A not Very Merry April Fool to those of you who have been pining away for the Good Old Days of April Foolishness! The problem currently is that the truth is funnier than any silliness we could print, of our own or others. And what with the press of news from the Bruderhof's appearance in Philadelphia, it's hard to allow room for other nonsense. However, for added fun in this issue, we are including an 'irregular' item: the first five readers who can correctly identify the 'not serious' item will receive a prize: one KIT annual or one Carrier Pigeon Press book of their choice. Write down the title of the item that you think is 'not real' on a postcard and mail it to the address on the letterhead. To give the overseas folks an even chance, we will add the days before you receive KIT as a 'handicap' to the domestic and Canadian replies. The same with Internet subscribers. Our judges' decisions are final! And thanks to all those who submitted April Fool's items!
The 3rd Annual Rocky Gap Reunion for ex-Bruderhofers will be held Friday, May 17through Sunday, May 19 (weekend before Memorial Day). family and friends, just east of Cumberland, Maryland. No program, no agenda, just time well spent with good people! Camp out Friday-Saturday, picnic at noon Sunday. Come for all 3 days, any day or just the big Sunday picnic! Hiking, singing, swimming, fishing, good food, old friends and new. Let's make it our biggest ever (58 nice people last year -- and 2 old grumps). Call 800-672-9089 for details!
The time has come for a public review which examines the human cost of the practice of Capital Punishment in the United States. The National Commission will do this through regional hearings, beginning in Philadelphia, PA, on March 25-27. Testimony will be given by a wide spectrum of people involved in the death penalty.
Contributions are requested, with the checks made payable to "The Bruderhof Foundation, Inc., a 501(C)(3) non-profit organization.
There has been considerable news about it in the Philadelphia newspapers. Eight of the City Councilors protested the Bruderhof's scheduled use of the Council Chambers in City Hall for the hearings, claiming that the National Commission "lacked legitimacy." Protests also came from the president of The Fraternal Order of Police, Rich Costello, who was quoted as saying "It's such a farce. That's like a seminar on drug addiction sponsored by the Colombia drug lords... A genuine debate on the merits of the death penalty is legitimate and it would be proper to hold them, but this is not a legitimate group." Costello's remarks were rebutted the following day by a letter to the editor from Dean Vincent A. McCarthy of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "Such cavalier ignorance cannot go unremarked or unchallenged," he wrote. He claimed that the Bruderhof were "Hutterites" dating back to early Reformation times, and thus only as illegitimate as the Sermon on the Mount and only as dangerous as the Quakers. The following articles are excerpted from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.
They were quiet yesterday. But today, the Fraternal Order of Police will charge that a religious group co-sponsoring death penalty hearings in City Council chambers this week is a totalitarian cult whose leader once packed a .44-caliber gun. The Bruderhof, a religious group whose isolated communities and plain clothes evoke images of the Amish, have been the target of increasingly harsh criticism in recent years from a group of ex-members.
Ramon Sender, who left the Bruderhof as a young man in the late '50s, said he began producing an ex-members newsletter after learning in 1988 that his daughter had died of cancer several months before. Sender said the Bruderhof's strict control over its members prevented him from keeping in touch with his daughter, Xaverie, who lived at a Bruderhof community near Rifkin [sic], N.Y.
"The average rank and file Bruderhof member is a very idealistic person, very committed,'' Sender said yesterday in a telephone interview. "They're very dear people. The problem is the leadership. They're very patriarchal, very controlling, very cult-like. They demand total obedience. There's no tolerance for another point of view.''
"A cult?'' Bruderhof member Joe Kieterling [sic] said yesterday. "That's ludicrous. We're anything but.''
Kieterling said Ramon Sender had problems within his family because he chose a lifestyle his daughter and ex-wife couldn't accept. He said the community does attempt to mediate such problems, but that a small group of angry ex-followers have worked to try to discredit the group. An example of its distortions, he said, is the revelation by a Boston TV station last year that Bruderhof elder Christoph Arnold had bought a .44 magnum handgun.
"That was three years ago. We had a scare of rabid animals near our community,'' Kieterling said. "Christoph had someone purchase the firearm. When he saw the size of it, he asked him to sell it. It was here for maybe two months.''
The Bruderhof began in Germany in the 1920's and has had an association at times with the Hutterians, another pacifist strain of Christianity. Unlike the Amish, the Bruderhof does not reject modern technology.
The second day of a controversial forum on capital punishment being held in City Council chambers featured a painful appearance by an 11-year-old boy whose father is on death row in Delaware for killing the boy's mother and sisters.
But the boy's testimony and statements by 12 other speakers, including Bianca Jagger, were overshadowed by allegations by the Fraternal Order of Police that the Bruderhof, a Christian group sponsoring the forum, is not really an "Amish-like group holding sensitive hearings on the death penalty'' but a cult that separates families and owns weapons.
J. Christoph Arnold, the Bruderhof's leader, called the charges "ludicrous.'' Other group members made point-by-point rebuttals of the charges, which were aired in 1995 on a television station in Boston. FOP president Richard Costello played a videotape of the program at a news conference yesterday.
"We think Philadelphia should see what the Bruderhof are really all about,'' Costello said. "They are presenting themselves as a pacifist group living a life of devotion. But there's a different side: mind control, weapons, harassment, multimillion-dollar businesses."
He contended that the group isn't sincere in its expression of opposition to the death penalty, but is using the forum -- and its support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the death-row inmate convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer -- as a way to get money and publicity.
Chris Zimmerman, editor of the Bruderhof's magazine, The Plow [sic], countered that the FOP is airing "old stories that have been circulating for years'' as a "diversionary tactic'' because they're furious about the group's support of Abu-Jamal and its use of City Council chambers for a forum containing testimony against the death penalty...
Julius Rubin, a professor of sociology at Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Conn., is writing a book on the Bruderhof and was one of its critics on the TV program. He said in a telephone interview that Arnold applied for a permit to carry a .44 Magnum and that some members have rifles.
Arnold said he needed the gun, which someone else bought for him, because of a rabies outbreak in raccoons near his New York community. He no longer has the weapon. The few rifles the Bruderhof owns are for hunting.
Rubin said he doesn't think the Bruderhof's "motives are sinister'' and believes the group genuinely opposes the death penalty. "But to me, having weapons for any reason is contradictory with a pacifist position.''Ex-members and Rubin said group members are seldom allowed to think for themselves and face ostracism if they do not conform to standards as dictated by Arnold.
However, current Bruderhof members and some people who have visited a community have disagreed, saying group members are independent thinkers.
The forum concludes today. The session will be held from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Friends Meeting House, 1501 Cherry St. In another development yesterday, an attorney for Abu-Jamal and the Prison Radio Project filed a $2 million lawsuit in Washington against National Public Radio for canceling plans to broadcast Abu-Jamal's commentaries about life on death row.
...Yesterday's session was held in the Friends Center on Cherry Street rather than in City Council chambers because the chambers were in use. When the forum was announced several weeks ago, the Fraternal Order of Police and some Council members protested that City Hall should not be used for a program sponsored by a group opposed to capital punishment and involved in the campaign to overturn Abu-Jamal's conviction.
On Tuesday, the controversy escalated. The FOP played a video of a Boston TV program on which former members of the group -- the Bruderhof -- said the organization is a mind-controlling cult. Yesterday, Austin Murphy, who retired last year as a congressman representing Western Pennsylvania, where there are two Bruderhof communities, spoke in favor of the group, saying that "to call them a cult is very unfair."
Murphy said he disagrees with the Bruderhof's position on the death penalty "but they are sincere in their views. They are a communal-living religious organization, and they do a lot of good work here in Western Pennsylvania.'' Close to 50 people testified during the three-day forum. The vast majority were capital- punishment opponents.
Today I would like to be re-accepted by KIT as a writer, as least, thus hoping to get some answer, even if it is via KIT. You may remember that at the time of my dismissal from KIT, I told you to never again use my name in KIT and you answered me, reminding me that never was a long time. OK, this time the Bruderhof has, indirectly, shortened this never for me to this date! I still don't like some of the style (sometimes insulting) used in KIT against some people, but as far as the Bruderhof is concerned, it seems to work!
I very much like a French expression: "Qui s'excuse, s'accuse," concerning what I wrote in my second and last letter to KIT, asking about criticisms of the Bruderhof in KIT, why the writers did not stay on in the Bruderhof to try and better the place instead of screaming at them in KIT?
