Once again a year has flown by since our last report, and the twelve months have been eventful. Last July ended with the Bruderhof's alleged attempt to bug the Kingston church where the news conference was to be held, followed by their lawsuit against the Kingston Eight. Meanwhile Mike Boller had escalated his attempts to visit Deer Spring Bruderhof by rollerblading to an open house. This ended in his arrest for trespassing. Andrew Bazeley managed to attend his mother Bronwen's burial at Woodcrest by asserting his legal rights as next-of-kin. The Bruderhof has now responded by having their elderly members sign letters specifically requesting that named children and relatives not attend their funerals.
In October, Boston Channel 5 aired a half-hour news program on the KIT/Bruderhof impasse, including Christoph Arnold's priceless remarks about the Gulfstream jet, the bugging of an ex-member family's phone, his dislike of democracy and the 800-number harassments. By then he had flown to Rome in the Bruderjet to meet with Cardinal Ratzinger, a man with a worldwide reputation as, in the words of one KIT reader, "a modern inquisitor."
In November, the two Wharton Township, PA, bruderhofs failed in their attempt to get their candidate for supervisor elected despite registering every available member to vote. They also failed in their blanket rezoning request, and failed to get the property tax exemptions, which now they are appealing in New York State. Meanwhile Christmas arrived without any softening of the Bruderhof's No Family Visit policy for anyone reading KIT, again despite all of Christoph's previously spoken guarantees and written assurances that KITfolk would not be penalized. Again, this was explained as "the choice of individual Bruderhof families."
By the first of the year, the 'divorce' between the Kleinsasser faction of the Schmiedeleut and the Bruderhof was formalized by a letter signed by all leading Oiler ministers. January brought Christoph on a phone-in radio show in Connecticut, during which he heartily welcomed Ramon's question about why the Bruderhof was suing their own children, but could not answer it "on the advice of his attorneys." Christoph and Verena also launched a new career as marriage counselors on the Internet preparatory to Christoph's book on sex and marriage being released to an eager public. Yes, the one with the one-paragraph introduction by -- Mother Teresa! And the pope's own photo! It has, according to the author, climbed onto the Christian Best Seller lists in Europe. Dr. Ruth Westheimer, move over!
March saw the Capital Punishment hearings in Philadelphia, sponsored by The Bruderhof Foundation and The Chaney Foundation. We now know that there were serious concerns on the part of Ben Chaney about how the hearings were slanted towards the Bruderhof's own agenda even before the Boston video was shown to the press by the Fraternal Order of Police. In May, Chaney requested that the Bruderhof withdraw from collaborating on any future Chaney Foundation projects.
Financial considerations: KIT's appeal for more donations brought some response, but not enough for us to continue as we have. It seems that by now, in our ninth year, KIT should be more solvent than it is. This is a matter that can be discussed at both EuroKIT and at Friendly Crossways meetings. One obvious arrangement would be to, as EuroKIT folk have long suggested, place the USA, Canada and international KIT readership on a subscription basis, as EuroKIT already is.
KIT's income has always kept up with its printing and mailing costs, with an occasional phone bill payment. But office supplies, and most phone and equipment costs, Ramon has absorbed as well as the generous donation of his time. The most serious expenditures are book-printing costs, with the annuals running a distant second. Both of these are valuable investments that will hopefully, in time, pay off. But KIT must become more viable financially. We also should find someone with fund-raising expertise -- the perennial need of non-profit groups. Do we have any volunteers?
We need to raise our annual income from the current low average of $700 a month to at least double that. If everyone who receives KIT subscribed, (libraries and the media excepted), a guesstimate would be that we would reach $1400 a month easily. Now what about the Peregrine Foundation? KIT and Carrier Pigeon Press have been taking up all of Ramon's available time, and therefore other Peregrine projects, either actual or contemplated, have been languishing, including such vital aspects as grant-writing, which would allow outreach to groups other than post-Bruderhof. We seriously need to find an experienced fund-raiser and grant writer willing to work on commission.
I phoned around to tell others that Phyllis had died. She is remembered by many with much love, and known as "bunny" (her maiden name was Rabbits). Some younger ones said she had helped them into the world by her midwifery care. Others remembered her very high standard of cleanliness and antiseptic care, which her nursing training had instilled into her. She used this training with dedication to all those sisters who received her midwifery help, and she rejoiced with them when their babies arrived.
I rang Peter Cavanna at Darvell to know on which hof Arthur is now living -- it is Pleasant View U.S.A. Peter thought the two daughters were also there. Timmy and Martha and family are at New Meadow Run. Peter said it was very moving to hear Phyllis express her "faithfulness to Christ" as her life came to an end. So perhaps these words are appropriate: "Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of the Lord."
So farewell until we all meet again,
I remember the wedding of Arthur and Phyllis very well, as it was held in Loma. For the first time the children's choir had to sing English songs (we usually sang in German) and we practiced and sang, "Where Are You Going My Pretty Maid?" and "Hark, hark, The Lark At Heaven's Gate Sings." As it was very hot, all the festivities were held in the school wood and it was one of the nicest weddings I can remember. When the first child Heather was born, we felt so close to the baby, as though it was our own little sister. During our holidays, we always had to work in the different work departments and I remember well being assigned to the babyhouse. I learned a lot there, which was the beginning of my nurse's career. Phyllis was very particular. We had to wash our hands every time we handled one of the babies, and we had to turn the babies from left to right and right to left every hour so that "the shape of the head would remain nice and round." I learned how to bathe babies and feed them as they grew older, and push their cots into shady places but keep them out of the drafts.
Now that I think back to those years, I have to wonder why we little girls had to wash and rinse the diapers. All the wet diapers went into one big barrel and the soiled diapers into another. In the evening, when all the babies went to their homes, we had to rinse the diapers before they could go to the laundry. This was not a very nice task at all! I can still picture myself handling those many diapers from all the many babies, that had been soaking in the barrel all day long in the Paraguayan heat! I guess someone had to do it, so we girls had to learn!
I never met Phyllis again after we left Primavera in 1953, but I shall remember her as a fine human being, a devoted sister of the Bruderhof and a very good nurse. I do hope that she and Arthur were happy on the Bruderhof and did not have to lose their identities to remain members.
She was in her forties when she married, and I remember her very great joy when she had her first child, Heather. Phyllis was really like a mother to all of her patients. She trained me when I worked in the Primavera hospital. She was very strict, but also very loving. I worked with her in the Mother House and enjoyed that time very much. Phyllis had a lot to give.
When my mother Hilda passed away July 26, '93, Phyllis was the only person from the Commune who wrote a letter of condolence to us. She remembered the time when she was single and was always welcome in our family, as were Nancy Winter and Kate Cavanna when they were single.
Phyllis' maiden name was Rabbits and she as known as "Bunny." That was in the early years on the Cotswolds and early Primavera times. I must have been about 12 years old when Phyllis looked after me, and I often used to call her "Bunny." She enjoyed that, and we often had a good laugh together about her being a bunny. I'm very glad and thankful that I was allowed to spend so much time with her, both when I was a little girl and then later when I was in training in the Primavera hospital. Phyllis and Arthur have three children: Heather, Timothy and Irene, all still in the Commune.
Phyllis and I were corresponding as of November, 1995, and then suddenly she discontinued writing. Naturally that saddened me very much. I remember when I shared with her the joy of the birth of our fourth grandson. She too was so happy. She could never resist the news of a new baby.
Phyllis will be missed by many, many of us, and especially those of us whose babies she delivered. Her passing has left me with the feeling of a great loss. However I feel honored to have known her.
In 1962 we were separated against our will. There was nothing we could do. Last December, we felt the same Love, and our love was again rekindled. No man has been able to destroy this love. What God has joined, let no man separate.
We want to thank all those who phoned us from the USA and America. We also want to thank you for all your gifts and letters. Thank you very much,
The Kingston Eight wish at this time to offer their sincere thanks to attorney Michael J. Hutter of the Albany law firm Thuillez, Ford, Gold & Conolly for representing them most generously pro bono (at no charge), and in a manner that does honor to his profession and his area of expertise.
The listing for this year's NYNEX Ulster County phone book unfortunately was not changed due to a mistake by the listing agent. As of now, the membership group has not been renamed.
It seems as if the Bruderhof members who met with COB steering committee members in Kingston, July 1995, thought they had expressed, during that meeting, their serious aversion to the use of "Bruderhof" in COB's name. However none of the steering committee members who attended received any hint of the Bruderhof's concern at that time, and were truly shocked when, a few months later, they were served with the lawsuit. This shows how serious the miscommunication between the two groups has become, and the need for a third party to be invited to participate as a Fair Witness or a mediator.
I just got a house in the Phoenix area and sold my Ohio house. Cassie will continue studying at OSU, but is spending her summer vacation here. Because the work is so hard and urgent to assure a launch of the company, I doubt I'll be able to make this year's KIT conference. This whole venture may be very crazy, and I'll let you all know how it proceeds. If I end up in the homeless shelter, I'll figure out a way to stay in touch. To all those I will miss, my best wishes, and would love to see any of you in sunny Arizona! My new home address: 1018 West Newport Beach Drive, Gilbert, AZ 8523 tel: 602 507-0564.
Here we are now in our cool period, which is very pleasant. I will not add any more at present, in order to get this letter off tomorrow. Warmest wishes from us both,
A sister of my age also is now in the same home, but is much more confused, poor soul (her husband died recently). I think, and hope, that I shall one day depart rather suddenly, like Ramon's American mother Julia [who died on the dance floor at 92 - ed], but am in no hurry to do so yet. Life is much too interesting. I'm sure it will be just as interesting in the next world, but am first of all intent on squeezing all I can get out of this life. Son Ebo is on a farewell holiday with his wife in Norway and Sweden. I was over there in Dusseldorf for two weeks with them, going there by car with Ebo through the Chunnel and returning alone with the Eurostar train. Son Jean-Pierre and Annelies also spent a few days with us. I had spent some days with Leonard Pavitt previously -- it was still pretty cold, but we got one nice day and went off on a little bus tour, and I also saw Joanie (Pavitt) Taylor and the girls, which I enjoyed.
Next week I'm going with Rosie, and possibly Joy, to see Belinda, which is great, while having the pleasure of seeing more of the Johnson sisters. After that I'll go to see more family, and then get somehow to Steven and Ann Marchant where my daughter Isabel will pick me up for a two-week walking holiday in Wales. We'll have a caravan and take all three young ones with us.
The time is going rather quickly -- communication with my family in Brazil is somewhat better than erstwhile, as Betty, Clara and Chris now all have faxes. Francisco's recovering from some surgery, so I'm looking forward to seeing him improve and feel more comfortable. Everyone else is holding their own, which is something to be grateful for these days.
