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

· P.O. Box 460141 · San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 · telephone: (415) 821-2090 · FAX (415) 282-2369 · http://www.matisse.net/~peregrin/

KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)

EuroKIT: Joy Johnson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joan Pavitt Taylor

The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.

Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe


Wishing all KITfolk and friends a Very Happy 1998! May it bring a tidal wave of understanding -- and a lessening of paranoia -- across the entire planet! Also, many many thanks for all the contributions and subscriptions -- please keep them coming in!

The Whole Kit And Caboodle

Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER

-------- Table of Contents --------
Stanley Vowles to J. Christoph Arnold
Ramon Sender
Johann Christoph Arnold to KIT
Erna and Werner Friedemann
Melchior Fros to J. Christoph Arnold
Name Withheld
Glen Greenwood
Melchior Fros (posted on the Hummer)
Hilarion Braun
Hilarion Braun (to Woodcrest)
Hilarion Braun (Mexico Trip)
Looking Back
Name Withheld
The Daily Mail
ITEM: Letter to The Hartford Courant
Name Withheld
Barnabas Johnson
Blair Purcell
Paulo Allain
Hannah Goodwin Johnson - 'Psyche'
Melchior Fros - 'Maria'
Ruth Baer Lambach - 'Pomona'
Josh Maendel
Renatus Kluver, 11/30/97
Renatus Kluver, 12/5/97 -
Renatus Kluver, 12/23/97 -
Name Withheld - 'A Jaguar Story'
Chris Zimmerman - Book Review
Monika and Balz Trumpi celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary on the 31st of December! Congratulations! You are setting quite a pace for the rest of the married folks! Now let's aim for the 70th
ITEM: The EuroKIT as previously planned will not be able to go ahead due to Rookwood School's unavailability.
Erratum: In the November issue's letter from Stanley Vowles (see p. 8.) his sentence starting in paragraph 2, line 3, should read: "While I do not agree with all that I read in KIT -- how could it be otherwise? -- there is enough confirmation in it from diverse sources as to there being a considerable modicum of trouble truth contained therein..."
Hans-Joerg Meier has written to say how very moved he is by all the love and support shown to him by so many. He has started chemotherapy. Contact KIT if you can contribute to the medical costs. Lucrezia reports that he is happy with all the mail and messages from old friends from the past.
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Stanley Vowles, to Johann Christoph Arnold, 11/25/97: Dear Johann Christoph, it would appear you have expressed some sort of forgiveness for Ramon Sender and maybe others. Now what does this consist of? Are these empty words? Or some action that goes right to the heart of the matter? For example, the withdrawal unconditionally of the suit brought against him. I can think for you this will be very difficult, implying as it does a measure of humility of which, on the present showing and historically, you do not appear to have a very great measure.

Now, this is no sort of accusation but, as we are admonished to do, to speak words of reproval to your brother in love and compassion, in the hope that he will hear and act accordingly. You have quite an opportunity and responsibility to give a lead to those who seem to think that they are doing no wrong in bringing lawsuits and restrictions on those who only wish and long for the best for the Church.

What can courts of law know about the practice of love? Very little, if anything. If they show evidence of it, that is incidental and almost accidental, seeing how courts are constituted, based on law, on 'yes' and 'no,' and restrictions of one sort and another, with confrontational and controversial attitudes at their center.
This may be more or less alright for those merely wanting to score points and 'win' debates. It is no good for those who claim their lives and activities are based on love, on that overworked, marginalized and denigrated quality which is only partially understood by so many, yet by its very emphasis, showing how everyone recognises some of its aspects.
This begs the question: "Well, do I understand all of its implications?" Of course not. No one individual can. Yet I comprehend enough to know, see and have experienced that to prevent, threaten or otherwise debar those who would seriously wish and long to sit down with you, and maybe others, and discuss outstanding questions in an atmosphere of sharing, is an aspect of love which, up until now, has not been afforded to those who long to avail themselves of it.
So who am I to comment on these things? Ah, no one, yet I did spend fifteen years in the communities and I can modestly claim to have some understanding of how love works. Certainly not along the lines that you and others, up to now, practice. This is on the evidence.
Alright, so Ramon and others, according to you, may not have acted rightly on some issues. Do you not see the possibility for this could well arise from exasperation, restriction as to what they wish in all honesty and rightness to do, or from an inherent human weakness that we are all subject to? However, for the strong it is incumbent upon them to help and uplift the weak. We are all so constituted that we have strengths and weaknesses. As it was claimed at times, "We all sit on the same bench." Is it not said there is joy in heaven for every sinner that repents? That he who is without sin cast the first stone? What happened? All the accusers quietly dispersed. So are we not all in the same boat? I look forward to hearing the good news that all who can, are able and want to, resolve the present and past divisions and difficulties in a mutually forgiving, practical atmosphere.
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Ramon Sender, 12/19/97: Judy and I went to New York on Dec 17 for the deposition that I was scheduled to give on the Bruderhof's copyright lawsuit. Stephen J. Obie from the law firm of Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson (who were most ably defending us pro bono on both Bruderhof lawsuits) and I sat from 9 to 5 in their attorney's office (with a break for lunch), me answering questions and commenting on various documents that their attorney presented. Joe Keiderling also attended the session and, at the end of the day, said something to me about how he wished that I had a more accurate picture of what the Bruderhof was really like.
Returning Saturday morning for a scheduled second day of questions, my attorney was informed by theirs that the Bruderhof had decided to withdraw the copyright infringement action as well as the appeal of the dismissal of the defamation case. Of course I was surprised, delighted and relieved! Joe Keiderling offered me a card from Christoph, addressed to "Ramon Sender, Blair Purcell, Chris Winter, Danny Moody and everyone at Kitt. Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings". The message read:
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Johann Christoph Arnold: Christmas, 1997
Dear Ramon Sender and all at KIT:
The Christmas message is Peace and Good Will to all men. This we wish you all in the coming year. As an expression of our love to you all we have decided to drop the copyright infringement action against you. Also the other action which was thrown out of court on a technicality and which we appealed to a higher court, we have decided to withdraw that appeal also. In the new year we are going to stop concerning ourselves with all your postings on the Internet and instead to seek new ways to bring a message of hope, peace and love to all those that really long for that message.
We stretch out our hands to you all that you will help us to bring the joyful tidings of Christmas to as many people as possible, You have really helped us to become famous through all your tremendous efforts. For this we thank you.
Johann Christoph Arnold & Verena
for all the Communities.
Ramon Sender continues: Joe Keiderling went on to say to me that both Bruderhof attorneys thought they had good cases, but the Brotherhood wanted to withdraw as a gesture of good will. I said "Wonderful! I'm delighted it came from the Brotherhood and not just as advice from your lawyers! Now let's continue the dialogue with some neutral professional mediator." Joe seemed to be listening.
I have e-mailed Joe that we go ahead and set up some sort of ongoing dialogue. Currently all Bruderhof e-mail addresses are blocked to me.
I want to take the opportunity to thank Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver and Jacobson, starting with Bonnie Kayatta Steingart who first heard my pro bono request, but especially their attorneys who spent so much effort on our behalf. On the copyright action: Hector Villagra, Stephen J. Obie, Xuan-Thao Nguyen, Jeffrey Sullivan; on the defamation defense, John W. Brewer. Thank you all, very sincerely, from all of us!
ITEM: The U.K. summer get-together for all ex-Bruderhofers' families and friends will be held at Lower Shaw Farm, Swindon, Wiltshire, UK, Friday July 24-Sunday July 26. Watch this space for further details, or phone Ben Cavanna/Joan Pavitt Taylor: 01737 360 797.
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Erna and Werner Friedemann, to Johann Christoph Arnold, 12/20/97: Dear Johann Christoph: As you are the one with the total responsibility for all the present Bruderhoefe, I feel an inner compulsion to write to you personally! I do remember you well from the time when you were still a child and we lived on the same Bruderhof, Ibate, in Primavera. When I read today about your recent actions towards your own members who express concerns, or your own children with questions, I think it is atrocious or, as we say in German, "Es ist eine zum Himmel schreieinde Not!" (A cry of need to heaven above!)
You cannot continue to reject and cast out your members who question certain actions, or teenagers with personal problems due to lack of explaining to them the natural facts of life! Yes, to even bring one of your own children into prison! Poor, poor people -- without financial means for their mere existence and without any idea of the world outside and how to make a living in this strange world.
Does the Brotherhood know and fully support these actions? As a former member, I am quite unable to either understand or comprehend the direction you are leading the Bruderhof today! I knew and remember your grandfather Eberhard Arnold well indeed, and can tell you he would never have acted this way!!
Men today are the same as they were in his time, with the same problems, questions and difficulties. What was very different is that Love and Compassion, Trust and Help was the very foundation and center of our communal life together. Not the isolation and dumping of the individual, taking your hands off them and just letting them go, so to speak, and finally kicking them out into a world they do not understand!
Please consider all these matters! One day, each one of us will have to stand before the Living Almighty God and account for our lives -- what we did, but also what we left undone!
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Melchior Fros to Johann Christoph Arnold, 12-26-97: Dear Christoph: Thank you once again for your Christmas letter to "all at Kitt." As near as I can tell, everyone is relieved by your change of heart and hopeful that positive and helpful Bruderhof/KITfolk interaction can blossom in the barren soil of our present relationship.
It bears repeating that everyone I am acquainted with deeply desires a more trusting, less antagonistic relationship with you, Joe, Christian, Dick and John in particular and the Bruderhof in general. There are a few for whom a future relationship with the Bruderhof seems to be presently beyond their grasp. I would ask you kindly to have compassion for them. Please don't judge them; just love them with "random acts of senseless beauty" such as renewed visitation opportunities to family.
Those of us who try to walk by the teachings of Jesus are indeed heartened by your words that "We stretch out our hands to you all that you will help us to bring the joyful tidings of Christmas to as many people as possible." This I would gladly do, but may I encourage you and us to stretch out forgiving hands to each other first. Can we labor to restore good-will and a workable trust in each other first? Only then can we once again help you in reaching out to others.
As a first step in this direction, could you make a renewed effort to correspond with at least some of us; perhaps Ramon in particular. I would be most glad to hear from you. I respect that you are a busy man, but surely your offer of "Peace and Good Will" deserves renewed efforts to talk to each other.
Thank you, Christoph, for giving these words consideration. I wish you peace,
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Name Withheld, 11/27/97: Occasionally we try to explain to our children why their Oma and Opa are not friendly with us, their parents. It is difficult to do without causing them confusion. We have often wished we could ask Oma and Opa to explain it to our kids. With that in mind, we have asked the kids to put in their own words a message to Oma and Opa about this rift between us. Their words sound like they have a good idea about how people should get along:
One said that he would choose to say nothing at all to them because they won't speak to his mom and dad just because they are friends with people who read KIT and go to Friendly Crossways.
Another said, "If Oma and Opa don't like my mom and dad then I don't like them because it hurts my mom and dad's feelings because my Oma and Opa don't like my mom and dad."
Another said, "Dear Oma and Opa, I know you can't be friends with us because we are friends with somebody else. But I will still be friends with you."
And more... "Why don't you love my daddy? He is your son. Why are you not friends with us if we are friends with Friendly Crossways people? It's not so much to ask but you still should be friends with us even if we be friends with Friendly Crossways people. You can still like us -- we can still like you -- it doesn't matter. We can still be friends. Let's all be family. I will tell my mom and dad to just like you, then maybe Oma and Opa will like my mom and dad. We like you very much, but if you don't like our mom and dad, we can still be friends. It's not so much to ask. "Your grandchildren."
Note: Just to let anybody know who may be wondering, we do not tell the kids that Oma and Opa do not like us, but do tell them that Oma and Opa will not be friends with us, their parents, as long as we are friends with the people at Friendly Crossways. We don't think that is too bad of a way to put it. The kids do get cards and small gifts from them, but they know we cannot visit them, and there has to be an explanation. I, for one, think it should come from Oma and Opa...
