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

P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 /
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johson MacDonald, Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.

August-September 1995 Volume VII #8-9

-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------

Did you miss us? We hope so! Here we are again, after a very adventurous August! You'll read all about it below. Meanwhile, all Peregrines, KITfolk, graduates, survivors, COBblers should consider next summer's EuroKIT 1996 in Germany. This is an opportunity not to be missed! A chartered bus ride from London is being researched. Too poor to go? Unstuff that sock, knock a hole in your piggy bank, and come along. You only live this life once! Oh, and while you're at it, please send us some of your 'socked-away' cash to KEEP KIT COMING! Inasmuch as the changes to the annual address book have been minimal, we are just listing the changes here and not reprinting it, thus saving the extra pages in the double issue this month for MORE NEWS!
---- The Whole KIT and Kaboodle -----
-------- INDEX --------
Andy & Gudrun Harries
Ben Cavanna
Johanna Patrick Homann
Christoph Arnold's trip to Rome
Rev. Sam Waldner
Christian Domer to Jake Kleinsasser
Financial Meeting bet. B'hof & Oilers
Christian Domer to Jake Kleinsasser
Night Watch's weather
Dateline Nigeria
Daily Freeman 'Calm Before
Huguenot Herald 'Banishing Act'
Daily Freeman 'Differences Remain'
Times Herald Record 'Rift Emerges'
Woodstock Times / Huguenot Herald
Leonard Pavitt
Ramon Sender - Friendly Crossways Conf
Dick Domer letter to Daily Freeman
Blair Purcell letter to Daily Freeman
Joel G. Clement letter to Daily Freeman
Ramon Sender letter to Daily Freeman
David E. Ostrom letter to Daily Freeman
Kore Loy McWhirter
Susannah Zumpe
Donald & Joyce Hazelton
Hilarion Braun
Dieter Zumpe
A Child of the Bruderhof
Name Withheld
Jonathan Clement
Hans Zimmermann to Inno Idiong
Name Withheld
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Ruth Baer Lambach
Johnny Robinson by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Adolf Braun by Migg Fischli
Margarethe Boning by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Ramon Sender - 'How I Escaped f/ The B'hof'
Ethan Martin
Cults In Our Midst book review
Andy and Gudrun Harries: Hi folks! This is a reminder about next year's KIT conference, July 26-29, in Worpswede! If at all possible, please book by October, 1995 with a deposit of DM 50, Ł25 or $40. If you have problems, please contact the appropriate representative and discuss it with them. Also, if you are not sure whether you can come, contact whomever is your area representative person and tell them so that we can work out how many places to book. Late bookings may have to make their own arrangements. All the relevant details are on Page 1 of the June 1995 KIT Newsletter. One correction: the nearest railway station, Osterholz Scharmbeck is 12 (twelve) kilometers from Worpswede, not 72 as published in KIT! [It's that European '1' again - ed]
Ben Cavanna, 8/31/95: Dear KIT, I am recovering from my two weeks in the U.S. and trying to understand all I experienced there. Thank you to all who were so hospitable - you know who you are, and it was good to meet so many and get to know you better.
The Kingston meeting with the Bruderhof representatives Joe Keiderling and Christian Domer was interesting and somewhat illuminating if a little frustrating. I will try to give my version, others will have their own perspective.
Mike Leblanc, Andy Bazely, Margot Wegner Purcell, Joy Johnson MacDonald, and myself met Joe and Christian at the Kingston Holiday Inn for a buffet lunch in a private room that Joe had arranged. We split the cost of the meal and room with the Bruderhof, and had quite a relaxed time eating and reminiscing and sying hi. Then we started the meeting and agreed that we would listen to each other and not interrupt anyone untill they had finished their thought. This worked well and is something that we do well anyway and is a Bruderhof style I guess.
Joe kicked off by saying that they wanted to assure us that Christian had never threatened to kill anyone and would not do such a thing. Andy then brought up his experience of the day before of having been physically threatened while visiting his Mother at Woodcrest, and we went round that for a bit. Joy pitched in and said she found the story to be inhuman that people could treat someone this way who was visiting his dying mother.
Christian brought up his concern that they needed to treat us differently according to whether we had made vows or not, and that it made a difference as to what relationship they could have with a person. Mike challenged this asking about people who had been sent away, but they did not give us a clear answer on this, and kept coming back to it making a diference whether we had made a vow or not, and that if they let someone off their vow, it would diminish the vows that faithful members kept often in great difficulty.
Tom Atkinson turned up part way through the meeting and none of us COB recognised him, thinking he had wandered in lost. We had not expected him but when he left, Christian said who he was. I went out after him and he came and joined the second half of the meeting. Both he and Mike challenged Joe and Christian on the basis of their beliefs, Tom saying that the Bruderhof vows were not scriptural in that they put the Bruderhof before Christ. This did not go down too well.
There were a number of other issues that came up, but it was at least good to get a picture of what their concerns were. These seemed to me to be: Their right to protect themselves from attack and people coming onto their property uninvited. Their desire to be left alone to follow their own destiny. Their right to protect their good name and standing with local people. To put right the lies that KIT tells about them.
We all agreed that there would be some hope of further meetings being useful, and it was suggested by us that we have a meeting the following day after breakfast. They said they would have to check back and let us know. We ran over by about half an hour and had to stop because we were due at the Press Conference.
Glen Swinger, Joe and Christian were at the Press Copnference and spent quite a bit of time talking to the various members of the press before we started. I had a little chat with Glen before we started and he seemed pretty relaxed.
I gave a short resume of who COB were and introduced Andy who told his story, then Margot spoke and we were asked questions by the press and public. During Andy's speech I was called off the podium by Blair who asked if the president of the board of the church we were in could make a statement and ask about an incident at the church the previous day which looked like it might have been an attempt by the Bruderhof to bug the Church. I said that they needed to put such a question to the Bruderhof representatives, and that it would be alright for them to respond. A short while later while Andy was still speaking, Christian, Joe and Glen got up from their seats and Christian called me from the podium and told me they were leaving as they could not stand to hear any more of Andy's lies. I told him that the president of the church board wished to ask a question of them, but he said they were leaving. As they left most of the press followed them and returned some time later. We were asked some good questions and were informed of the 'attempted bugging'. After we had ended, the TV crew asked me to go up to Woodcrest with them to see if I would be let onto the property, but I declined as it did not seem appropriate.
Later we had a nice time hanging out at the church and ordered pizza in and met up with more KIT folk from the local area, some not so local. This metamorphosed into a COB meeting with everyone there saying what they wanted from COB.
When I got back to the motel there was a message from Christian to call him early the following morning which I did. He was a little shocked that we had gone ahead with the Press Conference after our lunch meeting, but I told him that we had not had a definite yes from them on the lunch meeting until one week previous, and thus had to continue with the Press conference. Joe came on the line too and we talked for about and hour (actually I didn't do much talking just trying to listen). The upshot of this was that they did not want to meet again at that point, as they were exhausted by all they had heard, and we agreed to be in contact again.
Most of KIT conference at Friendly Crossways seemed to be taken up with COB discussions and they seem to boil down to this.
Who is eligible for membership, only those born or raised in the Bruderhof or all who have had contact with the Bruderhof?
What will COB do?
Will it be a support group mechanism for defined groups? Will it attempt to focalize communication with the Bruderhof?
Will COB work to establish contact rights with friends and family in and out of the Bruderhof?
Will COB provide support system for leavers for from the Children of the Bruderhof. phone line etc?
How will COB be structured, in a hierarchical or non- hierarchical form?
A steering group were elected to come up with firm proposals on all the above. They are Loy McWhirter, Ben Cavanna, Margot Wegner Purcell, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Mike Leblanc, Faith Tsukroff and Charlie Lamar. Contact these people and lobby them for what you want out of the group, what you are prepared to put into it, and how it should be structured.
As a group we will be reporting back with firm proposals. Hope to hear from you,
Johanna Patrick Homann, 8/14/95: Trip to the East Coast, B'hof and KIT '95. We left July 22 and I drove all the way to Indiana while Andy [Bazeley - ed] napped in the back of the van on a sleeping bag. We had checked out renting a car-top carrier to make room for the sleeping space, but ended up buying one at the same cost of the rental charge. Andy then drove for several more hours until we stopped for the night. The weather was cloudy and fairly cool, for which we were grateful as we had temps in the 90's in Iowa when we left. It started raining during the night and showers followed us to the East Coast.
Andy took over driving on Sunday because he knew his way around the Niagara Falls area and we wound through the miles of Niagara Falls commercialism before finally reaching the actual falls. Boy, that really detracts from the spectacular beauty of the falls! We decided to drive to the Canadian side of the falls because they are so much more impressive and I was surprised how easy it was to cross the border -- no I.D. required, just questions about nationality, alcohol and firearms. We had to pay $1.00 to cross the bridge and the same on the way back. Parking was $6.25 American dollars, while going through the tunnel behind the falls was $4.50 each. It was weird that you could pay in either American or Canadian dollars, and of course it cost more in Canadian money. It was a drizzly day and the yellow raincoats that we got with our tunnel admittance came in handy. The Horseshoe Falls were just beautiful and the awesome power of the water took your breath away. We had arrived around 9 a.m. and during the two hours of our stay, the onslaught of arriving tourists from many nations encouraged our departure. It took us over an hour to cross the bridge back into the USA, so I used the time to make some sandwiches while we sang along with a tape of Darvell youth singers. We got some funny looks from the people who were in the traffic jam alongside of us.
Andy drove until we got to the main N.Y. turnpike and then I took over again, not really knowing what speed to drive, as there were some posted 55 mph signs, while many others were covered in burlap bags. Later, I figured out that they were in the process of switching over to 65 mph on Aug. 1st. I was amazed at the miles and miles of beautiful wooded hills and mountains, seemingly uninhabited, as I had always imagined most of N.Y. to be highly industrial and densely populated. Similarly, the scenery along the Interstate systems of Massachusetts and Connecticut was also awe-inspiring.
We decided to take the scenic Rte. 2 from Albany, and I found the narrow, steep, and winding road too stressful so Andy took over again. He seemed to enjoy the challenge of shifting gears and suddenly meeting oncoming traffic on sharp curves. Our ears were constantly popping as we crossed this mountain range, but the panoramic views that opened up as we crested the hills made it all worth while. It was getting dark by the time we reached New Hampshire and we were quite ready to call it a day when we reached the Atlantic Ocean.
The next day's forecast promised rising temps, in fact a heat wave for the East Coast. It would stay in the nineties for the rest of our trip and that, along with the rising humidity and the rising gas prices (from $.99 a gal. in Iowa to between $1.19 to $1.39 a gal.), spoiled some of the fun of being on the road. I was just glad that the van's air conditioner worked well, even if it meant using more gas to run it.
The scenery began to change as we drove into Maine, and as the mountains flattened out, they were now covered with more coniferous forests interspersed with some beautiful white birch trees. The reason for heading up to Maine was to visit Andy's dad and grandma. Members of KIT had been responsible for locating him about 18 months ago when Andy was able to meet him for the first time. We drove to Dexter, where his Dad has a transmission shop, and after visiting for a while we headed up to Dover Foxcroft to see his grandmother and visit some other friends of theirs. We were told that the area is pretty depressed economically, as fewer people vacation there now, so it's tough to make a decent living.