I'm making use of people's pianos, and getting more and more into practicing, and Ebo has bought me a CD player, so now I'm acquiring some CD's. It seems quite a short time ago that I didn't even know how to use the tape recorder. It seemed to belong to Roger's domain, and then suddenly one day I decided to find out so I could use it as well, and it was so easy. Now I even have the nerve to fiddle with my children's stereo sets! As usual, the time is too short to do all I want! I'm sure it's the same for KIT staff. Hoping you all are well and flourishing! Much love,
Included will be my letter to Hans Meier of 2/16/96, which I wrote on the advice of Jacob Gneiting after his visit in Paraguay, as well as answering letters of both Hans and Klaus Meier [we enclose excerpts - ed]. To top off everything, both Hans and Klaus ask and say things totally incongruent with facts known to them, such as Klaus talking as if my parents were still alive, and matters of my family that they knew ages ago by direct personal communication with my sister Christel. Are they really that insane or just faking it? I guess the letters will 'speak for themselves." Greetings! And thanks for being able to "Keep In Touch!!!" 2/16/91: Konrad Kluver to Hans Meier: Dear Hans, together with this letter I mail you a copy of my letter to Roger Allain concerning my treatment in Primavera as a teenager. You too, Hans, were amongst those who bullied me (and others) psychologically to the point of absolute submission! Now as I wrote to Roger, it is not for me to forgive all that, but the forgiveness has to come from God, through Jesus Christ. I leave that to Him! As regards the problems, misunderstandings, hostilities, accusations and threats, etc., by so-called 'Exies," I have the sincere question of whether it wouldn't be wise on your part to study the "facts presented" in "the light of the New Testament" and not by your dogmatic standards and defenses? Isn't it so that the Primavera Bruderhof was the "parent" of at least us "sabras" [children born in the community - ed]? Were we, the sabras, not raised, trained and programmed for "The Life" on and in the Bruderhof, the Bruderhof being to us, the sabras, synonymous with Primavera?
Weren't we in every way prevented from leaving, and couldn't leave the life without severe repercussions (deciding for it or not), these repercussions being: psychological, economic and social in character? Don't you feel any responsibility for the havoc you created, and the damage perpetrated on psychological, mental, spiritual, physical and economic levels to at least us sabras through the act of dissolving The Life, the Bruderhof, Primavera, which was for us sabras, Life, Home, Parent, Economic Subsistence, Our Society? You dissolved Primavera without feeling it was necessary to question or ask for our consensus? After all, we, the sabras, did not decide to get born, raised and programmed in and for the Bruderhof!
Even less did you feel it was necessary to do what is regarded in The World as the absolute minimum of decency, to reimburse us for the loss of "Our Inheritance," to say the least, or give us some kind of material indemnification for all the ills suffered on the Bruderhof and after we had been exposed to a totally alien lifestyle from the one we had been raised in -- and programmed for? Didn't you, the Society of Brothers (Bruderhof) insist on reimbursement of damages to: health, wealth, psychological, mental, physical and economic loss by the German State after World War II? And receive it? And this you now refuse to us, your children?
Now I know, dear Hans, that you personally were not responsible for those actions in Paraguay, being an outcast yourself at the time. The corporation responsible for all this injustice and its consequences is The Society of Brothers in the U.S.A. (read James 4:1-12 and 5:1-6). Now if we are The Children of the Bruderhof, the Bruderhof is our parent! (Right? Right!). So dear Hans, in the light of all this, I ask you and the whole Brotherhood, "Didn't you give us sabras snakes when we asked for fish, and scorpions when we asked for eggs?" (Luke 11:5-13)...
With this I want to close now in the hope that this letter finds you in good health. I am positive that if you confront all these questions in the right spirit and try to solve the past in a positive, Christian attitude, everyone involved will rejoice, including the angels in heaven! Please don't respond to this challenge with empty words of love, because these are nothing but the hollow ringing sounds of bells: beautiful but dead! With love,
I remember that my father has seen what was wrong in him in the Paraguay time. He was away for 12 years, all the time seeking the root of the trouble that kept him away from his family and from the life of a brother. . . You know, Konrad, in the end each one of us can only ask for forgiveness where he has failed and leave the other to God.
Primavera was a place where our parents wanted to live a life of love, justice and unity. All of them had deeply recognized that is only possible in Christ. They also recognized that private property is the biggest hindrance to such a life. They also all said: "God has called me to this life," and on this were baptized. They also all knew that nothing belong to them, no land, no houses, no clothing, no nothing. They and we also knew that if we leave, we have no right to claim anything at all. We also knew that the children could have no claim. Was this not clear to you? To me it was and is absolutely clear. I also want to say to you that you had a good life as a child. Much much better than millions of other children. Things went wrong, but you and I always had clothing, food, care, also medical care, and the community gave us a good education. . . I think many of your questions should be directed to your parents who joined the life knowing full well what it meant. They also are warmly invited. I have a great longing that we can find peace with each other. . .
Out of the same reason we, I, on the Rhonbruderhof, first had to overcome our irritation and hate towards Hitler, the murderer, before we were able to write him clearly that we were living and vouching for, and to appeal to him to become a tool of God's love rather than to be a tool of God's wrath. . . Having you on my mind, Your, NOTE: Konrad's letter refers to the reparation moneys that the German government paid for the German Bruderhof members and their children after World War II ended. The following article gives more information about these payments.
All the members who were forced to leave Germany.
All the children born in Germany.
All the children from German parents who were born outside Germany, due to the circumstances.
Dr. Eisenberg followed up on all the developments in this matter, and my father saw him every time he went to Germany. (At the time, Primavera people laughed about my father who strongly believed that the Community had a right to receive repatriate payment for all the losses in the 1930s.) It finally was decided to:
1. Pay DM 6000 to anyone returning to Germany as a sort of immediate help.
2. One large sum for the loss of the Rhonbruderhof with the special stipulation that the cemetery is and always will be the property of the Bruderhof.
3. Gesundheitsschaeden: all members and their children who were forced out of Germany have a right that their medical bills, due to poor circumstances in Paraguay, are evaluated and paid for by the German State.
4. Schulbildungsschaeden: all children who had to grow up in the backwoods of Paraguay and therefore suffered in the school education have a "personal" right to have their schooling paid for by the German State.
5. People who suffered irreversible damage to their health (due to Paraguay) have a personal right to receive a "life pension" until they die from the German State.
All this was filed, and Dr. Ruth Land (from Primavera's hospital) went to Dr. Eisenberg with my father to work on individual cases, including the children who had died due to the poverty we lived in. Dr. Eisenberg was very much on our side and did a lot of work for the Bruderhof. My father was in Hanau at least once a month to get every petition through. Then in 1959 my father was excluded, and everything came to a standstill for a while. Then Dr. Eisenberg died suddenly and his successor Dr. Knorr was very eager to get the matter cleared quickly, as he also would get a portion from all the money that would be paid. Then the Big Crisis started and Herman Arnold, who was trying to pick up where my father had left off, was excluded and sent away with his family. 'Stupid' people like Stefan Barth and some American brothers took over. They wanted to see money quickly and therefore agreed to a lump sum or flat settlement. This meant that no individual petition was ever paid, but instead everything was paid in one great lump.
For example, the Zumpes: Emi-Margret Zumpe had active TB in the tropics plus four operations which left her in poor health. Therefore the German State paid for all her medical bills and she has a right to a life pension monthly as long as she lives. Hans Zumpe was healthy (and excluded) and had no right to receive anything at all!
Seven children of which four have very bad asthma = a lump sum of DM_______.
"Poor education in the backwoods" for seven Zumpe children = DM ________.
In the 1960s, many German members left the Bruderhof and therefore Heini and his friends made a lot of haste to get the matter settled. Dr. Knorr was eager to have things settled as well, and the Bruderhof made him promise that he would work for the Bruderhof only and NOT make his files available to ex-members.
After he was kicked out, my father went to Dr. Knorr at the law firm in Hanau that handled the Wiedergutmachungs for the Bruderhof and was told (I have the letter from the firm in my possession) that the Bruderhof forbade the law firm to take on ex-members and if they did so, the Bruderhof would look for another law firm to handle their matters. Dr. Knorr told Papa that he had to promise Mr. Barth and Mr. Hildel not to take on any ex-members and to leave matters as they were. So in the case of my father Hans, who had done all the initial work, there was no way at all to get any help from Dr. Knorr who held all the papers in his file. Papa was told to look for an attorney and start all over again, which he did not do!
People who were sent away, like me, all received a little printed paper from the Bruderhof telling us that the first step to find our way back to the Church would be to give the Bruderhof the authority to collect these moneys 'for the Church.' I signed this paper and so did many others -- stupid, stupid, stupid!
When Germany first handed out a lot of Wiedergutmachungs money, it was exclusively for the German members and the children born in Germany. Later that was changed to "Family damage due to Nazi persecution." I have been away too long to know what the Bruderhof took and what they are still receiving.
To sum up, families like the Wiegands, Sorgius, Hasenbergs, Hundhammers and many more, signed the paper in good faith that the Bruderhof would take care of them. But the Bruderhof pocketed DM 6000 for each (DM 12,000 for a couple) immediate help, schooling and health money for the whole family (the amount depending on the number of children), plus the share they would have had in the old Rhonbruderhof.
Individual life insurance [pensions? - ed] is paid for several members (e.g. like my mother). So it is clear that a lot of money was paid -- and still is paid -- for various people in the Community, even though the older generation is diminishing quickly.
"Smart Money" (money for emotional trauma and pain) is still paid individually. For the people that died in Primavera and England: Gertrud Dyroff, Edith Arnold, Adolf Braun, Fritz Kleiner, Gunther Hohman, Ludwig Klein, and Trautel Dreyer (even though she was Swiss, she was married to a German who was forced out of Germany), the family can apply for 'Smart Money," and I think the Bruderhof collected that also. Now fifty years after the war, all cases are treated individually by government lawyers.
There is one more thing I would like to say concerning this matter: Germany is overpopulated, and with East and West being one again, plus all the many refugees from all over Europe, the German State is not too keen to have more and more people move into Germany. They would rather keep them in a foreign country and pay their bills there (in Guaranis, for example) than have them return to Germany. Of late they have an "Expulsion Law" for which a Dr. Bebber in Bonn is responsible. Under this law, you can actually apply for a full pension that a middle class citizen is entitled to for all the years of your adult life (after the age of 18) that you were forced to live in a foreign country due to Nazi persecution. That would mean that Bruderhof children still living in Paraguay can apply for this pension. Also I know of someone in Paraguay who gets all of his medical bills paid for by the German Embassy rather than have him return to Germany.
As requested, here are the names of people who should have had the German Wiedergutmachungs (we will refer to this as "WGM") money in the 1960s and since. Naturally I must do this by memory, as I have no documents on this matter, but it is not so difficult for me to subdivide by families.
War Orphans Taken Into The Bruderhof
Gert Wegner with sister Liesel: Full payment WGM. Five children out with nothing.
Luise Kolb, married to Bruce Sumner: Lump sum WGM with life rent to B'hof. All seven children out, received nothing.
Erna Friedemann married to Werner: Lump sum WGM to B'hof. Family left in 1960 with 10 children, received nothing.
Sophie Loeber, married to Christian: Lives in B'hof with one child. Four children out with nothing.
Constantin Mercoucheff married to Anne Ebner: Full payment to Anne and children. Constantin left in 1960 with nothing.
George Mercoucheff: Lump sum WGM to B'hof. Left with nothing.