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Glen Greenwood, [editorially lost, but recently refound!] 9/20/97: Just a little news that I thought folks might be interested in. On September 13th and 14th, in Canton, NY, my brother Jon Greenwood held an open house for his new 600-stall cow barn. Karen and I and our two boys, along with over 2,000 people over two days, were able to look over the barn and the latest in computerized milking equipment.
The barn is completely new from the ground up, around 71,000 square feet with double 16 parlors. Each cow will be fitted with a computerized collar that will identify the cow as it enters the parlor and will be used to sort cows as they return to the main barn. Each stall has a mattress and rubber in the floor where cows will stand to eat. The mangers are tilted to make eating more efficient. Most of the barn walls have curtains to aid in ventilation and light. There are man walks, and places to clean your boots when leaving the cow area, along with several offices for the vet, herdsman, employee lunch and locker rooms.
All milking equipment is directly under the parlor itself in a basement area. He will have 11,000 gallons of storage for milk. A gravity system provides drinking water throughout the barn from a holding tank in the milk house.
Jon and his wife Linda have gathered ideas for their new operation from all over the U.S., using the latest technology in barns, equipment, and putting it together with a system that will work in their area. The computer system can tracks cows and productions. It can be programmed to sort cows that need attention for breeding or if they are off on production and may need medical attention.
Jon hopes to move the cows in the last week of September because the old barn and system is bursting at the seams. By the end of the year he hopes to be milking 500. The heifers he has been buying over the last year are having calves and are ready to be milked.
Visitors are welcome to see the operation. You can't miss it on Route 310 out of Canton, with "Greenwood Dairy" over the door. Greetings to all,
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Melchior Fros (on the Hummer) 12/21/97: In the Scriptures we have a no-nonsense approach to dealing with our and another's day-to-day shortcomings. We are to go to the person directly. In Matt. 18 we have clear directives as to how to resolve a "problem" that can not be handled one-on-one. We also have Christ's words regarding our need to have a big, forgiving heart. While not explicitly stated in the Bible, human experience tells us that in all of these situations a heart-felt attempt to change wrong behavior is implied. Repentance is a conscious effort to turn away from wrong-doing.
When someone appeals to Christ's words regarding forgiveness while continuing in sinful and unrepentant ways and will not even answer to repeated requests to consider his/her actions, then it may become necessary to shame that person through public exposure. Jesus did as much in confronting hypocritical Pharisaic attitudes and conduct. But there is a danger we face.
When we must confront someone's evil actions in public, we constantly need to search our own hearts and examine our motives. It is very tempting and easy to trash someone by delving into their past and holding up bits and pieces for public scrutiny. The past should be brought up only if it has immediate bearing on present evil behavior, for it takes little effort to portray someone with broad brush-strokes and in the process diminish him sufficiently to fit one's own agenda.
This is exactly what the B'hof leaders have done by continuing to play on Blair's unfortunate choice of words, for which he apologized. Thus, if we allow ourselves to speculate on half-truths we play into the hands of our "adversary" for we show thereby that we are not interested in the truth. In previous discussions we have noted that some of us have struggled to unlearn harmful patterns of speaking that we apparently picked up at the B'hof. Let's not fall back into those now. Let's resolve to speak the truth in love thereby trying to bring about change in what we perceive to be immoral and evil conduct.
The beloved Bruderhof is redeemable. We should make it our aim to help them once again become the NT. example of the Early Church. It is not right to criticize them if we are not sincerely wishing to help them live what they feel called to be.
The dropping of the lawsuit is a hopeful sign that "peace on earth and good will to all men" is still a viable option as we approach the 21st Century. Let's enter the new year full of hope! Best wishes,
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Hilarion Braun, 12/21/97: Bette's piece on solidarity and Renatus' rendition of the Heini saga [in the December KIT] were great and timely.
Recently, I received a very threatening letter from a lawyer allegedly retained by a Bruderhof member. Enclosed was an agreement or contract this attorney asked me to sign and return in order to avoid by inference, being sued by a member of the Bruderhof.
Background: A young woman I know, who alleges that her father abused her while she lived at the Bruderhof, earlier wrote to him asking him to help her find peace. I wrote as well [see letter below], informing this woman's father that I would assist his daughter in getting a new start in life. The response, from the lawyer, indicates that I had accused the father of sexual and physical abuse in my letter. I did no such thing.
The enclosed agreement, or contract -- under the implied threat of a lawsuit -- would require me to state that the accusations (what accusations?) in my letter were false, and to convince the young woman of that and to write letters of apology. I was "required" to return this agreement to the attorneys office by December 5th, 1997.
On the afternoon of December 6th, 1997, someone broke into my residence. Nothing was missing as a result of this burglary -- no stereo, no TV, no cash. The police investigator saw how skillfully the break-in had been accomplished and stated his belief that it had been undertaken by a professional with motivation other than the removal of goods from my home.
The police asked if I had received any threats recently and I then showed them the letter from the lawyer as well as the agreement to remain silent. The local police were referred to the police agencies investigating the allegations of abuse in Connecticut and Pennsylvania (where the abuses allegedly occurred) -- contrary to the Bruderhof's recent statement to the press that no one complaining of child abuse had ever reported abuse to the appropriate authorities. One of the most noticeable characteristics of Bruderhof statements is the false nature and inconsistency relative to Christian witness.
What will be next? To intimidate or threaten someone in order to silence a witness in a criminal investigation has nothing to do with the Sermon on the Mount -- and has, in my opinion, everything to do with criminality. How impure such actions are, and here JCA preaches about purity!
Of course, perhaps the lawyer just made up the story that he had been retained by a Bruderhof member. Only time will tell. How strangely true the words seem now: "The strength of sin is in the law." Yes, the Bruderhof is trying to destroy KIT and has the economic power to do so. Let's see what strength, truth and decency have against the power of money. Imagine for a moment what could be if the "leaders" told the Brotherhood the truth and then stepped aside and allowed decency and love to take their place.
You are right, Norah and Charlie and others who have said it so well. I am a romantic optimist, but even in my most pessimistic moments I want to believe it possible to love Keiderling, Domer and Arnold. I want to believe that the joy, energy and love that went into the rice project in Primavera, and the dedication that went into the Loma hospital are still alive in the Brotherhood. I also want to believe that JCA is old enough to have learned a few things about the limits of propaganda, power and corruption. The nonsense that was babbled in court about David Maendel (recently convicted of extorting money from the Bruderhof) is an insult. He is no danger to anyone, least of all to children. Why didn't the SOB (Society of Brothers -- an older name for the Bruderhof) simply tell him to write his book? They seem to be writing all sorts of books; why should a book by Dave be of any concern to them? I for one would love to read his book (that may be possible).
I had to laugh when JCA forgave Dave. What about Dave forgiving the SOB for keeping him in prison for months and not visiting him -- while they simultaneously visited convicted murderers and campaigned for their release? It seems the SOB has turned the Sermon on the Mount upside down, i.e., the sermon out of the pit!
My hope for all of us is that we not be frightened by the money the SOB is spending in its attempt to destroy KIT, and that we continue to help each other whenever we can. The response and support many of you gave me on this new attempt to silence me is great! It is truly amazing that not even the celebration of the birth of the Messiah can still the wrath and impotent rage of the Bruderhof operatives.
Best wishes to all for 1998 and especially pray for the truth to come out for all to see. One more romantic idiocy of mine: I have this dream of KIT buying and owning Friendly Crossways and turning it into an art festival with space for travelers and seekers to find happiness. Then I also hope for the social security issue to be settled so that the older SOB refugees can retire without starvation. Easy, Charlie and Norah; I'm not crazy, just an optimist!
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Hilarion Braun to the Woodcrest Bruderhof, 9/16/97: Dear Y and X, This is to tell you that I will help D get a new start and to pursue a resolution to issues regarding her past. Her accounts are heart-breaking, and if one compares the story of Z with hers, one quickly sees a pattern -- albeit very understandable. Whatever D chooses is up to her and she will find all the support I and others can give her. If I thought for one moment that she is a liar, I would not support her. You, as members of the SOB, are individually and corporately responsible, just as I am as Hilarion Braun and as the CEO of SCT. X, your behaviour over the phone towards Z was deplorable and well noted. Y, your outburst is typical of your arrogance...
The fact that child abuse is a criminal offense makes dealing with it complex and difficult. D does not wish to see her father imprisoned for what she suffered, but by the same token feels compelled to protect her siblings from further violence. Whatever anger and hatred you, Y, feel for me or others trying to help D, you should freely express. I for one hate none of you. I pity you all for the twisted and pathetic witness you give. You parade your treasured, tortured, ill-informed children on an anti-capital-punishment crusade in which they demand forgiveness for murderers, while you buy handguns, involve the police with mentally unstable victims and sue my friends for supposed copyright/trademark violations. You are truly a pathetic but dangerous group.
Unlike you I am not afraid, nor will I be intimidated by your arrogance and wealth. Ultimately the law of the land, not your law, will prevail, as it has for many years. From my many years of SOB experience, I find D to be very credible. The thrashing of children and the maudlin make-up is a terrible cycle of psychotic indifference, and is fueled by your religious schizophrenia. At the one extreme you believe Christ taught you to love, at the other you have invented a puritanical hysteria that mixes up normal erotic activity with perversion. Children/humans are naturally erotic. They learn to embrace agape as another, but not exclusive element. All the religion in the world will not make this globe of ours flat, nor will it change the facts of life, but it will surely cause much suffering. As you can see, I do not believe that what you represent is even remotely Christian, nor is it good. You have a high rate of attempted suicide, mental illness and depression -- hardly a sign of God-given joy. You have blasted the Hutterites for their impurities while you wallow in muck.
If you cannot deal decently with your children when we call you, then there will be little we can do to help stem the tide toward disaster. Please think this over carefully and put your arrogance away for a moment to let D have a moment of peace. See if you can help her resolve the issues that I for one do not see by our legal system. Do not, however, call her a liar in that reflexive way that came about when Z reported T's crap, only to find out later that he had confessed his groping.
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Hilarion Braun 12/28/97: Susie and I had a very strange experience on our Mexico vacation. We had found out, upon confirming our reservation, that someone had also made a reservation under the name "H. Braun" for dates different by one day later. While having breakfast at the hotel, I noticed a strange couple in front of me. The man was staring at Susie, while the woman sheepishly smiled at me. The two had not finished their meal, but got up and quickly exited. The next morning, Saturday, December 27th, they again showed up for breakfast, behaving very strangely, and finally engaging us in chit-chat by starting out in very poor German. Susie queried the woman about her German, and it seemed better than that of the man. We described the couples appearance to some later Bruderhof refugees and found out that it resembled *&^% and #%%^&&*.
We decided that whatever the strange couple was up to was not going to benefit us, and we abruptly left, loaded the truck, and checked out. I had checked the truck for any unwanted cargo, but not too carefully. About 10-15 miles out of Puerto Penasco, the highway was blocked by about 15-20 soldiers armed with sub-machine guns. The three cars in front of us were allowed to pass, but we were stopped and told that we would be searched for arms and drugs. Strangely the soldier searched only the bottom of the truck, and had no interest in our luggage. Luckily the soldiers found nothing and made strange faces at each other.
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-------- Looking Back --------
From January Issues of Previous Years
January 1990 - from Ramon's "An Open Letter to the Brotherhood": In a recent letter, Tom Potts stated: "Our need is to learn from any of those who left because of our wrong behavior so that we do not repeat our failures. If you run across any specific instances, we would thank you to tell us that we can make any amends possible at this late date."