We were able to stay in Andy's dad's mobile home and I heard about how the Bruderhof interfered in Andy's parents' wedding plans two weeks before the set wedding date. They had sent Bronwen's parents to talk her out of marrying Andy's dad and so she had no more contact with him. She had Andy later and had to stay out of the Bruderhof until Andy was over two years old. From what I've heard from Andy and others who knew him and his mom, they were treated as second-class citizens from then on to pay for the transgression of having a child out of wedlock. This really burns me up!!! The community was responsible for breaking up the wedding plans, but have continuously reminded Andy how they have 'bent over backwards' to take care of him and his mom throughout his growing years and that he should be grateful for all they have done for him.
Our visit was cut short because we wanted to drive down to the Catskills, or possibly camp a day or two in this beautiful area before the 'Media Blitz' in Kingston NY. Ben Cavanna and Joanie Pavitt Taylor had hoped to join us for one night up at North and South Lakes, but before that we had arranged to meet Bronwen and her parents off the 'hof for a meal. I will backtrack here. Just before we left Des Moines, Iowa, Tony Potts had called from the community and left a message on Andy's machine, telling him to call back and talk to Tony personally before we left concerning our visit with Bronwen. Andy tried, but Tony wasn't available each time he called, so we waited until we were in Kingston to call. Tony now told Andy that his mother was no longer well enough to come off the 'hof, so they were allowing Andy a one-hour visit to say his final good-bye to his mom. They also stated that I was not included in this visit, but later we decided that I would come along for moral support.
They had scheduled a 3 p.m. time for the visit on Wed. July 26th, so we had the morning free to do some mountain climbing at Katerskill Falls, a place that Andy had scaled in his youth. I had no idea how steep the grade would be. By the time I realized the sheer drop of our descent, it was too late to turn back. I broke out in a constant sweat from the fear of not getting a good foothold or grip on the few rocks, trees or roots available that could aid our negotiation of the sheer rock face, loose rock or dirt. Andy waited whenever he could to give me a hand, but the drop-off usually made that impossible. It was quite exhilarating though, when we finally made it all the way down to the bottom of the ravine. Here I should add that the park rangers would not give us directions to these falls, because several people have died in accidents while trying to negotiate these sheer drops. I relaxed at this point and took a couple of photos looking up at the tremendous drop of the waterfall, thinking that we could now join the regular trail back up to civilization. I didn't realize until we were about a third of the way up that we were negotiating the same type of treacherous terrain on the opposite side of the ravine. Andy then explained, that taking the normally used trail to the base of the waterfall would have taken hours and covered a much greater distance, which would have made us late for the visit to Woodcrest. I was extremely relieved to finally reach the top, and felt quite proud of myself for accomplishing this unplanned feat. A beer at the campsite soon calmed my nerves, and Andy was proud of me too. It also began to rain heavily soon after we got back to camp and I was grateful that it didn't start while we were trying to negotiate the loose red dirt on the way back up out of the ravine.
After cleaning up, we headed back to Kingston along "Danger Road", a very steep winding one-lane road that Andy said was a short cut. We had to drive by Catskill B'hof each time we headed to Kingston and sometimes saw members walking down the driveway. The day before, Andy had driven me up the driveway, across from the 'hof, to show me the lake property they also own. From there we could look down and see more of the buildings, as I have never been to any 'hof, except NMR [New Meadow Run - ed]. Our drive to Kingston was slowed by some heavy traffic and thunderstorms, so we arrived forty-five minutes late. We drove up their driveway and as we parked near the kitchen,. Tony Potts walked towards the van. After we parked he said "Greetings, welcome to Woodcrest." Then, "Andy, I thought we had agreed that Johanna was not to come." Andy explained that it wasn't safe to leave me in Kingston alone and I offered to stay in my van. As they left Tony said, "If it gets hot, you can turn your air conditioner on and if it rains you can just roll up your windows." That felt weird, as it showed superficial concern for my well-being but not enough to offer me hospitality inside. As I waited, I played my Darvell song tape and wrote in my journal. People would walk by and stare; some asked if needed anything, if I was OK, etc. Chris Mason came by with some canned pop and later Tony and Jenny Potts came by with some of Andy's birthday cake. Apparently they were celebrating a belated birthday with his family in his mother's room.
Time slipped by slowly. I noticed that some of the women were not wearing head coverings anymore, while none of the little girls had their heads covered. Some men wore belts instead of suspenders, while others had clean- shaven faces and most people were going barefoot because of the heat. The sky began to darken and looked very threatening. I rolled the windows up as a tremendous thunderstorm broke all around me. A bolt of lightening that I actually heard was followed instantly by a tremendous clap of thunder. Andy told me later that the lightening had struck the Bruderhof and they lost their power but had generator back-up. When Andy voiced concern for my safety, they assured him that I was fine on rubber tires of my van.
Tears flowed as these memories washed over me and they were witnessed by Tony and Jenny who stopped by to tell me that Andy finally had been allowed some private time for a personal farewell with his mother. I felt no warmth from them, just an official inquiry -- did I need anything? Jenny mentioned that my older sister had been in her class -- and then they were gone. Andy told me later, that they kept breaking into his private visit with his mother to remind him that Chris Domer wished to speak with him before he left. It turned out that this meeting with Chris (under the guise of handing over some important papers that Andy had requested from the B'hof, and of which he only received two, so far) was really to warn Andy that he had better tell the truth about his childhood at the Media Blitz the next day, if he knew what was good for him!
During my third hour of waiting, I was again visited by the same concerned sister, who now offered me some orange juice. She now told me that she had nursed her parents at the end of their lives and they had repeatedly said they wished that they could have asked my mother for forgiveness for all that was done to her and our family. She felt terrible for the heartache inflicted on so many and that her life has also been far from easy. The only thing that kept her going was the knowledge that Jesus also died on the cross, alone and abandoned. She then said that there were many others on the B'hof who felt like she did, but felt helpless to do anything about it. I squeezed her hand and thanked her for her love and compassion before she hurried away. I was so grateful for her words and felt that hearing these sentiments was proof that there were people there who really knew and felt our pain.
Finally, three hours later, Andy emerged talking to Chris Domer and Chris Mason, the work distributor. Domer left and Andy was just getting into the van when Chris Mason dashed down between our van and a taller vehicle next to us. He seemed to be ducking as if to hide, but looked into the window and pointed a finger at Andy.
"It was nice that you could see your mother," Chris said. "BUT don't you EVER show your face here again, unless you are invited, or I will PERSONALLY TAKE CARE OF YOU!"
I was just shocked to hear this kind of threat; after all, Andy had just had a very difficult lime saying good- bye to his mother for the last time. So I bent down, looked Chris in the eye.
"I can't believe you can say something like this to Andy right after this very difficult good-bye." I told him.
He started moving to the back of the van saying, "Andy and I know each other.... "but then he repeated the same threat.
We were both in a state of shock and Andy started backing out to leave, when he stopped the can..
"I can't leave like this," Andy said. "This is the third time that Chris has threatened me and I think I should tell Christoph about it."
With that he turned to the right to park in the circle drive below Christoph's house instead of turning left to leave. Before we had even stopped, a four-wheel drive vehicle squealed in behind us in a seemingly threatening way.
"What do you think you are doing?" Chris Mason yelled.
Andy got out of the van. "I think I should tell Christoph about what just happened here, he said calmly.
You get in your car and GET YOUR ASS OFF' THIS PROPERTY!" Chris yelled.
When Andy calmly repeated himself, Chris got out of his vehicle and lunged at Andy, just short of physical contact, his face bright red.
"Please call the police as I would like to talk to them myself," Andy replied. "I was invited here to say good- bye to my dying mother. I don't understand your audacity to threaten me at a time like this"
This really threw Chris for a loop, but he repeated the police threat, adding "...GET YOUR ASS IN YOUR VAN AND STAY THERE. I'M GOING TO GET MY DOG ON YOU!" He stomped off towards a building on our left.
I was really amazed at Andy's calmness. He didn't get back in the car but walked around to my window. I sat there, tears streaming down my face. saying
"I can't believe they can behave like this!" I cried. "How can they call this a loving Christian community?"
Some women were starting to gather outside the building to the left, while a man came down the steps to our right, asking if there was a problem? It turned out to be Ian Winter. After finding out that he was a Servant, we proceeded to tell him that we had been invited there for a very difficult farewell and had been threatened by his Work Distributor, for the third time now. Ian gave no reaction of disapproval for the incident. Instead, he started bringing up Andy's past again.
"We should look at both sides of this," he said. "The community has bent over backwards to allow this visit, as well as through the years when Andy was still in. Andy has caused his mother and grandparents so much pain, and his mother hadn't really wanted to see Andy."
I was outraged ! How could he say such an insensitive, even cruel thing to Andy, knowing the circumstances? Andy responded.
"I know better than that," he replied. "I just spent a very special hour with my mother and I know that that is not true. Either she was lying to me or she was lying to you, or SOMEONE is lying."
Meanwhile, Chris had returned with a huge German shepherd, but when he saw the Servant there, he slunk quietly around the back of our van and tied the dog to his bumper. We asked to speak to Christoph because we were not getting anywhere, just talking in circles. Three college- age males now appeared, standing on either side of Chris. Two wore white T-shirts, their muscle-bound arms crossed over their chests. One wore a necklace. They looked like Chris's henchmen and backed up everything he said. Chris now stated that we were lying. He had never said these things, and his buddies backed him up. I told them that I was taught by the B'hof not to lie, so I wasn't lying. Besides, how did they know what was said, seeing they weren't even there for any of this? After again asking to speak to Christoph, they told us that we would have to call and make an appointment.
I looked an Ian and said, "I can't believe you are standing here so passively and not taking a stand on how wrong this whole situation is!"
He finally stated that it was wrong and not handled properly and repeated it several more times as we continued to press for an 'audience' with Christoph. We were now told by Chris that Christoph had just returned from a long, tiring trip and needed time to rest with his family.
"I... we all will personally tell him about what happened tonight," he added.
"Yeah, right," I replied, sarcastically.
We were not budging and, as we obviously were creating quite a scene, Chris finally backed down, with a red face and his arms still crossed tightly over his chest.
"Okay, this was all my fault," he said. "I apologize."
"Can we just part in peace?" Ian asked.
"Yes," Andy said.
He shook hands. We got in the van and left, utterly drained and in complete disbelief of what we had just witnessed.
We phoned Blair from a grocery store in Kingston, and by the time we headed back to camp it as pitch dark. We sure could have used some emotional support from Ben and Joanie, but they never had received the message of our location, so didn't join us. We talked till late and fell asleep to the sound of the rain.
The next day we finally had a cloudless sky and the sun helped dry out our wet gear. By the time we got down to Kingston, some of the others had arrived. It was so great to see Ben and Joanie again, and then Mike LeBlanc and Margot Wegner Purcell. There wasn't much time to get ready for the private meeting with Bruderhof representatives Joe K. and Christian D. at the Holiday Inn. Andy. Margot, Mike L. from the U.S.A. and Ben and Joy Johnson MacDonald from England were invited to discuss the agenda of COB and hear the Bruderhof's response. The meeting ran long, and we had to scramble to get to the church in another part of town for the press conference. I'm sure that both of these events will be covered fully in this KIT issue, so I'll just give some of my impressions.