Lottie Ahrend married to Harry Magee: Full sum to Bruderhof.
Ulrike Ahrend: Lived and died on the B'hof. Full WGM amount to Bruderhof.
Wolfgang Loewenthal, married at the time to Liesbeth Boller: Lump sum to B'hof. Two children in. Six children out.
Emmy Arnold: Lived and died on the B'hof (at age 95), Received full amount WGM plus "life rent."
Emi-Margret, married to Hans Zumpe, and their children:
Heidi, Ben, Burgel received full amount; Charius and Emmy (born in Paraguay) 1/2 amount. Hans received nothing. Bette left in 1959 (Bruderhof collected); Kilian left in 1959 (Bruderhof collected).
Hardy Arnold married to Edith Boecker, who died in 1943 due to bad medical situation: Full payment paid while Hardi was outside in exclusion. Of their children, Eberhard Klaus (left in 1958) receives some help now from the German Consulate; Miriam -- nothing; Johannes -- nothing; Gabriel Franklin -- received nothing.
Heinrich Arnold married to Annemarie Waechter: Lived and died on the B'hof. Full payment plus life rent. All children on Bruderhof at the time.
Hans Herman married to Gertrud Loeffler: Lived and died on the B'hof. Full payment, also for 8 children. Ernst, Sam and Dieter received nothing.
Monika Arnold, married to Balz Trumpi: Lump sum payment went to the B'hof. They left in 1960 and managed to retrieve some of the money.
Herman Arnold, married to Liesel Wegner: Lived and died on the B'hof. Full payment. All children "out" received nothing.
Ruth von Hollander, married to Arno Martin: Lived and died in B'hof. Full payment WGM. One child in Olga. Three children out. Hanna, Hans and Ruthli (all received nothing)
Walter von Hollander married to Marieli Freiburghaus: While living on B'hof, full WGM payment. Left in 1978 with 12 children, with nothing.
Adolf and Martha Braun: lived and died on B'hof -- full WGM amount. Daughter Gertrud Braun married to Gerd Wegner: 'In' with two of their children, lump sum WGM. Four children 'out' with nothing.
Erich Hasenberg, married to Kathleen Hamilton: lump sum WGM to B'hof. Two in B'hof. Left in 1960 with 5 children, Erich, Jean, Brenda, Edith, Berndt -- nothing.
Elfriede Braun, married to Lesley Barron: Full WGM paid to B'hof. Out with Laurenz and Grace.
Walter and Marie Braun: Lump WGM to B'hof. Left 1960 with all but one of their children. Frieda, Hilarion -- nothing.
Susie Fros married to Jan: Lives on B'hof. Full WGM paid to B'hof.
Manfred and Rose Kaiser: lived and died on B'hof. Full WGM to B'hof.
Monika von Hollander, married to Georg Barth: Full WGM for both and three sons.
Kurt and Marianne Zimmermann: Full WGM for both plus 8 children.
Willi and Lotte Kluver: Left 1960, lump WGM to B'hof. One child 'in" (Christel). Parents and children -- nothing.
Trudi Dalgas, married to Walter Hussy: lived and died on the B'hof. Three sons 'in.' Full WGM paid.
Wilhelm Fischer married to Lini: left 1965, all WGM to B'hof. Seven children out with nothing.
Waltraut von Schengel married to Gerhard Wiegand: left 1960, all WGM to B'hof. Seven children in Germany with nothing.
Herbert and Else Sorgius: left 1960, WGM to B'hof. Managed to receive a small pension. Nine children -- nothing.
Katherine Ebner: lived and died on B'hof. Full WGM.
August Dyroff, married to Winifred Bridgwater: lived and died on B'hof. Full WGM. Eight children out with nothing.
Rudi Hildel married to Winifred Paicy. Live In B'hof with seven daughters. Full WGM to B'hof.
Karl and Irmgard Keiderling: lived and died in B'hof. Full WGM paid, also for their eight children. Out: Esther, Peter, Irmi -- nothing.
Leo Dreher, married to Trautel: Left 1960 with second wife Hannie. Bulk sum WGM to B'hof. Managed to receive a small amount for his rent.
Alfred and Gretel Gneiting: lived and died on B'hof. Full WGM to B'hof. Most children out -- with nothing.
Fritz and Sekunda Kleiner: live and died on B'hof. Full WGM paid. Children out with nothing.
Joseph Staengel married to Ivy: In B'hof with all children full WGM paid.
Karl Hundhammer married to Connie Barron: left 1960 with ten small children. All WGM collected by B'hof. Nothing to family.
Hilde Hundhammer married to Migg Fischli: left 1960 with 9 children. B'hof collected WGM. Nothing to family.
Martin and Alice Lackman: lived and died on B'hof with 2 daughters. Full WGM to B'hof.
Friedel Sonnheimer: lived and died in B'hof. Full WGM.
Lene Shulz: lived and died in B'hof. Full WGM.
Ria Kiefer: lived and died in B'hof. Full WGM.
Marie Eck: lived and died in B'hof. Full WGM.
Heinz Bolk: left 1960. Managed to get some WGM.
Albert Wohlfahrt: left 1960. Some WGM.
Otto Kaiser: left 1960. Full German pension.
Maybe all this is not that interesting, but as I see it coming up again and again, I thought I'd put a little more time into this matter. Best Wishes,
Estimating at least 100 people at that amount, the total settlement must have reached well over a conservative estimate of four million dollars which, by today's inflation standards, could be multiplied by ten -- plus interest. Miriam has tried to verify the amount, but could not get any information from the German government. She also tried, but could not get, any documentation from the Bruderhof.
I would like to thank for all the copies received, but I am not getting much out of them anymore. My main mental focus is on the present and the future. My personal relationship with the Bruderhof is pretty crappy at best, but that is their doing, not mine. There are many other wonderful people out in this great earth who love me for who I am, so why play silly Bruderhof games for the sake of conditional love? I'm dropping out of KIT for my sake, not for them. Greetings to all,
Wolfgang Loewenthal, 6/17/96: This letter comes to you from the Eastern U.S. I came here three weeks ago in order to visit my daughters, Virginia and Claudia in Pittsburgh, and Tamara in Indiana. I had also hoped to see my daughter Yolanda who lives in New Meadow Run. After three phone calls, during which she "could not be located,"
I finally was able to speak to her husband, Andy Johnson. I requested a meeting with them and their children in a Howard Johnson restaurant about halfway between Pittsburgh and NMR, something we have done at least three times previously. Andy said that Yolanda would reply to me by letter.
A few days later, that letter arrived. She wrote among other things, "If you support KIT, we have to break off contact. The very purpose of KIT is to destroy our life." "I can't compromise with things that attack what is most dear to me."
I can imagine that this letter was written with tears. She also says that she would love to see me and for me to get to know her three children. Cheryl, Dexter and Renita. This letter made me very sad. I have told her before in my letters that KIT in no way is out to destroy the Bruderhof, and that Johann Christoph Arnold has stated repeatedly that reading the KIT newsletter was no reason to break off contact between family members.
"Worrying that such criticism could eventually harm the church, the Bruderhof has decided to open up more to the outside world. It recently set up a scholarship fund for nonmembers, for instance, and even hired a New York public-relations firm -- the Weiser Walek Group -- to promote its positive aspects. They just want to be understood for who they really are," says Robert McGrath, a senior director at Weiser Walek. . ."
"The Bruderhof frowns on rock music and virtually bans television, and most of its members refuse to vote. "How can I vote when I don't trust the system?" asks Clare Stober, a former Quaker who left a successful graphic design business in Washington, D.C., to join the Bruderhof in 1991. . .
"The Bruderhof's enterprises had combined revenue of over $20 million last year, with profit of about $9 million. However, since income must also cover living costs of the members, the bottom line was closer to $2 million in 1995 . . ."
The article mentions that about a dozen people left the group in1995, while about 25 joined, "so annual net growth is the norm. But critics say there is a darker side to all this togetherness. A group of former members say the Bruderhof makes it hard for members to leave.
"To be sure, without health insurance, savings account or experience in real-world jobs, many who leave find it difficult to survive outside the community. 'People who leave have no equity for the years they've dedicated to the group,' says Ramon Sender, editor of a newsletter for former members. Critics also accuse the group of pressuring family members who remain to cut ties with those who leave -- and even making crank calls to a hotline set up by former members to help people who want to leave.
"J. Christoph Arnold, the Bruderhof's leader, denies the group hinders people who want to leave or pressures members to stop communicating with relatives who do move to the outside. He does concede the possibility that 'angry' members placed phone calls to the hotline."
Blair Purcell: I highly recommend the book The Giver by Lois Lowry to all former or current Bruderhofers.
by George Maendel
Saturday June 1: Kerri and I went to hear poetry at Mr. D's Lounge on Rt. 17 in Washington, Maine. We soon renamed it Smoky D's lounge. It's a trailer house style shelter, flat, low ceiling, a small low stage and a bar at one end. They said there is a kitchen back there somewhere, I didn't ask to see it.
We went there to hear poetry, but we were soon choking in tobacco smoke while straining to hear. I can't understand why fifteen smokers wanted to make it hard for the rest of us, about 100 people, to breathe. Still the words we heard were good, and it would have been easy to listen longer to any of the speakers.
Some notes while there:
Smoky D's has sunlight in the windows at 7 P.M. D.S.T. June 1, penetrating the smoke to the east wall. There should be a hole in the ceiling, straight to the sky, ventilation! Unlike an old Maine barn, this place doesn't breathe. The band, six young men called 'Anonymous,' is OK, but too loud and in a place with dismal acoustics.
Twenty minutes of the band and the music mercifully stopped, now if the smoke would clear. After a ten minute break, the host, George Van de Venter, is still lost in the haze, but he does make it to the microphone to say that there will be one more song from the band. Just one, thanks! Too loud again, and more unintelligible. Oh, the band's done, Van de Venter takes over to introduce the first speaker.
We hear a poem about a habitat-to-go; another is a farewell to a friend, then "Spring!" by Sidelinger, "How Together," by Van de Venter, the Canadian's late arrival is announced -- they were lost on Rt. 17. We hear a poem about half-price dinosaurs from L. L. Bean, courtesy of polar-tex fabric. A man with a cane told of uncontrolled speech after having his teeth fixed, he stopped talking and started writing poetry instead, but he was concerned because the doctor who fixed his teeth was supposed to have a look at his hands next week.
After a short break, Todd Swift from Canada takes over. He knows how to use the microphone and his voice is right for it. He tells a poem story about a girlfriend and sending her a thousand roses. Well, at least he sent words about a thousand roses he wanted to send, and he read several other poems, all good, one about yearning for whatever, nothing is more strange than how we yearn, he says.