Listen to this Bruderhof crap. I actually had a phone call from some member of the Bruderhof thanking me for my suggestion. I asked the caller if he read all of my article. He said that he overlooked the rest of my KIT letter. So, if the French saying is true, by excusing myself to KIT readers who felt themselves being insulted by my suggestion, I today accuse myself by admitting my stupidity or ignorance, having left the Bruderhof at the wrong time. I could well imagine my status on the Bruderhof today if I had not left. I would be one of the pilots of JCA's Gulfstream jet, just like I always was one of the drivers of our luxurious ex-army trucks in Primavera, keeping our lifeline open between the communities and Puerto Rosario. I could well imagine me flying JCA out to the Bahamas, or to Rome, or Colombia -- whatever, always keeping my nose out of his business, just flying, and then getting to those places and staying at posh hotels, again always trying to be a clean boy, thinking about the air hostess coming along and staying at the same hotel. I admit today to a healthy jealousy towards the wealth of the Bruderhof. I shouldn't have left! Obviously, being one of the pilots of the Gulfstream, I would have to accept carrying a licensed automatic pistol under my armpit for defense of the expensive flying machine. I would even do 'charity-flying,' if necessary, to justify our tax exemption, to Colombia to look up the drug lords and offer to whitewash a few million dollars of their drug money. This already has been done by a church called "The Kingdom of God," so why not the Bruderhof?
(Quoting the new trend on the Bruderhof) Jesus must have changed his mind about "loving one's enemy" or being poor and humble. I am stupid enough not to take part in eating "the cake" the Bruderhof has managed to collect for themselves. Oh -- and Jesus now proclaiming Himself an SOB member again after being Hutterian, must probably mean they allow smoking again!?! (I nearly forgot this one!)
OK, I herewith officially lift my copyright of my name in KIT and instead of "@#^%&*, etc.," you may use my full name. Thanks! And if accepted, you will hear more from me in the future! Oh, I forgot one thing: I actually do get some answers from the Bruderhof once in a while. I get The Plough, and when I get it, I sit myself into the smallest room of the house, take The Plough in front of me, and soon after I have it behind me! By the way, The Plough lets me know that it is now found on the Internet, something that even with frantic searching on my Cat's Whisker receiver I cannot find. Maybe the Internet is really made only for the rich! I still offer a personal correspondence to anyone wishing it. My zip code has changed a bit, but the Brazilian post office offers better service! KIT: To help Hans catch up after his last appearance (in the 1992 KIT), we are mailing him a complimentary 1994 KIT annual, with best wishes.
I enjoy Susanna Fischli Alves Levy's stories very, very much! She has a real gift for writing and is able to make you feel Paraguay and our life in Primavera and Asuncion in a way I seldom have experienced before. It seems you can even smell the old Paraguay riverboat with all its people on it! I wonder if it is possible to have all her stories in a little booklet sometime! I am sure many of us would enjoy having this. I have written to her also, and after 43 years we have had a wonderful exchange of letters and feelings. That is what KIT does for us! Thank you!
I also like reading Norah's story, as she is very open about everything. It helps us to have names to the figures Roger describes in his book. For me personally, it also confirms that the Arnolds did want the power at all times. I remember my father (who was not free of wanting power either) told me that the Arnolds wanted a total dictatorship-leading from the Holy Spirit, but were quite sure that the Holy Spirit actually would reveal Himself through them. Therefore they should be the leaders of the "Holy Flock."
In the 1940s, the beginning years in Primavera, my father came across the more democratic ideas of all the English members like Gwynn Evans, Fred Goodwin, Llewelyn Harries, John Winter, Roger Allain, Phillip Britts, and it gave him a new insight and perspective on community life. It just is a pity that no one was really willing to give up a position for a real community sharing of 'All Things In Common,' thoughts, advice, life -- somehow there was only room for these individuals to grow out of perspective and use their power to keep everybody and everything under their control!
Maybe real community as a lifestyle is just not possible! Personally, I am quite allergic to anything with the name of sect, cult or community! I think our inner growth is only possible if we are able to live what we believe without suppressing our feelings! I feel very sad for all those caught up in the Bruderhof life, which is so completely ruled by fear. Fear is always something that does not come from above, but from below! Greetings to all,
I was so saddened and dismayed that my brothers hadn't bothered to let me know that my (our) mother had been so seriously ill for the four months before her death. I had, of course, known that since 1984, when she had a heart attack, that her health was delicate and frail, and encumbered by heart problems. But nonetheless, the letter from, well, nobody really, did shock and upset me quite a bit, as well as the cruelty of such notification.
The July before the 1994 KIT Conference at Friendly Crossways (which I, my husband, our two youngest daughters and our grandson had the good fortune to be able to attend) I wrote to two of my brothers: Rolf in New Meadow Run and Nick in Deer Spring. I told them I would be traveling in their areas soon and would like to know if we could stop in and visit. I also told them that my ultimate destination was the KIT Conference. I suggested they call me to verify visitation (collect if need be) as the time before our departure was short. They each called on the same day, between 8 A.M. and 5 P.M., collect! The message was the same: "We want to have no contact with you while you are part of KIT, which is a hate organization." I tried my best to reason with each of them. My oldest brother Rolf was more insensitive than Nick was. When I asked him if he had ever read a KIT newsletter, he said that he hadn't, but he knew that my soul was suffering because I was not, and I would not be, on the right track with anything until I stopped reading the newsletters. I never wrote about any of this to my other brother Peter and his family, and my mother who by then were living in Darvell.
December rolled around and I made up three boxes of Christmas cookies and sent them to each of my brothers. I addressed the boxes to the children of each, my nieces and nephews. Just after Christmas, UPS dropped off two packages addressed to me. Guess what? Rolf and Nick each had sent back the gifts, one of them completely unopened, and announced in short, terse words that I was not to contact the children behind their parents' backs.
The parcel that went to England did not get returned. Instead, Mother and Peter each wrote, thanking me for the cookies, but stating that they also no longer wanted contact with me, due to the fact that I was connected with KIT. So that kind of ended a chapter in my life. But, you know, all the years that I have been on the outside (about 28 now) I never put down or criticized their choice of life style. I always respected the fact that it was their choice. I received many a "Get a direction for your life" letter throughout the years, especially early-on. I tried to share events and things that happened in my life, but I didn't always feel so free to do so.
Now last summer, as I said, I point-blank told them that I have been reading the KIT newsletters. My mother knew that I had been doing this, as I had told her so when she visited me in May of 1993. She had very cautiously asked me if I received and read The Plough, and the news sheet called CAT. At that time, I threw in that I also received and read KIT. They all stayed in touch with me just fine before that and for a few years after, and didn't seem to mind a bit.
Anyway, in May I received two cards, one from my brother in Darvell saying that "Mommy has been quite unwell." The other written by my mother in a very shaky handwriting, saying that just because we were no longer having contact with one another was no reason she could not wish me a happy birthday ( my birthday was in early April). Then, before I wrote back to her, I received the notice of her death. I really wish someone had let me know what was going on with her so that I could have written to her one last time. I am also fine with the concept that she was where she wanted to be and that she was at peace with her life and those around her.
During this last year, we have been dealing with the illness of cancer. Bill's family has been very supportive and has given us a lot of help. My side of the family, however, the loving, Christian folks, have not even let our problems touch them. It must be something so high above the rest of us. Only one person in the Bruderhof has kept in touch with me throughout the years, and she remains supportive in a non-tangible capacity.
We drove to San Antonio, Texas, for Bill's 100-day check-up at the end of last month. From everything that brought instant results, he is doing very well. A lot of the very important tests are done elsewhere in labs around the country, and the results should be sent to us soon. In the meantime, Bill continues to spend his time resting and reading and helping to teach the girls. (We've been home- schooling them for a while now). We are all looking forward to spring and summer, when we plan to do some camping and visiting in Colorado and Texas, and perhaps KITFEST '96. We shall see how goes everything. Greetings to all, PS. Just as I finished writing the above, we received a phone call from the research nurse at the VA in San Antonio. All the test results are back, and everything is just fine. What a relief!!! No cancer present at this time. So here's to looking upward and onward!
