavy -- words were uttered: "Because of the sin to which you confessed we give you into the devil's power. May God grant you the grace of repentance."
There were no farewells, no words of acknowledgement. Our suitcases stood ready. Fritz and Adolf, both witness brothers, accompanied us silently into the cold night. After a two hour long march on foot we reached the sparsely lit railway station of Neuhof. The Brothers purchased one ticket for Hilde, destination Vaduz, Liechtenstein and one for London, England, for me.
The train to Frankfurt that was to take me arrived first. I will never forget this farewell, silent, with a dry mouth and a lump in my throat. Hilde's train -- she had to travel via Würzburg to Liechtenstein and the Alm Bruderhof -- went later. For her, this farewell must have been even worse. But one thing we knew very firmly and with great certainty: We belonged together, whatever lay before us. I believe this helped us to survive these terribly difficult hours and days.
The fast train to Frankfurt approached and we had to say goodbye to each other. The two Brothers who had accompanied us remained silent, even a handshake was forbidden in the correct execution of the ban.
I received 25 Reichsmark for expenses for this trip. In those times, travellers could only export 10 Reichsmark so I used my stay in Cologne to buy some writing material. When I came back to board the train with destination Ostende, all I saw was its red tail lights disappearing in the distance!
Fortunately an express train soon travelled in the same direction. But it had only second and first class carriages, and that required a surcharge. Accompanied by a Belgian conductor, I landed in the office of the stationmaster. The few Reichsmark I had left did not quite cover the additional charge. After a while and many "non comprend" on my part they let me go. I just managed to catch the ferry.
I cannot recall the Channel crossing. I guess I slept.
I found my way somehow to Paddington station in London. It was eleven o'clock at night. In my inside pocket I still had a bit of English currency. My parched tongue and throat yearned for a cup of hot tea with milk and sugar, but everything was closed and I dared not leave the station. A few dubious figures were skulking out there. So instead, as a budding mechanic, I spent my time marvelling at the vast, heavy locomotives of the express trains, until finally morning broke and I could board the train that carried me to Swindon-Kembley. A silent Brother met me in Kembley. He took me to the Cotswold Bruderhof.
How Hilde managed to arrive at her destination in Liechtenstein, given that she had to change trains frequently, I did not know. In any case, a successful guardian angel must have accompanied her: She was travelling on a Czechoslovakian passport that, due to the then current political situation, could have created difficulties at the border crossings. At the end of the line someone from the Alm Bruderhof collected her and she was taken to a small log hut, slightly distant from the spa hotel Silum, where she lived on her own, all in accordance with her status as ex-communiqué. The luxury furnishings of these huts, built for spring and summer occupancy, are quickly described: Water was collected from the well somewhere outside; there was a stove fired with wood, with the firewood outside, under the extended front roof. The WC -- no, not water closet -- was a Plumps-Klo [outhouse] in the adjacent cow-stall (and odour-free depending on the wind direction!). The walls were of very old beams, rough but neatly hewn. Any eventual cracks had been stuffed with moss. Wood, irrespective of its age, retains a tiny bit of life; it therefore emanates warmth that is comforting. At nights, notwithstanding, it can make a variety of sounds: Delicate whispers, the gnawing of little mouse-teeth, treacherous sighs of a floorboard underfoot or an outside staircase pounded by mountain boots, soles fitted with nails, and the groaning and moaning of roof beams stressed by violent Fön storms. Hilde had to experience all this too. During the day, of course, it wasn't that bad, but at night when she couldn't fall asleep or when she woke from a nightmare caused by one of these noises -- what then?