We heard several more poems, one about a hat in a circle and one about recovering from motherhood, by a women with four adult children. During a fifteen minute break, Kerri and I decide to leave to go to a store a mile away, and didn't return because the evening air was so nice to breathe, not like in Smoky D's. We got smoked out of the poetry slam, but we enjoyed the trip home after a stop at a small store for popcorn, potato chips and ice cream. I would go to another poetry "Slam", but I hope it's in a better place. Truck Diary
Today was hot here, and the house at midday was invitingly cool. This evening I worked on a 1946 Ford 3/4 Ton truck which my neighbor Bill Terry and I are supposed to get into usable condition for the owner of a local children's camp. We work on it during spare moments. It has been parked outside Bill's garage for month now. I keep track of the work we do on it, and money spent for parts, in order to work up a bill for repairs. We haven't spent a lot of time on it, but it sounds like we have from my notes. Here is the record so far:
Thursday, May 9, 1996: I had Ferguson's Garage haul the truck to Bill Terry's farm because the truck has no brakes. $35 for towing, a new heavy duty six-volt battery from Ingrahams for $65, and Bill and I spent three hours working on the truck at Bill's shop. We oiled the cylinders before turning the engine and doing a compression test. We found that one cylinder has no compression and has a valve problem, the exhaust valve is either burned or stuck open. More investigation will tell. The rest of the cylinders have good compression. The truck needs a new 6 volt coil, about $35. We removed the ignition distributor, cleaned and set the points, but until we get the new coil we can't tell if the ignition system is working.
Expenses so far: Towing, 35; Battery, 65; Labor, 60; New coil 35; Total: $195.
After we get the engine running we will check the clutch and brakes. The truck is a conversation piece for all who see it at Bill's shop, and it looks right at home on the farm.
Friday, May 10: We decided the gasoline tank should be removed in order to empty and clean it. I started the job by removing the seat bottom and back and cleaning the truck cab, three hours, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. labor, $30; May 9 repairs, $195 ; Total: $225.
Sat. May 11: 1 hour spent cleaning the truck seats and cleaning up the mess I made in Bill's shop.
Sat. May 18: Bill and I worked on the truck for three hours. We drained and removed the gasoline tank, cleaned out a battery box full of acorns and assorted junk, steel brushed the floor, vacuumed cleaned it, and oiled the floor and the gas tank before installing the tank, with tar paper under and on top of it to help prevent rust. We put the seat cushions back in and put six gallons of new gasoline in the tank. Before reconnecting the gas line to the tank we removed it at the carburetor and cleaned it by blowing air through it, and we removed and cleaned the fuel pump sediment bowl. We installed the new coil and wired it, installed the spark plugs and started the truck.
It runs, but with only seven cylinders working. The stuck exhaust valve seems determined to stay that way until we remove the cylinder head to free it. It was nearly 9 p.m., so we decided to save that job for another day.
May 11 labor, 10; May 18 labor, 60; gasoline, 10; Parts and labor to May 10, 225; Total expenses up to May 18: $305.
Sunday, May 19: Bill and I worked on the truck for two hours. We removed the left side cylinder head and got the stuck valve to start working by oiling it and moving it with a tool while turning the engine with the starter. After a few minutes it began working perfectly. Bill started cleaning the engine block while I cleaned the head. We need to buy a new head gasket in order to install the cylinder head. We can tell with the head off that the cooling system will need some work as it is full of corrosion. May 19: $40.
May 20: I spent two hours cleaning the cylinder head. $5 for paint, $3 for paint thinner to prepare the cylinder head for painting.
May 24: Bill spent 2 hours cleaning the old gasket from the engine block, working around the 24 head bolts. The new gasket has not arrived, lost in shipping.
May 31: the gasket finally got here, by air from Florida, $25 with shipping. The original order was lost between computers, a new order was placed on May 30, 9 A.M. Bill spent an hour cleaning the block in the past week.
June 1: I spent five hours washing the engine block with kerosene and air pressure, cleaning carbon from the tops of the pistons, preparing and painting the cylinder head, buying parts in Thorndike and having two new water pipes made at Ravens Garage. (We used heavy gauge, 1 and 3/4" steel exhaust pipe. Each pipe is 24 inches long with a 150 degree bend on one end and a 120 degree bend on the other, made by the exhaust pipe bending machine.) $55 for parts, plus $5 for kerosene.
June 2: This morning Bill and I placed the gasket and the cylinder head, bolted it, and torqued the bolts to 70 pounds. 2 hours total.
June 2: We decided to work when it's cool. Bill spent an hour re-installing the spark plugs, coil, wires, etc. I spent 2 hours on the cooling system, cleaning it and removing the old heater hoses and removing a heater hose outlet from the cylinder head. I removed the right radiator to cylinder head water pipe. 3 hours total labor this afternoon. (End of Truck Diary)
In the past month I have helped clear an area near Kerri's sister's house so they could put in a garden. The tree stumps were removed by a man with a backhoe, then the area was tilled three times by a local farmer using a tractor and a Howard rotovator. $60 to have the tree stumps removed and $75 to have the area tilled. It is full of plants and seeded rows of vegetables now, in a pretty design with lots of measured paths all meeting around a planting circle in the center.
And I have started work on another clearing in the woods nearby, where Kerri and I are planning to build a house. It will take me another two weeks to get the firewood and branches hauled off the lot. Not that there is two weeks of work in that, even for one person, but it will probably take me two weeks, working part time as I have been doing.
We intend to have a house, about 24' x 36', under roof before winter. (We are so optimistic!) Kerri has designed it and even built a model, complete with interior walls, windows, etc.
Time for coffee and cake! I turned on the computer an hour ago to update my truck repair diary. I hope my report hasn't been too boring! Bye,
Hans Zimmermann, 5/11/96: Another jaguar story was told by my father, Kurt Zimmermann. During the first few years in Primavera, he was asked to take the older school children from Isla Margarita on a day trip to the river Tapiraguay. From Isla it was a good 2-1/2 hour trip by horse wagon, sometimes longer depending how dry or wet it was, much slower when we had high water. First one had to cross campo Lechera, then through a short stretch of jungle going up a hill to the Potrero Ibate. Ibate was high and dry with very red soil, high grass and huge leaf-cutting ant colonies every where. Crossing that, one entered again the jungle Monte Abebo along picadas (logging roads) cut for the log-hauling Alza Primas. After about 3/4 mile the picada went down hill again, exiting on to campo Carepei, a long sliver of grassland between Abebo and Monte Riveros. One followed this for close to 2 miles, ending up on campo Invernada. Here the wagon trail turned right, skirting the edge of Monte Riveros until it became too soft and swampy, now the trail entered the jungle again. This last section, a good mile long, was never used by the Alza Primas and was only cut for horse wagons. Because of this it was cut just wide enough to accommodate the wagons winding itself around big trees, over roots and stumps, extremely bumpy and slow.
A quarter of a mile before getting to the Tauf Stelle the wagons had to be left behind, the horses unhitched, tied up to the rear of the wagon, where one always brought some green fodder along for the horses to munch on for the day. This spot became known as the Wagen Stelle. From there a narrow foot path led to the Tauf Stelle and all the provisions, pots and pans had to be carried for about a quarter of a mile. This was actually the only suitable location to bathe and swim along the whole stretch of open river. The river was coming around a bend from the left, flowing straight towards the little sandy beach and then turned right again continuing on to Liverpool. The water there was shallow for about 10 yards and free of water plants. Big trees hung over the water, making it fun to climb and dive. To the left was an overgrown lagoon where one could always see the yacares (caimans), so one stayed away from that area.
An outing to the river, be it for one day or more, was always a great event. One would leave at the crack of dawn full of excitement, singing hiking songs, watching the sun rise and nature come alive. One looked for wild animals, monkeys, deer, snakes and exotic birds. Once on campo Carapei one could frequently see the great red and blue Guaa's (Macaw parrots) flying high up in the sky calling as they flew, hence we named them Fluss Papageien (river parrots). The campo Invernada was frequently flooded and the horses could be up to their bellies in water as the water rose to the bottom of the wagons, making the going extra slow. One arrived at the river by late morning which left about 5 to 6 hours to enjoy the river; swim, fish, explore the banks and if daring venture a little into the swamps. There was mostly only one main meal, cooked over a camp fire, either noodles, rice with tomato paste for flavor or pancakes and the ever present canned corn beef as a special treat. If fish were caught, then the frying of fish kept going until no more were caught or one had to go back home. Most of the time one was so hungry from all the activity that anything tasted good, burned rice, noodles or pancakes, even dry bread tasted like cake. By 3 PM one had to pack up again, carry the equipment back to the wagon, hitch up the horses and head home again. Where in the morning one was willing to walk and run a head of the horse wagon, now every one wanted to ride on it.
On this particular trip my father tells the following happened:
"After a glorious day at the river, we packed our stuff together and carried it back to the Wagen Stelle where the horses and the wagon had been left behind. When we arrived there the horses acted wild and tried to tear themselves loose. We had no idea what was happening, loaded the wagon and tried to hitch up the horses which was nearly impossible. It was then that we heard a loud growl ending in a strange howl nearby in the dense jungle, a jaguar. The presence of humans must have triggered this reaction. What could we do? We had no rifle or shotgun, nothing to protect us from a ferocious animal like a jaguar should he decide to attack, go for the horses or one of us. It was virtually impossible to keep the horses still, they were able to smell the jaguar and kept snorting in fear.
"I told the big boys to cut down some small trees and make clubs for all of them. Once this was done we decided on the following plan of retreat: two boys with clubs would take the point, the next two will hold one horse each by the halter and lead them, as trying to control them by the reins would not work. Two more boys, club in hand would sit on the rear of the wagon to fend of the jaguar should he try and attack from behind. The girls were to huddle in the middle of the wagon floor, removing the seat boards to stay low. I sat on the drivers board with another club-wielding boy at my side. During all this preparation the jaguar kept on growling and howling.
"Most of the girls started to whimper or cry, while the women chaperons tried to calm them by singing psalms. Once ready, we started moving in this formation, slowly proceeding along the bumpy and winding road thru the jungle. The boys had an awful hard time keeping the horses under control. If we had let them run, the wagon would have soon flown apart bouncing over roots and crashing into trees.
"This one-mile crawl through the jungle seemed to last a lifetime. The jaguar appeared to be following us, growling and howling as we tried to get out of there as quickly and safely as possible. The sun setting in the west was well below the treetops and the light started to fade quickly in the jungle. It was no fun sitting helpless in a wagon, a whimpering of psalms being drowned out by jaguar howls. I don't know if any one peed in their pants. It seemed forever, but we finally made it out of the jungle and on to campo Invernada. There I told the boys to pile into the wagon and gave the horses free rein. I could hardly control them as they took off in a full gallop. Luckily it was dry and we could move swiftly. The howl of the jaguar quickly faded away, but the horses kept going. By the time we reached the entrance of the jungle Abebo, the horses were lathered in white sweat, and I had to force them to a walk as we climbed the hill on the picada which leads to the Potrero Ibate. Because one side of the road was badly eroded the wagon nearly tipped over so the boys had to get out again and do some pushing to help the tired horses up the long hill.
"By now the sun had set and it was dark in the jungle. The open Potrero Ibate provided us with more daylight and then it was just a short stretch through the woods down to campo Lechera from where we could see the lights of Isla Margarita. The whole trip back one had this funny feeling as if the jaguar had wings and was following us. We really did not feel safe until we were back on the Isla Margarita hof."