True, there is a driving force making many feel that they need to rake up old grievances. This, aired as it is in an open letter, can put the Bruderhof in a bad light for things long past. Perhaps the Bruderhof members that are so concerned about this should acknowledge that, in the first place, this is being done decades after the event because there was no vehicle to do it sooner. People who were caused to leave their chosen way of life and their home and friends were pretty effectively cut off from others in the same boat. Not totally, and in England there was certainly a loose network of exBruderhofers keeping in touch and friendship long before KIT. I remember a tour of these families was our first holiday after returning to the UK. from being kicked out of Oak Lake in 1961. Luckily for us, my father's parents were still alive and supportive and enabled us to return to the country where my parents could practice their professions. So, although we couldn't afford to run a car, we eventually managed to rent one and set off to visit the Lords, Wrights, Marchants, Fischlis, Jeffries, Greenyers, and others. I think we had already had a visit or two from Buddug and Gwynn Evans, and I can say that, to me, aged 11, it was a lifeline to realise that there were others battling with the same disorientation and sense of loss.
Well, many of those we visited rejoined, so they know the value of keeping in touch, even if my contemporaries, children born into the Bruderhof like me but who stayed in, don't. Now that KIT offers a vehicle, it is the people who haven't had the chance to share their awful experiences before that are doing a lot of the writing, and that is giving others the confidence to open up. But positive and happy memories are also shared in the KIT newsletter, although not, we have to assume, passed on by those in power, who read and pick out the juicy bits to shock our relatives within.
A second reason for people raking up the past is that the Bruderhof chooses to publish accounts of history that are patently one-sided and often inaccurate. That is perfectly normal practice: history is usually written by the victorious side and usually with a justification objective. But it is also normal for the many witnesses to an alternative history to set down their record to balance the picture. The "truth" may well be something in the middle and is much more likely to be arrived at if people experiencing the same thing from different perspectives read each other's accounts and discuss the variations, than if any one "side" thinks its memory and interpretation are infallible. As a matter of fact, this is one of the healthy processes occurring from time to time in KIT, with ex- Bruderhofers contradicting each other as and when opportunity arises.
Who reads KIT in the Bruderhof and so foully misinterprets and misrepresents KIT to the trusting people within the Bruderhof that they cause loved ones to react to KIT in such a negative and narrow way? Do you remember when there were widespread apologies for the wrongs that were done in the late I950s/early 1960s? I was personally apologised to on several occasions, even though I knew less than I do now about the wrongs that had been done, being such a youngster when I left. Not long ago, Bruderhof members openly recognised that unacceptable things had happened. Yet, now that contributors to the KIT newsletters are spelling such things out, KIT becomes the wrongdoer and enemy. Many of the current brotherhood members were victims of the same bad practices that are being aired in the newsletter, so they would know that most of what is written is true, if they actually read it, and they'd appreciate how many writers dwell warmly on the past. Choosing not to read accounts that may be unpalatable is a right everyone has -- I choose what I read in the media, what books I continue with, what TV programs I watch, etc. -- but this wholesale indictment of all of us who choose to read or contribute to KIT by people who don't read it and are only going by third party reporting of edited sleazy bits is sickening.
Having said that, I do have concerns about some recent developments that are, in my opinion, damaging to the original KIT objectives. Firstly, we are not an organisation. We are a bunch of individuals that communicate in a variety of ways and who have in common previous membership, involvement with and/or interest in the Bruderhof. When Ramon Sender, Ben Cavanna and one or two others raised the question during the European 1994 KIT Conference about the formation of a more formal organisation to carry forward some of the "grievances" being shared in KIT circles, they got the thumbs down. I was there and my recollection is that an overwhelming majority of people did not want an organisation to speak on their behalf to the Bruderhof. Why, then, have people on the KIT editorial board, people with the highest profile contributing to the KIT process, including the editor of KIT, formed Children of the Bruderhof without first resigning from the KIT editorial team? They didn't clearly divorce the activities of COBI from KIT and the result has had a very negative impact for ex-Bruderhofers, particularly worsening access to friends and relatives "inside". Basically, the COBI activity has aggravated a very sensitive situation to the detriment of those who spoke out against its formation, as well as to others. The COBI meeting was convened in the vicinity of the U.S. KIT conference and, now that COBI folk are being sued, an 'appeal for financial support goes out in KIT in the same breath as reminding KIT readers to send in their newsletter subscriptions. How can you expect Bruderhof members to see these things as quite separate? In the March newsletter, reference is made to "200 members of COB" without an editorial comment correcting this -- again, I assume the writer is confusing KIT contacts with COBI members, and I think it is a pity.
Personally, I have always been against the concept of organised confrontation, and suspect that COBI was formed as part of a power game, whether intentionally so or not. I wasn't the only one who said it would back the Bruderhof into a corner and unite them with a common and tangible 'enemy.' But I did say it, both at the Conference and, since then, to at least one of the eight now being sued, so I don't want to support it by contributing to the defense fund. Having said that, the Bruderhof almost drives me to reverse that antipathy. It sinks ever lower in my estimation by their resort to the Courts over this and their pursuit of Mike Boller, never mind their use of bugs and guns. I used to respect members for their chosen way of life and was quite drawn to it myself at times when visiting my ailing mother at Darvell; no longer. There exist mechanisms for conciliation and arbitration, and one would have thought that professed pacifists would resort to these to resolve differences with their offspring -- and even Ramon and Blair!
I definitely do not want to destroy the Bruderhof. It has to be up to members to choose to tie their leadership to a dynasty that fails to help them attain their wider objectives or not. I don't actually care whether Christoph Arnold is brilliant, holy or mad. Goodness knows the whole of this country operates under a monarchy of dubious merit that chooses its government with a minority of votes and all of that has far more impact on my present life. I don't remember Christoph as a kid but, if I did, it would be utterly irrelevant. As he is the leader, my sister Susan and I have asked twice at Darvell that, when he visits, he agree to meet some of us to discuss some of the issues concerning KIT folk. It has come to nothing yet, and I am less optimistic than two years ago when we first made the request. The sad thing is that, whatever we say, they are choosing to think we do want to destroy them.
Has anyone involved with KIT deliberately set out to harm the Bruderhof's business relationships? Has anyone tried to stop customers buying from the Bruderhof'? They think KIT folk have and I think, if they have, we should all know about it so that we can choose to continue to associate with those people or not. But I'm not going to give up reading or contributing to KIT as long as it sticks to its stated objectives and principles. I can only speak for myself-- if that doesn't enable me to continue to have relationships with people who are in the Bruderhof, then I have to move my life along without that. But I repeat: I have no intention to harm the Bruderhof or anyone in it and my door is open to anyone from the Bruderhof who, by prior arrangement, would like to seek reconciliation with anyone outside. I would want to give shelter and support to anyone trying to make their own way out of Bruderhof life, but I would also be supportive to anyone wanting to find their way back in. That has always been my position; I like open doors and get claustrophobic when they are shut!
Like Loy, I have a bit of a concern about the two or three levels of communication that are operating in this KIT process now. E-mail may theoretically be open to all, but practically it excludes many. Please be careful that you don't become exclusive or elitist, editing out what isn't good for us to know now or yet or ever.
It might be useful to everyone if someone did a brief explanation of the various levels of communication and their purpose, etc., and perhaps gave a link contact. When there is audio or visual material circulating, a clearer communication of what it is or a contact number to find out more might be nice; otherwise references to such stuff should be cut out of letters because whenever I am not "in the know" (which, I think, is seldom!) such references make me uncomfortable. Recently we seem to be getting letters and replies in one issue, which also gives "advantage" to some.
So, in summary, I hate the way the Bruderhof and ex- Bruderhofers are polarising and think the situation hasn't been helped by some people on both sides acting unilaterally. I am made uncomfortable by the confusion (which I think could have been avoided) between KIT and COBI, and hope that more will be done to ensure distinction or, preferably, that COBI doesn't continue to exist. I think KIT readers deserve a briefing on the E-Mail and other communication networks linking ex-Bruderhofers on different levels to KIT. In KIT gatherings up Titterstone, on the Thames, in Bulstrode, in people's houses, at conferences et al, I have experienced great fun and comradeship. Sometimes we even forget to talk about the Community! I enjoy reading KIT and appreciate all the hard work and long hours that must go into its production and delivery to my door. Muchas gracias a todos. Much Love, KIT comments: We appreciate Rosie's critique, and invite our readers' reactions!
If anyone complains about my letters, tell the complainants that I never had that luxury, as a child, to complain to anyone. The only ones who listened to me were the four horses, two cows, two calves and Guka the dog, but none of them was able to do anything about the abuse I had to encounter.