It encourages us to read that the brotherhood now acknowledges some guilt for their previous judgmental and unloving behavior. Of course in certain instances a time lag of many years has occurred, and younger members cannot be held accountable for the betrayal of trust that happened then. Nevertheless, we still feel that we should ask the full brotherhood: "What specific acts are you willing to perform now in order to undo some of the pain which the Society of Brothers has caused so many?"
We note that there are many elderly ex-members living in poverty without access to Social Security (in the USA) because the Bruderhof did not pay into the system. Also there are parents with many children to support and educate. In some instances they are also paying for psychiatric treatment as a direct result of the emotional abuse the children suffered during their time in the communities. Others suffer from physical disabilities directly or indirectly caused by the heavy labor required of them as Primavera teenagers, the poor diet or other medical reasons, and do not have health insurance to cover the cost of specialized treatment.
No doubt some of these needy individuals will refuse any direct financial assistance from the communities out of their own sense of self-esteem. As someone described it, "Anybody who dared ask for money (from the community) was talked about as if they were the scum of the earth." But there might be a way to set up an assistance fund through some third party whereby ex-members could apply for financial grants-in-aid. Gould Farm might be a possible conduit, for example.
January 1991 - George Maendel: Dear KIT: I was seven years old in the summer of 1956 when the so-called 'children's clearing house' was in operation (I'd never heard this event named before reading about it in KIT). We who were spied upon and reported to be engaging in various proscribed activities, such as watching each other pee or daring to take off our shorts under the covers when we went to bed at night, were isolated from the rest of the children for months, and taken from our normal families. My own family was systematically dismembered, which included sending my parents to Woodcrest and placing the rest of us either in the basement detention center or with other families. Two of my brothers were also sent to Woodcrest, and Mom had the youngest child with her as well. I remember enduring interrogation sessions during which I could only cry and sob. All my normal relationships were suspended as I was kept isolated from the rest of my family and the extended family of which I was a part in the colony. The questioning ended without any sort of resolution, and I was kept isolated from most other members of the group. There were other boys in the basement, but we were not allowed any unsupervised interaction. Later we were allowed to sleep at "home," such as it was, and during the days we used to pack tons of textbooks for shipment to somewhere. It was a very somber and serious time, and we felt like penitent miscreants.
As I see it, my family never recovered fully from this experiences. I do not know how our "crimes" were presented by "them" to our parents, but it was in such manner as made my parents agree that we be separated from them to live in the large basement at another house on the hof. My parents sat on the bed in their room and wept as they agreed to this arrangement. I don't know what they were told that made them agree to such measures. Sometime after I went to live in the basement, my parents and two of my brothers were sent to Woodcrest. I remember standing at the bottom of the basement steps watching my brothers leave.
In all the groveling apologies that various HSOB leaders have made among the Hutterites, what they did to my family has never been mentioned. What happened to my family then, I am still trying to understand and place in some kind of context and time.
January 1992 - Loy McWhirter: ...I don't want to hear horse%%% about how the SOB meant well and maybe if WE talk 'til we're blue in the face (the nebulous WE) they'll become the excellent creatures they're meant to be. Or any more prattling on about how if WE just say it NICELY then they will take us seriously and acknowledge that WE may crawl three paces behind them to the kingdom of their (cramped due to lack of space) heaven. What tired malarky, and if I have to keep hearing THAT loathsome rhetoric, then I reckon you-all will keep getting, if not heeding, my raving FURY on whatever subject sets it off. With LOVE from Loy FOR ALL
January 1993 - Carol Beels Beck: My response to this [Bruderhof] family's most recent letter (mid-October): "You say in your most recent letter: 'I hope you can respect this personal decision on our part' (i.e. not to be involved in KIT). Of course I wish to respect any personal decision you have made. But can you respect my decision to be involved with KIT, and that the question I asked hesitatingly, if you would be willing to share our exchange with others who wish to have a creative, growing exchange, signs of true bridge-building between 'ins and outsiders?'
"Of course I respect your decision, but my honest feelings are sadness that the Brotherhood is doing nothing to help raise the level of exchange in KIT, where it was in part negative and destructive, to one of honest, open sharing and searching "common interests." ...Most have experienced various degrees of trauma and need before leaving the B'hof. KIT is a newsletter for keeping in touch. It's been wonderful for that. I love the lively exchange and getting to know so many one only knew as names. I have also done what I can to express my disagreement with using KIT as a dumping ground for revenge and hatefulness. Many at the KIT conference expressed the same or similar concerns, that it was damaging the image of KIT and the reason for which it was started: To Keep In Touch!
January 1994 - Barbara Taylor Snipes: ...I'm grateful to KIT for this opportunity to express my pain. As time goes on, and I get older and perhaps wiser, I realize more clearly that what matters most in life is love of God and loving relationships between people. Signed pledges or vows to believe certain things seem unimportant if they stand in the way of caring relationships with daughters and sons, siblings, and parents, or the loved ones of one's youth, and of course those close by. A relational attitude toward the world seems important to me. Surely a loving community would reach out to folks of divergent faiths and viewpoints and would respect and value differences. I'm wondering if those of us on the outside are carrying the dark side (the 'shadow,' or the negative energy ) for those in the Society of Brothers. Are we the scapegoats for the insiders who supposedly believe the same way, act the same way, and follow the leadership of those in power? Are they unable to recognize that this repressive, exclusionary way of life is in itself a sin against God and against those that are not allowed to visit or express different points of view? Could it possibly be loving to refuse to shake hands?
I'm concerned that I may not hear of my sisters' deaths. (They are both in their 70's). I'm saddened that my children will never know their cousins (except in that very superficial, external-visiting, Bruderhof way) and only in that way if we make the effort. There are now quantities of first cousins once removed and second cousins, Hinkeys, Kurtzes and Snipes, who may never even meet. Is it possible that we would not be told of their deaths?
I am aware that this letter may be viewed as a work of the Devil trying to destroy community. I hope that the great goodness and value in the community can continue. I pray that the rigidity and hurtful actions can be transformed into openness and acceptance of those who are led in different directions.
January 1995 - Nadine Moonje Pleil: I noticed that Konrad Kluver is not in agreement about using the expression "Plain People" and that nobody has disagreed with it. Well, Konrad, I have used the expression to exhibit the fact that we were treated that way. I do not condone that expression! I wanted to show how the Upper Echelon, the Servants of the Word, thought and think of us. Some were more equal than others. Read Animal Farm and you will know what I mean. I do not accept the way we were treated. I was always one to speak up against such treatment until I got squashed by the Servants of the Word. So enough explanation!
As time goes on, I become more and more appalled about the horror stories I hear, which seem to constantly come from the Commune. I thought life was terrible when we still lived in the Commune and did not think it could be worse. However the stories coming to light now are so terrible that it is hard to believe that a Christian community can act so coldly, towards young people in particular. Of course I should have known. I had enough experiences from my life in the Commune. Where is love, where is compassion, and where is a listening ear?!
Duffy, I am glad to hear that you experienced some love from the Commune. In my book I describe the good times I experienced in the Commune. That, however, does not cancel out the heart's anguish I and my family experienced. When KIT publishes things about the Commune which are negative, it does not mean that KIT wants to destroy them. I, for one, am not out to destroy them.
However, why is it that the Commune is always right? When we try to challenge them on something, we really never get a clear and straight answer. We are told, "We cannot remember," or "It had to be challenged," or "Ausschluss had to take place. There is no life without Ausschluss!" Some people always seem to be on the receiving end in regard to being shunned. The Elder never, ever, makes a mistake! Are we not all human? I, for one, if I have made a mistake, will gladly apologize for it. Out family did everything to be in good graces, but it was all to no avail. Once you are labeled, you are labeled! One never gets free of the stigma. At least we never did, and that hurt. Our children suffered under that stigma. We had to be sent away to be free of it all.
January 1996 - Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe: This brings me back to the 'inconsistencies' in his [Christoph's] talk with Mary Richardson during the TV interview in 'Chronicle.'
1: To the question about wiretapping, JCA answers:
"No, I had nothing to do with it! "
He then continues, and this is the first inconsistency: "But you would like to know what's happening, wouldn't you, if people get together about your family and so on? So we're also human beings, who make mistakes."
So he did know!!
2: To the question about his application for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Christoph answers:
"It's an American right, isn't it?" (He then explains that he just filled in what 'everybody' fills in on the form.)
Inconsistency: "I only applied for the gun permit to protect the Community from rabid animals!" This with a .44 Magnum, a murder weapon.
3: To the question about Susanna Zumpe's departure from the Bruderhof "Did you know about this?" Christoph answers:
"A little bit, but not enough. That happened in one of the other communities."
This is a real lie. Susanna left from Spring Valley Community and had a talk with Verena and Christoph the evening that she actually left. Christoph asked her whether she would show her legs -- to see if she was shaving her legs. He told her that if she left, she would most certainly become a prostitute and die of AIDS!
To the more direct question about Susanna being molested in the shower by a baptized brother, Christoph just comments:
"I have read some of the things Susanna has said in KIT [so he must read KIT] and think she is really exaggerating a lot." So once again, the version of the Bruderhof child in the outside world is not taken seriously at all, but wiped away as 'exaggeration.'
4: To the question about exclusion. Christoph replies:
"In the outside world, if a child does not listen to Papa and Mama, don't they say 'You are out of here if you do not abide by our rules?' But the minute where we feel a new beginning, we welcome them with open arms!"
This is just not true. For thirty years we have tried everything -- except rejoining the Bruderhof -- to come to a peaceful and friendly relationship with my family, but the more you give in to their ways, the more they ask in an attempt to actually make any kind of relationship impossible.
5: To the question about breeding attack-dogs, Christoph replies:
"No, it's just a sport. For Germany, it's like the World Series, or the Superbowl. We just like to train them."
Inconsistency: The shepherd dog's name is 'Kit,' and you can hear Christoph giving his orders to 'dog Kit' in a most aggressive manner, which makes me feel the aggression he must feel for us. He continues:
"I feel very sorry for them (the people of KIT), because actually, deep down, they love the community. Yet they do not want to take the commitment on themselves. And sad to say, most of them live a pretty messed-up life. Jesus says you should rejoice when you are attacked. So we're actually rejoicing. We must be doing something right!"
But we are not attacking them in any way at all!
6: To the question about the Gulfstream jet and the vow of poverty, Christoph answers:
"Yes, we live in good times, a lot better and... good times make bad Christians, and we have to careful. But... I'm still proud of the jet!!
This is so contradictory that it needs no comment.
7: To the question, "Do you believe in democracy," Christoph answers:
"No! But we are thankful for democracy. Democracy is better. We have lived under Hitler, so democracy isn't all bad, but democracy can be a tool of Satan. It can hide other evils."
The Bruderhof believes in the dictatorship of the Holy Spirit, or that is what they used to believe in. I feel that they believe that the Holy Spirit is personified in their leadership -- in Johann Christoph Arnold -- and anyone who expressed any doubt at all in the JCA leadership, 'doubts the Holy Spirit' and therefore is "out!" This is a very serious matter and we should continue to question the leadership and hopefully, one day, we will be heard by someone from 'within' whose feelings and beliefs correspond with ours.
So much for the video! I do hope that one day the ears and hearts of our home and families will be open once more.
January 1997- "Of Family, Spirituality and Power" by Richard Weizel, The New York Times, Sunday, 12/8/96: ...Many former members say they were forced to leave without explanation, and that even when they are given reasons -- or when they choose to leave on their own -- they are abandoned with little or no money, no job skills or training, and often cut off from their entire families.
They describe being severely punished or shunned for expressing even the mildest forms of rebellion or sexual curiosity. They also claim that the commune's public posture of equality for all its members is a facade, with different sets of rules for leaders and followers.