Kurt was able to make this story sound real scary, and we kids enjoyed hearing it again and again.
Some Memories of Kurt Zimmermann
by Emil (Migg) Fischli, 6/15/96 (translated by Susanna Alves Levy)
After reading Hans Zimmermann's contribution in KIT of May 1996, Kurt appeared ever so often in my thoughts. Apart from my memories, I own some real, solid items that directly connect me to Kurt. I have a large red cedar chest which my oldest son Seppel once made with Kurt's practical help and guidance. The sides of this chest are perfectly held together with exactly fitting, Schwalbenschwanz ("swallow-tail") joints. Kurt was able to convey his exacting workmanship to many a youngster, such as Seppel. Gottlieb, another of my sons, also made a smaller chest, from paraiso wood, under Kurt's helping hands. Both chests were proudly presented as Christmas gifts to their mother Hilde. They are precious treasures, holding other treasures of all our children from the early years. Now these chests are the direct, solid connection with Kurt.
My other recollections of Kurt are more weltanschaulich (philosophical world outlook-related). I joined the Bruderhof at 18 years of age, being disillusioned by the lying 'Christian Churches', but full of hope to help build up a just, brotherly life. Kurt's joining came along similar lines -- he came as a Communist. Now this is dangerous to mention, but there are two kinds of Communist: one of the taking-away kind, the other of the sharing/brotherly kind. Kurt and I were of the latter sort. In the early years in the Bruderhof, we celebrated on the 1st of May, even singing the Internationale: "Volker hort die Signale..." or "Bruder zur Sonne zur Freiheit...", but not ending with "...heilig die letzte Schlacht", but "...heilig der Liebe Macht" (in place of 'sacred the last battle,' 'sacred the power of love'.)
Leo Dreher, who was baptized at the same time as Kurt, told me once that Kurt did not have to say the words of the Christian Confession of Faith, but Eberhard Arnold accepted some of the words and genuine meaning of the Communist Manifesto. Many of the joining members of those early times came from similar backgrounds. It was genuine, something for which one was ready to risk ones life.
Kurt, as I feel very close and understand him, could never agree to the pietistic Christian "humbug" which through the years gradually crept into the spiritual life and habits of the Bruderhof, especially after the sale of Primavera. He had a very open and understanding way with children and young people. I know this from my own kids, but also from the many times we had "hort" (supervising the children during play-time) on Sunday mornings or weekday afternoons. Also there were the two cedar woods in Primavera that he planted and cared for during so many siesta hours. Unfortunately, the Mennonites felled all the trees.
In the early sixties, we spent some time together at the Sinnthalhof in Germany. His family and my family suffered extremely difficult times. I got into trouble after the reports about the goings-on and the giving--up of Primavera. Kurt was sent away, and I was worked three times outside, at the water-bottling works at Bad Bruckenau, and lastly in the parquet factory in Bruckenau. At the end of Sinnthalhof, when it was closed down, we were told by two "Brothers" from England that there was no room for us anymore in the Bruderhof. No other reasons were given. This from Brothers whom I had given my life for, the cause I -- that we, Hilde and I -- were ready to die for.
Something then broke in me, and I can well imagine that something must have broken in Kurt.
I write about Kurt, but to Kurt belongs Marianne, his wife. I am not going to sing a song of praise to or about her, but just a few facts: her singing, her leading in the singing, the singing in the Advent times in the circles and in family get-togethers, is just unforgettable. She must have done more good for the real life of the communities than most of the so-called "DaWs" (Diener an Werd -- Servants of the Word).
I still shudder about her last letter to Hans Zimmermann.
Now they in the Bruderhof shoot at the hearts of their own members, not only at the hearts of outside relatives.
I greet with warm love any of the still very dear Zimmermann family who might read these few reflections.
Our son Jacquo was born in Primavera during May of '47, our sixth child -- and all boys up to this point. Trautel was expecting a baby at the same time and we were both in the sewing room, but I was first, as usual. He was born in the end room of the hospital, and I was reminded so vividly of the time of Andre's illness. Then Trautel had a little daughter, Maia, who was her last child. She died when Maia was only four. I had hoped that Jacquo would be a little girl, but resigned myself to being a boys' mother. I preferred it that way rather than having only girls. I think we moved then to a big room in the old hall again. I seem to remember being next door to the Meiers.
It must have been this year too that Roger was made Servant of the Word. It was Hans Zumpe who proposed it. I wasn't really surprised, as I knew Roger to be a very capable person with a very active mind and capable of leading, and all such people sooner or later got taken. He knew he was capable of leading in practical things, but had doubts about being able to lead spiritually. At times these doubts really oppressed him, but he was elected. This was a loss for the school, which had previously lost Balz and Hans Hermann in the same cause. That was the weakness of our life -- we were always removing people from one task and giving them another, especially the most gifted ones, and in that way the education suffered a good deal. About this time I got put in the school for about six weeks to replace someone else, maybe a sister who was having a baby. I have a vague memory of it being somewhat chaotic! Trudi was in charge then -- in a way I quite enjoyed it. At least it was a change from the everlasting washing and cooking and looking after babies and toddlers. But I still felt I was no good as a teacher.
Then I was pregnant again very quickly, and in the last months I was working with Phyllis Woolston in the babyhouse. I fell from grace towards the end and received a terrific telling off from Phyllis because I had turned away for a moment to fetch something, leaving a baby alone on the table, and it might have fallen off. It was useless to tell her I had not done it absent-mindedly but consciously, with my eye on the baby all the time, and that this was not one of your lightning movers -- no, I had committed an almost unforgivable offense, and was sent home for that day to think about it. I bore Phyllis no grudge, I knew her conscientious mind, and of course she was responsible officially, but as the years went by and I became an experienced mother it became more difficult to accept the rules and regulations of the baby-house. I knew quite well that in many cases I was better able to decide myself what should be done with my own babies, and only if they were ill did I need help.
The problem of not getting enough to eat was by this time much less acute, and I remember that I used to go every evening to the toddler house on my way home, at 5.30, and get some of the left-over pudding. Yet Beatrice was another tiny baby, several weeks premature. I was overjoyed to have got a girl at last, and looked forward to seeing her in pretty little dresses. Moni gave me a dress for her, and I enjoyed myself embroidering little things for her. But this time I was determined to achieve something during my six weeks, and I borrowed a children's story with sweet pictures from Emi-Ma, and painted all the pictures exactly alike, while Roger copied out the words for me. This took up all my spare time, but gave me great satisfaction, and always afterwards when the children saw this book and heard that I had painted it they were most impressed!
When I had a baby, what I enjoyed most during my leisure time was to copy out, learn and sing lots of lullabies. Emi-Ma, during her long period of being an invalid, had occupied herself in collecting all the German children's songs she could find and making a book out of them, and Winifred Dyroff and Sylvia Beeles had collected quite a lot of English songs. It was a mystery to me where they got them all from, but I chose some of those I liked best and had my own small collection. Singing to my children and telling them sometimes a little story at bedtime was something I liked to do.
My memories of Beatrice as a baby definitely showed up in advance our relationship as it was destined to be, and I noted this more or less clearly with all of them: the child's character shows at an incredibly early age. She was fearfully capricious and difficult to feed, and drove me nearly to despair. I weaned her earlier than the others, thinking that she might do better with a bottle, but then she would refuse to drink the bottle either, and sometimes I got so mad with her that I flung her down roughly on the bed. However, I began to have the strong conviction that the child's unconscious mind knew that I wanted her to drink, and out of sheer cussedness therefore refused. She also knew when I was getting rattled, however well I might control myself on the surface. So from this time on I began to make conscious efforts to detach myself from the subjective relationship of identity with the child, so as not to give her this power over me. In other words, it became clear to me that a mother who wishes to have a good influence over her child must not give way to the natural desire to see the child drinking and eating all it needs or all she thinks it needs, but must try to remain unmoved, so as not to put a weapon in the child's hands. Easier said than done, however, and I was still due to have many struggles on this point, where, incidentally, Roger saw quite clearly and often lost patience with me.
The famous "Displaced Persons" group must have arrived earlier than this, and turned out to be a great disillusionment. First, we had wanted to have orphans, but the German government wouldn't let them out of the country, so then Hans collected a group of 100 D.P.s, and of course we hoped that these people who had all suffered in the war would be all too ready to listen to the message we had to give, and many would join us. They had pledged themselves to stay and work with us for a year, but most of them left before the year was up and went to Asuncion, and most of them elsewhere. Not one joined us, and only one very old man remained as a sort of permanent guest.
After this failure, minds got to work on other means of expansion. Roger had the idea that we should go to another country in South America, for instance, Uruguay, our next door neighbor. If we had a farm somewhere near Montevideo we should get into contact with the type of person who was more likely than the Paraguayans to listen to our message. We might also find it easier to keep ourselves. The economic problem in Paraguay was never solved. The soil was marvelously productive, but there was no market for anything except in Asuncion, and to bring stuff down there was too costly on account of the lack of decent roads. We were employing a lot of cheap Paraguayan labor, but even so we could not make both ends meet, and were receiving some help from England and from begging. It always seemed to me that some people were pretty complacent about the fact that we could not keep ourselves, but I remember how Fritz Kleiner used to emphasize the importance of our being self-supporting, saying that the spirit must penetrate matter. Fritz was the sort of man who didn't just talk: while Georg and his ilk would be talking about style, what was and what was not "our" style, Fritz went ahead and put up some building that served its purpose for years, although it was only meant to have been a temporary solution. If any man really symbolized the spirit of those pioneer years, that was Fritz, and the pioneer years were the best; they were the imperishable essence, the spiritual meaning and value of the life. Before this had begun to fade, Fritz met his death -- in the turning shop. Although he was only in his forties, I felt and I believe everyone felt there was such a fitness in his death that one could scarcely feel sad. It seemed a kind of special grace for him that he should never have had to grow old. Another one who died shortly after the birth of Beatrice was Adoph Braun. He must have been about 60. He was ill for a number of weeks, and knew how it stood with him, and he was extremely serene. I went to see him for the last time taking Beatrice with me, at his request (we were both in the hospital), and I went away feeling really happy.
All this time Ibate was being built up, and in Loma the hospital was being enlarged and people were constantly being sent over from the Wheathill Bruderhof in England, as more people joined there, because there the accommodation problem was very great. It was much more costly and complicated to build in England. So Primavera, with the yearly increase from births as well, was growing bigger and bigger.
I had a rather longer pause between Beatrice and Isabel, and I think it must have been during the interval that I was sent with Roger to accompany a group of school children who were sent for a week with the lorry to Wolendam for a holiday. This was a colony of recently arrived Mennonites, come over from Holland about the same time as our D.P.s, who had settled near the Paraguay River, North of Rosario. This was a wonderful adventure for me, just as much as for the youngsters. I remember how we slept in tents on the way, and how the girls and boys sang and sang, all piled up on the luggage at the back of the lorry. Near Wolendam there were masses and masses of fanpalms, and the landscape became more arid. We were impressed with what the Mennonite families had already achieved, and we went to see one girl who had visited Primavera, and she had helped to build their house, as all those Mennonite women did. They already had some kind of hospital too. A few years later we were saddened to hear that these Mennonites were leaving the country again and going to Canada. They found the climate and conditions too hard, and they received help from the Mennonite Central Committee to go to Canada.