All these black marks I am making on this white piece of paper are just words, when my body exalts sounds, it is only words. Clapping hands or farting, all of it is communication. So when some Calvinists tell us we must not say "s---" or we go to Hell, that is only a method to control us and intimidate us so that the Church can exploit us to the maximum. The Christian Churches are the most oppressive and intolerant bodies of the human race. It is all very good to cheat, steal, torture and exploit people in any way imaginable -- but you must not say "s---"???? Do you know, a hell of a lot KIT readers are still exactly the same as they used to be on the Bruderhof? They only are KIT readers because they had been kicked out and they still are not capable of making up their own minds. Just like chickens, horses, or sheep, they only know how to react to a situation, so if they hear the word "s---" -- "We must protest!" -- "Immer Der Obrichkeit Gehorsam Sein." ("Always be obedient to the Top Brass"). That was one of most devastating things the Bruderhof had achieved, to destroy the concept of thought, so that even today we still have the EuroKIT Plappertaschen vom Denken Werden Hhner Krank? ("Gossipers thinking like sick hens"). Some of this s-- - that some people have written to me you would never believe! Had they not been kicked out, they today would be a most strong supporter of his Divine holiness Tehdel awaiting A Most Holy Heini Vetter.
Does KIT know that when the newsletter goes out, a lot of copies are copied again and read by a lot more people then you would ever give credit to, such as the Hutterite Colonies? Copies are sneaked out of the Ministers' offices, (Hutterites never lock anything up) and then copies are smuggled to other colonies to brothers, sisters, cousins, parents, and Winnipeg, of course. Secrets always go hand-in-hand with corruption. That also applies to the Holy Ones. Those people who have written to me I'm convinced are ardent KIT readers. They also knew about my late-night visits to Bulstrode in the sixties, and they were utterly disgusted with Tehdel taking Michael Boller to court, considering that without his grandfather there would not have been a Bruderhof. In the early thirties, the Bruderhof was just about dissolved -- bankrupt. It was just because of the Boller capital (a hell of a lot of Swiss francs) and God Vetter that the Bruderhof survived. How much God Vetter did and how much the Swiss francs did you can work out for yourself. Perhaps one day the Bruderhof will be recreated again!
Another thing you must know about is what happened when Dieter Holz's son was involved in a very serious car accident. Dieter was one of the ten war orphans from Germany who came to Wheathill in 1949 and ever since Owen and Alice Humphries were their foster parents. Well, Owen died some years ago, and Alice went back to the Holy Ones, but as a mother she maintained a contact with Klaus and Dieter and their respective children; Adrian, Dieter's eldest son, was the one who suffered the accident and had to be transported immediately to a special care unit in Birmingham where he was for over a week in Intensive Care. On the second day after the accident Alicia, Dieter's oldest daughter, phoned Darvell in order to let Alice know what had happened to Adrian and that he was in great danger of dying. The clown that answered the phone did not let Alicia talk to Alice, saying she was only saying that on pretense so she that she could talk to Alice, which was not allowed. So with Alicia insisting, eventually they asked her to tell them which hospital Adrian was in, so they could check the authenticity of Alicia's story. Alicia was never allowed to talk to Alice, in spite of the fact that Dieter named her after Alice. So low have the Holy Ones stooped in the name of Jesus Vetter!
It is all understandable to those who know Tehdel. He really exhilarates when he can exercise power like that over people, just like his not allowing Wilhelm Fischer to be buried in Bulstrode. What did Wilhelm ever do bad to anyone in all his life? He was a most dedicated member of the Bruderhof who never put himself above anyone, always a good morale-booster, especially when things did not go easy. I never forget when I was just ten years old, I came from Ibat to Loma Hoby, and soon after my arrival I was in Ausschluss in Loma and worked in the cowstall with Peter Mathis, Walter Bennett and Hau. Wilhelm was work distributor, but often helped in the cowstall when a lot of the cows had calves and were really mad and protective of their newborns. At that time in Loma, there were Wilhelm Fischer, Peter Mathis, Migg Fischli and Johnny Robinson who were the ones who made everything happen. It was so secure! After my time in Ibat, it felt so good to be in Loma Hoby. I can never remember any one of those four Wilhelm, Peter, Migg or Johnny ever even raising their voices against me. All four of them were really good friends of mine. They also were very popular with everyone who I knew. Even today all the Paraguayans who knew them still talk very highly of them, as well as Ted Land.
Part of the planned strategy of those American crooks before they could destroy Primavera was to get rid of those five men, plus people like Roland Keiderling, Joshua Dreher, Danni Meier, and Roger Allain. The same tactic was applied in Weathill. People were thrown away who had worked there for years and built up the farm that was so neglected that during the war it been taken away by the Ministry of Agriculture from the farmer for not being productive. It makes me really wild when I think of the way people were kicked out, like Colin Rimes after so many years of hard work, always long hours. He lost his family because of the Bruderhof, and in November, 1960, he was kicked out to find a job in construction in Birmingham when everything had just about closed down for the winter. He had one small suitcase with one change of clothes and 'twelve and sixpence,' which at that time did not even equal three dollars.
At the end of Weathill, Wilhelm was there too, building a new complex in Lower Bromdon. Ulrich von Kller was still just about there -- they already had met and had hit it off very well together. Out of all the adults who had been kicked out, the only two who I knew who were aware of the fact that the whole break-up of the Bruderhof was a conspiracy from beginning to end were Ulrich von Kller and Allan Baer. Today, when we see the big business in narcotics as criminal conspiracy, it can perhaps still carry a air of respectability when compared with those sharks who wrecked the Bruderhof. I have no problem in comparing them with people who sell dope to kids outside a playground. No different then how they stole everything from Alf Withers, David Canes, John Pottock, Maggie Watkins, Mary Causey, Norman Price, Joost Dirksen, Bee Tribble, Jack and Annie Ellison, Mary Bronkhurst, Owen and Alice, none of these Americans was ever good enough to flush a toilet for any of these people. At the time Wheathill got stolen by the 'Americans' it had been judged the Best Mixed Farm in the midlands of England. The poultry was accredited, which meant that stock could be sold for breeding at premium prices, some of the sheep were fetching the highest prices in England for their respective breed, the cows were all pedigreed Redpole. Some of the cows were amongst the highest- yielding in England for Redpoles. All that created out of nothing in less than twenty years and all destroyed in less than one month by the 'Americans.' And where has all the money gone? All the people who got kicked out, who created Wheathill, were kicked out with nothing, like Colin Rimes and the Ellison family, exactly the same as to what is happening today in Bosnia. And meanwhile the American Holy Ones, with their big mouths, are moralizing the whole world?
Wilhelm Fischer and Peter Mathis are in lost graves, just like many people in Yugoslavia. Those three should have been buried in Primavera by the Orange Wood, because that is where their Heimat (home) is, but that was not made possible, purely out of divine greed by a handful of American Heini-worshippers. This letter is running out of paper, but there are many more things I would like to write about for a very special audience. I am now writing a review of the book Freedom From Sinful Thoughts by His Holiness Heini Arnold Vetter. But that will be for intellectuals like us only, not at all suitable for EuroKIT Plappertaschen.. Do you have a copy of this Most Holy Manuscript? If you haven't, you should because it explains a hell of a lot about His Holiness! Your compaero,
As far as Mr. Cornell's going to prison for dealings with the Hutterites, this is misinformation. He never went to prison for anything that was remotely connected to the Hutterites. He went to prison because he had access to my checking account while on Welfare (access which he did not use). It was a vendetta from the local authorities to get him to get to me. Although he was formerly married with children, Mr. Cornell was openly living an alternate lifestyle. It did not go too well in our small mountain community of 500. So, they arrested him and his then-wife (female) on welfare fraud charges. These people could not hurt a fly and are serious, ethical Christians. Mr. Cornell went to prison for a year and his wife was put on probation. It was a very sad travesty of justice. Today, even though he is now openly living his lifestyle, he has a great relationship with his wife, children, grandchildren, family members and friends.
As for me and my prison life, well... I am not guilty of any of this, but with the exception of one charge in 1984, nothing was related to my dealings with the Hutterites. And the only thing I was ever arrested for and served time for concerning the Hutterites was signing a real estate deed to protect it in lieu of money owed me by the Hutterites. That is all. I was never questioned about any other dealing concerning the oil well story, trucking story or any other business dealings of the Hutterites. And the property in question was in upstate New York. Basically, when I initially started working for Mike Waldner and Rosedale and Millbrook, I asked permission to take what they owed me and buy a parcel of land in upstate New York. This land (85± acres of a former private boys school with buildings) was going to be used for a "mini" colony as the operations center for the Hutterites' businesses. Mr. Cornell gave up his property and I gave up my property, to live on and work out of the school property. I took $145,000.00 from the Hutterite account that I maintained for Mike Waldner, purchased the property and put it in Rosedale's name. This was Mr. Cornell's and my commission money that Rosedale owed us.