Hilde filled those long, dark and lonely hours in the evenings and nights with thoughts towards our future joint life by copying out by hand a number of talks given by Eberhard Arnold. Sadly, this little book, created during endless hours, bound in blue linen measuring 14x18cm, 2cm thick, is somewhat damaged. Since its creation in 1937 it suffered extensive travel and innumerable changes of location: Liechtenstein, England, Paraguay, Uruguay, Germany, Switzerland. In Paraguay it was lucky to survive a fire, but it got nibbled on the spine by termites ? or was it cockroaches? Every single one of the roughly 200 pages is carefully framed by hand with red ink. The headings have been written in a sure hand, in Gothic lettering and in red or black ink. The text itself was written in the old German script and reveals lots of care. She dedicated the book to me, 'Meinem sehr geliebten Migg' ['To my very much loved Migg'], 'zur gemeinsamen Verinnerlichung' ['for our mutual spiritualisation']. Yet ? now, is this lamentable? -- neither of us have ever, singly or jointly, read this book again. Eberhard Arnold's highly intellectual theological thoughts and epistemology was hardly understandable and realisable by us. For us young people, the daily life together, the daily work carried out with so much joy and laughter, was much more important.
Hilde's main meals were placed outside her door. For breakfast she made herself some tea, she kept powdered milk rations and some sugar in tins. There was bread twice weekly, a bit of marmalade in a glass. Butter was an unknown word in those times. Their one cow produced milk for the small children and breastfeeding mothers only. The food was very simple, polenta took turns with rice, in between there were potatoes, and on Sundays they had pasta. Vegetables were scarce too as everything had to be carried uphill from the valley, which particularly in winter was extremely difficult.
The small community up in the Alm had four to six of its Brothers constantly on the road throughout various Swiss cantons. They did door-to-door sales of the Quellen-Verlag [Publishers] books, of a variety of artfully crafted items from the turning shop, and of handcrafted bookmarks.
These bookmarks were made from sheets measuring 1.5x5cm. Various flowers and patterns were drawn on them with fine lines and then sown out with a fret saw. A piece of silk ribbon was slipped through top and bottom slits to give background colour and support. The material was mostly ivory-coloured Galalit, only the most exclusive bookmarks were manufactured from ivory proper. These small handcrafted items were sold for between four and five Swiss Francs.
Hilde learned how to make these bookmarks and became an expert. A flower pattern was created instantly. Then the tiny holes were drilled and cut out with the fine saws. Any rough edges or curves were smoothed down and tidied up with delicate keyhole files. Hilde managed to produce up to five pieces per hour.
It was the times when Austria threw open its doors to the widely spreading National Socialism. How long before tiny Liechtenstein would also be annexed to the Reich? It was a question that became more and more acute with each passing day. Years of lively contact between the community and England's Quaker circles and international conscientious objectors resulted in a number of lecture trips. A few young people from England arrived to get to know life in community and some joined. Sensing that the community's days in Germany were numbered, and based on repeated requests from like-minded people in England, a Bruderhof was founded there. The English Brothers had fostered good relations with the Home Office, the Ministry of the Interior; so the young German men of service age had no difficulties on entry of the country. The newly founded Bruderhof lay in the beautiful Cotswolds region -- we called it Cotswold Bruderhof -- positioned between Swindon, an important railway junction, and the ancient town of Cirencester. It was part of the Ashton Keynes village and consisted of a large farm with a number of houses and a scattering of small cottages, farmhand accommodation.
So that's where I was heading with my small suitcase. I was picked up at the local railway station by horse-cart. But I was not taken into the Hof, I saw the houses only from afar. In a meadow close to a hedge was a small tent, in it a military camper bed, next to it a small wooden crate with a paraffin lamp. In a gap in the hedge on the side that faced the Hof stood a wooden box, open on one side. It was a collection point for food and drink as well as occasional written instructions. Oh well, in olden times, lepers didn't have it much better too, I thought. Still, I did not suffer hunger or thirst. The cook must have had a big, understanding heart. In my three-story cruet-stand I found especially tasty morsels and even a bit of dessert now and then, a comfort in my desolate situation. The high hedges offered sufficient protection for my more earthly needs. A shower facility or bathtub was foreign to me.
My work consisted of a number of clearing jobs in the large fields. I spent much time, mainly evenings and nights, reading the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament story of Job occupied me particularly. I recognised certain parallels between my destiny and my punishment.