Roger continued to make propaganda for Uruguay, with the result that he was sent down there with the idea of making preparations for starting a Bruderhof there. I simply cannot remember the exact sequence of events. I think he went on a preliminary journey with Peter Mathis, and they must have been given a few addresses by Hans Meier, who had previously been to Buenos Aires, and they visited a number of people there, including Stan and Hela Ehrlich and Stan's parents, but how they discovered the Bondys in Montevideo I have forgotten. On these mission journeys they were not given any money, except the bare minimum for their fares, and were expected to beg their way and find hospitality. So sometimes they really went pretty hungry. But Roger loved the task, I am quite sure.
They came back, and it was definitely decided to begin trying to find a new Bruderhof in Uruguay, so a few were chosen who could speak Spanish, and to begin with they went down and worked on an estancia near Montevideo for some rich fellow, Roger and Johnny Robinson and Christophe Mathis and Alistair and maybe somebody else. So they worked for this man and earned some money, and then came the next stage when we bought a small piece of land and sent a few more people down to make a beginning. There was no possibility at once of sending down a large family -- I think Betty R. went as about the only woman, or Betty and Annie Mathis, whose children were older and could be left behind, so I had to be separated from Roger for a whole year.
Before he left we were sent for a week to the river, and it seemed just like having a second honeymoon. By this time there was a little house built down there which was in constant use by school groups and families as a holiday place, but as we were about 600 people one's turn didn't come round very often. Being sent there alone with my husband for a whole week was the most wonderful treat, and indeed it was a most beautiful retreat. By day we went swimming and floating silently downstream in the rowing boat, watching the water birds. There were kingfishers, little speckled waterhens, wild ducks, herons, and a big hawk that flew overhead, and lots of weaver birds whose pretty nests hung from palm trees on the banks. At night one could hear all sorts of weird noises from wild animals, and if you sat still on the bank and then shone your torch over the water you often lit up two eyes on the surface of the water. These were crocodiles.
Naturally it was with a somewhat heavy heart that I faced the prospect of being alone for such a lengthy period -- he was to stay for a year. Furthermore, I was expecting Isabel. Now I remember that when Beatrice was born we were at last given an extra room, and enjoyed the great luxury of sleeping in a little room apart from our six boys. When Isabel was born we actually had three rooms, one for the boys, a living room where Beatrice slept too, and a room for us and the baby, only most of the time I was there on my own. This was still in the old hall, on the corner near the kindergarten, and the walls were still made of single planks and full of gaps and chinks through which the wind blew and the dust got in, and there was no ceiling and so the red dust from the roof fell down.
Isabel was born in the mother-house which in the meantime had been built in Loma, and Margot sat with me all the time because Roger wasn't there. I remember something rather funny about Isabel's birth, which I afterwards regretted and vowed I wouldn't do again, namely, I was fed up with always having my babies two or three weeks early, because from the way I felt I always knew they were likely to be early, but I got no credit for it, so to speak, and would only be put on lighter work about three weeks before the baby was born and only moved to the mothers' table for a bit of extra food correspondingly late. So this time I thought I'd hoodwink Ruth the doctor and pretend I didn't know exactly when this baby was due, and then maybe she'd decide it was due two or three weeks early, which in fact she did. The only trouble was that Roger, on being given this date as the right one, expected the baby to be born earlier, as usual, and got worried when he heard nothing! So this was a lesson to me, and I gave up such petty selfishness.
I find it quite comical to remember what Isabel was like as a baby and to see how exactly it corresponded with her character as it has developed until now, when she is nineteen. She was very sweet, and yet at the same time extraordinarily obstinate. I reflected that boys were, after all, easier to bring up, for Beatrice was turning out to be anything but easy. Altogether I had an extremely difficult time during that year. I had a baby and a toddler, three kindergarten children, Cisco in the first class and Paulo who was a fairly big boy of 12, going to school in Isla Margarita. He should have been my help and mainstay in the family, but he was having a hard time, poor boy, as he was an unusual, solitary boy, and there were some older and bigger ones with whom he had to go to school who bullied him unmercifully. He told me about it sometimes and was terribly upset, and I didn't know what to do, as I well knew that if I went to someone in authority and complained of these boys, they would find means to take it out on Paul even worse. Finally I did speak to somebody, and they found a solution by sending Paul to live with a family in Isla during the week, and I should receive some help in fetching the breakfast and fetching the water for washing, etc., by having a girl of 13 from the Vigars in Ibate to live with me during the week.
In the meantime I have got ahead and left out important things. It must have been at the end of '48 or beginning of '49 that Philip, who had been ill for a long time, with some unusual illness he had contracted while on mission in Brazil, was suddenly taken to hospital in terrible pain and operated on the stomach and died the next day. This was a devastating blow to me and Roger, Joan and Philip were close friends), and I believe pretty well to everyone. One could not feel, as with Adolph, that his was a life which had been really completed. It seemed so full of promise -- Joan was six months pregnant with their fourth child, and when it turned out to be a boy it was called Philip. Everyone knew that he had written a few poems -- there was the one called 'Drought' to which Sylvia had composed a tune and we often sang it -- but it turned out that he had written many more. I borrowed them from Joan and copied them out, and love to reread them from time to time. It is amazing to me that anyone who was so fully in the life should have found time and energy for poetry. There were one or two artists among us as well, and a few who were very gifted musically, and to some extent their gifts were put to use, but there was never any question of them being given a chance to develop them to the full. Philip's poems have a strong feeling for nature and for life, as well as expressing particularly well the spiritual urges which brought together so many of us on the Bruderhof.
Another one who died about this time was little Jan Peter Fros, the first baby to be born in Paraguay. They were living in the house near the kindergarten where previously Joan and Philip had been. I had evening watch there, and I remember how sweet-tempered and altogether charming little Jan-Peter was. He had something wrong with his heart and was an invalid for some time, but he bore it all with angelic patience. It's a strange thing, but one really had the feeling when he died that he had completed his mission on earth and there was no reason for grief.
When Isabel was a few months old, I was offered the chance to move out of the old hall into a new house near the hospital, and I eagerly accepted, because of the noisiness of the hall, whose walls were by no means soundproof. The new house had the disadvantage of being rather far away from the dining hall and everything else, but I accepted this. During my six weeks with Isabel, Roger had come home for a visit of a few weeks to discuss future plans in Uruguay, and then went back again, and was away for altogether 14 months. This new house had brick walls and a living room in which no one had to sleep, and three bedrooms, real luxury. What was more, I had curtains at the windows and matching curtains for the shelves. This was simply marvelous! However, the disadvantages were not to be sneezed at, and I had a very hard time that year from a practical point of view. I particularly remember how impossible I found it to be on time for the Sunday morning service, and I often came late and sat outside, and one morning I just wept. The struggle was a bit too much for me.
Isabel was also very difficult to feed. They seemed to do it on purpose to make life more difficult for me! I felt Roger's absence most at the weekends, when I would see the other family fathers playing with their children or getting a wagon to take them to another hof or to the orange wood or the represa, or just doing some work around the house with them, and I couldn't do so much for our children, being burdened with a baby and a toddler. Sometimes another family which was going somewhere would offer to take one or two of mine as well. Part of this time I had Marill F. helping me with the children: she was the same age as Paul, and became like a daughter to me. I was really very fond of her; but that little rascal of a Jacques would not allow Marill to bathe him. Poor little Beatrice suffered badly from a skin trouble on her head, and in fact she got it practically all over her body at one time, and Margaret Stern was trying out one remedy after another for it, and she had to have her hands tied to the bed at night so that she couldn't scratch herself. She was a nervy, skinny child who kept wetting herself, and I was constantly bothered as to what was the best way to deal with her.
Finally, when Isabel was ten months old, Roger was recalled from Uruguay. I believe Peter and Kate were sent down then to replace him. He arrived by plane from Asuncion, and great was the excitement when the plane duly arrived, with the whole community down on the camp below the school wood to meet him. But we scarcely recognized him, as he had no beard! Especially the children, who had never seen him without one, it was hard to get used to. Margot had given me a nice green tablecloth for our living room table, and the children never forgot the beautiful "piggy" sweets which Roger brought for them.
Now I have got muddled up again, and he must have arrived by plane for the short visit when Isabel was born, because when he returned to stay I was sent to Asuncion to meet him, and we stayed a few days in Bruderhof House and even spent a night in a hotel by the lake in San Bernardino. I remember traveling down to Asuncion with Peter Cavanna and Stanley Fletcher, and sleeping between them in a big communal cabin. It was all tremendously exciting for me, who had scarcely ever been outside Primavera for about ten years. I remember Roger showing me Caacupe and the hotel where he had lived with Philip, and we climbed a very steep hill outside Caacupe I also remember going with Stanley and some of the young folk from Bruderhof House on an excursion to a small steep hill nearer Asuncion, before Roger's arrival. I liked being in the small group in Bruderhof House, where it felt more like a real family.
Roger, of course, was full of Uruguay and the advantages of being near a big city where one could contact plenty of outsiders. I realized that sooner or later we were probably going to be sent there, but it seemed that this would not happen in the immediate future, as the little place they had in Carrasco was too small to support more than a very few people.
But the next thing that happened was that we were sent to Ibate. We moved into a nice brick house in front of the open green where Balz and Monika had been living (I think they were moved to Isla again for some reason), and it actually had an upstairs room, where Paul, Francisco and Jean-Pierre slept, an open verandah where we usually had our meals, and two other rooms. I forgot to mention that several of the children had chicken pox just while I was away in Asuncion.
In Ibate Roger and Heini were then the Servants of the Word, and Annemarie was housemother, and things seemed to go pretty well. I liked Annemarie. By that time Hardi and Sekunda had been married for one or two years and they were also in Ibate, Sekunda as work distributess, and I believe Hardi was the steward. Jorg Barth was teaching in the school, and I think Gwynn was the headmaster. I was put on to my old job, in charge of the laundry, which was all right with me.
Next door to us lived Erna and Werner, who had a family of the same size as ours. In the next few years I got to know Erna and to like her very much. I admired the quiet, capable way in which she managed her family, seeming never to get excited, and when she once gave me some advice about how to treat Isabel, who used to drive me to despair by refusing to drink her milk, I accepted it gladly from her. On the whole, the next three and a half years which we spent in Ibate was a happy time, with the whole community still looking outwards, planning to found a real Bruderhof in Uruguay, beginning to send people on mission to North America (Hermann Arnold and Alan, and later Will and Heini), and starting a small place also in Germany.
Roger and Heini got on quite well, as they complemented one another, Roger being very competent in practical ways and about matters of organization, and Heini appearing to be more gifted spiritually. Maybe he was, but it certainly meant that he was a more dangerous person in a community. Roger had to manage for a while alone while he was on mission. Marianne was also in Ibate, so we likewise had our choir, and practiced for Christmas, Easter and special occasions. It must have been about this time that Joan and Leonard got married, but we saw precious little of them, as they were in Isla.