Andy, Ben and Margot sat at a table with a microphone, and Ben started by giving the reason for this meeting. Then Andy told 'The Truth' about his childhood in the B'hof, the constant confessions and punishments for minor transgressions, and later how he was shifted from one location to another, feeling very unloved and unwanted. While he was telling his story, the B'hof representatives got up and left, either because they didn't want to hear the truth or because they didn't want to be confronted by the media about their harassment of the church that as hosting this event. Margot briefly told of how she left the communities, and there were questions from reporters from various newspapers and TV stations. I felt that some of the more direct questions pertaining to the B'hof's treatment of its children were sidestepped, probably so that we wouldn't anger them and jeopardize one of the goals, of visiting of family members on the B'hof. When a question was asked, "Was there any support from peers or family when people were being punished or shunned?" I wanted to say, "No, because you would also be punished or sent out if you didn't follow the party line." I could then have given my own family history as an example. I was disappointed when told that time was running out for the news conference, but was able to talk on camera afterwards.
We were all so hot, with the temperature in the 90s, and we only had a few fans circulating the air. Some of the media followed the B'hof back to interview them separately, and I was surprised to read in the next day's paper that Christoph had been available for a statement without first phoning ahead to make an appointment!
We remained in the church, or outside for the evening as others were expected to join us later. It was great to see many familiar faces again and we ended up all chipping in for pop and pizza. There was a brief meeting of COB giving us a chance to voice our personal wishes of what we felt would be important goals for this group. At 10 p.m. we were able to see our news conference heading the evening news. They gave brief extracts of things that Ben, Andy and I had said and also portrayed an idyllic scene of Chris Domer surrounded by children on a grassy slope, giving the B'hof's point of view. We were all pretty exhausted by the end of this very emotional day and decided to meet at a diner for breakfast the next morning.
I called Thursday evening about 1 hour away from NMR and when she came to the phone she sounded guarded. I told her where I was and asked if I could see her and her family. She responded, "I love you very much as my sister, BUT.... because you are involved with KIT etc. etc. We seemed to talk around in circles.
"Jesus welcomed even his worst enemy," I challenged her.
Also, I said that I couldn't imagine any of my other siblings not welcoming me, and that it really hurt to hear that she still wrote to them but had stopped writing to me. That seemed to get her to hesitate and she said she would talk it over with her husband and get back in touch by phone. It sounded hopeful and I waited all evening and until 11 a.m. the following day, but never heard back from her. I also called Virginia Lowenthal Cuenca in Pittsburgh, who was heading out of town for a week's vacation on Saturday, but still welcomed a visit for Friday evening. Andy and I were really excited to see her and her kids, father Wolfgang, and sister Claudia.
The next day we headed down to NMR because Andy wanted to call the minister there to ask if he could visit his relatives there. We drove by NMR and I asked Andy where the Spring Valley bruderhof was.
"Across the road, but it isn't visible," he said. "We could probably drive around the back of it on a state road and see some of the buildings."
We took the next paved road off the road to the Ohiopyle State Park, but after driving down it a ways, we saw a couple wearing B'hof clothes walking way ahead of us. We stopped, thinking that maybe we were in the wrong place, so we backed up to see if there was a B'hof sign at the beginning. There was no B'hof sign as we had seen outside NMR, so we drove back in to maybe ask the couple if this was Spring Valley. As we drove back in, a man was walking towards the open gate and began to close it. We stopped and backed to the main road and, as we turned north, we did see their name in small letters on top of the mailbox.
"It's weird that this 'hof doesn't have the same sign as the other ones do," I said to Andy.
We now went in search of a phone and found one along Rte. 40 in Farmington. Andy called, asking for another Servant he thought was in charge there, but instead got Jacob Gneiting on the line. Jacob immediately informed him that he had just sent off a rebuking letter to Andy's address concerning the lies that Andy had told about his childhood at the news conference. Andy said they were not lies and when Jacob finally brought up specifics Andy asked, "How do you know all this to be true? You were not present." They talked for a long time, mostly accusations of Andy's past and present life, and when Andy asked why they could be so judgmental of us, but we couldn't do the same to them, the line went dead! He had just hung up on Andy.
Andy was also told to ask his relatives directly if they wanted him to visit them, so he called his uncle-in-law, Kevin Robertson. He had the same type of conversation and wasn't allowed to visit. We decided to visit the Ohiopyle State Park nearby and talk over what had just happened. There we saw a beautiful white-water river and a picturesque waterfall. The more we thought about it, the more we felt that Jacob hanging up on Andy was wrong and cowardly, so he called back, asking for Jacob. He was quickly connected to Kevin again, who now proceeded to really lay into Andy, in a harsh, cruel, and very superior way, about his past and his present life. He would not get Jacob and was obviously trying to insult and upset Andy so much that he wouldn't want to pursue any kind of conversation anymore. I don't know why we expected anything different, such as a loving, Christian explanation, or at least some sort of civility. It started storming again, with thunder and lightning and torrential rain, just like it did at Woodcrest. I wondered whether God was expressing his disapproval again.
It took us about one and a half hours to drive up to Pittsburgh, because the rain was so heavy that we had to crawl at 25 mph. We arrived at Virginia's at 7 p.m. and had a lovely evening visiting with her and the family. They wanted to know all about our experiences and Wolfgang took one of our newspaper copies with him to show to Joy. We ordered pizza and talked until 10 p.m. when Claudia invited us to crash at her house in the country. It felt so great to feel so welcome after all we had been through with the B'hof's attitude. We left the next day and headed back to Iowa where Andy found Jacob's letter waiting for him at his apartment. It really is a joke to think how all our efforts at reconciliation with the B'hof were rebuffed, but when we read in this month's Plough, it said, "It would be a great gift from God if Pope John Paul II and I could offer each other the hand and embrace each other as a sign of reconciliation and forgiveness for the terrible persecution our Hutterian Church has suffered in the past..." as stated by Christoph, under the heading "Steps toward Reconciliation." What about all the suffering they have caused and are still causing? Why is it that they are so eager to clean up other people's messes, when they have such a big pile in their own back yard? Also, notice that they are still referring to the Hutterian Church as "ours".
It has been difficult to get back into the routine of life after this eventful trip. My girls survived my absence and are back home with me. Chrissie, 18, is talking about moving out on her own, rather than going on to college. This is hard for me to accept, as I know how hard it is to start back much later in life. I may have to let her find out the hard way, I guess. I start at Iowa State University August 21st, with a one-hour drive each way. I hope to get my Bachelors Degree in Animal Ecology and then hope to be able to support myself. Katie, 13, will start 8th grade one week later, and excels in school, playing the flute and enjoying synchronized swimming. I still love to hear from people by phone or mail, as Iowa feels really lonely at times, so far away from family and friends. It's so great that Andy was able to move here and find a job and apartment nearby. He is great company and helped me get hooked up with the Hummer.
I hope this isn't too long to put into KIT, but I've never really contributed much before. Someday I'll tell my life story.
P.S. Just had a call from Blair with some interesting developments concerning our visit in Farmington, PA. Apparently, Joe Keiderling wrote a strong letter to Blair bashing Andy again with possibly libelous statements. He now claims that the Spring Valley sign was vandalized the day of our visit and he gave our names to the police as possible suspects. We are outraged at this unfounded accusation and wonder how we could have done this deed if there wasn't a sign to mark this 'hof. Is it possible that this act of vandalism happened before our arrival and that they had already removed it to repair the damage? Does this explain why we didn't see the sign and drove down their driveway by mistake?
ITEM: According to The Plough, on June 19 twelve Bruderhofers, including Christoph Arnold, flew to Munich for a meeting with Integrierte Gemeinde members [a Catholic communal lay group - ed], who then flew with them to Rome on June 23. The next day they met with Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger as "a first step toward a hoped-for papal audience... After an informal gathering for coffee outdoors, the group moved inside, where Christoph Arnold began by reading from Revelation:
"'When he opened up the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. They cried with a loud voice, "How long, sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" (Rev. 6:9-10)...'
"...Prior to this meeting, Ludwig Weimer and Rudolf Pesch, I.G. theologians, had submitted to the Cardinal a summary of our history as well as synopses of our most important books. It was obvious that he had studied this material carefully, and his very direct questions - for example, about the religious education of Bruderhof children - showed a keen personal interest as well....During a conversation about the Pope's intended visit to New York this fall, we offered to fly him in our Gulfstream as a gesture of friendship and brotherly service... "... Referring to the hoped-for encounter with the Pope, the Cardinal said he would like to see something that transcends the usual protocol attending papal audiences: 'We want to stay out of the headlines; we want to be a presence for Christ'."
Rev. Sam Waldner, The Hutterian Brethren Church, Decker Colony, to "Representatives of The Catholic Church," The Vatican, Rome, 6/18/95:
Greetings of Love to whom it may concern:
May it be known to you that you in due time might be visited by Johann Christoph Arnold representing the Hutterian Brethren Church.
I do herewith make clear to you that this Person does not represent the Hutterian Brethren Church of Canada, and elsewhere, despite handing you the Chronicle of The Hutterian Brethren Church.
Respecting your Highest and Lowliness in the Name of Jesus Christ, I Greet You,
Christian Domer responded for the Bruderhof to Jake Kleinsasser, Sam Waldner, Mike Wollman and David Decker, quoting the above letter to the Pope, 7/7/95: "With this communication you make it clear that you no longer consider J. Christoph Arnold an Elder of the Hutterian Brethren Church."
Christian goes on to state that the Bruderhof now understands that Christoph and the Bruderhof Communities have been "formally and officially excommunicated" from the Hutterian Brethren Church, and that "We... will go forward in seeking to live out our understanding of the Gospel of love, repentance and true community under the spirit-filled and faithful leadership of Christoph Arnold."
Follow-Up: It is reported that JCA was furious about the Hutterite letter, since because of it he did not get his hoped-for audience with the Pope. Word amongst the Hutterites has it that Christoph's interest in things papal might be because he is thinking of asking for financial reparations for the Catholic persecution of the Anabaptists in the Sixteenth Century. After all, the Bruderhof received hundreds of thousands in German reparations money, so why not try again! Also, there has been contact beween the Bruderhof and Lewis Farrakhan, the Black Muslim leader, because of their interest in Mumia Abu-Jamal.
ITEM: Bruderhofers and Oilers meet to discuss oustanding financial matters. The following are some highlights of a meeting held in Winnipeg on May 4, 1995, between the two groups: Bruderhof (B) and Oiler (O). Amongst those attending for the B's: Christoph and Verena, Christian Domer; for the O's: Jake and Elias Kleinsasser, Mike Wollman.
O2: If $230,000 is owed by the O's, maybe the B's would accept Oakwood instead?
B1: Who is the Church?...
A prepared balance sheet showed that the O's borrowed $1,872,320.00 by 1985, and by 1992 had paid back $2,391,282.67, an overpayment of $518,962.67. In addition, the B's needed to repay $200,000 that the O's paid towards the purchase of Michaelshof, plus $40,000 donated by the B's to Crystal Spring for a fire loss that had been paid back inadvertently... All in all, the O's claimed that the B's owed the O's $758,962.67
O2 said that the Oakwood colony, who had swung over to the B's, initially had agreed to leave everything to the O's. Later it was decided to move the Acorn Business to the B's. In short, it was "a repeat of Forest River, only worse." O1 said that he saw absolutely no Christianity in what was happening at Oakwood. B3 repeated a few times, "What is the Church."...
O2 said that Oakwood initially had decided to move east even if the O's did not agree....Later B4 wrote that Oakwood now belonged to the B's and was up for sale and the place was being stripped of all moveable items. O1 asked B1 if, when he asked O2 if the O's would take the B's to court, did he do that to assure himself that it was safe to strip the place. There was no answer.
The B's offered to forgive all debts owed by the O's in exchange for clear title to Oakwood... O1 & O3 immediately disagreed because this would wipe out the $758,962.67 that the B's owed the O's. The B's then made another offer: to sign over Oakwood to the O's, with no strings attached. This was then fully agreed upon.