More or less once a week a servant-of-the-word or a witness brother dropped by for a talk. They ascertained themselves of how far I had progressed with my penance.
I also had friendly visits from two Old-Hutterite Brothers, David-Vetter and Michel-Vetter. They had come to Europe to see how the small flock was doing after Eberhard Arnold's death. They were present just when the Rhön Bruderhof was raided by SS soldiers and dissolved. Their presence helped to avoid the worst. The Brothers and Sisters with their small children and babies were allowed to cross the border. Three Brothers were sent to jail: Hans Meier, Hans Boller and Karl Keiderling. They were held in the prisons of Fulda. Some refugees found a place in the Alm Bruderhof in Liechtenstein whilst the greater part received shelter in Holland. The new Bruderhof in England had to make space available first.
But back to my imposed existence as a hermit in the wet, cold fields, at night between clammy sheets, reading hours on end by the dim light of a stinking paraffin lamp.
The two Hutterite Brothers seemed to pity me. In their own Hofs, according to their rules, I could have married quite quickly after my repentance. I wasn't told this then, I only found out about it much later.
These two Brothers bought a flock of sheep that I had to herd. They taught me what to look out for:
"Hast du Bienen und Schaf, leg dich hin und schlaf; schlaf aber nicht zu lang, dass dir der Vorteil nicht entgang." ["If you have bees and sheep, lay yourself down and sleep; but do not sleep too long so that benefits won't elude you"]. They said it was a proverb that came from their forefathers and was still valid today. Their Tyrolese dialect had a lot in common with Schwyzertütsch [Swiss German dialect] so we were able to understand each other well.
So now I had suddenly turned into a shepherd!
When finally the Brothers -- not the Hutterite ones -- felt that my period of five months of repentance was enough, I was re-admitted. So I underwent a certain inner liberation.
My Hilde soon arrived in England together with a few other community members. The Alm Bruderhof had to be dissolved too as the Nazis had swallowed Austria by then. Was Liechtenstein next?
One evening Hilde and I were baptised, so we were now full members of the Brotherhood. Next day we drove to the registry office in Swindon where the civil marriage took place. There I learned two new English words when I had to say: "I solemnly declare to take Hilde as my wife." I have never forgotten the "solemnly declare" and its meaning.
As in Hutterite Bruderhofs baptised members are allowed to marry, there remained no obstacles to our own wedding anymore. It took place quietly and discreetly in the closed and intimate circle of the Brotherhood.
A wedding in the Bruderhof was always a welcome occasion for celebrations. The preceding evening -- the so-called 'Polterabend' ['wedding-eve' party] -- offered ample opportunities for sketches about the couple, highlighting weaknesses and strengths of bride and bridegroom, all of it expressed in love songs, theatrical farces and dance. There was much singing that continued into the next day, with children dancing roundelays, with music and celebration.
We had to renounce all of these communal joys. Our honeymoon meant moving in with each other onto the Telling Farm.
The Telling Farm was roughly three kilometres away, an erstwhile manor farm. The ground-floor kitchen housed our first double bed. This large kitchen, rather gloomy because of its tiny windows, became our first family lodgings.
A manor house is not a farmhouse but a kind of villa, the residency of the landlords. As landlords in general were disappearing in the area the community purchased the land and buildings at a favourable price. The dissolution of the Rhön Bruderhof and the closing down of the Alm Bruderhof made the need for accommodation and work opportunities compelling.
Our furniture consisted of a small table, three chairs, an ancient fitted kitchen cupboard and a French bed with springs stiff with age underneath a scanty mattress; for me an enormous improvement after my tent life! Hilde, coming from a frugal background, was also undemanding. On the whole we were happy to be together at long last.