They say that when they tried to set up a toll-free hot line a few years ago for former members seeking counseling, they were harassed with thousands of calls from Bruderhof members, who also distributed the number as an adult hot line number that led to hundreds of phony calls. Bruderhof leaders don't deny the charge. But they say that while they asked members not to harass the hotline, they could not control everyone.
"They're just a bunch of religious phonies who try to control everything and everyone in the community, and if you don't fall in line, watch out," said 18-year-old Susie Zumpe, the youngest of 11 children who has been banned from the Bruderhof and disowned by her parents for being defiant and challenging what she considers the commune's rigid hierarchy. "There's no individual expression allowed at home or in school," she said, "and it's ironic that they're so obsessed with sexual purity because there's all kinds of abuse that goes on."
Ms. Zumpe's father denies the accusations and insists that his daughter is lying and needs help.
"I don't know why she's trying to destroy our life here, but its all lies," said Benjamin Zumpe, who has lived in the community his entire life. "We don't have any problem with her leaving the community, but these are very hurtful things she is saying about a lifestyle that we hold dear, and we just want her to stop saying them."
Clara Arnold, 19, a former member whose great-grandfather Eberhard Arnold founded the commune in Germany during the 1920s, agreed with Ms. Zumpe: that it is a community were nonconformity is not tolerated, and equality is spoken about, but not practiced. Her father, Lucas Arnold who now resides at the Pleasant View, NY, Bruderhof, held a leadership position that gave her family special privileges, she said.
Ms. Arnold said the community does a good job of presenting a positive public image--having even hired a Manhattan public relations firm, the Weiser Walek Group, to promote its business interests and fend off negative questions about the community.
Ms. Arnold said the Bruderhof leaders, "say young people are free to leave," but that such leaving is undertaken at very high cost: "losing contact with your family, and being forced into the outside world with no money or earning power."
Bruderhof leaders strongly deny there is rampant abuse, though they acknowledge there have been instances of abuse, dealt with internally, though they refuse to say how.
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Name Withheld, 11/24/97: The enclosed article from The Daily Mail [from Hunter Township and surrounding areas in New York State] may be of interest to KIT readers. The Catskill Bruderhof, which made every effort to endear themselves when they first arrived, is now showing its true colors and is becoming disliked.
They allegedly refuse to pay any of their taxes [The Bruderhof currently is appealing its tax assessments], while all the time making use of all the services the local towns provide for their residents. Property and school taxes are needed to make the infrastructure work. The Bruderhof wants to be serviced, but refuses to share the cost. They managed to finagle free school lunches for their kids because their parents draw no salaries, or at least show only poverty-level income. The Bruderhof has no shame in stealing from the public, which is what all of this amounts to.
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The Daily Mail
"Hunter Town Hears Pledge Of Allegiance Complaint"
by Jim Planck, 11/20/97:
HUNTER - A member of the Town of Hunter's Hutterian community has asked the Town Board to "Discontinue the use" of the Pledge of Allegiance to open its meetings. Catskill Bruderhof resident Martin Huleatt told board members the pledge "is a personal affront to my religious beliefs," adding that "the use of God's name in the Pledge of Allegiance is inappropriate."
Huleatt said that the Fourth Commandment's prohibition against misusing the name of God is broken "every time the Pledge of Allegiance is spoken" because "the god currently followed by this country is not the god of liberty and justice."
Huleatt went on to blame America for the deaths of Iraqi children because of oil sanctions, arbitrary executions of American prison convicts to further political careers, the "murder" of children by legalized abortion, Vietnamese and Iraqi civilian deaths during the Vietnam and Gulf wars, and that Martin Luther King Jr. "was killed at the direction of this government."
"The god of blind patriotism," said Huleatt, "is responsible for Auschwitz and Bergen-Belson, and the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, Serbia and Somalia. Is this the 'god' meant in the Pledge of Allegiance?" he asked.
Huleatt said that if state law requires the use of the pledge, then "there is a moral law higher than state and national law" which dictates that it should not be used.
Town Supervisor Anthony Bucca told Huleatt that he was "proud to be an American and to support our country," and saw no problem with the pledge.
Councilwoman Pat Guarino added, "I agree with you (Bucca) 100 percent," and was more direct, telling Huleatt, "If you're not happy here, go somewhere else and you won't have to say our pledge."
Bruderhof residents regularly participate in national and regional anti-death penalty protests, and have traveled to such places as Cuba and the Crimean Peninsula on humanitarian and fact-finding missions.
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ITEM: The Hartford Courant, on the 11/12/97 Letters To the Editor page, ran a response from Johann Christoph Arnold under the title "News Story About The Bruderhof Was Superficial."
In the letter, Christoph said that the October 30th article "Bruderhof to Close Norfolk Commune" [see KIT IX #11, p.2] was "superficial." He pointed out that the Bruderhof merely leases a Gulfstream jet and does not own it. He also corrected the total population of "about 2,500" quoted in the article (the Bruderhof's own figure on their Internet page) to 3,000.
Of the $20 million gross annual total quoted for Bruderhof businesses, Christoph pointed out that if the 30 percent profit was divided among the households, it would show that the Bruderhof lives below the poverty level. "The reason we do so well with so little money is that we live communally, combine our resources, and open them up to our neighbors and anyone else who would like to visit and work with us."
He also called it 'absurd' that he was the main decision-maker in the Bruderhof (in consultation with an "executive group called Servants of the Word"). He pointed out that in the past two years he has written four books, is working on a fifth, and spends the rest of his time "lecturing all over the country. In other words, I have absolutely no time or interest in making decisions for anyone. I hardly have time to make decisions for myself."
He invited everyone to come and visit, citing the joy that they experience in one another, in their children, old people and the disabled. "We also have great joy in our neighbors surrounding our eight communities. We would like to get to know each one individually. It is this joy of doing something for the country and for our neighbors that keeps us going."
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Name Withheld, 12/3/97: I am writing 'Name Withheld,' although some may know me well enough to figure out who I am. But I do want to ask this anonymously out of respect for some others. So, I have a question. How does one learn to stop communicating in the way someone described, that of giving a certain slant to a story, omitting essential details that would serve to give a fuller, more honest account of a situation? I believe that someone else also described a similar style of communication, and put it very well -- so well that I recognized the style of communication quite easily through my experience with Bruderhof people. It is almost as if they think that if they eliminate certain essential details, while still giving a thumbnail sketch of a situation, that they can get away with a lot more than the listener is able to anticipate from the thumbnail sketch, but yet will not be able to accuse them of lying. They tell you part of the story, but not the whole story. Then they go out and do a whole lot more than what they actually let on they were going to do, but they are not lying, because the listener should be expected to extrapolate and encompass all possible slants and twists that might be possible to reach. The problem that I see with this is that it is essentially and intentionally deceitful and extremely harmful to developing and maintaining trusting relationships.
How many ex-bruderhof/civilian marriages or other significant relationships have suffered from this trickery in communication? How does one stop doing it? How does one help another to stop doing it? How does one make the "do-er" recognize that they are doing it and get them to see how fatal it is? This particular trait is one that I recognized long ago and have articulated to friends as a real concern for me, but until recently I felt like I was the only one who saw this or experienced it. Those of you who have recognized this before and have dealt with it successfully, either from the "do-er" side, or the recipient side, how do you fix it? I believe that it is important to say what I mean and mean what I say, and this is a big issue to have, to feel tricked or betrayed in even everyday communication to the point that it is never clear what the hidden agenda of the day is. Every day. All situations.
As I said earlier, this is fatal to any attempt to establish and maintain trust. I honestly believe that if this double-talk would go away, maybe other things could heal. Well, enough said about this. I hope for a little input, but just so you know, this is written by somebody who is really in a lot of pain over this issue and what it has done in the lives that are closely impacted by it. Like I said, some will be able to know who this is from, but pretend that you don't. Thank you for any ideas on improving this problem,
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Barnabas D. Johnson, 12/22/97: After almost four decades of trying to figure out what is going on in the former Soviet Union, and what is going on in the Bruderhof, I have become fairly adept at the finer arts of reading tea leaves and organizational entrails, etc., but the fact is that I am utterly perplexed about what is going on right now within the various strata of Bruderhof governance.
For example, do the ordinary members now know that "we" -- former members, etc. -- did not sue them, but, rather, that they -- their leaders -- sued us, their legitimate critics? Do they know that Ramon has consistently denied saying anything to the effect that he is or ever was out to destroy the Bruderhof so long as it follows Christ?
Do they know about threats of new Bruderhof-initiated litigation at the very moment when, supposedly in the spirit of the Season, the Bruderhof leadership has (apparently) agreed to drop their current litigation? Do the ordinary members have any idea that the recent $15 million defamation suit against critics was thrown out prior to the Bruderhof's decision to "drop" it -- i.e., not to proceed to an appeal?
Do they know that I, a lawyer, the son of the member-lawyer who found the Woodcrest Bruderhof location and drew up the Bruderhof's organizational papers in the United States in 1954, advised KIT and Peregrine that our newsletter was entirely within its legal rights -- indeed, within KIT's and Peregrine's legal obligations -- to publish the very materials and do the very things that the Bruderhof sued over? Ramon, KIT, and Peregrine acted in good faith based on my legal opinion -- which I believe was correct, indeed unassailable -- that such publication was legally privileged, etc. Do members know that?
Do the members, in short, have any idea how wrong their leaders were in initiating those suits?
My hunch is that they are just now finding out, and that the current "crisis" -- if such there is, and I think the tea leaves suggest a major crisis -- is to some extent due to that recent discovery. Just a hunch.
To you who run the Bruderhof and read this material: Are you not ashamed to have kept members so woefully uninformed, misinformed? Why do you keep cannibalizing the truth and demonizing us, your critics, with lies that our friends and loved ones on the hofs have no choice but to believe? You have hurt us terribly, again and again, yet make a fetish out of "rationalizing" this hurt with arguments which, surely you realize, will some day have to be answered for -- arguments based on self-serving lies, including the assertion that individual criticisms of the Bruderhof, communicated to members by former members following an early KIT conference, represented the "official position" of KIT and Peregrine rather than, as we explained at the time, and again and again thereafter, a mere collection of individual opinions which some or many attending that conference disagreed with. You leaders demonized us on the basis of a lie, and we have never had the chance to communicate the truth to all those whom you thus misled, the ordinary members. It is monstrous.
Dropping these suits does not come close to rectifying matters. You must allow us to communicate to our friends and loved ones on the various hofs, to tell them the truth and rebut your lies. Sincerely,
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Blair Purcell, 12/22/97: One of the tragedies of Bruderhof tactics is that everything they seem to do seems to paint those who execute the plans into corners from which it is impossible to escape -- assuming, of course, that escape might be an objective. For example, how could they tell the membership that the case had been thrown out? That might easily create a sense that an error had been made in the decision to sue in the first place. And the leadership does not act erroneously -- everyone knows that!
I have read the opinion of the federal judge in the case, as has Barnabas, I'm sure. While Judge Sotomayor did not rule on the substance of the suit (because of the expiration of the statute of limitations), her ruling was clear and quite emphatic about the erroneous assumptions of the Bruderhof position in regards to trying to extend the statute of limitations to cover the defendants.
I have heard, albeit through a third party (who spoke to someone who attends Brotherhood meetings) that one of the leadership's alleged contentions is that people from KIT are ready to mount an armed assault on the Bruderhof. If the leadership actually believes this absurd assertion, then they are more paranoid than I have ever imagined. If they do not believe it and assert the position in an effort to control the membership, they should be, again, ashamed of themselves.