At about the same time, I loaned Millbrook $100,000.00 at 6% simple interest, with a 10-year balloon on the principal amount and only one $6,000.00 payment per year for ten years. In ten years, the Hutterites would make only one $100,000.00 payment and only one $6,000.00 payment per year on interest every year for ten years. This was the beginning of the low interest loans I was to give them, and this was when interest on loans was as high as 22% per year.
The long and short of my legal dilemma is that when Mike Waldner and Joe and Jake Kleinsasser fired me and Mr. Cornell, he (Mike Waldner) promised to give me and Mr. Cornell the property if we forgave the $100,000.00 loan. After pressure and threats, we reluctantly agreed. Then after a week or so, Mike Waldner reneged on the agreement. So I retitled the deed to reflect that the Rosedale corporation, Mr. Cornell and I each owned 1/3 of the deed. This way no one could do anything with the deed. I went to prison for signing the deed without Mike Waldner's authority to do so. All I was trying to do was have Mike Waldner sue Mr. Cornell and me over the property to show that the Hutterites owed us our commissions and the money on the loan. I formed a new corporation in which all three of us (Mr. Cornell, Rosedale and I) had a 1/3 interest in the property. Neither Mike Waldner, Mr. Cornell nor I could do anything with the upstate New York property unless it went to court. This is called "clouding the deed." However, when he took the witness stand in my 1984 criminal trial, he did not admit that he promised us the property in exchange for us forgiving the $100,000.00 loan. That's all he would have had to say. I would not have been found guilty, nor would I be sitting in prison now. But he chose to lie.
Even though this matter is not related to the Hutterites, it has a collateral effect. "If I can 'rip off' Christian people like the Hutterites, then I am guilty if there ever is a question concerning my business dealings." The local zealous prosecutor in my area who hooked up with Mike Waldner created a reason to get me. If I had not trusted Mike Waldner, Jake and Joe Kleinsasser, then I would have protected myself. But why should I have worried about any criminal consequences concerning the Hutterites? I wasn't doing anything illegal. That is the long and short of the matter. The property deed was the only dealing related to the Hutterites that got me into hot water.
The Hutterites still owe me and Mr. Cornell approximately $180,000.00 on the note (this includes interest, but not attorney's fees). We also are owed a substantial amount in commissions. This may be litigated soon.
To correct the record concerning Mr. Gibb's allegation of my being a retired school teacher at the time I worked for the Hutterites or his other allegations about me, I can add the following: I was about 27 years old when I started assisting the Hutterites. I had owned and sold several businesses prior to that time, and I certainly was not retired from anything, let alone a teaching position. Also, I recently had been divorced and involved in a relationship with another woman. Mr. Gibb's allegations certainly make for great reading though.
I have received letters alleging that I "begged" the Hutterites to allow me to work for them. This is quite interesting, but it was quite the contrary. I was asked to work for the Hutterites. At first I was reluctant because I did not know who they were or did not understand their lifestyle. Others writers want to know if I wouldn't mind visiting the colonies to explain my position. In a month or so I should know whether I am coming home within the next two months or in March, 1997. Once I know definitely, I will let you know. Sincerely,
Last week, the day before Valentine's, was the heaviest rainfall in 37 years, and this is the "dry" season. The small stream across the road turned into a 40-yard-wide river and came up into our house, leaving behind 34 tons of mud on the floor along with a six-inch snapping turtle who found refuge on an overturned shoe under my bed, and hundreds of dead fingerlings. After three days of shoveling mud and hauling wheelbarrow-loads, we got a fire hose to finish cleaning up the floor. The mattresses are mouldy and all the books on the bottom shelf and in boxes under the bed are goners. The cement block wall in the backyard went down from too much water pressure, bursting through to the neighbor's. Now we are getting a new front wall and some moveable sheet metal barriers put up in front so that next time there will be fewer problems.
I can remember graduation from kindergarten at Loma in 1960, and I have a photo of Sergei Mercouchev, Orene Owen, Una Whitty and I all holding paper cones of candy sugar (tten), and each of us has a smile that reaches from ear to ear. Also I remember that Emmanuel didn't graduate because he was only 5-1/2, even though I felt he was in our same cohort. And how he cried!
My son Francisco Xavier is now 2-1/2 years and has some skin infections from all the mud. Also some fever and diarrhea, but he's better now. My some James Hernan, 13, is getting ready for high school that starts next week. Also Daniel Jacob, 14, and Dave Lerroy, 17, who live with their maternal grandmother, also are fixing to get back to school. Until next time,
He left the Commune never to return, and married his wife in Germany. When he married, he changed his family name to Schnsee, the maiden name of his wife. With his he wanted to cut himself off from all ties and bad memories of his past.
We remained in contact with him through the years. In one of his last letters, he wrote about his search for 'The Promised Land,' 'Das Gelobte Land.' His travels took him to Mexico, USA, Canada, South America, Africa and Europe, but he realized he had no home, or Heimat. During his lifetime he painted over 1500 oil paintings on canvas. He had each one photographed and sometimes sent us copies. The paintings are absolutely fascinating. Some are quite modern, others are nature scenes of Paraguayan landscapes, and many others try to express his feelings from the past.
Once he wrote, "Artists have to die first before they become famous."
So I greet you with a very sad heart, knowing that he is in 'The Promised Land' now.
Mormon Church leaders kept secret the repeated sexual assaults of two former Raleigh County children to avoid embarrassment, a multi-million dollar lawsuit said. Officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, including its president, Gordon B. Hinckley, did not report the assaults to authorities as required by law, Columbia, SC, attorney Michael Sullivan alleges. The suit also alleges that Raleigh General Hospital officials knew about the assaults but failed to notify authorities. The $750 million lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Raleigh County Circuit Court by an unidentified Alaskan woman on behalf of her now 11-year old daughter. A separate lawsuit will be filed later for her 15-year old son, Sullivan said.
Don LeFevre, a spokesman for the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City, was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Raleigh General Hospital President Brent Marstellar declined comment, saying the lawsuit had been sent to hospital attorneys.
The children's father, 40-year old James Adams, told at least three church officials in 1989 that he had sexually abused his children, but authorities were not notified, Sullivan said. The boy was 8 and his sister 5 when the abuse began, police said.
According to the suit, Adams told his father, James Adams, Sr., a bishop of the Beckley congregation; Kenneth Holt, the former president of Raleigh General Hospital who was a church member and Adams' boss; and Blair Meldrum, who oversaw the Beckley congregation. State law requires clergymen, health professionals, court officials and school personnel to report known or suspected child abuse. Failure to notify authorities is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 10 days in jail and a $100 fine. James Adams, Sr. and his son, who lived in Crab Orchard, are not named in the lawsuit. Holt and Meldrum are also not defendants in the case. Calls to Holt's home in Nags Head, NC, were not answered Tuesday.
Adams was sentenced in 1994 to 75 to 185 years in prison after pleading guilty to a 37-count indictment charging him with sexual assault, sexual abuse, incest and child pornography. Prosecutors said he sexually assaulted his son and daughter and videotaped the assaults. He was arrested in February 1994, when police seized a 55-minute videotape from his home... Adams withdrew his plea last September and is scheduled to be tried April 29 on the original charges. The videotape Adams allegedly made is key to the prosecution's case.
The suit alleges officials in the Mormon Church kept quiet about the assaults to protect the church's reputation. Instead, they decided to "cure" Adams with in-house counseling, it said. Church officials later urged Adams to plead guilty to spare the church embarrassment and possible civil liability, Sullivan said.
"This is a prime example of an organization hijacked by its own success," Sullivan said. "When confronted with evidence of sexual abuse, the church closed ranks in a conspiracy of silence to protect its own reputation at the expense of these children."
Sullivan said earlier that his law firm had acquired the book and movie rights in the children's case. He did not say how much the deal is worth.
Adams' father and mother, Mabel Adams, told a reporter at sentencing that their son pleaded guilty to spare his family the embarrassment of a trial. The couple said they didn't realize the children were being molested until charges were filed.
The suit alleges the Mormon Church also has failed to report abuse of other children. Officials in the church have made "secret settlements" with victims, it said.
The lawsuit names the Mormon Church, five officials in the church, Raleigh General Hospital and its parent company, Hospital Corporation of America. The case generated widespread interest in the national media.