Christian Domer, n a letter to Jake Kleinsasser, 5/16/95, makes some observations about the meeting, especially about how "the Hutterian Corporations 'overpaid' the east over the last several years, a sum of $718,962.67" [$40,000 subtracted from the previously quoted figure - ed]. He states that they will have to clear with their consciences whether moneys "clearly intended as a gift in years past can now be called a loan," and then goes on to say that it is not true that, as it was making the colony rounds, Oakwood was offered to the Oilers because "the West wanted to reduce our embarrassment and get out." He then continues at length about how Crystal Spring made such a big issue of this 'owed loan money,' which they would not 'forgive or write off'," and yet Crystal Spring now had taken over the Palmgrove Community which represented more than a two-million-dollar investment by the Bruderhof. So, "using the same yard stick you used in the Winnipeg meeting, we must ask you to pay back to us our investment in Palmgrove which is well over $2 million."
ITEM: An rumor has surfaced that the Woodcrest Night Watch caught a certain brother putting in too much 'overtime' late at night with his secretary. And right under the Elder's watchful eye! Tch-tch-tch! Well done, Night Watch! Keep a weather eye out for hankey- pankey in those upper corridors!
DATELINE NIGERIA: Last March, the Bruderhof acquired a 'Bruderhof house' on the outskirts of Lagos in the city of Ibadam according to a well-placed Nigerian source. At that time, Danni Meier and Joe Keiderling were in residence, probably overseeing the lawsuit against Palmgrove, since canceled due to negative publicity. Perhaps the Ibadam house will allow a B'hof continuing presence in Nigeria!
Excerpts from articles resulting from the Kingston, NY, COB Press Conference:
1,700 Calls Spark Probe; Summit Set For Today
Blaise Schweitzer, Kingston Daily Freeman, 7/27/95
The Federal Communications Commission is investigating some 1,700 harassing calls made to a toll- free number set up by a group called "Children of the Bruderhof," according to an FCC spokesman. Established by former members of the Anabaptist religious group that calls itself the Hutterian Brethren, the line is meant to provide information about a get-together set for today at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Kingston.
Organizers of the event will meet with elders from the Woodcrest Bruderhof of Rifton in an attempt to end the combative relationship between the two sides and because member of Children of the Bruderhof want access to family members who still live inside. Later in the day, members from as far away as California and London will gather to talk about concerns they share as former commune members, according to Blair Purcell of Gaithersburg, MD.
Purcell has handled most of the harassing calls made to the toll-free line. His wife, Margot, once lived at the Rifton site and is a member of Children of the Bruderhof. Some of the calls were traced to the Rifton Bruderhof and other Hutterian communities, Purcell said; others to pay phones surrounding the Rifton Bruderhof. Some callers stayed on the line for extended periods, posing as homosexuals seeking help from the Children of the Bruderhof; others simply called repeatedly, hanging up each time. According to a bill Purcell received, there were 103 consecutive calls made in 49 minutes from a pay phone at the Capri 400 restaurant in Port Ewen.
Making harassing calls to a 1-800 number is a violation of Section 223 of the Federal Communications Act, according to the FCC spokesman, Bob Spangler. Spangler, deputy chief of the Enforcement Division of the FCC's Common Carrier Bureau, said people who make harassing calls to toll-free numbers can have their phone service cut off.
The calls to the toll-free number demonstrated the outrage that Bruderhof children feel about what they perceive as persecution by groups such as the Hutterians, according to Bruderhof spokesman Joseph Keiderling who does not approve of the calls. He also disapproves of fluorescent stickers found on pay phones at National Airport in Washington, D.C. listing the toll-free number and bearing the message:
SWEET TALK --Joella and Karen
are waiting for you -- 24 hours, 7 days.
Asked who might have produced the stickers, Christian Domer, another Bruderhof spokesman, smiled and said: "We have good friends."
Joel and Karen, [COB members] who received harassing calls, were not amused. Nor was Purcell, who said he received death threats traced to the location where the stickers were found. Police at National Airport found the stickers, and a Maryland detective confirmed he is investigating Purcell's reported death threats.
Keiderling finds it ironic that the children who made the crank calls were doing so against the wishes of their elders. Former members of the Bruderhof have criticized the religious group for restricting members' contact with outsiders and for being overly controlling of members' lives. "What they've discovered it that we have a lot less control than they thought we had," Keiderling said.
But Purcell is not convinced. Although Keiderling said Bruderhof children were told all along to stop placing the harassing calls, it wasn't until June 28, when a Maryland police detective contacted Domer about the death threats, that Purcell found any relief.
"Virtually all calls stopped," he said.
...One continuing criticism of the Bruderhof is that it is too harsh when dealing with the sexual purity of its children. That is a criticism the Bruderhof acknowledges. "Absolutely," Winter said, but added that the Bruderhof is less puritanical that it was even a few years ago. But boys, girls, men and women who have left the Bruderhof in the last several years say differently. They talk of being punished for such things as holding hands.
Winter said that children younger than 12 are not punished for holding hands, but "when we talk about teenagers, we may have a problem if it's boy-girl."
"It (hand-holding) gets on the erotic level, and we're into chastity before marriage," he said.
When told that hand-holding among children younger than 12 is now allowed, Mrs. Purcell laughed. "My, that's generous," she said.
Keiderling said he and Domer will be at today's meeting. he hopes to come away from it having communicated the Bruderhof's motives to Children of the Bruderhof -- "and also to convey to them that here is no blanket policy barring people who read the KIT newsletter from visiting."
He also hopes his neighbors won't think ill of the Hutterians because of the ruckus surrounding today's event. "We've enjoyed good friends and good neighbors for the last 40 years that we've been here," he said. "The message that we want to get out, in spite of what some of the allegations are against us, is that our doors are always open to our neighbors. If any questions are raised... do us a favor and ask."
Former Members of Bruderhof Fault Practices of Locally Popular Sect
by Jim Gordon, Woodstock Times, 7/27/95
Members of the Society of Brothers, frequently referred to as Hutterites, are known locally for their simple garments, their sturdy toys and for their community action in the spirit of their deeply held Christian beliefs. But some former Bruderhof [members], as the group's members call themselves and their sect, say the organization has become cult-like, punishing dissent by expulsion, preventing some former members from communicating with their family still in the group, and trying to harass ex-members into silence.
Bruderhof spokesmen respond that the charges are carefully designed to embarrass the group with nebulous claims, having just enough truth to impugn Bruderhof integrity without being truly accurate. Far from being a cult, they stress that Bruderhofers are purposely subjected to the outside world, that they attend public high school, and are carefully screened before they voluntarily seek full membership in the community. They say their critics don't understand the religious framework, or "spirit," which plays a decisive role in Bruderhof life.
Blair Purcell, whose wife was raised among the Bruderhof and whose parents still live in Rifton, where the Bruderhof headquarters is located, is a leader of a group called Children of the Bruderhof (COB), which is scheduled to meet in Kingston on Thursday afternoon, July 27. Purcell says his wife, Margot, and their child have been cut off from Margot's parents. "The reason I am involved is, I can't comprehend a Christian community preventing family from seeing, knowing, visiting each other. It just doesn't make sense," says Purcell. He says the situation is not unique, and that other ex-Bruderhof members are not able to contact their families, while still others outside the group fear they will offend Bruderhof leaders and lose visitation privileges.
Purcell wants to visit his in-laws so that his children can visit their grandparents, though he does not expect that to happen. More broadly, he says he seeks "reconciliation" between ex-Bruderhof and those still living in the commune. He admits that Thursday's meeting in Kingston "is a little bit of in-your-face. But it is the only way we can get their attention." Purcell and his wife express admiration for the Bruderhof's spiritual principles, and Margot has happy memories of life there as a child, before she left voluntarily after nursing school 30 years ago. Purcell says his wife "has a goodness that could come from no other place" but the Bruderhof.
Christian Domer, a spokesman for the Bruderhof, says that in the vast majority of cases, Bruderhof and ex- Bruderhof are allowed family contact. In some cases, such as Purcell's, the family members do not seek any more contact and the community supports the decision. Purcell acknowledges his in-laws requested that he and his family not visit anymore, a decision he believes arose from peer pressures. Purcell "doesn't resonate with the reasons we live together as Bruderhof," says Domer, adding that COB can have a "terrible effect [based on a]... complete misunderstanding of what brings us together, drives us, motivates us."
[History of the Bruderhof and description of toy manufacturing, etc.]...
Outsiders are welcome to join, but face the same demanding road to full membership as other Bruderhofers. They must renounce private property, tobacco, television, pre-marital sex, masturbation and homosexuality so as to cleanse themselves in their devotion to God. Critics say children and teens are particularly afflicted by these restraints, especially those related to sexual awakenings. But Domer says true chastity involves cleanliness of thoughts, purpose and action, and Bruderhof ways yield the committed members a community needs...
The community enjoys high standing locally as a religious group that willingly pays property taxes and volunteers in endeavors ranging from cleaning up the countryside to harboring homeless persons. Recently, members have pressed for a new trials for Mumia Abu- Jamal, a black activist facing the death penalty in Pennsylvania. One member even volunteered to take Abu-Jamal's place.
Despite the Hutterite garb they've adopted, the Bruderhof are technologically sophisticated. Many members graduate from college and bring their skills back to the community. They even own a multi-million dollar Gulfstream jet, which was purchased when the group was trying to open a community in Nigeria. That endeavor has ended, and now they use the corporate jet for a charter business, and to transport Bruderhof officials. Critics say it is a perk of the privileged rulers of the sect. The Bruderhof uses Hutterian designations for its leadership. Christoph Arnold, grandson of the Bruderhof's founder, is the Elder, or highest spiritual official in the sect. He inherited the post from his father.
Purcell says the Bruderhof have a cult-like intolerance of dissent. When his group advertised an 800 number that former Bruderhof needing assistance or support could call, the line was jammed with thousands of crank calls. He maintains those calls came from the Bruderhof and said after Maryland police contacted the group, the calls stopped. Domer acknowledges being contacted by police, but denies any involvement in attempted harassment. He does say his group expects to have "adversaries," adding, "The politically correct people, the ones who would have gone through the roof if Jesus rode a Gulfstream -- that is, the Pharisees -- they are the ones who killed him."
Earlier this year, after the 800 lines became active, Purcell saw Domer and fellow Bruderhof spokesman Joe Keiderling driving by his house in Maryland. "We were in the area on business," explains Domer. But he and Keiderling subsequently apologized to Purcell in writing.
Since 1988, critics of the Bruderhof have coalesced around a California-based newsletter called Keep In Touch, or KIT. The group Children of the Bruderhof grew out of contacts made through that newsletter. Purcell says that it was through KIT that a pattern emerged on non-compliant Bruderhofers being summarily expelled from their communities. He said that ex-Bruderhofers have told repeatedly of being dropped in towns and cities with a small amount of money and the clothes on their back.
Keiderling says the group does not abandon former members. It finds them homes and jobs and tells them help is always available if needed.
KIT was founded and edited by a former novice Bruderhofer named Ramon Sender who was expelled in the early '60s, leaving his wife and child inside the group. Sender was never informed of his daughter's marriage, her two children, or her terminal illness. He said the Bruderhof only informed him his daughter had died a month after she was buried.