The members are learning the truth in dribs and drabs. When a member is "sent away" to consider his wrong thinking or his wrong doing, that member knows there are those out here who know the truth. And they are seeking us out. They ask questions. Some return, perhaps most return; a few do not. But those that return bring back the seeds of truth that the leadership attempts to smother. And so it was with the Soviet Union. It cannot work much longer,
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Paulo Allain, 12/9/97 About forgiving: I think we have come to the point where our relation with the SoB is not a question of extending a comprehensive and pardoning hand to someone who is asking for forgiveness and is showing signs of repentance, but of an organization which is run and manipulated by cold-blooded criminals, and all of this in the name of God and Jesus. I don't think this is the situation for forgiving, because such an attitude would only give the leaders lead time for more sinister action. Forgiving, in this case, would be tantamount to shortsighted naivete. They should be treated just as one would treat a capo della mafia, with extreme caution when interpreting their statements and always keeping in mind their double-talk.
Conflict solution: From what I read, chances for a mediated solution of our differences is not impossible but would mean a complete turnaround of the SoB leader's practice in the last 2 or 3 years. Therefore, such an initiative would have to be preceded by a) opening the circle of SoB members who participate in such a process to the entire "brotherhood", which means that JCA, Inc. would have to renounce their manipulation tactics, at least partially; b) concrete signs of goodwill would have to be produced by the SoB before such mediation starts, because in the current situation we would probably get lost between resentments and accusations.
Civil responsibility: I consider it very important that we, ex-members of the Bruderhof, take every chance possible to force the SoB to comply with the statutes of law regarding civil responsibility for members, specially adolescents and young people who have been ousted without a minimum of preparation for facing the "world outside", including personal documents, handling of banking accounts, traffic law, civil rights, human rights, labor law and so forth. This should include general notions of the kind of dangers these young people might encounter, including rape. Also members (especially elderly people) cannot be just ousted without any kind of Medicare and social security, after years of dedication and work within the commune. I don't know the details of US law, but in Brazil, if somebody were ousted from the commune after more than 3 months of working there, even if he had signed a vow or commitment to poverty and handed over his property, he would be entitled to labor indemnification and the commune would have to pay for his social security, proportional to his working period.
We are dealing with a kind of pseudo-religious mafia, and therefore will have to force them to submit to law whenever they infringe rights or engage in cruel and criminal treatment of ex-members.
Emancipation of the individual: There have been growing signs of a relatively new phenomenon regarding the continuity of traditional thinking and behaviour in society, which is illustrated by Alvin Toffler's book Future Shock. A great wave of turmoil is taking place within most of the traditional societies around the world, spurred by a combination of the dissemination of high technology and communication media, which enable most people to become increasingly aware of the "world outside our circle." Communication has become so widespread and cheap that it is nearly impossible nowadays to keep youngsters from getting to know other frontiers. Now, everyone of us knows that the drive for liberty is one of the most powerful yearnings we have inside. And this drive will eventually lead most of the youngsters in the SoB to look outside for a door toward liberty.
Let us therefore shape KIT into a door that is wide open toward liberty from the chains of manipulation. Of course, our Hummer and the contributions in KIT are exactly that. But if we keep in mind the beauty, the fulfillment and freshness of feeling free, we can highlight this in our future contributions, so that a copy of KIT which might somehow have managed to get into the hands of a SoB youngster (or elder) will be sparking his desire for liberty. My prediction is that, even if they change the names of the leaders but do not change the ways of manipulation, the SoB will crumble down and loose its best members in a short time. The best way for them to ensure continuity is to build on sound, democratic and (Christian) relationships -- inside and outside. Loving greetings to all,
Paulo Allain, 12/22/97: I wish you and all of the KITfolk a very happy Christmas and a breakthrough in our relationship with the SoB in 1998. I feel time is running out for us to settle our petty little differences, when we compare them to the overall problems which humanity has to face. It is such a loss of precious time, this affair with the SoB and the visiting rights, etc. We are going around in circles, trying to find a way to move their hearts, but it seems in vain. Therefore I think we should concentrate much more on arousing the desire for liberty in the young people living at the commune. This has to be made in a very subtle and intelligent way, so as not to trigger more suspicion on part of the 'leaders'. I suggest we tell stories of fulfillment and liberty, of freedom of choice, etc., which will somehow get to these youngsters and start them thinking about optional ways of living.
I hope to get some time and write a contribution in this sense for the next KIT letter.
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------ Poetry ------
by Hannah Goodwin Johnson
What are her beauties:
The ivory of flashing teeth,
The rich ease of ebony limbs,
The golden warmth of a tan,
The language of her thighs?
These are the mothers
Of the children of the gods.
They are beautiful, the people
(Earth is filled with the folk)
Breathing out laughs and sighs.
She is her own desire.
Beauty is what she wants,
Longing for brilliance, the strength,
The charisma of youth nourished up
From the little ones' cries.
© 1997 The National Library of Poetry (to be included in the collection Soaring With The Wind)
On a brighter note, I got a Copyright! Having the right to be wrong, I find in the USA, is often right simply because it is a right.
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by Mel Fros
Family suppers were times I looked forward to. On one occasion, we were preparing to meet in the dining hall at 7:00 P.M. for a time of Christmas singing and Plaetzchen! Cookies! The thought of them made the waiting doubly hard.
"Nun, Soehne," my mother had said, addressing those in her family most in need of hearing her admonition. "When the cookies are passed, I expect you to be considerate of others. You may take one cookie at a time as the Austeilers bring around their plates, ja?"
"Ja," Haen replied.
I needed further clarity. "You mean, one cookie for each hand, Mama?"
Sunshine seemed to light her serious face for just a moment, but she said no more.
We gathered, we sang... and we sang...and we sang some more. It was almost 8 P.M. before the Servant finally signaled that the time I had been waiting for most eagerly had indeed arrived. From the side room Austeilers came with heavy-laden plates of cookies, and began their rounds. I paused, not knowing which cookie to pick first, so size became the determining factor! The plate moved on, and already I was calculating the arrival of the next, when my eyes fell upon Maria.
She was a native woman, small, stout, the mother of several children. She had been invited and had come eagerly. A white apron covered what ragged clothes she wore. Her face beamed as the Austeiler approached her. She got up from her chair and eagerly helped herself to one...two...three...four cookies, and only the movement of the plate prevented her from taking more. I could not believe what I was seeing! No manners... no consideration for others.
The plate came my way...I took one... the plate went her way... she took many. Her toothless smile did not seem to penetrate my selfish heart. Only when it was time to go home, did it occur to me that I was going home well-fed while she was carrying her precious supply of sweet things in her apron. I had eaten my fill. She had not tasted a thing. She was taking them home to her children.
Maria Leon, I won't forget you. The red clay-soil of eastern Paraguay has long since covered your weary body, yet the memory of you still stirs my heart. You had so little to give and received what you got so gratefully. By contrast, I live in a culture where giving is so easy, but receiving is infinitely harder. You had nothing; I have everything.
I won't forget you, Maria.
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Ruth Baer Lambach, 12/26/97: The Truman College chapter of AAWCC asked me to play Mrs. Santa Claus for their holiday party. According to Ellen Singleton, who asked me to do this, they were not to have too much about Christmas nor were there to be any Christmas Carols.
Given these parameters, I decided to introduce myself as "Mrs. Santa Claus," informing them that a little known fact was that Mrs. Santa Claus' first name was Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit trees. I was about a thousand years older than my husband, Santa Claus and we were married on the island of Lombok in Bali. He was a saint when we were married. We're both actors in a way, and we can take many different forms. He was born in the third century in Asia Minor in a town called Myra, now in Turkey. As a young man he inherited his family's fortune and instead of spending it on himself, he functioned as a secret Santa throughout his life. One of the most famous tales about him regarded a family of three daughters. Their mother had died and the family did not have a dowry for them, hence they would have to be sold into slavery. Santa Claus prevented this from happening by mysteriously dropping a bag of gold through a window so the girl would have a dowry when she came of age. He did this for each of the daughters. Throughout his life he did many such deeds and therefore became a saint after he died.
While Santa dresses to look like a harmless, cheery man, in fact he looks like a combination of Michael Jordan and Arnold Schwarzenegger with a heart and soul of James Laughlin, the wealthy publisher and poet. During our times together we spend a lot of time mountain climbing.
My handout read as follows: "Since this is a college setting I thought it important to copy out several pages from the Oxford English Dictionary on words that are related and derived from "pom, pomme" or some variation of this. As you can see there are plenty. Many of these refer to fruits. We have pomme fret, pommplemous, and here in my basket I have some of the fruits mentioned. The word "pomona" also refers to a color. It is a kind of green that has more yellow than blue in it. Some of the fruits on my skirt are that color. As I walk around, I welcome each of you taking one fruit.
(Pineapple, melon, orange, grapefruit, tangerines, lemons, limes, apples of various shapes and colors and grapes all gradually disappeared as I continued to walk around and continued my monologue.)
The best that I have deduced is that 'pom' has something to do with edible things that are round, full and good. There is even a word 'pommel' meaning a woman's breast. (Laughter)
As I've said, my husband, born in the third century, is younger than I. I'm about a thousand years older than he. We age well, because he's a saint and I'm a goddess. It's the human dimension that is stressful and wearing on the body.
(Lots of agreement from audience)
What many of you might think of as Christian symbols and customs are in reality customs that date back over 4,000 years. For example the 12 days of Christmas. I brought along these cards and thought you could help me sing the song. Santa has helpers but, as usual, as a woman I rely on other women to get me through. It generally works. I'm going to give out the cards and you'll help me sing the song. This song comes from the ancient pagans who believed that by giving something for each month of the following year, they'd insure a good year. Their celebration lasted from the middle of December until the New Year. Since the days were getting shorter, darkness was coming in and they had to insure that they would have a good twelve months in the future.
(Women Administrators get up and sing the 12 Days of Christmas with posters.)
Some pagans chose a criminal, dressed him like a king, and wined and dined him in a kingly fashion for one month. At the end of the month he was killed. His task was then to go to the underworld where he was to do battle with the King of Darkness, win and thereby insure that order would be restored for the next year. People brought in greens to insure that green growing things would return. They danced, sang and generally spread light in order to ward off the waning of the sun. Since the Christmas tree or, as we say in German "The Tannenbaum," is associated with my husband, I will tell you a story about a poplar tree.
(I tell the Poplar Tree Story with help from women administrators doing the actions. We sing "Pomme Pomme Pomme Pom," my version of "Little Drummer Boy.")
When I'm not mountain climbing with my husband, I play the harp. And so I'd like to close with the newest CD of harp music from around the world. The harp is really the mother of all string instruments and I've recorded some of my work here.
(play Harp Music on CD)
"Pomona: [L name of the Roman goddess of fruits and fruit trees f. 'pomum,' fruit] In full 'pomona green'. A green color in which yellow predominates over blue."
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Josh Maendel to Ruth Lambach, 11/16/97: Elsa is still working as a nurse's aid in the hospital in our town. She is also still working the night shift, which is the quietest, but puts her out of schedule with the rest of us because when she goes to work, everybody else goes to bed and goes to sleep when everybody goes to work. We're believing God for a better schedule.
A statement in your last KIT contribution caught my attention. "... life is short and love is all there is. God is love and there is one God and we are part of Him and we are love too." The source (Bible) of one of your statements "God is love and there is one God (with a big "G") does not say that "love is all there is... and that we (in the all-inclusive sense) are necessarily part of Him or and that we are love too."
I Jn. 4:6-10 is where the statement "God is love" comes from, and one of thousands of statements that there is One God from Isaiah 44:6-8 "...I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me." I Jn. 4:7 states that "love is from God" and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for "God is love." Since Love is from God, the source, God is all there is. The same source, if you will (as you would require in a literary work or research paper), is very emphatic about the existence of another god, the god of this world system (with a little 'g'), a being that is anything but love or whatever we in our finite human mind might think to be ideal. This reference states that Satan, as he is called since his fall from his position as Lucifer, or angel of light, has a character that is totally devoted to killing, stealing and destroying. Every time you come across things in life that are not lovely, true and of good report, right, honorable, you can be certain where it came from. The Judeo-Christian revelation states that there are two worlds, the kingdom of God, the creator of heaven and earth and Lucifer also, and the kingdom of darkness headed by Satan (Lucifer's new title since his demotion). Probably the most popular criticism one hears about the Christian faith is that how can God, if he exists, allow all this evil to go on or happen. The Christian faith is unique in that respect in that it identifies the origin of both worlds and gives a glimpse into both and what determines which world a person is in.