On one side of the kitchen was an immense fireplace, large enough to roast a sheep or ox-quarter on a spit. Once upon a time the large iron hooks embedded in the wall displayed the pots and pans in which soups and stews were cooked for the many field hands. The floor of the kitchen, this our love nest, consisted of large, brown-red floor tiles that were always a bit damp -- they gave instant cold feet. Actually it was the worst place Hilde could be in as her constitution was susceptible to rheumatism.
Yes, as to that love nest: Our nest, the bed, was a generous gift from friends. It suffered from central spring fatigue, that is, we both found ourselves nightly in closest proximity, either side by side or back to back, or in other imaginable positions, often happily, but also frequently disturbing the much needed sleep of the other. All intentions to stay on ones own side so as not to disturb the dear spouse was usually to no avail. Hilde was by then quite visibly pregnant.
We spent our days on the Hof, Hilde working in the sewing rooms while I looked after the sheep or busied myself otherwise agriculturally. The Telling Farm housed a number of families with small children, also some young people and guests who wanted to get to know the life and communal work. For transportation we had an old, covered, spacious and solid wagon; a cart-full of women and children usually made a happy, singing load: "Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen" ["High on the yellow wagon"] or "Hab' mein Wagen vollgeladen..." ["I have fully loaded my wagon..."], and so forth.
Our stay on the Telling-farm did not last long. A highly important event stood at our door, but not unexpectedly.
On the 30th of October 1937, a Saturday, it was my turn as night watchman on the Cotswold Bruderhof. The night was quiet, a light fog enveloped houses and buildings. It must have been around two o'clock that night when a bicycle approached at speed; Hans Meier, my brother-in-law, jumped off.
"Migg, take the bike, go quickly to see Hilde, she isn't well, she has to go to the maternity clinic straight away! I will get a car from one of our guests that can take you to Swindon."
I pedalled off immediately. Hans took over the night-watch duty.
I found Hilde and Margrit Meier packing Hilde's things and the baby clothes. Hilde had already felt the first contractions hours ago but thought they were going to pass. But as the contractions became ever stronger she crept upstairs to Margrit's bedroom to ask for help.
Not long and a car stopped by the gate and we could be off. Luckily there was a telephone on the Bruderhof. On the Telling-farm there was none. Our arrival had already been telephoned through so we were expected. But they allowed only Hilde inside. Only after repeated requests was I allowed to say goodbye to her before her difficult hour arrived. The fact that she was already on the toilet -- on the throne -- didn't bother either of us. I was not allowed to stay. Neither was Margrit. They would let us know, was the advice. Then the door closed.
Finally on Sunday morning, 31st October 1937, the news came: "A baby boy was born to Mrs H. Fischli," and: "Both are well."
That afternoon Walter Braun and I drove to the hospital. Walter's wife, Marei, was there too, with their firstborn. Hilde and Marei were in adjacent beds. Marei understood English, so she translated for Hilde whatever was impossible to convey via mimicry and gestures in this not very everyday situation.
But oh, we proud fathers were not allowed to hold our firstborn! Neither were we permitted to kiss our beloved wives, the happy mothers! We had to greet our dear ones from the other side of a glass wall. There were radiant eyes and joyful faces on this side and that. One nurse was kind and lifted the peacefully sleeping babies out of their cosy cots so that we could look at them more closely.
We gave our son the name of Josef. As it was a somewhat weighty name for such a tiny little boy, he quickly became our Seppli. Later this changed to Seppel. He is still known by this name at sixty years of age, father of four daughters and six sons, grandfather of seven grandchildren. Why Josef? The Nativity story was then and still is important to me. I admired the fact that Joseph cared for Mary who was not bearing his own son, and even today I still find this very moving and think that it is an example of true love.
Once Hilde and our Seppli were finally discharged from the maternity clinic we moved into the main house on the Cotswold Bruderhof into a small, cosy attic that had been decorated and furnished with great care. It was a happy little family nest. At night I was allowed to carry Seppli around in my arms after he had filled his little belly with hungry gulps from his mother's breast. Although his tummy rumbled -- I could feel it -- he resisted letting out the bothering wind until, like a powerful eruption, a white jet of liquid streamed from his little mouth.