Domer and Keiderling looked embarrassed when this incident was raised, and both say they don't now why Sender was not contacted, though they criticize his approach to their community as spiteful. Domer says Sender lives a "decadent lifestyle," and thus should have known his ex-wife and daughter would not consent to see him. Keiderling says the Bruderhof have apologized to Sender for not notifying him immediately, adding that the group "may have made a mistake there."
Keiderling urged people to get to know the Bruderhof. "We are a community that has been here for 40 years. We will continue to try and be good neighbors. our doors are open. We have nothing to hide. Please come and visit us and ask your questions."
Hutterians Walk Out After Talks, But Leader Says Hope Isn't Lost
Blaise Schweitzer, Kingston Daily Freeman, 7/28/95
Kingston -- What began with peaceful discussion ended with shouted accusations Thursday afternoon as spokesmen for the Hutterian Brethren East walked out of a news conference at the Trinity United Methodist Church. The event was meant to highlight talks between officials of the religious Hutterian Brethren community in Rifton and disenchanted former members who calls themselves Children of the Bruderhof.
After a calm private meeting between the two groups, Bruderhof spokesmen turned down pleas to stay from Linda Breithaupt, president of Trinity's board of directors. She asked them to publicly respond to questions about incidents of harassment at the Wurts Street church. Bruderhof spokesman Joseph Keiderling said he left the meeting because he was "stunned" by offensive statements made by a former Bruderhof member, not because Breithaupt and Trinity's Rev. Arlene Dawber wanted him to publicly respond to their concerns about a mystery couple, a man and a woman using a Bruderhof car, who seemed to be 'casing' the church days before the event.
While the woman played the church organ after the Sunday evening service, her partner was seen carrying electronic equipment in a bag, Breithaupt said. And the Bruderhof car the couple were using was seen around the church long after they left the building. Having received threats stemming from the church's policy of welcoming homosexuals, Breithaupt and Dawber feared the church might become a target for trouble, so they filed a complaint with Kingston police.
Keiderling confirmed the car belongs to the Bruderhof but said he does not know who was in it outside the church. He also said the car has not been seen at the Rifton commune for several days. He said he does understand Dawber's and Breithaupt's concerns.
"Absolutely," he said. "I apologized to Arlene Dawber. I regret that it happened, not knowing who was involved."
During a question-and-answer period at Thursday's news conference, Ben Cavanna and two other members of Children of the Bruderhof spoke about how women lack a voice in the Bruderhof; how formed members have difficulty when trying to visit family members who remain inside, and how Hutterian children are treated.
"Women are definitely second-class citizens," said Cavanna, who chairs the Steering Committee of Children of the Bruderhof. He agreed with fellow member Margot Purcell that even basic life issues, such as whether to breast-feed a baby, are "guided" by the commune's leaders. The issue of access to family members who still live in Bruderhofs is particularly important to Cavanna. He said he isn't allowed into the Bruderhof's East Sussex, England, community where his parents live.
The treatment of Hutterian children is important to Andrew Bazeley, 25, the youngest member of Children of the Bruderhof. Bazeley, who left the Catskill Bruderhof in 1993, said Hutterian children continue to be "shunned" or "excluded" for minor transgressions.
As a boy, Cavanna was shunned for four months for cutting a peephole in a wall, he said. Not being able to talk to friends, relatives or adults about anything more than basic instructions for tasks damaged his sense of reality, he said.
As men and women left the church Thursday evening, Joy Johnson MacDonald, a Children of the Bruderhof member from London, said she feared the event did more harm than good.
"We say we want dialogue and I think we killed it off," she said.
Keiderling was less pessimistic. "I'll confess I had serious doubts after the public meeting," he said, but added he has not closed the door on future meetings.
"I would always hold out hope," he said.
Breakaway Sect Airs Complaints of Harassment
by Richard A. D'Errico, Staff Writer, Times Herald Record, 8/3/95
KINGSTON -- Mike Leblanc left his family and the Hutterians when he was 17 years old. When one of his sisters was married, a Hutterian asked that he not attend, he said. Now, 13 years later, he's hoping communications between his group, Children of the Bruderhof -- a group of former Hutterians -- and the Hutterian Brethren, who number 6,700 [sic] in the United States, will improve and he'll be able to see his family more often. Yesterday was the beginning of the process.
"The Children of the Bruderhof's hope is that we can come to some sort of negotiations or conclusion of visiting privileges," LeBlanc said yesterday following a news conference held by fellow COB members. "As far as being a Child of the Bruderhof, I would hope that between the two groups there would be some sort of way that they can either set up a fund or joint fund so that people who leave are somehow taken care of."...
Other allegations also emerged. Linda Breithaupt and the Rev. Arlene Dawber of Trinity United Methodist Church said the church was the target of Hutterian harassment for allowing the news conference to occur at the church. Breithaupt said a couple identified themselves as visitors from Ohio who wanted to play the church organ. Later, they were seen circling the church for more than five hours. A police report indicated the car belonged to the Hutterians, she said. The church filed a complaint with the police.
Johann Christoph Arnold, the leader of the Hutterians, called the COB members holding the news conference "poor, disgruntled people who are trying to put the blame on us." He said the Hutterians have also made mistakes. But he said when it comes to visitation, the only ones who decide whether a family members can visit are the family members involved.
Joe Keiderling, a Hutterian members, said he doesn't know who was driving the vehicle and called the incident 'unfortunate.' Regarding the harassing phone calls, Keiderling said the telephone number was announced at a Hutterian meeting for those that were considering leaving the group. Keiderling said he was disappointed by the news conference. "I was very disturbed," said Keiderling, who attended the news conference. "We had met in good faith beforehand with the group, one on one. I felt it was positive. I thought there was some progress made."
Bruderhof Members Skulk Around Church Where Opponents Meet
by Jim Gordon, Woodstock Times / Huguenot Herald, 8/3/95
A group called 'Children of the Bruderhof' met last week at Trinity Methodist Church in Kingston in an attempt to unite former members of the locally popular Christian sect and to publicize complaints about Bruderhof ways, which they claim are vindictive. But their presentation was upstaged by the president of the Trinity church board, who rose halfway through the meeting to charge that the Bruderhof had harassed the church after it agreed to host the meeting.
Linda Breithaupt was joined by pastor Arlene Dawber in alleging Bruderhof members had "cased" the church under false pretenses the week before the meeting. They said a Bruderhof vehicle subsequently lurked outside the building until after 1 a.m. Two Bruderhof members, Christian Domer and Joe Keiderling, left the meeting abruptly before they could be confronted about the incidents. Contacted later, they said their departure had nothing to do with the matter, but they apologized to church officials, and confirmed that people in a vehicle registered to the Bruderhof had indeed remained near the church prior to the day of the meeting. They claimed not to know who was in the vehicle or why it was there.
The complaint by Trinity Methodist is one of a number regarding harassment the avowedly peaceful Bruderhof has directed at its opponents. Last spring, Children of the Bruderhof (COB) started a toll-free hotline intended to help ex-Bruderhof members contact peers and adjust to life outside the group's communes. The line received over 1,700 harassing calls in its first month, almost 400 of them dialed from phones inside the Woodcrest Bruderhof community in Rifton. Hundreds of other calls came from nearby pay phones.
Stickers have been placed at airports and train stations along the East coast listing the COB number as a free phone sex line. There is no direct evidence tying that deception to the Bruderhof, and Domer and Keiderling have denied any knowledge of the stickers. They did not deny that some of their members have made harassing phone calls, though they said they have no control over it. Most of the calls ended after police and federal officials contacted the Bruderhof.
COB leader Blair Purcell said at last Thursday's meeting that a former Bruderhof official forced out of the group had his phone tapped by the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof denied knowledge of this, but Keiderling and Domer have admitted they were outside Purcell's home in Maryland, where there is no Bruderhof community. They told 'The Herald' last week that they were in that town on business, and were thinking of dropping in on Purcell. They subsequently wrote letters of apology to Purcell...
...At Thursday's meeting, members of COB told of leaving their lifelong home, not always voluntarily, and finding themselves isolated in the unfamiliar outside world, with no money or support from the wealthy sect. They claim that people who anger Bruderhof leaders, even by something as simple as reading the COB newsletter, may find themselves cut off from family and friends still living in the Bruderhof communities. They recounted tales of harsh discipline for Bruderhof youngsters and discrimination against women. The Bruderhof spokesmen contacted after the meeting said the speakers were exaggerating isolated incidents into policies that do not exist. They suggested that, having left the Bruderhof behind, COB members had to demonize the sect to justify departures. The men denied the sect abandons ex- members, although they conceded some end up in bad situations.
COB members said the discipline used on children, including physical punishment, is too harsh. They singled out the practice of 'exclusion,' under which members of any age who have violated rules or who have sinned by the group's standards are shunned by other sect members for specified periods of time, which can last for months. The Bruderhof spokesmen who left the meeting agreed later that exclusion was too harsh for children, but said the practice has ended. They said the sect no longer uses corporal punishment and that current practices are a model for parenting and education. Bruderhof children attend the sect's elementary schools, but enter public schools in the ninth grade. Many go on to college. At around age 20, youth are asked to decide whether they wish to remain as part of the community or leave for the outside world. According to the Bruderhof, about 15 percent decide to depart.
Outsiders are welcome to join, but face the same rigorous road to full membership as other Bruderhof. They must renounce all private property, as well as tobacco, television, pre-marital sex, masturbation and homosexuality.
One allegation the former members made was of "second class citizen" status of women in the sect. But Becky Thompson, a "sister" or female member of the sect and a dentist, said in an interview that she has taken the same vow as males in attaining full membership in the group. "As a Christian and a woman, I can't think of a freer way to live than in a community like this, where we are brothers and sisters together," she said.
Leonard Pavitt, 8/16/95: I have read the various newspaper clippings about the meeting between the two Bruderhof members and the group from the Children of the Bruderhof with interest and not a little astonishment. I quote from The Daily Freeman: "Asked who might have produced the stickers [placed on pay phones making out that the COB 800 number was a 'Sex Talk' line - ed] Christian Domer smiled and said, 'We have good friends.'"
I also thought their statement that they "didn't know who the people were who called at the church in one of their cars" was pathetically unconvincing. Perhaps they could try asking back at Rifton which of the women there can play the organ? They also "said that the car had not been seen at Rifton for several days." As they didn't report this to the police, I can only conclude that they just weren't bothered about it being missing. This shows a sublime detachment from the lure of worldly possession which I find most challenging. It was also very thoughtful of the Bruderhof, as Joe Keiderling was reported as saying, to make sure that "the telephone number was announced at a Hutterian meeting for those considering leaving the group," even if this meant that afterward, as Joe Keiderling also said, "Bruderhof children were told all along to stop placing harassing calls." I suppose that at the same time Christian Domer was patting their "good friends" on the back and telling them to carry on phoning their harrassing calls. This suggests that nowadays the Bruderhof, whilst still professing 'Unity of Purpose,' seeks this through 'Diversity of Method,' known in former times as 'The End Justifies the Means.'
I rather liked the succinct way the Woodstock Times summed up the Bruderhof when it wrote, "Currently, Christoph Arnold, grandson of the Bruderhof's founder, is the Elder or highest spiritual official in the sect. He inherited the post from his father." To use another quote not from the newspapers, "Out of the mouths of babes and journalists cometh forth much wisdom." But the newspaper quote (Woodstock Times) that gave me most pause for thought was the one from Christian Domer justifying their ownership of a Gulfstream jet plane by suggesting that if these jets had been around a couple of millennia ago, Jesus might have used one. Surely he wasn't drawing a parallel between... no, no, of course not!