The following statement defines the kind of "love" that this is about: "by this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." The kind of love that is referred to in "God is love" is an unconditional love, or Agape, as it is designated in the Greek. This love is not natural to human beings but has to be divinely imparted as is indicated in the above quote by being "...manifested is us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the World that we might live through Him."
The other kinds of love that the Greek language identifies are parental and brotherly or sisterly, if you will -- phileo, from which we get the word philanthropy.' The other that was used in the Greek culture and is not used in Christian writings is eros, which is a purely sexual love. You statements would almost be correct or truisms if it wasn't for those uncomfortable conditions of that love the author of the above makes regarding the need for God to send His Son as a propitiation (high-power word for 'payment for') for our "sin" or lost condition.
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Renatus Kluver, 11/30/97: Previously I have mentioned that there came a time when I started questioning the validity of the Bruderhof's declared doctrines and principles, (the noun "Bruderhof" is used here to depict an organisation of which my parents were founder members, and which no organisation can now claim to hold title to). I had until that moment tried to believe, even if I had questions regarding fairness between members and how they treated each other and as a group. The questions of hierarchy and privileges associated with the 'top job' were very real to us. Children do tend to compare, which they learn unwittingly from their elders, and the one notable favouritism was at Christmas, when the 'Bescherung' took place and the children of the 'top' people were getting better and more presents than the rest. In my mind this was no coincidence but rather that those in positions of influence and authority were looking after their own.
The first real confrontation and stumbling block regarding the respect extended to each other happened to me, newly baptised in Woodcrest in 1957, during a brotherhood meeting. Heini and another member were reporting on their visit to Macedonia, from which they had just returned. The brotherhood had sent these two down to Macedonia to come to an agreement regarding the quality of Community Playthings products that Macedonia was shipping to Woodcrest for distribution to our customers. Woodcrest guaranteed that any items damaged in shipment were to be replaced and the guarantee also covered quality of craftsmanship and material. Each of the business partners were, effectively, responsible for their product, but Woodcrest, being the shipping agent for Macedonia, was inundated with returned, broken or poor-quality items produced in Mcedonia. Woodcrest felt obliged to repair the returned goods, and in doing so absorbed most of the cost. This became a stressful point in the business relationship between Macedonia and Woodcrest, and the brotherhood felt that if no agreement could be reached, the business connection with Macedonia should be severed.
Heini was reporting not so much on the mission on which he and the other brother were sent, but of his endeavour to persuade the members of Macedonia to come closer to the real spirit of community, as lived in Woodcrest. He suggested that if we were to come closer spiritually, then the business problems would resolve by themselves. So far, so good. But after an hour of self- gratifying reporting, the other member tried to put his experience to the brotherhood in a less dramatic and attention-seeking manner then Heini. His approach was far more down-to-earth, spiced with a few amusing anecdotes of what happened when investigating the business of Community Playthings enterprise. I don't think that this member had spoken for more than ten minutes when Heini jumped up, his head nearly purple, shouting at his erstwhile partner and accusing him of being flippant, of having no respect for the 'seriousness of the hour' and that he, Heini, would not say anything more and that the other member could now finish the report. With that he threw himself into his seat and sat there fuming and sulking, arms crossed over his chest, self-contained.
Now I expected that some of the more senior members would take Heini to task for his uncontrolled anger and outburst. But no. After a stunned silence that must have lasted at least fifteen seconds, PP voiced the concern that perhaps Heini was right and that the issue regarding Macedonia required a more somber approach. This was the cue for a number of members to pressure Heini's travel compadre to apologise and ask Heini to continue with his report, which after some minutes Heini ungraciously consented to do. I thought that this member would be excluded, but it seems that there were a number of members who had been shocked by the violence of Heini's outburst and the whole thing was swept under the carpet. However, I was reprimanded by PP, who said that I should have showed more loyalty to Heini, pointing out that I was part of the Heini Arnold family at the time.
In my opinion this incident marked the turning point of Heini's untouchability, putting himself outside and beyond reproach and correction by others, giving him 'carte blanche' to treat others with often total contempt and derision. But then again, he had a split nature and could be the most caring person you could imagine when it suited him. So JCA certainly had a very good role model in his father and, it seems, he learnt his lessons well and does his father proud in applying them and even surpassing him, from what one hears.
On another topic, I remember the Fros family, the grandparents, and Jan and Susi and their children who lived in Loma Hoby from the beginning of Primavera. Brother Herman's family lived next to ours in the 'Gallophuette', opposite the babyhouse, facing the vast expanse of the open campo, We always would hear them singing Dutch songs and Herman palying a musical instrument -- I think it was a flute. Jan helped out in the 'Hort,' taking the boys to a waterhole below the laundry near the Walli-waeldchen where one could cool off to a certain extent. The water was so absolutely brown from the clay sides of the pool and decaying plant material that one could not see one's feet when standing in the water. After the dip, we had to shower to get rid of the brown streaks running down our backs and bellies, ending in wider brown rivulets down our legs. I was only five at the time and only part of this enterprise with the older boys, (like Ulu Keiderling, the father of Joe) because I had been separated from my peer-group for "corrective" purposes.
When there was a special 'do', both your father and uncle would be part of the entertainers with their instruments, helping to make a happy noise, or serious music as the occasion demanded. This impressed me very much,. When I asked my father why he did not play a musical instrument at these occasions, he told me that he could not. This was a big let-down for me, because my father had rated very high in my opinion up until then, being able to handle horses well and being in charge of the traction animals. Now I could no longer boast that he could do anything better than another father in the whole world. Recounting the above brings back another memory of my father. There is a camp in Isla Margarita, below the dining room down to the 'Bienenwaeldchen' which is called 'Campo Willi' to this day. The name of my father was given to this camp by the Paraguayans, because he had to go out in the early morning, right at the beginning of the founding of Primavera, and catch the horses to be harnessed to the wagons for hauling all manner of things. They were highly amused by antics my father got up to in the hope of catching these semi-wild animals.
The horses were running free, because the community was very poor and could not afford to buy the wire for fencing in the campo for the working horses to graze during their rest hours. However, they stayed close to the settlement, because they had learned that food- concentrates were available. My father would hold a crust of bread in one hand and a cebrasso in the other. He lured the horse close to him, hiding the cebrasseo behind his back. When he thought that he had gained the confidence of the horse by offering the bread, he would gradually move his outstretched hand closer to his body and then, so the plan went, get hold of the horse's neck to enable him to put the cebrasso on. Quite often the horse would realise what the ruse was all about, throw his neck up and bolt away. Quite often the horse managed to get away, but then my father would change tactics. The next time he would lunge at the horse's neck and grab at the mane and then hold on for dear life, while the critter dragged him along through the high Schilfgrass.
Eventually he honed his various techniques to a fine art, and became successful more often at the first attempt. Oh dear, I have digressed from the Fros family to mine. Well, to get back to Jan Fros, I always held him in high esteem, because he was very kind to me when I was in 'trouble'. He got me to prepare, with the older boys, a little vegetable garden behind the Schulrancho and sow some radishes and lettuce as well as carrots. The seeds soon germinated and grew. Now it was my responsibility to see to it that the weeds were pulled, but the problem was that I could not distinguish between the weeds and the seedlings and often would pull out the beneficial plant and inadvertently leave the weeds. Jan would then, with infinite patience, yet again show me by comparison which seedling we wanted to keep and which to eliminate. When I finally sussed it, there must have been very few plants of 'the right kind' left.
Our family then changed places with the Drehers. We moved back to Isla Margarita and the Drehers moved to Loma Hoby. I felt very sad to leave, because I would not be able to further tend my plants, and extracted a promise from Jan Fros that he would look after my plants. He promised me that he would do so. I think it must have been four months later when I happened to see him in Isla Margarita. I stopped him and asked how my plants were doing. "Och du meine Guete, die sind schon laengst geerntet und aufgegessen" (Goodness gracious me, they have been harvested and eaten a long time ago), was his reply. I was most disappointed that the plants had not waited for me and already had been disposed off and wanted to know why he had not informed me that the vegies were ready for harvest. He said that there were very few trips between the hoefe and the vegies would have gone bad too quickly. I accepted that.
Incidentally. When I was going to school in Loma, Jan's wife Susie was my art teacher for a whole year, but then she found the likes of Burgel too difficult to handle. I was in the eighth grade and we made lampshades. Susie had cut out the pattern beforehand so that we would not ruin valuable resources. We then had to think of a motive to decorate the rim of the shade. I chose a Blutstroepfchen, those thorny spiky plants which had the red four-leaf clover shaped petals with a yellow centre and were good for a repetitive pattern. I was determined to bring this project to a successful conclusion, even though I had to fight hard to maintain the initial interest, since after drawing the first ten flowers I lost my enthusiasm. But I had made up my mind that this was going to be the birthday present for my mother, and so I completed the project. Your mother was full of praise, since I happened to be one of the few who actually finished the assignment.
This was praise indeed! She had been warned by Trudi that I was a troublemaker and would need a firm hand, but in this instance proved Trudi wrong. Greetings to all,
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Renatus Kluver 12/5/97: Regarding forgiveness, the Bruderhof has never issued and/or asked corporately for forgiveness of individuals they have harmed. My father had a nervous breakdown when he and my mother were denied access to the Sinntal hof. They had been sent from Bulstrode in England where my father had the responsibility of Steward as well as having been elected as a witness brother, to help in the Sinntal hof in Germany (my parents were German and spoke German). They arrived in Bad Brueckenau at the railway station, close to the Sinntal hof, and were picked up by Joerg Barth and Arno Martin. These two were rather monosyllabic, which my father found rather strange. They were off-loaded in a spa hotel in Bad Brueckenau When my father wanted to know why, he was told that they did not have enough room in Sinntal.
The two brothers got back into the car. My father wanted to know when would they be collected for a round-trip to Sinntal. At this point, Arno informed my parents and my youngest sister Karola, who was only fifteen years old at the time, that they would not be picked up and that they would not be allowed to come to Sinntal. "Ihr seid Ausgeschlossen" (you are excluded), Arno informed my parents. Absolutely no reason was given. One moment they were members in 'good standing' and the next they were 'out in the cold.' They were devastated. When Karola tried to visit Sinntal to be with the young people, Joerg told her that she was not welcome and that she would not be allowed to come. The hof was only ten minutes' walk from where may parents were living.
My sister had to sit around in the little flat, until the landlady offered her some work in the hotel for a pittance, but it gave her something to do. My father had been away from Germany for nearly twenty five years and had to find his way in a totally alien world, a Germany that had been defeated in war and now had to, grudgingly, absorb expatriates. Over the following years, my father had to take a lot of stick from fellow-workers, who blamed him for leaving Deutschland in its hour of need and now, with the economic miracle, to return and reap the dividends. He found a job in a clothing-trade factory and had to cut out, with an electrical cutter, patterns for leather jackets, about ten layers at a time. He found it very difficult to fulfil his quota and had the 'timer' with his stop watch looking over his shoulder all the time. The management kept telling him that if his output did not improve, they would give him the sack. Father was 55 years old at the time.