"Now he has vomited half of it again," Hilde would moan. Luckily she had more than enough of the nourishing juice. She always feared that he got too little but he developed very well; and I never counted the many sleepless night hours.
The community was able to buy a large farm. Now, extensive meadows and fields had to be managed and tilled. So I had to switch from being a horse driver, stumbling along behind the plough -- there were many stones -- to tractor driver. I had come from the meagre smallholding Rhön Bruderhof to this wide open, ample farm with its heavy machine park that I had to look after and manage. The operating instructions and repair guidelines in English taught me the English names of engines and their parts. I learned a lot too from my work colleagues who were mostly of my own age. Some of them were conscientious objectors who instead of hanging around in prison completed their service by working with us.
So here again I landed in agricultural work. I experienced in close-up where bread comes from. Even today I can still smell the scent of the soil freshly breaking open while ploughing, where what is below is turned and comes to lie on top; the flock of screeching gulls that dive for the wriggling earthworms; then harrowing and preparing the soil for the sowing; the sowing itself, then waiting for the first delicate light-green seedling tips to show. Soon the stalks will stretch towards the sun, towards the light, swaying elegantly and gracefully in the wind. Isn't it marvellous to see the millions of panicles hang their delicate anthers exactly at the same time into the wind so that one of the pollen particles my find an expectant pistil, thus making the creation of a new corn-offspring possible. All this, to be followed later by the harvesting, cutting and tying of sheaves and lastly the threshing. I drew much strength there, even well before I ate the bread made from the corn created thus.
I had two memorable experiences while I was ploughing with the tractor. The first: One cool autumn afternoon, above the purring of the engine, I heard from afar the multisonant barking of a pack of hounds. I see! It's a foxhunt! On the hill in the distance the hunters appear in their colourful frocks, in front of them the excited pack of hounds. Along the field of pungent fodder cabbage I had only just ploughed a few metres of freshly turned soil. Suddenly the poor, chased fox appeared from among the thick, waist-high cabbage foliage. With one leap he jumped in front of the tractor into the fresh furrow and ran along it, protected from view by the near hedge, and away he was.
Smiling, I continued to plough, covering the fresh fox trail with new earth. The yelping pack came closer. Soon they were searching, panting, their noses to the ground, scampering busily through the cabbage field. Finally they gave up, and the hunt was called off. So, foxes are that clever!
The second experience was a sad one. The threatening clouds of the Second World War were now also endangering England ever more strongly. The RAF (Royal Air Force) built three military airstrips around us, at a distance of around ten miles. The spitfire fighter planes rose high in daily practice flights, in pretence air fights, with hair-raising nose-dives. Their howling engines drowned out even the sound of the tractor with their subsequent vertical climb into the skies.
Once during one of these practices one plane came straight down and hit the ground. There was an explosion, a jet of flame, then a column of smoke. A young pilot had sacrificed his life for the god of war. Died for the fatherland, that's what they call it afterwards.
Our Seppli was one-and-a-half years old when on the 8th of June 1939 his little sister Susanna Magdalena was born.
In the meantime we had built four bungalows on the Hof. One for the school, one for the kindergarten, one for the toddlers and one as a mother-and-baby-house. So she was born on the Hof and this time I was not locked out as when Seppel arrived at the maternity clinic.
Our Sanneli's first years of life caused us no problems, whilst things for Seppli had been much harder. She soon was a jolly, contented, roly-poly little person with dimples in her elbows and grooves on her wrists.
How strange are life's changes! Later, Seppel's life flowed along rather calmly and steadily, whilst Susanna made battle with a multitude of problems and difficulties which bestowed her with a strong personality.