I was very happy to read Andy Harries' news that Ruthie is out of the Bruderhof. I remember her as a delightful teenager in Wheathill when we were there in the early 50s. Out of respect for the family's wishes, of course I will not try to contact her. But the obsession so many B'hofers have about "gossip" really troubles me.
The Bruderhof labels any talking about any other person not actually present as gossip. By labeling any such natural communication between persons as fundamental sin, the Bruderhof successfully prevents any discussion of behavior or policies outside the hearing and control of the leaders. This severely handicaps the ordinary brothers and sisters from evaluating and constructively criticizing the dictated beliefs, behavior and policies.
Suppression of gossip also is a powerful tool for keeping people totally unaware of their true feelings, or feeling so guilty about them that they cannot really experience and evaluate them. To talk about your observations, feelings, and opinions outside the presence of the leaders is perceived as betrayal of the Bruderhof. Yet the real betrayal is by the dictatorial power structure which betrays the God- given heart, mind, and soul of each individual who is suppressed into non-feeling, non-thinking and silence.
Yes, gossip certainly can be a nuisance. But there are several shades of gray here. Alas, I fear that at this point I will lose those readers who are still bound up in the rigid stereotyping of all decisions into Black and White thinking. Hopefully some will hang in their and possibly consider liberating their thinking.
In the first place, many conversations about another person not present are not gossip at all. How many of us express feelings about another person to a trusted friend as a way of figuring out if we are being unreasonable? Or how often do we blow off steam to a spouse about someone we care about whose behavior irritates but isn't important enough to bring up with them? If we do that as a way of figuring out where we stand and what we need to do about it, I see that as a healthy tool for getting along with others. And, by the way, doing something about it may be as simple as reacting differently, not necessarily talking about it.
What is less clear (how black, how white) is when people deal with tension between themselves by getting another person involved. If I am only avoiding dealing with the person I am irritated with, or if I expect the third person to deal with that person for me, this is not fair to the third person or the source of my irritation either. What can be really vicious is talking about people in order to make others dislike them. Actually telling lies to discredit or hurt them is obviously on the black end of the spectrum, along with using such gossip to manipulate or control people.
At times, such gossip is a big problem for some of the residents at the substance abuse treatment program where I work. Most of these people are there as an alternative to being in prison. Or they 'volunteer' as the only way to get custody of their children back after the state has taken them away. Many come right off the streets, bringing their language, attitudes and behaviors with them. So when we have a large number of newcomers in this six-month program, there is usually an escalation of gossip.
This can be very hard for people who are new to recovery. Many are just off drugs, feeling very uncomfortable physically and emotionally. They feel bad about themselves as they realize how they have behaved and what positive things they have missed doing with their lives, so they are especially vulnerable. When residents use malicious gossip, the folks talked about can get sidetracked into worrying about what others say about them. They want to fight, leave, go and use drugs to relieve the pain (all of which would get them kicked out). And they protect themselves by not talking about their issues in meetings -- a very important part of the recovery process where they should be receiving validation of their pain, and support in changing their ways. Some who are not yet committed to recovery use this as an excuse to not work on themselves, although their pain is certainly real. Both gossiper and victims focus on what others are doing wrong instead of how they need to change themselves.
Most of the victims find friends to comfort and help them stay in the program, while they learn to disregard what others are saying. The gossip can be reported for discipline, and the older, stronger residents eventually do take a stand, which helps everyone. Because this behavior comes in cycles, it is interesting to notice that early victims who are working and growing learn to recognize that the problem of gossip really belongs to the gossiper; that they do not need to take it seriously or let it hurt them. They learn to avoid hearing it and eventually speak up when others are being gossiped about. So this uncomfortable, unhealthy problem does not destroy the world, or even the treatment program. It gets dealt with in healthy ways, and people grow through the experience.
Another tool the program uses is the Feelings Group for all residents on Friday afternoon before half of them leave on passes. Here the director gives everyone a chance to express feelings and criticisms. If the issue is between two people, that is postponed for the director's office (where it is treated as a dispute, not necessarily admonition). And if one person's behavior is upsetting, that person must be present for the issue to be talked about. It is pleasant to hear the director advocating understanding for some individuals. Anyway, this is a safe place to let off steam about what they don't like about the general behavior, the program, etc. And many changes do result from it, although not all the changes residents want -- like food!
Residents do have ways of tolerating each other without using the rules as a club. They use discrimination about how and when to report someone, although it is better to report than to get into a fight. Once they even had a meeting of residents only, behind the backs of director and staff, to talk about the issue of getting the whole house shut down (no telephone calls, visits or passes) if the stealing didn't stop. It did get cleared up, with no negative consequences, and they weren't considered traitors for having a "secret" meeting. Also, the residents are allowed to let off steam about anyone, say anything they choose behind closed doors in the director's or their drug counselor's offices, without consequences. The need to vent feelings is understood, and possible.
In spite of problems there, and there are several, I love working in this place because of many similar aspects to the B'hof: Such as 8-10 little kids living with moms on the women's side with their own daycare part of the day and "communal" meals, which I eat with them some of the time. I certainly enjoy the healthier policies compared to the B'hof.
Another thing which was crazy-making in the B'hof was the way we tried to perfect each other. I remember how, when a servant was being excluded in Paraguay, we were encouraged to go and tell him all the things we thought he had done wrong to help him "out of love." Done in this way, it wasn't necessarily helpful or loving. Because the B'hof was all bound up in its own practices, we had no opportunity to learn better ways of helping people because we couldn't allow ourselves to learn anything from the 'evil' outside world. But actually, wasn't the main goal to push the person back into line -- the B'hof mold?
Interestingly, I never thought of admonition as an opportunity to express my feelings and exchange points of view (which could have been healthy). I always thought I had to be right and correct the one who was wrong before I could admonish anyone -- so I seldom did. (Was I the only one who understood admonition this way?) I did once speak my mind to Lini who clearly asserted herself and told me off for not knowing what I was talking about -- I was a new mother, she had teenagers, and I backed off. I continued to like Lini, but after that pretty much left the admonishing to others.
One of the things that has incensed me is the freedom of the leaders to discuss other members at any length behind their backs and to make judgments about them. I don't believe true followers of Jesus act that way. And I was very confused between my perceptions and my beliefs about the B'hof when I sat in meetings where the sentences were passed out.
Thanks for letting me let off steam here. I enjoy each month of KIT, especially letters by Norah, Bette, Belinda, Nadine and many others. I love news about old friends and acquaintances, and am sad about the passing of the earlier generation who worked so hard to build up Wheathill and Paraguay, which we experienced in the 50s.
"Do you read KIT's letters?" he had said,
"KIT is evil, and should not be read."
which often brings me joy
then thrown out
To wander around,
who will care
as it unfolds.
as I drank my tea.
and could not see
Dec. 18th: I have received an apology, which I have accepted, from the Bruderhof in Nonnington, Kent.
As I mentioned before, after my little Andre died, I wrote down all I could remember about his life, and collected all the pictures and quotations or verses that people made for us in memory of him. I was most comforted by a poem composed by Christopher Boller, then a boy of 15. Also Sylvia wrote a song for him. It was evident that he had been really loved by others as well as by us. Pauli was too young to understand much about it, and quite cheerfully accepted that his little brother was in heaven.
When I came back from the hospital we had moved to the former kindergarten, the Sonnenherz house, and I began making a garden in front. I know we sowed some seeds of the castor oil plant and they grew tremendous and gave us shade, though they were not very beautiful, and also I sowed some yellow flowers, and watched them grow with great joy. Philip had in the meantime been sent to work for STICA, in order to earn some money for the community, and now they wanted to have Roger for a certain period, because he had quite a bit of experience of Paraguayan trees by now, and they wanted to grow young trees in the nursery. So it was decided that Roger should go for three months, and he should be back before our next baby was born. I got along fairly well, all things considered, until one evening when there was a brotherhood meeting and I was suddenly confronted with the suggestion, instantly agreed to by everyone, that I should move back to the Halle. For me this was a terrible blow. I had settled down in our new room and planted the garden and was happy there, and suddenly out of the blue I had got to move and Roger wasn't even there to help me. I said nothing, but the next day I just wept and wept, and I suppose Margot must have told Hans Z. He came to see me and was kindness itself, and said they had need of a teacher for the first class, and had decided that Roger should be tried. So we were packed off to Isla, and lived in a room in one of the four big halls, next door to Hardi and his children. Goodness knows how many families were in one of those halls! Roger went into the school, and our own Pauli was in his class, and it was evident from the start that Roger was doing very well. I believe I went into the kitchen and worked again with Kathe Ebner in the children's kitchen. Milk and eggs were still very scarce at that time, and I remember the awful pangs I suffered when Cisco, who had reached the great age of three, was crossed off the morning milk list. He still looked so frail and thin and small. I would do my best to supplement the food by going on Sunday afternoon with Roger and the children to the orange wood to fetch oranges for the family. When it was the season, we came home with a whole sack full.