When my father phoned Sinntal, he was given Jonny Mason to talk to. My father told him that the place he was working at was untenable. Jonny told my father that he should stop feeling sorry for himself and pull his weight and that it was clear that my father had had a cushy number on the Bruderhof and that these days of loafing about were now over. Now you have to consider that Jonny is about my age and was at the time about twenty-four years old. When I heard from my mother the despicable way he treated my father, I was ready to go to Sinntal and give that arrogant impertinent bloke a piece of my mind, especially in the light of all the years of sacrifice at the beginning in Germany, then in Liechtenstein, then yet again the beginning in England and then the dangerous crossing to South America over U-boat-infested seas, and the start in an culturally alien and climatically so different country and all the hardships of the beginning in the wilderness of Paraguay this entailed.
For the time being, the SoB paid the rent in the spa hotel. The accommodations comprised a tiny kitchen and two tiny bedrooms (they used the kitchen as their dining room and also living room). They were housed right underneath the roof, which sloped down to about three feet off the floor. The place was designed for the servants of the hotel, not insulated and with no central heating. My mother tried to cope with a little portable electric heater of one thousand watts. She hardly went out, because she had very bad legs and found climbing six flights of stairs nearly impossible. After a few weeks in residence, the SoB refused to pay the rent and the electric bill. The flat was always bitterly cold because my mother tried to save as much money as possible (so that the SoB would not have to pay too much).
I travelled to Germany from New York in mid- October, 1961, having decided to visit my parents because no one would give me an answer about why my parents had been chucked out. I myself was living outside the commune at the time in Kingston, N.Y., near Woodcrest, and repeatedly tried to talk to Heini on the phone, but he was never 'available'. One of the operators at the Woodcrest end was Mary Pappas. She got fed up with me continually phoning to ask for Heini and in a very sharp tone of voice told me to face up to my sin ("what sin?" I asked her) and not to call again until I had repented genuinely. Of course I later learned that this was the way they 'protected' Heini from receiving unwanted calls and the receptionists acted as a buffer and filter.
I then asked to be sent my British Passport, which they declined to do, telling me that they would not give me permission to travel. I had travelled to Woodcrest from Primavera when I was only 19 years old and Heini had taken on the guardianship for me because I was still, as the law then stood, a minor. By the time I was chucked out I had reached the grand old age of twenty three and therefore no longer dependent on their permission to go. I rang the New York City British Consulate and explained what the circumstances were. I told them that I wanted to travel to Europe to reunite with my parents, who I had not seen for four and a half years, and that the Society was holding my passport, refusing to hand it over to me. The British official at the other end of the line audibly sucked air into his lungs. He then informed me that they knew of the SoB and that they had several complaints from expatriates because the commune would not foot the cost of travel back to England.
I told him that I had saved enough money to pay for the trip, but needed my passport to enable me to buy my ticket. He then became very friendly and said that they would contact Woodcrest and inform them to hand the passport over to me. I should let him know if they had complied. He also stated that they would send an official from the embassy if the SoB did not comply with their request and assured me that the passport was Crown property. They could pick it up on that basis alone, but would prefere an amicable solution without further involving them. The very next day Don Noble turned up with my passport and tried to pick a quarrel with me for having 'gone behind their backs' in order to get possession of the said document. I secured a sailing with the SS Bremen, which turned out to be her last voyage as a passenger liner.
The trip to Germany on this liner was something else. It was the first real holiday I had had for over five years and being the last voyage of the Bremen, everything was layed on as 'special'. Three-course breakfasts, five-course dinners and seven-course suppers, all included in the price of the ticket. The trip took three weeks and the first land we saw was Ireland and then docked in Liverpool, to allow those travelling to England to disembark. We stopped outside the harbour, probably to avoid paying harbour fees, and a pilot boat came alongside to take those wanting to get off, which amounted to only a handful, the rest of the passengers being of German descent and/or travelling to Germany in the hope of making a better living than in the Americas.
My parents met me in Bremerhaven, when the boat finally docked and we stayed at an uncle of mine, one of my mothers brothers, for a few days and visited various relatives. These relatives turned out to be very wary about getting close to our family, because they were afraid that they might have to help us financially. None of us had any funds, just two changes of clothing and that was it. I then travelled with my mother down to Brueckenau, my father having made contact with friends he knew before the Bruderhof. One of the couples, when they heard that my father had been ousted and living in such primitive accomodations, had travelled six hundred kilometers from Hamburg to Brueckenau, leaving after work one Friday night, to see how they could help my father. He was a graphic artist, self-employed and also held a lectureship, part-time, at the University of Hamburg. He was able, through church connections, to secure a flat for my parents. At this moment in time (1961) it was nearly impossible to secure an accommodation, because there were so many Germans fleeing the Eastern Sector, as well as many expatriates returning to Germany after enforced or voluntary exile and there was an acute housing shortage.
My parents were able to pay a down-payment on the flat, which was within a housing estate, but which was not yet ready. The promised date of completion was for the beginning of December. That is why my mother was living down in Bad Brueckenau with Karola, and my father and Konrad, who had come from Brasil where he had lived for the past year, were living with the graphic artist and his family, who had generously taken them in. Konrad then found a place in a hostel for young single men and women, which was run by the Evangelische Freikirche (Free-Church of Germany), so there was a place available for me to share a room with my father, after having visited for a few weeks with my mother and youngest sister in Brueckenau.
We, that is my father, my mother, my sister Karola, my brother Konrad and myself, managed to move into the not-quite-finished new flat a few days before Christmas. Thomas, who was living at the time in Fulda, also came, even though he was determined at the time to go back to the Bruderhof. Then Hartmuth, my youngest brother, turned up. He had travelled from England, where he had started an apprenticeship and my father had encouraged him to complete it, because he would have been too old for the German system to do an apprenticeship (he was eighteen at the time). So we had a lovely Christmas together. My parents were able to make a down payment on the flat, having been able to secure a Soforthilfe (immediate-help), which the German Government made available to people who had been persecuted by the German state, before or during the Second World War. Since Thomas was born in Germany, he was also eligible for the 5000 DM, which at that time was a lot of money. One evening he was in the cinema having a look at some film or another.
When the film finished, he went into the foyer and who was waiting there to see him? Hardi Arnold. He had travelled all the way from Sinntal to see Thomas with the intention to demand the 5000 DM. First he had gone to Thomas' digs and, not finding him there, he found out from the landlady where he could find Thomas. He told my brother that the community needed the money and that, in any case, he had given his word in the baptismal vows that he would give the group everything he had and would also inherit in the future. Since my brother wanted to go back to the Society, he agreed to hand over that amount. Needless to say, after that handover, whenever Thomas asked to visit Sinntal he was fobbed off and told that it was time for him to 'stand on his own two feet.' It took him years to chuck overboard the mind control that the SoB had on him.
There is a lot that happened in those early years, and I got rather carried away with relating those first weeks and months after my parents had been chucked out, without any explanation or reason given. Years later, and this is the crux of why I started to write about my parents' experiences in those long-ago-days, they had a visit in Hamburg from Art Wiser and Dwight Blough. Art was on a tour of visiting the various members whom he had thrown out when in charge at Bulstrode. He asked my father to forgive him for the underhanded way in which my parents were ousted, stating that it was his decision and no one else's. My father wanted to know why he and my mother had been pushed out, wanting an explanation, but Art could not give one. My father insisted that Art could not have acted on his own and that there must have been a group, if it wasn't the brotherhood, who had made that decision. My father also told Art that, as a Christian, he would of course forgive him, but to put right what had been done and the communal life that had been destroyed, it would be of paramount importance to invite all those who had been chucked out to a meeting with the "brotherhood" during the time in question.
This was also felt as being the right step by most of the ex-members living in Germany, who felt very strongly that for individuals to now carry the can for an organisation that prided itself on Unity was tantamount to dishonesty and a shifting of corporate responsibility onto a fall guy. Such a meeting never took place, nor was a written apology ever endorsed or sent by the SoB as a commune. The reason for Heini to disown the years after Sannerz and before Woodcrest, the holy city on the mountain, the beacon of eternity here on earth as Heini called it, is to me a clear indication that the powers-that-be tried to justify their actions through this denial, both of the reality of the Cotswold Bruderhof, of Primavera, of Wheathill, of El Dorado, Sinntal and Bulstrode, and by refering to this period as 'the dark times of the community'. If there had been no community and compassion for each other in Paraguay, then I would ask the present set-up, "What held this group together during all those difficult years?" It was years ago that I put this proposition to Heini: "If it had not been for the Cotswold and Primavera Bruderhoefe, you would not be in existence now. So merely from a historic point of view, your denial of their existence and the influence they had on the movement is tantamount to a betrayal of the brothers and sisters and young children who died during those poverty-stricken years. It is that such a denial makes all that follows a total lie." Needless to say, I never had a reply.
Something else now: regarding the use of the abbreviation of 'SoB:' for me, it stands for 'Society of Brothers' and I can't imagine what is offensive about it. I certainly will desist in calling that outfit 'Bruderhof'. My parents were members of the Bruderhof and, as far as I am concerned, that organisation has ceased to exist. Also another point: as I define the concept and also the word Community. 'Com-' ( the prefix generally meaning in Latin: 'together, together with') and then of course 'unity' (meaning 'the quality or condition of being one in feeling, action, purpose, etc.'). Now I have immense difficulty in using this compound word in reference to the SoB, when thinking how they treat their own members. Yes, they are 'together', but for what purpose and to what end? Their expressed vision and action holds common ownership of property as the ideal life style, primary to any other possible consideration. So anyone who might jeopardise this expressed view, which has become their religion, will have to bow under the pressure of the prevalent group dynamics. These dynamics make the individual conform to all the dictates of the power brokers and tell them how they are expected to react and how they think that the group would want them to act or react.
This state of affairs, therefore, leads me to conclude that for the above-stated fact there can be no Unity, since the quality of choice by free will no longer exists and the rubber-stamping of decisions, which are made by a few, can no longer be considered to be 'the quality or condition of being one in feeling, action, purpose, etc.' For this reason I agree with not calling them 'The Community'. They, quite simply, are a commune, and that is why I also call them a 'commune', communal ownership of property, heart and mind.
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Renatus Kluver, 12/23/97: Regarding the big interhof conference that took place between December 1956 and January 1957 in Primavera, it was felt very strongly, especially by Hans Zumpe, that our manpower resources were becoming rather stretched and that our future would more probably lie in Europe rather than in Paraguay. In principle the decision was made that Primavera should supply this manpower and that especially German-speaking families should be considered. Over the next year, Loma Hoby was chosen for closure due to the difficult nature of the location of the hof and the limited possibility of agricultural expansion. In '58 or '59, it was decided to relocate the estancia to Ibate as well as the dairy, and the hospital was to be relocated in Isla Margarita. The first large group to be sent to Europe was on a chartered plane with the Australian airline Quantas, in August, 1960. If my memory serves me right 150 adults and children were on that flight.
In 1959-60, the Bruderhof held two work camps in Isla Margarita that prepared the site for the new hospital. They invited young Baptists from Curitiba, Parana state, of Brazil -- colonists and business people of German extraction -- to join in and help. A number of Primavera youths took part in this work force, who held lively discussions with the 'outsiders' when having 'second breakfast' and other occasional meals together. My sister Christel was part of this work force and wrote to me enthusiastically (I was in the States at the time) about this encounter and the realisation that there were other people outside the commune who were seekers and professed to be following Christ, albeit living a different life style than ours, but nonetheless sincere about their faith. This left a deep impression on my sister, especially because she also got to like one of the work-campers very much, who was studying to become a pastor.
The hospital was never built, but the one in Loma Hoby was, nonetheless, closed down. The reason for the closure of the hospital given was formulated by the Woodcrest brotherhood, who stated that "we are not a charity" and that our call was not to "do social work" but to live in community of goods. (My, how egocentric, or is it 'commu-centric'?)