Ramon Sender, 8/2/95: The Friendly Crossways conference went very well. It was a smaller crowd this year, but it gave me, at least, more of a chance to chat with everyone else, and I had much less to do in the kitchen, thanks to various enthusiastic volunteers. Kathy Brookshire came for her first time, as well as Jere and Katarina Bruner (who visited the other year for a brief few hours). Our sociologist team was there (Ben Zablocki, Julius Rubin and Tom Mansheim) and Dieter brought his friend Ellen who, as a trained conflict resolution facilitator, offered a "Spouses of Children of the Bruderhof" workshop. The U.K. group, Ben, Joanie, and Joy Johnson were very helpful, with Ben reporting on COB and chairing two lengthy sessions Sunday. Considerable discussion was held on whether only those who were children in the Bruderhof could be members. I think we ended up with "children and allies" as members, but Ben will report on this.
It was really wonderful to feel the good energies from the group! I personally found that I had terrific kitchen support this year, and only had to pop in there occasionally. Heidi and Muschi did the shopping and stowing of food, and both were strong presences as co- organizers. Margot, Marlene, Adolf, George and Kerri Maendel were among those whose energies were also much appreciated! Blair reported on the 800 number harassment, and deserves all of our profound gratitude for 'carrying the ball' so stalwartly. Andy told his story, including the story of his visit with his mother and bullying by Chris Mason, both in Kingston for the press. He should be congratulated for keeping his cool until all Chris could do was apologize. Great to see both him and Johanna!
A generous supply of venison sausage, hamburger and corn came to the larder. I leave out some who may not want their names mentioned, but the gathering included Ernst Arnold, Mike Boller, Alan Hinkey and Ena Rosen, Tim Johnson, Lee Kleiss with her two kids Stefan and Kay (both adding a much-needed generational presence), Charlie Lamar (who gave a good co-counseling demo with Ben Cavanna), Mike LeBlanc, Joy Johnson MacDonald, Adolf and Evie Pleil, Loy McWhirter, Joan Nicholson, Faith Tsukroff. Roger and Lauri StrickĐland came for a few meals, and Jessica came especially to see her sister Joanie Pavitt Taylor.
The weather Friday/Saturday was sweltering, the mosquitoes especially vicious at night, Sunday was much better, and Monday perfect. Financially, we broke almost exactly even, with less than $100 profit, instead of the approximately $400 from previous years. This will bear some analysis!
Since returning home, the Bruderhof seems to have stepped up its personal attacks on me, using Rev. Howard Goeringer as their mouthpiece in a Dick Domer letter to the Kingston Daily Freeman. Here is Brother Domer in Letters to the Editor of the Kingston Daily Freeman, August 24, 1994:
Dick Domer, 8/24/95: Dear Editor, The Bruderhof not only welcomes visitors but urges people to visit and see for themselves. When they do visit, they are hosted by a family with whom they have opportunities for free and open discussion.
Decisions of the community are made town meeting style where all members have a voice, including women, and decision are not made if there is any dissent. Leadership in the communities is not inherited and does not rule.
One of the main qualities required for appointment to leadership, which is agreed upon by the entire membership, is "does this person listen to his or her brothers and sisters?"
We appreciate the letters of response many of our neighbors have written after recent publication of allegations by a group called KIT. One of those interviewed at their press conference, who, by the way was never a member or child of the community, admitted to reporters that the event was "a little bit of in-your face. But it is the only way we can get their attention."
Getting our attention has never been the problem. Children of the Bruderhof members can and do visit. But when they visit, it is assumed that they respect their parents and are not part of a group trying to undo or denigrate that for which their parents and siblings have committed their lives.
There have been many efforts to find peace with estranged children and former members, including several trips to California for dialogue with Ramon Sender and other KIT members. But if KIT represents itself as a "company union" of anyone who has ever had anything to do with the Bruderhof, to negotiate terms of human rights, that is not dialogue.
This media event was only the latest in Mr. Sender's efforts to discredit and destroy the work of the Bruderhof. Mr. Sender, the organizer of KIT, was a novice in the community for short time in the late 50's. He left, abandoning his wife and daughter. Underlying his and KIT's behavior of "in-your-face" are two issues: the community's attitude toward sex, purity, and family life and our commitment to Christ.
Howard Goeringer, ordained as a minister in the Reformed Church (now the United Church of Christ), who has served as executive director of a Metropolitan Council of Churches and as minister of community relations in Newark, NJ, has recently written a reply to a critic of the Bruderhof after receiving some of KIT's material. He says, "Incidentally, the founder of KIT and the Peregrine Foundation, in 1967-69, founded two communal ranches, one incorporated as "The Ahimsa Church." This 'low demand environment' church, of which Ramon Sender was the first president, was "sadly" brought to an end by the county officials who had all of the buildings bulldozed. The 'low-demand' communal church of the founding- father-judge of the Bruderhof was himself judged and found wanting even by the moral standards of the world."
Neighbors should know Mr. Sender uses his KIT organization to gather disaffected offspring and former members of the Bruderhof in order to explore ways to put pressure on the Bruderhof to change its character to accord with their moral standards. This includes having people around each locality where a community exists to feed him any negative news items, to encourage news organizations to publish allegations made by members of his network, to influence local officials involved with building planning applications from communities, and to explore the possibility of lawsuits.
Mr. Goeringer goes on to say, "Isn't this the bottom line when it comes to the question of dissent within the community: those who decide to be baptized know what life in such a Christian community means and this is what they choose without demanding individual rights as women, workers, students, or any other of the protest groups a pluralistic society abounds with."
We in the Bruderhof are committed to share our lives, not only with one another, but with as wide a circle as possible, to help bear the burdens of the sad world in which we live. As a circle is drawn by a compass which must keep its point in the center, so in our reaching out we must keep out life based on the center, the living word of God.
KIT: The following letters have been mailed in response to Dick Domer's letter above.
Blair Purcell, to the Editor of The Kingston Daily Freeman, 8/29/95:
In response to Dick Domer's letter of August 24th in which he failed to address the issues raised at the Children of the Bruderhof press conference of June 27th held in Kingston, may I offer the following:
The Bruderhof maintains that, as a "committed" Christian group, they must maintain integrity and purity by distancing themselves from the influence of "evil" family members living on the outside. Yet we all know Christians could not allow themselves to engage in an (alleged) attempt to wiretap a neighboring church or in threats and harrassment, etc. and would not attempt to coerce or intimidate others by means with which former members are so familiar.
IF they do the latter, they cannot be described as Christians. Many ex-Bruderhofers and their families then maintain it becomes impossible for them to claim that status as the basis for believing and carrying out the former.
The motivation for the former is much more likely to be perceived by us and others as cultish behaviour designed to support a power structure for the benefit of a few within who are aware of and condone illegal, immoral and unethical activity. Those few continue to cynically take advantage of deep faith, committment and hard work of and by common members of the group in order to maintain substantial material benefits for those in leadership roles - such as use of jet aircraft for trips around the world.
To allow family members or even friends to enjoy meaningful ties with each other would permit those on the inside to learn of abhorrent behavior by their leadership -- leading to nothing less than the revolution this hierarchy so obviously fears and will go to any length to prevent.
As in any totalitarian regime, responsibility for the current situation cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of leadership; ordinary members of the Community have gradually but willingly abrogated critically important decisions to others in return for "unity" and maintainence of a comfortable status quo. Freedom of religion, indeed freedom itself, has a price the average member of the Bruderhof is not yet willing to pay.
Joel G. Clement, to the Editor of The Kingston Daily Freeman, 9/1/95:
I thought Blaise Schweitzer's coverage of the Children of the Bruderhof meetings was good.
I was born and raised at the Bruderhof and lived there 22 years, including 15 years at Woodcrest.
The question of power and how intentional communities govern themselves is topic of great concern in the Communities Movement. (Refer to Communities Magazine, Winter '94 issue.)
My father was banished from the Bruderhof because he questioned the leadership. I came home from school one day and he was gone. I did not see him or talk to him for 2 years. (I was allowed to write to him.)
I hardly think there was a "Town Hall"-style meeting to decide to send him away. Rather, the Elder and a group of his henchmen did this on their own to squash a voice of dissent. This has happened to numerous other people too.
My only regret is that I didn't begin to rebel sooner against this kind of tyranny at the Bruderhof. Sincerely,
Ramon Sender Barayon to the Editor of The Kingston Daily Freeman, 8/31/95:
I just recently received a copy of your August 24th issue that contained Bruderhof Brother Dick Domer's letter in your 'Letters to the Editor.' In it he attempts, presumably in the name of Christian love and brotherhood, to vilify my actions on behalf of the homeless and destitute of a quarter-century ago by quoting the Bruderhof apologist Rev. Howard Goeringer.
I first I thought it best to ignore Brother Domer's cheap shots, reminding myself, in the words of the Roman Tacitus: "Neglected calumny soon expires."
But since Rev. Goeringer, who never has been a member of the Bruderhof, now has become its champion and is mailing his broadsides far and wide, I felt I should respond.
In the 1960s I helped found and operate two open- door rural communes to which anyone could come and live -- and come they did! We had Haight-Ashbury burn- outs, young men escaping the draft and Vietnam, migrant hobos and itinerant hippies. Probably over five thousand people lived at the ranches over the period they were allowed to exist and I saw some remarkable cures just through allowing people to return to nature, build their own cabins and "decondition" themselves back to who they really were.
I still feel that the answer to the homeless problem in the cities is to provide what I call 'Time Out Camps' for those who do not wish to participate in the urban rat race game. Unfortunately, a few influential neighbors insisted that the county authorities close us down through the punitive use of the health and building codes. However I still believe that we discovered a compassionate answer to the age-old problem: what to do with people who have developed such a serious allergy towards rules and regulations that they prefer to live on the fringes of society?
I would suggest that selected parcels of federal government land be opened to the homeless, who then could build themselves code-free cabins, plant a garden and raise organic vegetables for a living. This is the way we humans lived for millions of years. In my humble experience, this is the best -- and CHEAPEST -- way for some of us to heal ourselves by returning, at least temporarily, to the ancestral ways until we're ready to 'play the modern game' again.
As far as the Bruderhof's closed-door communities are concerned, and indeed they are 'closed' except for the glitzy exterior shown to guests, may I suggest to anyone who interacts with the leadership that they ask the following question: "Do you believe in democracy?"
Their answer might surprise you. You might also inquire further: "Why do your leaders not allow your members the use of the secret ballot in their brotherhood meetings?"
In my opinion, without the secret ballot, tyranny has free reign and minority opinions cannot be expressed without fear of retaliation. Sincerely,
David E. Ostrom to the Editor of The Kingston Daily Freeman, 8/31/95:
I would like to respond to some of Mr. Domer's points in his letter to you 8/24/95. I was at Woodcrest in the period 1955-1957.
1) I took my family on vacation to Ulster County during the summer of 1984. While taking pictures of the covered bridge (Perrin's Bridge) at the foot of the Woodcrest driveway, a car with two Woodcrest couples stopped and the driver asked if that was my car parked on the river-side of the road by the bridge. I responded in the affirmative and was told, "Get it the Hell out of here or we'll call the cops on you!" As we were unknown to each other, I have to pose the question: Is that a welcome?
2) I am one of the "California people contacted...." This is a good example of SOB leadership duplicity and double-speak. My sister and I had tried for ten years to communicate with the SOB, 1961-1971 to try and find out why we were unceremoniously dumped out after the SOB had received the last penny of money from our family. Nothing, nada! We retained an attorney, filing a Fraud and Breach of Contract against the SOB, telling the attorney if any of the Brothers tried to contact us and discover our complaint we would halt proceedings. The SOB response was to retain one of the biggest, most expensive legal firms West of the Mississippi to first deny they knew us, second to deny the SOB contacted us in California 1953-55.