Name Withheld, 9/1/00: The Small Quiet Voice to the Head Guru, Prophet and Manager of the Bruderhof:
May God Almighty, through His wisdom, inspire you, Johann Christoph
Arnold, head and Elder of your corporation registered as "Bruderhof",,,
to understand and take to heart the following statements made by the prophets
Moses, Isaiah, by St. James and St. John, according to the Bible: --
v.7: If there be among you a poor man of one of the brethren
within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy
God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut
hand from thy poor brother. --
v. 8: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. --
v. 9: Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand," and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and that thou givest him naught and he cry unto the Lord against thee and it be sin to thee. --
v. 10: Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him, because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. --
v. 11: For the poor shall never cease out of the land, therefore I command thee, saying, "Thou shalt open Thy land wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. --
v. 7: Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou
bring the poor hat are cast out to thy house, when thou seest
the naked that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself
from thine own flesh? --
James 2 --
v. 15: If a brother or sister be naked or destitute of daily food, --
v. 16: And one of you say unto them, "Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled," notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body, what doth it profit? --
1. John 3
v. 17: But whose hath this world's goods, and seeth his brother
have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how
dwelleth the love of God in him? --
"Behold: there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good and sinneth not." - Ecclesiastes 7, v. 20
David Ostrom, 12/8/00: AT LAST!!!! I found the file of papers that included the much contested Novice Vows.
Acceptance into the Novitiate of Dave Ostrom
1. Do you recognize the way of Discipleship of Jesus, the way of unity and love in the Church Community as the true way to which you are called to God? --
2. Do you wish to surrender yourself to this way completely, with all your strength, time, gifts and property? --
3. Is this your commitment irrevocable, and is it your will to stand together with your brothers and sisters faithfully, bearing with them joy and sorrow, good and evil days, in unbreakable loyalty to God and the Church Community? --
4. Do you feel fully responsible that the right Spirit prevails on the whole Bruderhof, be it in your own work department, your family or wherever it may be? Are you willing both to accept and use the brotherly word of admonishment and correction in the spirit of humility, as a means to fulfill this responsibility? --
5. Will you uphold the principles of community of goods, non-resistance, purity in human relations and truthfulness, and are you ready to suffer persecution rather than deny them? --
6. Are you ready to be used by the Church Community in whatever capacity or in whatever place, wherever your work shall be most needed? --
7. Do you recognize that in fulfilling your pledge and commitment you have to rely, together with your brothers and sisters, solely on the strength and power from God, on the love of Jesus Christ, and on the grace of the holy Spirit? Do you feel the growth of this living faith in you, which is active in Love?
As I stated before, this does not commit the individual to God, rather to God through the Church and as we have experienced, the Church is the Heini/Christoph Arnold interpretation of God's will.
I support the thesis of Arnold interpretation by citing two very subtle but critical sections of the Vows. Question 4, second part. "Are you willing both to accept and use the brotherly word of admonishment and correction in the spirit of humility, as a means to fulfill this responsibility?"
Note the sentence structure here, and the word use. One can assume it to mean use the brotherly word .... to help another brother or, use the brotherly word to correct one's own faults. In the latter case, the common brothers have no right to speak up, only the Arnold-designated leaders have that right.
The second section is Question 3: --
"Is this your commitment irrevocable, and is it your will to stand together with your brothers and sisters faithfully, bearing with them joy and sorrow, good and evil days, in unbreakable loyalty to God and the Church Community?"