It must have been about this time that the community started making plans for a third village in Ibate, which was originally planned as a home for orphan children, because the Second World War had come to an end and we heard that there were lots of orphan children, and we wanted to help. The fact was that we had been feeling our isolation from Europe and everything with which we had once been familiar, and finding it almost impossible to get real contact with our Paraguayan neighbours except through our medical work. We needed to feel ourselves in some vital relationship with the civilized world again, although one may well ask oneself if the word civilized is appropriate. So it was decided to send Hanz Z. on a journey to Germany.
Meanwhile, plans were made for a village in Ibate and a beginning was made there. First they built the gate-house, and afterwards the house where the Trapnells lived and where we were to live for a time on our return from El Arado. Adolf Braun was in charge there, and Guy and Eleanor Johnson and the Trapnells were among the first to be sent there. Ibate was very closely surrounded by the forest to begin with. One had the feeling of being shut in, whereas from the Isla Margarita hill there was a wide view and from Loma you could see way out across the campo [grasslands] too. Nevertheless, in the end I became very fond of Ibate.
It was during our Isla Margarita years also that we experienced a terrible four-month drought, and one or two invasions of locusts. Suffice it to say that we survived everything, but they were hard times. During these years the hospital work was steadily increasing, and we began in this connection to send out brothers to get funds for the hospital and also to make friends and get people interested in our life. Hans Meier and Peter Mathis were sent to Buenos Aires and later Philip and Bruce went to Brazil. We who remained at home felt ourselves also taking part by proxy in these journeys. We were doing our bit, and so the task was being forwarded by us as well. Letters from those on mission were eagerly awaited and read with tremendous interest. This was a bit of real life.
Actually, of course, the daily round, especially for mothers, who, after all the day's work was done and the evening meeting over, still had babies to feed, who had them to look after during the siesta and on Sunday afternoons, etc., was fearful drudgery, and so the longing for some life apart from the work was very great. All too often Church meetings were dull repetitions of what one had heard before, dished up again and again, and how many of those meetings did I sit through in an agony of weariness, nearly falling off my chair, noticing every time I sat up with a jerk again how Roger was glaring fiercely at me from the other side of the room, no doubt feeling ashamed for me. He had to work hard as well, of course, but he managed to find time to read a fair amount, as he was a quick reader and didn't have the baby to feed and the mountains of mending to cope with at all odd times, which I had. I asked him sometimes if he wouldn't read aloud to me, or at least tell me whatever was interesting in what he was reading. He made a few attempts, but always gave up very soon because he could read so much faster to himself, and reading was a real passion with him. I felt this very badly; it was symptomatic of a gradual drifting apart which had begun already in our novice year.
It is difficult to say how much of this was due to the community life, and how much just to our different temperaments. It is true that when I was having my own difficulties and tried to tell him something about them in the first year, he dished me out the same answer as I knew I should have got from most people. It appeared to be already cut and dried according to the Bruderhof pattern, just like the answers given to guests when they asked questions, and it was of no help to me. Consequently from then on I had to overcome a great inner reluctance to talk about my problems, and mostly tried to cope with them myself, since if I ever did mention one I got this kind of official answer.
This sort of thing happened, of course, not only between husbands and wives, but between friends as well. It might also happen that, after talking to someone in confidence, airing one's feelings about something, the collective conscience would get to work on that person and he or she would feel urged to drag the whole thing into the light and make it a public concern. There was no evading this collective conscience - if it got to work on you you just had to go ahead and do what it said was right, otherwise you would have no peace. The collective conscience is quite different from one's own private conscience. For instance, there was a generally accepted idea, no doubt one of Eberhard's ideas, that everyone should always come to Church meetings, unless definitely too ill. So people who were absolutely dead tired of an evening would nevertheless drag themselves along to the meeting and sit there on the hard benches vainly struggling to keep awake. Occasionally I had the guts to get up and go away early, and then I would think to myself what a fool I was to let myself be thus pushed against the dictates of common sense, for I had known quite well that I couldn't keep awake. Naturally there were also some really good meetings to which I listened all attention, and afterwards there might be some interesting comments, but this more often happened on a Sunday morning when everyone was fresh.
When Jean-Pierre was still a baby and not yet weaned I discovered I was already pregnant again. This had not happened before, and secretly I was very pleased. For one thing, if your family got bigger you had a little more time at home to look after them, and altogether everything at the Bruderhof tended to give value to motherhood, and discouraged the non-domestic side of life for women. I always had a feeling of humble admiration for Marianne, who somehow managed to have a large family, cope with them and with her somewhat child-like and problematical husband most efficiently, and still have energy left from her teaching activities to lead the community singing and special choir practices, etc. There was nothing I loved more than to take part in the singing in one of these choirs. Singing was one of the really uninhibited, joyful activities we indulged in a lot, and other occasional good times occurred on the eve of weddings, the Polterabend, May 1st and various spontaneous celebrations and children's festivities. The single men, or one or two groups of them, used to produce funny skits on these occasions, and I myself twice acted in little plays. That was great fun. Sometimes these festivities ended with folk dancing, though after a short time this would practically confine itself to the youth. I would often have loved to go and join in too.
I was working in the baby-house then with Monika and Connie, with whom I didn't feel absolutely at ease. The baby-house always seemed to give me a slight inferiority complex, or rather the mentality of the baby-house sisters. There seemed to be such a fetish made out of meticulous cleanliness and fixed rules in everything that concerned the babies: I could never take it quite seriously enough to be a really good baby-house sister. If you dropped a spoon it couldn't be just washed up, but had to be boiled again. While I was working there some child got scarlet fever, and Jean-Pierre was soon amongst those who had it. They were isolated in the baby-house at one end, and I slept there for a time at night.
Jean-Pierre was a rather thin, weak little baby. He still couldn't walk when Ebo was born, so in fact I had two babies. And while I was still at home with Ebo, he got dysentery. We were still all in one room, with an earthen floor and wooden walls and a window that was just a hole with a piece of sacking over it that could be let down or rolled up, but I managed to avoid Ebo getting dysentery as well. Poor little Jean-Pierre looked not much more than a skeleton when he got over it, and I remember Moni giving me a precious little bottle of cod liver oil for him, and for a few months he had an egg at breakfast. At 17 months he at last began to walk, always looking as though his knees were going to buckle under him.
Then I had to go to work, and this time I was in the kitchen again, and, with a small baby and a tiny toddler to cope with, I found it almost impossible to get to work at the time I was supposed to. I remember being upbraided once by Louise and feeling very indignant. Wasn't I doing my utmost? A bit later I remember having a row with her about something else, and really letting go and telling her what I thought of her, and then Margaret G. wanting to intervene and bring about a reconciliation, and I ticked her off too and told her to mind her own business. I remember how surprised I was at myself, but I found it was a pretty good thing. My telling Louise off marked a certain development and overcoming of the inferior feeling towards the older members. We were quite good friends again afterwards.
Ebo turned out to be a wonderfully passive, friendly little baby, who gained and gained, and was no trouble at all to feed, so I very much enjoyed him. He didn't even sit up till he was 11 months old, but after that showed no signs of being backward.
There had been two other little incidents just before this which were painful at the time, as they showed me up in a bad light, but they were extremely useful in teaching me the lessons I needed to learn. One day I had a midday watch in the toddler house, and each child had to be given a cup of milk to drink before the mother fetched it home for the vesper pause. Liesel A. had a child there and came to fetch her before I had given the milk, tried to give it herself and spilt it, and then went off, taking the last cup of milk with her, and this was actually meant for another child who was still sleeping. When I realised what she had done I was so angry and outraged by this injustice and selfishness that I chased after her in order to protest. I made a real scene about it, and have forgotten what she said, but whatever it was, I know it began to dawn on me that my feelings were altogether out of proportion and that I simply ought not to feel like that over something so trivial. Evidently she was in my eyes one of the privileged ones against whom I had a grudge.
There was much the same thing behind the other incident, which concerned Monika, but it actually ended up with my having a frank talk with her, after which the barrier was definitely broken down. In that way I regard the community life as having been extremely valuable to me, on account of the principle accepted by us all that if anyone had anything against anyone alse he should go and speak it out. It may have led to some crudities and many stupidities being committed (awfully ridiculous things got talked about with great seriousness), but it did give one the necessary push so that one took the bull by the horns and did something and consequently learned something.