Also to this period belongs the visit of Klaus and Renate Hilb, the Hesses and finally Stan and Hela, who soon came to stay. This was a reinforcement for South American development, and Stan and Hela became our great personal friends. They were disappointed with me at first because I was too reserved and appeared cold to them. In later years I did my best to get used to South American ways and to break down this impression, but it is difficult to change one's acquired habits, and Latin people very easily strike one as too effusive and not genuine. However, with time we adjusted to one another all right.
Primavera did have a few Paraguayan members by this time, so that the language question became acute, and those few who could really speak Spanish were much in demand for translation for these people. But this problem never even began to be adequately dealt with in Primavera, where the mass of people who knew no Spanish was too overwhelming. Later, in Uruguay, a number of us really learnt Spanish and were beginning to acclimatize ourselves there as part of the country, which was Roger's ideal, about which he felt very strongly. From the time when he first started the interest in Uruguay, Roger became the South American champion, where obviously his language gift and also his ability to understand and get on with the Latin people made him feel in his element. However, the number of members who did manage to feel really at home in South America was small, and a sense of isolation and futility gradually took root in Primavera. But this became conscious only somewhat later. I noticed it clearly on our return from Uruguay.
About this time, 1952, something happened on the Wheathill Bruderhof which was very disquieting. Our impression from what we heard was more or less that the whole brotherhood there, under the leadership of Llewellyn (whom I remember as a very worthy, well-meaning but extremely nervy individual), had taken leave of its senses and gone to the most absurd extremes. At any rate it was plain that the situation had got out of hand. People were getting hysterical and talking about "restless spirits", and as I heard later from Nigel, son of one of the families there, children were being punished for so-called offenses, disobedience or nonconformity of some sort, in the most brutal and inhuman fashion.
If I remember rightly, that was the reason why the Primavera brotherhood decided to make the sacrifice of sending Hans Z. and his family over to take responsibility in England. We really all regarded Hans as the chief Servant, and it was with rather heavy hearts that we let him go. One may well speculate as to how things might have turned out had he remained in Primavera, because he certainly was about the only one who might have been capable of seeing through and restraining Heini in time. But he went to England, and then proceeded to turn his energies towards the founding of a German Bruderhof. In the meantime several of the leading brothers from Wheathill were sent to Paraguay, and there was a general reshuffle, the usual way of dealing with the situation when there had been a crisis.
I became pregnant again, and in September '52 Christophe was born in Loma. I was supposed to have gone there for a week's rest beforehand, but on the very morning I was due to go I suddenly had to go post haste! Roger drove the wagon as fast as he could, and Christophe was born about an hour afterwards. Eileen Robertshaw was in the motherhouse waiting for hers, so I had plenty of her company for the next week or so, and it was quite refreshing for me, as Eileen was intellectually bright and with a good sense of humor. There was a violent storm while I was there, which did quite a lot of damage to roofs and trees, and at home in Ibate some of the tiles fell off our roof. Roger must have been living in Loma in order to be with me, as Isabel remembers how she was with Irmi and Judy Jory, and Beatrice with Gwynn and Buddug, and Jorg B. and Elias lived in our house with the boys. To my great surprise I was given seven weeks free from the work afterwards to make up for having had no rest before.
I suppose I went back to the laundry again. Or I may have worked a bit with the toddlers or in the baby-house. I do remember being with the toddlers sometimes and getting so bored not having enough to do that I danced about in the room and leaped over the tables, to the great astonishment of the little ones! Yes, it must have been then that I worked with Ruth Martin in the toddler house and admired her efficiency in dealing with them. Then Heini and Annemarie went to the U.S. on mission and Erna became housemother.
By this time Hardi and Sekunda had gone back to Isla and Nancy Winter was the work-distributess. But no, I must be wrong because I remember that Sekunda was later helping the housemother and they had the bright idea that I should do the work distribution, an idea which I didn't appreciate at all. However, it couldn't have lasted long -- maybe I was only supposed to substitute somebody for a time. What I liked best was my dear old laundry. It gave me scope for pitting my strength against the odds, and for a certain limited gift for human relationships, whereas it did not ask anything impossible from me. I hated organizing things, and frittering my time away in the morning meeting. I wanted to do something. But sometimes it seemed to me that Roger felt I was wasted there in the laundry. The only troubles I had in the laundry were with two of the laundry men, both of them Germans. They were too proud and just couldn't stand being told what to do by a woman. I am generally a mild person, easy to get on with, but on two or three occasions I really let go and raised hell, so that I was quite surprised at myself. Actually, these men were not suitable, and should never have been put to do such a job, for not every man can adapt himself to a situation in which the woman knows best and he must do what she says. In the light of my present psychological knowledge I should say these were the animus and anima clashes. In the last instance we both got over the affair and were really friendly again afterwards.
Meanwhile things went forward in Uruguay, and Winifred and August Dyroff were sent down with their family. By that time the little farm of E1 Arado was bought. However, it turned out that Kate C. and Winifred did not hit if off, both being rather leading personalities, and finally Kate and Peter were recalled to Primavera and it was decided that Roger would have to be sent down to take over the leadership. Christophe was one year old then. So again we said good-bye to Roger for a year.
This second year without Roger was not so difficult for me practically, since my baby was already a year old, and my other children were getting old enough to be helpful. I acquired the additional task of looking after some of the single men's rooms, which I did with energy and dedication, trying tactfully to admonish the most disorderly ones to look after their rooms a bit better. The older men were not quite so bad, but those boys and young men who had grown up on the Bruderhof were simply content to live like pigs. I really wasted my time struggling to improve their lot, because they didn't care. This task caused me to have strong feelings that something was wrong with our education and with the policy of removing the young boys from the family and putting them together, very often in rather out of the way places, too far from the mother, if she was on the same hof, to do much about them. They relapsed into a condition of such slovenly filth that it would be difficult for anyone who has always lived in civilized conditions to imagine it.
Soon after the beginning of school I was asked to take over the first class, which had been begun by Werner, but he was not well enough to continue. I liked children, and Gwynn, who was in charge of the school, was a special friend, and I liked the other teachers too, and I felt it would provide a welcome change and I'd like to have a shot. Furthermore I was anxious to show myself willing to serve. So I took over. I had to carry on teaching them in German, as they had begun, and, what was worse, I had to teach Jacques. He was a bit older than most of them, and far brighter, so he got bored and became impossibly cheeky. I had to ask for help to deal with him. Our classroom was on the outer edge of the school wood, in a little two-room clitch house: David Hussy occupied the other room. Each class occupied a different house, and was responsible for "swilling the floor" and keeping it clean. There was a pause during the morning when the children got their mate and a piece of bread and we teachers also sat down together for a little refreshment and a chat. I enjoyed this very much. There was also a second breakfast pause in the laundry or anywhere else, but in the school we did on the whole talk about more interesting subjects. I found my thoughts being taken up by my teaching task almost to the exclusion of anything else, for I was not used to it and had to keep on thinking of how to proceed. It was very hard, but I felt it as a challenge and wanted to stick it out. Sometimes I also got Hort, which was rather fun. I remember taking the children a long way on one occasion to a famous big tree on the edge of the forest, and cutting through the woods on the way home and almost getting lost.
I also got sent for three or four days to the river with a group of boys and girls, with Willi and Jorg B. This was great fun. I'm sure I enjoyed it just as much as the children. I still remember the three of us grown-ups sitting by the river one evening talking together of the future of the community, and my heart was very heavy at the thought of the splitting-up which would soon take place. I didn't want to leave Primavera, which meant home to me, and the place where all were gathered together.
It was getting towards the end of the year, and there came a communal brotherhood in which it was decided that our family should now move down to Uruguay. The trouble was that it seemed there was some difficulty with Roger's papers, and it looked as though he wouldn't be able to come back to fetch us, in which case I should have to do all the packing and travel down with all the children alone. I didn't like this idea at all, and I remember leaving that meeting in Loma feeling very downhearted, and being admonished by Sekunda. However, in the end Roger did manage to come back, to my infinite relief. We had Christmas in Ibate, and early in the year 1955 we traveled down to Uruguay, first on the lorry to Rosario, then on the old river boat to Asuncion, where we stayed a day or so in Bruderhof House. All this was wonderfully exciting for the children, and they sat on the steps of Bruderhof House watching the traffic. Nina and Wilfred were houseparents at the time.
Then came the last and most exciting part -- we were to go by plane. Christophe was two and a bit, and I remember how relieved I was that he behaved very well and caused no trouble, but every single one of us except Jacques vomited. It was a fairly small plane, and it wobbled dreadfully! So we arrived in Montevideo feeling more dead than alive. There Winifred and August were waiting for us, though they had to stand outside a glass window for a long time while we got through the customs. It was lovely to arrive at E1 Arado and be at home.
The spring sunshine felt fierce. Flowering jacaranda trees once again spread their gentle perfume and threw sparse shadows on Asuncion's plazas and avenues. Now that October with its white light and fine weather had returned, men and women, spreading their lax bodies on chairs on either side of front doors, spent their weekends obstructing pavements, gossiping and chatting with neighbors, and drinking terere, the native bitter tea, sucked noisily through a bombilla from a gourd. Windows once again were kept open, blaring radio sounds spilling out into the surrounding streets.
There was a kind of a hush at the Upper House, the Bruderhof house on Fulgencio Moreno street, because of the baptism ceremony that was to take place there later that morning. It was a serious matter, a very solemn one, and did not call for loud singing or peals of laughter, as would usually resound around the house on a Sunday morning in the period between breakfast and the Gemeindestunde meeting No, everybody seemed to concentrate quietly on the meaning of what was to happen shortly.
I had just come into the house again after a photocall. My brother Peter wanted me to have a photograph as a special memento of this most sacred day of my life. Evelyn Hoverston, or 'Evie' as I chose to call her, joined me for the picture. We were very close friends and were doing this together.
Afterwards we went back into 'Mucky Hollow', the tiny bedroom adjoining the communal dining area that Evie shared with Birdie. No one was there, and we sat on Evie's bed.
"I feel so small today," I said, staring into space. "Like a grain of sand on the edge of a vast ocean."
Evie nodded. Neither of us had as yet seen an ocean, but we both believed we knew what it was like.
"It will be the best day of my life," Evie said sweetly. She checked her wristwatch. Still half an hour to go before the meeting was to start. I felt my pulse begin to beat stronger and faster.
We were wearing identical white dresses. The bodice had a gentle fit, short sleeves highlighting the golden tan of my arms. The downward widening skirt ended just below the knee and modestly gave away the outline of my waist and hips. I knew that the frock suited me. It had been specially made for my baptism. I felt pretty. I glowed with anticipation. It must be like this for a bride, I mused. The precious doors to God's palace were finally being thrown open for me too, and I would be forever safe. It was a kind of going to heaven while still on earth. Thereafter I was to belong to the chosen few, side by side with all the other Brothers and Sisters and joyfully welcomed by God the Lord when His Kingdom once again was to reign on earth, among mankind.