In 1989, I wrote an article about my vacation experience in 1984. Communications were initiated by the SOB at that time, threatening me and my family if I didn't shut up. Mr. Domer specifically made veiled threats about what he could do to me. Three couples did visit here in California, not as Mr. Domer implies in his letter, to meet with us. Rather, "As we are here on other business, we can find time to meet with you."
I called Mr. Domer's bluff and was then invited to Woodcrest at my expense to resolve the SOB problems. I went in good faith and believed progress had been made. However, shortly after the meeting at Woodcrest, Mr. Domer was on the phone to me, telling me how much the SOB appreciated and respected me etc. while at the exact same time Mr. Zumpe was on the phone to his son, telling one of his sons not to have anything to do with me, I am the devil incarnate totally evil! When I questioned this and tried to pursue the opposing statements, Mr. Domer again called me, notifying me the security of my home here in California had been breached by him and members of his family. If I didn't shut up and conform to the wishes of the SOB, he and others in the SOB would use information gained, illegally or unethically, to ruin me and my family.
Mr. Domer incorrectly rambles on about how KIT and Mr. Sender want to destroy the SOB. WRONG! I know Mr. Sender very well, meeting at least monthly with him. As assistant editor to KIT, what I would like to see is the SOB live up to it's full potential. There are many fine, honest people in the SOB. However, the leadership does not fully inform the general membership on many issues, some critical.
Mr. Domer is again wrong in his statement KIT is a "company union". Mr. Domer is noted for his intentionally inflammatory statements. KIT is a forum for people to relate, communicate and understand the experiences of living at the hof and the transition to 'outside society', which the SOB has brutally suppressed for over forty years. COB may be a different issue.
In closing, the next time the SOB trots out it's dog- and-pony show of somber, sedate men walking serenely about the bruderhof, women gaily going about their duties, fresh innocent children playing and singing, think about this and ask questions. Why did a young child die alone, unattended in a car, while his peers and the good sisters were enjoying themselves at the Zoo? Why did Joe Kiederling and Christian Domer sneak out of the meeting at Kingston (that they had pressed hard to be at) when the question of Woodcrest's people being involved in various forms of harassment and intimidation came up? This is but the tip of an ugly iceburg that the multi- million-dollar, multi-national corporation known variously as Society of Brothers, Rifton Products, Hutterian Brethren East, Hutterian Society of Brethren East and other names, would like to suppress. Respectfully,
Kore Loy McWhirter 6/19/95: I've been reading KIT again after having to stop for a good while. I think KIT needs to hear from people like me who have another slant, however obscure. It's the same as some of you think the SOB needs to continue to hear from you to keep them 'honest.' Maybe there's still a way through to understand what happened to us from all perspectives possible. Maybe it will keep others from being damaged or destroyed.
Bette Zumpe's words often stir up in me the same kind of exclusion sense that I experienced in the SOB kinderleute. I can hear you have suffered as you should not have, but the magnitude is no greater than anyone else, just because Eberhard was your sainted grandfather and Hans Zumpe your much-maligned and repentant father. Maybe it's only my over-sensitivity in this matter, but I hear much underlying holier-than-thou implied in your tone. It hurts, and you must know by now that there are many who did not share in the comparative advantages and privilege of those in power positions and their families. I feel some resentment because of this that still divides us because it is glossed over or denied or used for self-glorification that's no longer possible nor necessary among us, from my point of view. I do feel sorry for your family's treatment, but no more than others. And I see no reason for anyone to glorify Eberhard Arnold who started the whole mess with his self-serving, fanatical zeal in the name of god and various other pernicious camouflages. Heini did not come out of nowhere, any more than Christoph (or any of us) did. In trying to comprehend my own father, I see no reason to gloss over his destructiveness. It helps me to understand him, and thereby myself, to see the more whole spectrum of my experience of him and what I learn of his life. In a similar vein, I hope there's a growing understanding that the destruction of records of any sort, or the obscuring (or withholding) of information denies the growth of understanding and healing validation of our experiences in like manner to what Bette has to deal with now and in the past with the SOB censoring the family's letters. It's wrong in any case, and gets in the way of clarifying humyn interaction. It's also part of SOB programming and therefore I don't really blame Children of the Bruderhof (COB, as in the part of the corn after the seed-kernels have all been eaten off and all that's left is the part that people who have little else to use employ to wipe their butts with) who act on that programming without yet being conscious of the consequences, thinking they're doing the right thing. But whenever anyone intercepts or destroys or withholds any information, it denies us of learning our own truth for ourselves, because it is our common history, just like in family. I've had too much of that already. I see no reason to try to protect what's left of the 'good names' and reputations of the power people, living or dead. But especially not the dead ones. I realize they have living families, but so do those who were not so 'well'-connected, and we were all in the same large and closed family system.
It's so sad. But theirs is no more sad than those whose lives were influenced and destroyed by those who had power of choice. I don't see how we can 'Keep In Touch' with each other, much less ourselves, if someone's always trying to protect or defend by obscuring on purpose things that may help someone find their way back from the banishment of mind and body, etc. Nearly everyone suffered that. And one of the big lessons I carry from SOB survival is that knowledge and understanding make power within myself. The more I learn, the more present I become. So much was stolen and denied in my Primavera childhood. Why now?
Everything I read in KIT I learn something from or recognize or have reason to contend with that makes me more resilient. It helps me find more pieces in response, when I can take it. And when I can't, then I can lay it aside for awhile until I'm prepared to see again what I can learn in that context of my life. But there is still so much left out, covered up or euphemized. For example, what is this XXX businsss -- the most feared and hated, by the SOB, KIT-connected person? If you're going to XXX someone over, at least explain why. How can I trace my already obscure herstory if someone's always being covert about it for reasons I can't understand, like in the SOB hierarchic elite? It's control of information for the few. Only the chosen can know. Where is the "Whole Kit and Kaboodle?" The computer-talk scares me enough. How can we be in it together this way?
It's hard to take the intellectualizing and sentimentalizing of the people and system who caused the destruction of the "spirit of the child" (in the body of the child) and some of the actual children, and then blamed the children for the destruction. This is still going on, both 'inside' and 'out.'
I thought the Chip Wilson and Internet-mongers' dialogue was pretty interesting, a piece out of "Anatomy of Breaking A Spirit To Brainwash." Blair was especially sharp at itemizing the particular 'sins' of prideful intellectualizing (keeping your wits about you) and prideful faith (giving your wits to someone else, or mindlessly 'trusting' that you should give over your hard- won consciousness to someone who convinces you that they're closer to some version of god they've colonized {both figuratively and literally} than you may ever hope to be, although they've now deemed it possible for you to try). Still, the whole Internet dialogue ended leaving me angry and sad because, as usual, there was all talk about this White-man chest-pounding torment and 'spiritual' struggle with no mention of the fact that this pathetic and myopic intellectualized idealogue is but another tempest in the teacup of a small mind when placed beside the effects on the children, his or otherwise, and womyn put at the mercy of such self-dramatizing soul-surveillance, and with predictable and much dogumented results. They got him when he was most vulnerable -- Christmas being the most opportune time all around. (I'll never forget my father's annual Christmas torment and my mother's busy bitterness.) Of course, he probably won't see the effects of his blind-sided zeal until he gets spit out the back end of all that starry-eyed ecstasy-burn. But why all the mostly- men in on the Internet-talk didn't notice to bring up the children and womyn, I can't understand. Some were surely themselves torn apart by the father's ideology- mongering. It hurts to see the effects on the children overlooked even now. They and we are the real cost, not the mortal soul of some adult white man. At least they got the chance at one before. Everyone has inner and outer struggles, spiritual and otherwise. Acting them out on and through children is unforgivable. It's far more than an adult's choice to go and get digested by the SOB brain- drain. He will never see what's happening to the children. Jesus was nothing if not a child-advocate. I grew up here, after the bruderhof, in the fundamentalist belt, and I know one can twist biblical jesus and god-words to back up anything, including speaking in tongues and snake- handling (not so far from SOB-usage). I don't think, if there is a god, that she would forgive the destruction of children for any excuse or 'higher purpose' some humyn divined and attributed to god or jesus. No rationale. No excuses. No forgiveness. Only justice and understanding, compassion, learning and more justice. If you are a child of the bruderhof, then at least I forgive you, but I want room to be heard and to learn. If you are an adult of the SOB, I do not forgive you, but I will listen to All you know to tell.
Also, I don't buy this 'sabra' and 'not-sabra' lingo. It's just another in or out thing. And "we" can't call ourselves "children of the bruderhof." Only those who are/were children there are this. The rest is only feigned innocents to me, howsoever seemingly well-intentioned. If you choose to give over your own conscience as an adult, then it is your responsibility, as are the effects on your children and the womyn who gives up her power to stay with you and her children. Unless you were born or raised and brainwashed by the SOB. My father who lived through hell before he fell for the SOB, is responsible for what was left of his power-to-choose and the consequences. That's what being an adult means, as near as I can tell. If we don't learn from this along with all the other things there are to learn from and about, then what was the point of surviving it, I wonder?
6/20/95: More reading of the newsletters.... parting of the waters... The April report about Grandma's coffin made me laugh, and sounded like April Fool's with all its religious blaming, It must have been hard on the real people involved, especially the children. But it sure was hilarious from the outside. Maybe that's how some of these perverse difficulties strike them -- how we do go on about being exiled, and for what traumatic earthy and minute infractions sometimes, in trying to comprehend.
Some of the writers to KIT are eloquent. I loved Susanna's David story. It evokes so much hidden and denied sensuality of being a child in Primavera, and the 'small' tortures of the gerl-children. I remember too falling in love so overwhelmingly and painfully because so much had to be denied and twisted. Surrounded and immersed constantly in such intense sensual beauty, I was always trapped and curtailed at every turn by the perverse rules and training. Broken will. Some connections slipped through, but they were few and dangerous, and quickly cut away. I remember watching some young men breaking a team of horses to the wagon by the butterhouse in Isla when I was seven or so, and falling deeply and hopeless in love and lust with, I don't know which more, the young man who moved too smoothly and sure and gentle, or the horses alive with power, grace and spirit, or the tangible dangers the boys and men were free to be a part of when I had to learn to sew neat stitches and be quiet and ordinary and not too noticeably artistic. (No wonder drawing is my lifeline to this day. And the stranger the better.) Susanna's story is so well-written and painful... easy to imagine and remember by. Thank you.
Often I can't write to KIT how I'd like to, but I have to write however I can to be able to do it at all. It stirs up too much to make it a simple straightforward task, and I do admire those who can. For so many years after the bruderhof I was the sustaining grown-up in my family, as my father came apart and my mother got busy. And after my family, which trained and prepared me well, I became the indispensable caretaker and place of comfort for anyone who got near me. And I was just a place and not a person. When I began to have feelings and responses of my own at all, they were entirely random and mostly wayward rage and despair. Only recently I've learned to cry and usually it only happens when I laugh. It shakes something loose, I guess. I learned it from my daughters. I'm learning how to play now, at 44. I was always good at sarcasm and seeing the sardonic and perverse in everything. One of the times I was raped hitchhiking, I sat by the side of the highway and laughed for a long time before I could get up and hitch to the next place of relative rest. I rested best in empty churches, when they were open, because I could fill that quiet space with my full singing voice. My favorite is the Sage Chapel at Cornell in Ithaca, New York. I sat on the big oak table in the apse, surrounded by the muses in mosaic, and sang out into the hollowed room. Then I could enter the welcoming sound and feel at home and live in it. It was always hard to leave when some choir or organ practicer came in. Someone left me a cortland apple in the middle of the table once.