The interesting part about this is, however, that the "Woodcrest Service Committee" accepted donations for the hospital in Paraguay, long after its demise and the "Woodcrest Service Committee" itself was registered as a charity. I have a photocopy of a cancelled cheque in my possession that was paid into the above charity by me and endorsed by the "Woodcrest Service Committee," which I presented to the IRS for tax-deduction purposes in the USA after having come back to Europe. When I initially asked Woodcrest for confirmation that I had handed that money over to them, ($1000) in the form of a banker's cheque, I was strongly 'advised' by their lawyer that I should "under no circumstances" try and reclaim tax on this 'gift,' as I would get into dire trouble and they could not account for what the money had been used. I sent a photocopy of this cancelled cheque to the IRS. They made a search for the said charity and I was duly given an income-tax allowance that effectively returned the deductions for the year in question.
I initially had asked for the money to be returned to me to help out my parents, who had been thrown out of the SoB two weeks after I had handed over my year's savings, myself living on little else than bread, milk and eggs. I tried to save as much of my income as possible, even taking on a second job and doing a night-shift. My request for the return of moneys that I had sent to them was rebuffed via a very rude letter from Doug Moody, who informed me 'that they had spent a lot of money on my parents' by building an accommodation for them in Sinntal, that my parents had able-bodied sons who could look after them, and that the SoB felt under no obligation to hand back money "which had been freely given." I was also reprimanded in that letter that I should stop short with my wavering attitude and stop feeling sorry for myself.
Having received this so 'loving reply' to my request, made out of concern to the well-being of my parents (I did not want the money for myself) and their advanced years in life, and now having to start at Point Zero to plan and build for the future for something that the Bruderhof had guaranteed to us (i.e. that no contributions were made to pension funds or other insurance facilities because "the Bruderhof would look after their own in sickness and in health and in old age"). I think that this was the catalyst that cut the umbilical cord, which up to then had still held me to the SoB and my endeavour to go back, and made crystal clear to me that the SoB was not the place and the organisation into which I had been born, but something different, alien.
I never have regretted that Heini chucked me out, but see it rather that it was a leading from God and that Heini ultimately was only the instrument. I wish all a very successful and happy New Year. Greetings to all,
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A Jaguar Story
by Name Withheld
It was a Wednesday afternoon, long, long ago in Loma. The shrill blast from the Segewerk whistle announced the end of another hot work day. Family supper night!!! The prospect of family supper was a welcome respite from the discipline I had received earlier. You see, Sam, Chico and I had been pretending to smoke Paraiso twigs, and when Rosemarie called us in for our noon siesta, I had responded rather curtly "Mann spricht nicht wenn sich die Maenner unterhalten!"
Mensch alive, I paid for that mistake! One of my ears is longer than the other to this day!
I trudged homeward with my classmates. Sam lived just a stone's throw away. We passed Nona's house and waved to her. Occasionally she would comb my hair on the way to the Kindergarten. A dear, kind soul! Jean Lindsay headed off toward the saw mill area. Further up, our footpath intersected with several other roads including the main entry road that led onwards to Isla and Iba. I bade my good playmate Puppa Zumpe good-bye at this point. Chico and I turned right and headed past the dining hall, then straight up a pathway flanked by a tangerine orchard on the right and a vineyard on the left. The temptation to steal fruit was ever present, but tonight we were too excited to get home! Past the orchard lay Adolpho's potato field and Marie Eckhardt's cottage. I waved to Marie. She seemed to me a person from another time... straight out of the Bible. She was so old, her skin so wrinkled! A dear woman.
I trudged across the potato field hopping from one clump of Jesuiten Grass to the next. My father had asked Adolpho to plant these clumps of grass so that the children would not burn their bare feet while taking a short-cut to their homes. Adolpho had kindly complied, even though he had every reason not to, for we children often teased our dear, hard-working, hard-of-hearing brother.
Arriving home, I did my chores. "Zarbiets," my young rooster with comical, high-pitched crow, I placed under my upturned, wooden wheelbarrow (made by Vasil) to protect him from foxes and weasels. Next, I gathered in the hens. "Die Alte" (The Old One) meekly cowered when I approached her, as she always did. "Die Olle" (the Ugly One) also did not put up a fight. But "Krummie" (Cross-Beak) required more effort. I placed a few drops of bitter lemon juice on a growth near her beak. This was considered the correct remedy for her sickness. I secured the chicken coop and went inside.
I don't recall what we had for supper. Perhaps it was "Armer Ritter" or something else, but surely it had to be something sweet: after all, we were affectionately dubbed "Familie Suess" by others! We gathered around the table: gentle father, stern but loving Mama, sister "EE," brother "Kurah" ("the thin one" in Guarani), sister "Iwerla," sister ,Tatuts," sister---- (she had no nick-name) and I, "Peru," ("the fat one," as my brother fondly called me in Guarani). Mitzi, our regal, devoted, mother cat, sat with us.
Every so often, Mitzi called out in a soft, gentle fashion, and in reply we could hear the spine-tingling howls of her male suitors. Mitzi brought forth litter after litter with astonishing regularity! And not just one or two kittens at a time! No! Always at least 6 and as many as 12!
"EE" dearly loved her cat, and remarked how poorly Mitzi was being treated by her male friends. Taking our Mitzi by the scruff of the neck had to stop! And so, with the full consent of our parents, we laid The Plan. We agreed to put Mitzi in the girl's bedroom and leave the window shutters open. Then we would go on a walk, and when we returned, we would each quietly sneak up and take our positions at door and window openings. The idea was to catch the male cats one by one and give them "something to think about."
The plan worked to perfection! We closed all the shutters and entered the bedroom. There was absolute mayhem going on within. Roughly six male cats, among them the much-disliked, dirty, white and orange "Baron-Kater" (with all due apologies to Leslie and Elfriede) were literally climbing the walls in sheer desperation to escape! Oh, ja, it was quite a sight, and we enjoyed it! Mitzi sat quietly under the bed, not wishing to be a part of our activities.
And now the fun began! One by one, we caught the clawing, fawning ruffians and handed them over to be sentenced by "EE." Each one received a stern lecture, then sent on it's way with a sound spanking! Each high-tailed off in zig-zag fashion. We laughed!
In due time, good old Mitzi presented us with yet another family of adorable kittens and the ruffians were all but forgotten.
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------ Book Review ------
"Torches Extinguished: Memories Of A Communal Bruderhof Childhood"
by Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe
A Book Review by Christopher Zimmerman Spring Valley Bruderhof
As memoirs go, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe's book Torches Extinguished (Carrier Pigeon Press) fits the current bill-of-trade nicely: it is intimate, at times vivid, contentious, and it contains the requisite baker's dozen of fuzzy halftones reproduced from old family photo albums. Most important, it dredges up whole washer-loads of dirty laundry from a dark and mysterious past, the airing of which, we are led to believe, will help the still-recovering author fulfill her noble goal of "coming to terms with my past" (p. 1).
There's plenty to come to terms with: the Bruderhof, the religious commune she grew up in, which she now claims was a cult; an adulterous relationship between her beloved and (in her eyes) unassailable father and his secretary, which ended in both of them being asked to leave the commune; her alleged rape by a doctor at an urban hospital where she worked after leaving the Bruderhof herself, and much more…
But there's a catch. Unlike most memoirs, which attempt to universalize particulars and impart at least a modicum of broader meaning to recorded events, Torches Extinguished reads like the very long grinding of a very blunt ax: in this case, a rebuttal of what she reviles as her former commune's "official" history, Merrill Mow's Torches Rekindled (Plough). It is the transparency of this motive, from the very first pages of her book, that calls into question the credibility of Ms. Bohlken-Zumpe's stated purpose and lends credence instead to the reader's suspicion that this is less a memoir than a thinly veiled attempt to redress the perceived cruelties of fate by writing about them.
If this were all, the book could stand: history, especially personal history, is always controversial, and in this genre, controversy is the stuff of life. Further, Mow never regarded his history as official, and if he were still alive, he might have welcomed the chance to respond to charges of inaccuracy or inappropriate interpretative slant.
Yet Torches Extinguished presents no such challenge to Mow's volume, for it lacks the documentary foundation of the latter, and depends instead on an admitted "subjectivity" (p. vii) about its topic, which the author herself bleakly defines at the outset as a childhood "divorced from reality" and "normal values" (p. 1). What follows are some 280 pages of mostly tedious descriptions of the Universe According to Bette (the author's childhood nickname), a place peopled by two-dimensional characters summarily inspected, judged, and then passed over for the next tidbit of gossip. Almost all relatives of the author, the men and women in Torches Extinguished are sometimes "beautiful," "loving," and "intelligent"; mostly, however, they are just boringly bad -- unable to fulfill the author's emotional needs and demands, hard as they might try, and therefore fit only to end up as objects of extensive, hate-filled tirades at the end of the book.
It is this sort of wearying narcissism that increasingly pervades an otherwise interesting narrative and finally bogs it down completely. Not that one would begrudge the author her personal take on everyone and everything she's ever come into contact with -- this is a memoir, after all. But was she really the only pebble on the Bruderhof beach during the long time span covered by the book? Did everyone who stayed at the commune really turn out (as it seems, by the end of the text) to be a bad apple, undeserving of even a little respect or admiration? Given the sex, murder, and mayhem that defines so many lives in our postmodern era, it seems she doth protest too much. If life itself, with all its ups and downs, the good friendship and the one that sours, the grand achievement and the embarrassing lapse, the unnoticed virtue and the painfully recorded sin, is the issue -- well, as the French are always quick to point out, c'est la vie. But it doesn't necessarily make a book.
Then there is the uncomfortable issue of documentation, the lack of which raises serious doubts about several key passages. The history of any commune (in particular a close-knit religious one, like the Bruderhof) is a tangled tapestry, and to attempt a convincing interpretation of such emotionally charged events as Ms. Bohlken-Zumpe chooses to address -- leadership struggles and other complex internal crises, personal infidelities, etc. -- without producing so much as one external source, other than a smattering of the personal letters in her possession -- is to badly overstep the limits of good scholarship and good taste.
Many of the author's recollections of watershed events in the early 1940s, for example, are presented as fact (i.e. pp. 55 ff.), and unless the reader remembers that the author was only six years old at the time, and not even present at the events "reported" on, he or she may be tempted to read them as such. There is also a surprisingly sweeping assertion (p. 104) about the Bruderhof's economic state around 1945, when the author was only ten. Later (p. 68) she admits ignorance of her subject on grounds of age and absence, but this recognition is not enough to temper a continued reliance on hearsay throughout the rest of the narrative.
Ultimately, that is the most vexing aspect of Torches Extinguished: its distortion of unmalleable historical facts into what often appear to be convenient fictions. In a historical novel, this might be forgivable enough, but for a purportedly nonfiction work that rests on the dissection of other people's lives, mostly to unflattering effect, it is irritating and inexcusable. Did no one fact-check the book?
Ironically, Torches Extinguished belongs to a series entitled "Women from Utopia." If the intended thought of the series editor was to cast the commune of the author's upbringing as an unsuccessful attempt at societal nirvana, that would not be problematic per se; the Bruderhof has always rejected the quaint suggestion that it is a utopia. If, on the other hand, it reveals the author's longing for a perfect world, that might help to explain her trouble accepting the Bruderhof's admitted human imperfections -- and her apparent longing for that improbable place where families get along with no ripples, everyone is happy, and life is an endless walk along the beach with someone you love.
This second thought seems justifiable enough, given the near-utopian ending of the book, where the author finally lays her gripes aside long enough to describe a walk she has just taken with her husband near her vacation home on the North Sea, "seagulls flying high into the eternal blue." "This," she intones, "is my life… This is very much worth living for!" (p. 258). Relieved that the author has found at least one thing to be happy about by the close of the book, one heartily agrees, and hopes that next time she takes pen to paper, it will not take her so long to come to so obvious a conclusion.
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Books/Articles Currently Available:
Cast Out In The World by Miriam Arnold Holmes
Through Streets Broad and Narrow by Belinda Manley
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Free from Bondage by Nadine Moonje Pleil
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