As our attorney pointed out, the only binding portion of this vow is this section. Specifically the italicised portion. If this were a true Christian vow it would stop at God. However, the BCinNY Inc, then known as the Society of Brothers, added the "and the Church Community". The Church community, by definition in this case, is the Society of Brothers/BCinNY Inc. JCA is now the Supreme Ruler of this little empire with a few I/A's in the form of the Domers, Keiderlings, and a very few select others. It is not a church in the Christian sense, rather a social organization. Respectfully,
The AFF 2001 Annual Conference will be held Thursday,
Friday & Saturday, May 3-5, 2001 a the Holiday Inn at Newark, New Jersey Airport
Program includes a pre-conference workshop for Former Group Members (10:00 - 5:00; with optional
evening session) on Thursday, May 3;
Friday: A workshop for Families and Friends (10:00 - 5:00). Program includes, Cults, Conversion, Science, and Harm (Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.); Cults, Culture, and Human Rights (Randy Kandel, Ph.D., J.D.); After the Cult: Spiritual Issues (Craig Branch, Coordinator); Social Influences on Youth (Dean Borgman, M.A., CAGS); Cults Around the World (Mike Kropveld, Coordinator); Problems in New Catholic Movements (Peter Malinoski, Ph.D. Candidate, Coordinator; Ray Dreitlin, Ph.D.; Fr. Michael Duggan, Ph.D.; Fr. James LeBar); Cults and New Religious Movements: Sociological Perspectives (Stephen Kent, Ph.D. and Benjamin Zablocki, Ph.D., Coordinators; Dianne
Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves (Steven Hassan, M.Ed., LMHC.; Discussants: David Clark; Linda Dubrow, Ph.D.; Steve Dubrow-Eichel, Ph.D., ABPP); Conversion Experiences: Positive Accounts (Joseph Szimhart, Coordinator) Sociological Research: An International Perspective (Jean-Francois Mayer, Ph.D.)
Saturday, May 5: Cult Members Reflect on The Family's Experience (Livia Bardin, M.S.W., Coordinator); Cults and New Religious Movements: Psychological Perspectives (Rod Marshall, Ph.D. and Peter Malinoski, Ph.D. Candidate, Coordinators; Lois Kendall, B.Sc., Jodi Aronoff McKibben, M.S., Ph.D. Candidate, Jonibeth Whitney, M.A., Ph.D. Candidate); Cults and the Law: Practical Issues (Marcia Rudin, M.A., Coordinator; Robin Boyle, J.D., Randy Kandel, Ph.D., J.D., Herbert L. Rosedale, Esq.); Cults: A Thirty-Year Retrospective (Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D.)
Registration includes conference fee only. All
meals are optional. (Less expensive meals are available in the hotel restaurant.) Attendees need to make their own hotel reservations and pay the hotel directly for their rooms and non-conference meals. Ask for the special AFF room rate ($89.99 plus tax per night; 973-589-1000). Discounts and "scholarships" to people needing financial assistance.) Contact: AFF, P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 34133 (fax: 941-649-2267; e-mail: email@example.com).
Governmental Responses to Cults (Michael
Kropveld, Coordinator); Conversion Experiences: Negative Accounts (Lorna Goldberg, M.S.W., Coordinator; Maureen Griffo, Mary O'Connell); Developing Accountability Mechanisms in Cults (Benjamin Zablocki, Ph.D. and Stephen Kent, Ph.D., Coordinators; Janja Lalich, Ph.D.); Born and Abused in Cults (Carey Bowen, Coordinator; Arnold Markowitz, M.S.W., C.S.W.; Rev. Robert Pardon)
Thought Reform Consultation (David Clark, Carol Giambalvo, Joseph Kelly, Patrick Ryan, Hana Whitfield, Jerry Whitfield); Methodological Recommendations Regarding Scientific Research on Cults (Jodi Aronoff McKibben, Ph.D. Candidate; Discussants: Arthur Dole, Ph.D.; Peter Malinoski, Ph.D. Candidate; Benjamin Zablocki, Ph.D.)
Keynote Address: Conversion in Aum Shinrikyo Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. "Coordinators" are organizing programs for which all speakers may not have been identified at time of printing.
`Holiday Inn North (160 Frontage Road, Newark, NJ 07114) is conveniently located in northern New Jersey, a short distance from New York City, near Newark Airport. Ask for the special AFF rate of $89.99 plus tax when you call to make your reservations (973-589-1000; fax: 973-589-2799). The special rate may not be available after April 19th, and other functions may result in a shortage of rooms. So register early!
Transportation. Free airport shuttle leaves approximately every 10 minutes from Station E at Newark Airport. Cab fare from the airport to the hotel is approximately $12.