When Ebo was about one year old and I was 31, a most unexpected thing happened to me -- I fell in love with H. He once had written us a letter soon after Andre's death, expressing his sympathy and referring to his own similar experience, etc., which I had never answered. I really would have liked to answer it, but knew quite well that it had been a very unorthodox procedure for him to write such a personal letter at all, and that I should not encourage him by answering. But I knew I must have hurt his feelings, as he showed by carefully avoiding me when we happened to see one another at a communal meeting, and I felt rather bad about it. It wore off, however, and as we had moved to Isla and were actually living next door, we became normally friendly again. Nothing in particular happened to account for the change, and certainly if I had not been so hopelessly naive in my firm belief that such a thing was out of the question, I should have noticed a good deal earlier what was happening and put a stop to it while it was still under my control.
But I woke up too late, was appalled and then began to struggle with myself. Seeing after three weeks that I was making no progress, I got desperate and decided to go and speak to Hans Z., in whom I had great trust. He was very understanding, and it dawned on me that he must have had other similar cases to deal with, which was something of a relief. I went to see him several times, and eventually he said we should have to tell Roger. He would do it, so I agreed it would be best. Further, he thought it would be advisable for us to move to Loma again. I objected that really one should be able to get over it without such outward measures, just through faith. However, it was clear that Hans thought it was better to aid faith. So Roger was told, and the awful moment was over. He was very good about it, though it was obvious that he found it hard. We were moved to another hall, next to Sekunda, I remember.
A little later, at the end of the school year, it was decided to send us down to Loma, as Roger was needed to take a particularly difficult class there. He had already acquired a reputation as a schoolmaster. I was glad to go. The episode had really come to an end and I was grateful to Roger for bearing it so well, but I knew it was painful for him to have to see H. so it would be better in Loma, also we were both rather specially attached to Hans Z. We went back to our old room in the Sonnenherz house, but with a little extra room in which Pauli slept together with Michael Gneiting, who lived with us and went back to his family in Isla on weekends. Above us lived the Laackmans, with the two Freiburghaus girls.
I don't remember anything particular about this period, except that I was happier with Roger and we made a greater effort to share things with each other. I remember him telling me stories about the school, and how he threw one boy out of the ground floor window bodily.
There is one other aspect of the previous episode which, with the passage of years, has become clear to me. I know that while I was making up my mind to go and tell Hans about it I fully expected to be excluded as a result, and the idea of being excluded was something so fearful that I could scarcely imagine it, and yet my feeling of guilt was so great that it seemed to me I should be almost glad to accept my punishment. Nevertheless I was relieved, also for Roger's sake, that it didn't have to go so far. Evidently those who were thus punished had really done something and not merely suffered the torment of unwanted and undesirable emotions, but as it was not always explained exactly why a person had to be excluded, I really didn't know. Personally I think that the repression of the original quite natural feeling of sympathy for H. had something to do with the later phenomenon. This last idea was put into my head by Hans -- I don't really agree. My feeling of guilt and wanting to be punished so as to feel 'good' again was something childish, almost laughable and pathetic, but it was the basic psychology of the community. We were bound together by a common feeling of guilt, and it was only when the ramifications of this guilt comd if I felt like that I shouldn't move. So I was allowed to remain, and Roger came home just a week before Jean-Pierre was born.
He was a month too soon and a very small baby, but for some unknown reason my labour was terribly prolonged, and finally, getting desperate, Roger went to fetch Hans Z. who came along and encouraged me, and just after he had gone the pains really began to work and the baby was soon born. He had spoken of Emi-Ma, who had to endure pain without the positive reason which I had, and I got an inkling of how much he had to bear with his invalid wife, constantly needing encouragement. She was so much cut off from the general life that for most of us she was a stranger. Jean-Pierre was a sweet little baby, and I let myself be comforted as much as possible for the loss of Andre, thought that he was he, and no one else could really take his place. It took five years before I could be reminded of him without suffering. I could not bear to remember how he had suffered and had said once, 'Mummy, it hurts me so.' But now, at least, I had three children again, and I felt that three made a real family. Roger was as pleased by the growing family as I was.
I remember that winter in the little Sonnenherz house, and how beautifully the warm sun shone in on our bed at midday. Sometimes horses wandering over the hof disturbed me at night -- and I hurried out in my nightdress to drive them away from my garden! But it wasn't long before we were moved from our happy home, as the brotherhood in Isla plex had become truly enormous and were producing demonic effects, that the scales suddenly fell from our eyes. But that was many years later.
Today the FOP revealed the evidence that they had, videotapes and the like from a Boston TV station. I was in touch with the Boston TV station on Monday to put together tonight's show here on WWDB. And we have two wonderful guests who I think are going to inform you and let you make your own judgment about this group...
Our guest tonight, first up, we'll bring on is Dr. Julius Rubin, a sociology professor at St. Joseph's College in West Hartford, Connecticut, someone who has devoted time and effort to studying the Bruderhof, this religious group in town... Dr. Julius, thank you very much for being up with us tonight. Thanks for taking time out to be on.
Julius Rubin: My pleasure.
In a conversation that I had with Christian Domer, who is a spokesperson for these communities, and this was a conversation that I taped at Yale University on October 24, 1995, Christian to me, and I quote, "We do not feel that it's wrong to use the authorities that God gave us in this world for our protection." Here he is referring to the police and the courts. Referring to an ex-member who committed trespass in their Connecticut community, Christian said, "He broke the laws of the land and we protect ourselves." This kind of statement, using the state and the police and the courts, getting weapons for personal and community protection, having the attack-trained dogs, these are not the actions of a pacifist community. This raises very serious concerns. It raises a big inconsistency because the Bruderhof maintains that the state does not have the right to take a human life through capital punishment. They call it "the ultimate revenge" in their Web page. They make this claim, but on the other hand they say that they themselves, the Bruderhof, have the right to have a weapon like a .44 Magnum. We understand that when you have a pistol like this concealed on your person, if you draw it and train it on another human being, you have to be prepared to use lethal force.
The Bruderhof is a community that demands, by their own terms, this radical discipleship which means an annihilation of the self, a complete surrender to the leadings of the Holy Spirit as interpreted by their religious leadership. So they really have a totalistic or totalitarian control over their members. I think that's a very fair statement.
Their founding leader Eberhard Arnold and their second charismatic leader Heinrich Arnold would be spinning in their graves at the kind of turn the Bruderhof has taken, first with the appeal to self-defense and weapons and attack dogs, and then second with this going public in a national, highly politicized debate.
"Control of sexuality and intimacy within the group," where the leader can dictate where and when and to whom and how to have sexual relations. He's in charge of whether birth control can be used, in fact there was no birth control used until very recently, and now I think perhaps they are using it. But it gives young members a kind of distorted, impersonal view of sexuality, and people who leave have problems with sex.
...It's very hard for me to see them so concerned about human rights on the outside, when within the communities, the rank-and- file member has no human rights in the sense that we have come to know and love, like freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to disagree and present a minority opinion. And that would be okay if it was just a group of adults going off the deep end together. We would just shrug our shoulders and say "Well, hey, it's a free world. People can do what they want as long as they don't hurt others." But then there are the children, and there are many, many children in the group. And you begin to wonder what's happening to the kids. How are they being treated? How are they being educated? Are they being set up to the same values, these very high perfectionist values that the adults practice? And why, if the adults believe in only adult baptism where you have to be grown up to make a decision to join, then why are the kids being held up to the same standards? And if they fail, why are they being isolated and taken out of their families and disciplined in such a strange and abusive ways?
So I think these are some of the issues that are making this a very interesting and complex issue.
The casual visitor to a Bruderhof community will only see what the Bruderhof wants him to see. The dysfunctional aspects, the abusive aspects of the Bruderhof do not become apparent until you've become a member. Then you realize that what's required is total obedience, and total obedience beyond the voice of your own conscience, so that even if you're accused of something that you did not do, you must surrender to the leadership and say "Yes, I did do it." This has been a very interesting aspect of the Bruderhof. I think it's similar to a fraternity initiation rites, where the new initiate is required to go through something that's totally beyond his capacity to understand. In other words, only total surrender makes for a pliable member. So, I don't know. You can have a weekend. You can go up there, you'll have a wonderful time, you'll be treated very well. And maybe there are people for whom this lifestyle is the answer. I'm not saying it's not... But I personally would not feel safe there...