I knew each one of my fellow novices well and felt quite comfortable during our preparatory meetings. I had worked hard at it. I had learned the "Confession Of Our Faith" by heart. We all had. The thing about it was that, although we were expected to chant aloud its words from memory at the baptismal ceremony, at the same time it was paramount to believe utterly and absolutely in the truth of each single expression and sentence thus uttered. It had taken some soul-searching and earnest doubting before I could say in upright honesty that I stood behind every syllable I was to pronounce during the baptism celebration.
One satisfying aspect of my upcoming brotherhood membership was that for once -- and to my own surprise with a great sense of relief -- I was not in love with any young man. I knew that I was doing this for its own sake and not for any other dubious reason lurking in the background, waiting to stare at me if I looked myself in the face. No, this time I was honestly not in love. Well, not in that way, at least. Yes, of course there was Raphael Hafner, handsome Raphael! But we were relatives, and I knew that nothing could ever come of it. That's why I indulged in my romantic feelings and enjoyed the sweetness of a quickening heartbeat or the breath-catching moments when, for a fraction of time, our eyes met and locked. Raphael, I believed, knew how I felt about him. I saw how my presence affected him. It was a dream, a lovely dream, but just a dream. It would never go beyond that. It was like pretending, practising for the real thing with someone else later, someone whom the Bruderhof was willing to sanction. Raphael was out of the question. Cousins weren't allowed to marry. It was a bit of a shame, though. He was so attractive! He had such a sense of humor. He was so masculine! Even when I blushed -- and I still blushed much too easily and too often -- it somehow didn't matter with him because I was so sure that he knew what my face betrayed. Sometimes I saw it written all over his face, whenever he knew no one was watching, that it pleased him no end -- what he detected in my face and what my eyes spoke when I couldn't tear them away from his eyes.
So Raphael was no hindrance to my baptism. What he and I had was even better. He appeared to take pleasure in my serious searching and spiritual endeavors, and his cheerful nature and usual high spirits made this a happy time for me. I felt good, I felt pretty, and I felt safe and accepted.
There was only one thing, albeit of small importance, which niggled. It regarded the actual baptismal ritual of pouring water over my head. I had a premonition that I would feel dreadfully embarrassed, kneeling there, in the presence of all those people, hair and face dripping, dress clinging to my front, revealing the contours of my breasts. I had been at enough baptisms to know what was to befall me. I had stolen glances sideways, snatching a quick glimpse of the baptizeds' faces. I never managed to make out what exactly they felt just then. I didn't dare to ask, though. It would have been perceived as a silly, superficial question and I would have deserved admonishment for approaching this serious matter in such a way. But I wanted very much to know. I wished to prepare myself in every possible way beforehand so that I neither stumbled while I spoke, nor trembled. I might even burst into tears! No, I wanted to be strong, to have myself in hand.
This huge and final step would seal my fate for all times. It was a vow for life. I would wed with Christ and be His bride, God's Kingdom on Earth -- the Bruderhof -- being my residence for always and for ever. I perceived the Church as the web uniting the spiritual and godly with the human and worldly. I was to become a thread in this web. It was a privilege. Yes, I'd be a chosen one, a child coming home into God's all-embracing arms, into His eternal house of true joy. The safety of that future was all I wanted and aspired to.
In my free time, I delved deeply into the New Testament, learning whole sections by heart. I read all the recommended literature and filled exercise books with spiritual poems that I copied in a patient hand as a form of elevating exercise. I searched far and wide inside of me, clearing out all my inner nooks and crannies for any unconfessed secrets. I went way back, right to my earliest childhood years. I raked through my conscience and found lots of little unconfessed lies.
There was the tale of that coveted guava jam slab, well hidden from us children in mother's cupboard -- or so she believed. I stole bite after bite. Unluckily for me, Mother discovered the vandalized delight while I was innocently reading a book, slouching around on her bed. She didn't say a word. She just looked at me with large, querying eyes and raised eyebrows.
"Oh, that wasn't me!" I cried, blatantly denying all knowledge.
But it looked as if Mother could read every thought that passed behind my brow and that she knew full well I was lying. I had never felt so found out before! I blushed crimson while she watched my face. She had never, during all those fourteen-odd years of my life as it was then, managed a feat such as this, making me blush with so much shame and embarrassment! Still, I stubbornly held on to my stupid denial, but to my chagrin, the wretched affair haunted me forever after. I knew I must seek her forgiveness.
"Impure" thoughts, as I called them, and naughty childhood games and experiments, were most difficult to talk about. But the never-ending painful fear of discovery that had followed me during so many years signalled quite clearly that I ought to make a clean breast of it. The agony! I had seen what was done with those children who were discovered. They were put into Ausschluss, exclusion. No one was allowed to speak to them, play with them. They were sent to live with one of the elderly single women or men. Even without being in Ausschluss, to have to live in the same room with one of those single people was, in itself, punishment enough. They were invariably seen by me as strange, weird persons. They smelt strangely. They were different. No one "normal" would choose to remain unmarried! They had habits and ticks that made them stand apart. I shuddered at the mere thought of it. And once the offending child came back into our midst, the stigma remained with them for life. It was like an invisible stamp, a mark on their personality, a bad character reference. Once in Ausschluss, they were forever and for always silently disgraced. What with my ambitions to be popular and well liked by everybody, it was unbearable even to begin thinking about what might happen to my treasured self-esteem and my good opinions of myself.
There were those times when I had said offensive things about people behind their backs, as well as harboring nasty, ugly thoughts and wicked fantasies about my mother. I found quite a basketful of things unrepented cowering in the shadows of my heart, things that needed getting rid of. Whatever I hadn't brought out explicitly on earlier occasions must be purged from my sinful past. It included my general and all my particular weaknesses and tendencies not befitting a prospective Bruderhof sister. These included jealousies and envy, spite and lack of love toward my fellow human beings. The list seemed never-ending!
I confessed privately. It felt so painful and uncomfortable to bring it all out into the open, especially because it had to be put before the Servant of the Word, a man! The discomfiture was distressing. I had to choose my words carefully, letting him understand what I was talking about without really bluntly naming the sinful deed when I talked about my improper childhood games with other little girls and boys. I feared rejection, of course. Who knows, the brotherhood, or the Servant of the Word, might think I was not yet worthy of sistership? It took a lot of courage. But forgiveness was granted, personally by him, and collectively at the Gemeindestunde meetings.
My immense relief after confession was hard to describe! No one had ever told me that complete riddance and freedom of all sinful deed and thought would be so exhilarating! My soul felt weightless. The sensation spread through my whole physical being. It seemed like a ray of light, dancing through my days and nights, where even during the latter, darkness never seemed to take over entirely.
By this baptism, I was finally, publicly, taking a stand, a stand that had long been expected from me. By my actions I declared, loudly and firmly to everyone in Primavera, to all the members of the Bruderhof communities elsewhere, and simultaneously to the rest of humanity in the world, where my loyalties would henceforth lie. I felt a strong sense of approval coming from everyone. I enjoyed that.
Privately, I very much needed to take this step because of God and my relationship with Him. God did not expect me to do anything. God just waited to see what I was going to do with myself and with my life. So I was giving myself away to God. That should please him!
The Asuncion Bruderhof house, with its greater sense and feeling of family, did turn out to be the best place for all this. The youthful enthusiasm of the members of that household was contagious to the extreme, and while a handful of us prepared for baptism, others were so touched by our group's emanations that a few of my younger colleagues were moved to ask for the novitiate. It was utterly satisfying to realize that the Spirit was sending out its ripples and stirring up souls that were only waiting to be roused so that they too might join in the jubilant song to God's praise and glory.
Life was to begin for real, finally! Here I had just turned nineteen, and already set and considered fit to become a brotherhood member. I had been a latecomer, but had caught up pretty well with many others who had gone into this life in community so much earlier. I was quite pleased with myself.
In spite of my excitement, I tried to empty my mind and remain quiet and peaceful in my heart. I was Christ's bride today. Nothing should distract me from this most serious and precious moment in my life. Satisfaction, I realized, was the one sensation that mostly welled up in my present state. It was not surprising. A fear of dying had invaded my life years ago. The fear of dying unredeemed was even more dreadful. Purgatory and Hell were two very vivid and frightening concepts. I knew, of course, that there was much symbolism attached to these two expressions. Notwithstanding, my fear was genuine and palpable. Somewhere, somehow after death, I was to confront my authentic and true self, a self I knew existed but never quite managed to grasp completely. There was so much inside of me that seemed so slippery, fleeing too easily from my searching inner eye, hiding in corners of my self whose darkness I couldn't penetrate. I trembled before God the Punishing Might, and I needed to appease Him. Most of all, I needed to belong, to be quite safe, with all the Brothers and Sisters who were safe already. I was convinced that once this was achieved, I would encounter my self revealed as a new entity, a different person altogether. I was quite aware that my old self was coming along with me into God's Kingdom, but it surely would be tinted in divine hues after my baptism!
Anyhow, I always could appeal to Jesus. I did not fear him. He was not connected with any plot for heavenly or divine revenge and punishment. My perception of Jesus had nothing in common with the feelings I harbored of God. Jesus had been a human being, a person -- kind of like me. Once upon a time he too was a child, a youth, a young man. There were enough pointers in the Holy Scriptures to make him look quite real, especially since he too had had his own temptations. I sometimes wondered what kind of temptations they could have been -- there was much scope for imaginings. Because I saw him as so very human, Jesus was by far not as important as God. Jesus was important, though, inasmuch as he could be invoked to act as intermediary between myself and his father, God, that scowling entity from whom nothing could be hidden or withheld. At least one of the Trinity never instilled fear of revenge and thunderous threats and painful punishments. I was glad for Jesus, glad that he had been around once upon a time. He was a true Savior, he was.
The door to 'Mucky Hollow' opened. Birdie looked in. "We are gathering for the meeting," she said. I jumped up.
Evie rose with more dignity. "Then let's go," she said quietly.
The time had come. It was going to happen, to take place. I would be truly safe.
I sighed deeply, a sigh of satisfaction. The ceremony had finished. My voice had trembled, yes, when I spoke. My eyes had flooded with tears and my lips quivered. After swallowing hard, I had gotten myself under control again. The trembling of my body persisted a while longer, but once the service was over and everyone filed past, shaking hands, I quickly gained command over my exposed and shivering self and managed to return handshakes with an earnest smile.
What it was like, kneeling there, wet, and the center of attention? I could hardly recall. Anyhow, that seemed a rather silly concern, as I thought about it afterwards. God had deigned to extend His promised paradise to me -- to little, insignificant me! I had made it. I was safe. I had arrived. There was nowhere further or higher to climb. It didn't matter so much anymore that I might die at any moment. I was now redeemed, washed clean of all weakness and sin. God had spoken. My name had been entered on His sacred scroll, added to all those other names of His chosen people who'd be allowed to go to heaven one day.
Yes, yes! Now I must watch my steps and keep my pride in check. Spiritual pride was a great sin indeed. No one should point a finger at me with accusations of that kind. God's grace could be withdrawn at any time, and I must make certain that I walk in His light only. But I was quite sure that I would never fail.
For that day at least, I felt very saintly.