All the religious dia-tribulations flying between the Hutters and the SOBs seem funny to me, even though I know somehow it will adversely affect all those children at their mercy. I keep them in my mind and heart, as I don't know what else to do yet. I remember well being at the mercy of my father's and SOB's ideological breast- beating and head-banging. I am glad he and some others are dead, because I got fairly good at it myself, even though I have well-seen how it tears vulnerable people to pieces. It's an imprinting thing -- forming oneself after the power ones, as one sees where being vulnerable gets you. Pathetic loss of self and the lively spontaneity of humynity.
Bette's response to the waffling German SOB move is great! Very sharp and non-nonsense. I hear your native wisdom shining through your words. Maybe it's hard to hear about your important family connections and understanding you've retained through that because for me there was no family, even my own family. It's painful to hear about the happiness of others, like Margot's memories, and many other people I've spoken with who had someone in their family who stood by them in some way. So they were able to hold on to who they really were in the face of the bruderhof's destructions of the 'self.' I don't remember this kind of alliance anywhere, and it confuses me and makes the loneliness more tangible to hear about it. But I'm also curious about it. And the well- connected people seem to have some sense of your added importance and meaningfulness that makes the losses more real to me in comparison. It makes the brutality and violence seem more effectively hidden. It's hard to read about the 'jolly times' of such cruel and power-hungry people without some balance. I know it must be part of the whole pictures and all the puzzle pieces fit somewhere. And I know that children are often neglected and learn to make much of what little they have when the parents throw themselves into all-consuming ideologies, as was true in my family. Maybe this is true of others too.
I have come to know some virtuous people in the 'evil outside world.' None made themselves known to me in my lonely and desperate childhood, though I know there were some from the life-stories I heard from others. I don't believe any of those who called themselves and each other virtuous know or knew anything about what it really means, even though they still must hold value and virtue to their families who have some stake in holding out for admiration of them. At least you retained the power enough to even have a family connection, and maybe even love. It's hard to imagine, but it's intriguing to hear about. As I begin to see the courage that's called for to stand and live for what's best about being humyn in the 'outside' world, I see also more clearly (with some growing pity) the cowardliness shown by the adults who joined the SOB and allowed someone else to rule over their own conscience and children. In some ways I'm also coming to understand -- if not forgive. It's a very scary world to keep listening and learning, searching and questioning in. And any time one stands by something that seems right at the time, one stands on shifting ground. But the one constant I see is the native strength and life of children. The methodical undermining and usury and breaking of a child's integrity of body and spirit, etc. is not forgivable, especially as it continues on. And all for the sake of overwrought spiritual materialism of the chosen few to the exclusion of the many. "What profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul?" What is the point of anyone wanting to be held in the loving bosom of a spirit where everyone can't be because some are, for whatever reason, less acceptable than others? P.S. I hope for some support and not all attacks for these viewpoints, which are my own and not those of anyone else who reads KIT that I know of. One can always hope...
Summer Solstice: Remembering the dark in the longest light... 6/21/95: Joy's article on religious abuse was really good to read. I wonder if it will add some clarity for those who still don't get it. John Stewart's article is awful to read because it's so like what my father went through in Isla just before the Big Break-up and exodus. They tore him to pieces, including people he had trusted and loved for years. They left him in pieces and looked out for themselves. He never recovered, and he took it out on his family. Since then, I think of it like how the wandering ants walk over you in your sleep but sting you to death if you move. My father died in so many ways, and his body went on without him. It was so horrible because of the coming break-up and he believed so deeply. He kept trying to stand up to say what he understood the SOB to be founded on, and against the U.S. SOB power-struggle. It must be devastating for anyone who really believes and tries to live by that horseshit. Eberhard's legacy, motives and methods seem not so different from Hitler's and his inner circle of fanatics. It's only that the SOB's haven't yet refined their methods of 'spiritual' racist cleansing that shows enough on the outside as to get the world's attention.
I tried to learn a veneer of the world's ways to survive outside. My father beat me until he wore out to 'take the pride out of me and break my will.' I didn't know how to live in my body, so I tried to live elsewhere -- wherever I could find. I learned that device in the SOB. Many of the feelings I have are those of children encapsulated and trapped in that time in Primavera and between. I begin to see how they were broken by things I don't even know about yet. It seems different (but no worse) than those who had to go out and in and out again, and the yanking around of families by the powers-that- be. For me it was one entirely closed-away and isolated world, and then entirely another with no in-between or back-and-forth. I was nine, so my cognitive skills were subjective. No one talked straight about it. The SOB lied and the parents left me alone to adjust as they came unraveled. I was the surrogate adult for my siblings, but not for myself... what self? There was no one for me. Still this is so. The parents spent their whole lives in bitter denial (mother) and broken longing (father). My siblings don't and won't remember. They americanized themselves quickly and suffered their own hardships because of that. I never really adjusted, being fragmented before I began. I see the over-clear pictures now, or remote automatic stories. I don't consistently understand the pieces together, no matter how hard I listen. It does help to hear how others did or didn't manage. I wish it didn't upset me so much. But I think it's okay in the long run, and I'm working on it. It hurts nearly all the time now. My best defense was anger.
I think about what my parents and Margit [Hirschenhauser - ed] said of the upheavals when they were thrown out. When I read about the relative luxuries and worldliness of the U.S. 'hofs, I'm amazed. My mother always asked for medicines for the children. We got all the tropical diseases and parasites. I remember that, and the constant hunger and loneliness. And how the womyn looked so drained and pregnant and cowed. She said Hans Zumpe came to preach that Primavera lived the pure life of poverty and need of the true Christian/SOB way and they should feel pity and mercy for the U.S. 'hofs with all their struggle with cars and money and other worldly concerns that burdened them. My mother and another womyn in child care spoke out about sharing the U.S. bruderhof money at least for medicines, and how much easier it was for people who weren't living in poverty and need to hold theological opinions about it. Zumpe didn't even look at them, but told their husbands to use a firmer hand; the men should discipline their womyn. It sounds so different in the U.S. and European 'hofs. It's confusing to me at times.
Staughton Lynd mentioned Celo Community where we came after Primavera. Some here were bitter and took it out on my family because they'd lost so many members to the SOB around 1954. This was true of Macedonia too. I knew Norm and Anne Moody's son Evan for many years until he recently died of AIDS. We talked about the effect of their bitterness on the children who were cast out and always glossed over. The children of the SOB and those communities they divided and destroyed (including Kingwood I was born into) remember. It is not going away, no matter what happens. The remembering won't stop when I stop. We are the real witness sisters and brothers. So far there seems to be only always more to remember and put together. As we find and live lives of our own now, so does the long memory have a life of its own. I trust that justice will find a way.
In the mornings, I think I will send this telescopic letter. At night I know I won't. It's morning now. Good journey. Blessed be.
P.S. I enjoyed Ramon's report about his and Judy's Spain trip very much, especially your understated humor.
6/22/95: Here's another slant to the SOB elite and its possible motives... no more wigged out than what They claim. Maybe Eberhard just consolidated (in the disguise of religion) a more reliable form of the class distinctions that were dying out around him in those war years. Maybe, as the master/slave culture in Europe was equalizing ever more, he just sought to preserve it for his family and whomever else proved worthy by their alignment and bloodlines or financial attributes. How could one live as the chosen few in a mass culture where anything can happen... he had to make a closed system with his family firmly at the top of the heap and the inner circle made of those who proved themselves capable of keeping them there.
Maybe he was "killed by the Nazis" because no one trying to be at the top of a heap themselves can tolerate someone else trying for their own heap to be at the top of.
Sometimes it does make me laugh to read how the SOB aristocracy has it explained to the duped minions that the Chosen Few has to have all these special privileges (most of which the minions seem to be too delicate to have to know about) because They suffer so much more. Poor Heini with all that weight of the world on his uncomplaining shoulders. Poor Hardi having to travel all over the world (when most other people can't even go to the klo without the bruderhof's blessing) to raise souls and geld for 'the brotherhood.' I guess They, more than anyone, needed the freedom to talk sincerely (not gossiping, of course) about who should be in or out, who has the evil spirit and who doesn't, etc., within the safety of the loving bosom of Their jolly, gemutlich, warm and long-suffering families. I guess Their larger burdens called for Them to at least have families when others were too in the wrong spirit to warrant the same support. I guess They needed more than others to have somewhere and someone safe for Them to talk with who wouldn't tell the inner circle because They were already in it.
I remember that story Bette told about Hardi and the swaddling clothes, too. How he kept asking in the U.S. for 'nappies' and wasn't understood, so finally he asked for 'swaddling clothes' and was. It says something telling that I know that story from childhood. I wonder if he or his children carry any such funny little stories about my father (not to mentioned uncle) that would have been so lovingly retold down the years as examples of what an endearing, self-deprecating and exemplary personage he was. Oh yes, I'm truly sorry for the long- suffering of the SOB aristocracy that surely justifies Them resorting at hotels to watch football games and to have woodland hideaway cabins with pools, etc., and jet-setting around the world to keep everyone in Their dominion straightened out about the importance of keeping their noses to the spiritually purifying grindstone so they won't be overburdened thinking about all that evil money in bank accounts accessible only to the Chosen Few who've had to relieve those bothersome plain brothers so they won't be tainted by such evils. It does my heart good to know those few have suffered for the sake of the many in these myriad soul-cleansing ways so Their own pathways to heaven on earth are made clear. Surely They deserve at least these small reliefs and the negligible (by comparison) sacrifices of the many lives They reclaim by Their selfless suffering. I'm truly sorry for the tooth-and- nail combat they've had to endure over the years to hold onto that burdensome power and keep it where it belongs so that no one else will have to think about it too much. What a noble sacrifice. Surely They deserve everything They get. Oh, Whoa for the lawyers they're forced to stoop to, to protect themselves from the ungrateful masses They've sadly had to discard on Their way to the glory of Their just rewards. Oh, Whoa, and also Woe. Semi- sincerely,
Susannah Zumpe, 8/14/95: After I had been in the Spring Valley Bruderhof for about five weeks, there was a big Servants' conference in memory of Heini's death or something of the sort -- I really don't know what it was about, but it was important enough to have beloved Christoph there. I was told to ask him if I could stay in Spring Valley for a year. My parents already had said I could, and my sister seemed happy at the prospect of having me there, so I figured it wouldn't be a problem. Christoph was too busy to talk with me, so I wrote him a note saying that I loved it in Spring Valley and it was all right with my family (in the Michaelshof) if I stayed there for a year. What did he think? I didn't get an answer for a couple of days, and finally my sister said that she had been asked to tell me that Christoph had decided I was too young and I should be with my parents. My parents called and said that he was absolutely right and they had a plane ticket for me. I was to leave for Germany in three days.
I was furious! I couldn't believe that he had the right to decide where I should be, and I didn't like the fact that my parents were always 100 percent in agreement with whatever he said. That night I decided that I was going to run away. My original plan was to go to the airport and not board the plane and somehow find a way to get to Connecticut where my brothers were living. I wanted to phone them, but someone was always around, and most community phones don't work for outside calls. There was a dance evening and I told my sister I would baby-sit. I found my brother's number in my sister's address book, and luckily her phone could make outside calls. I first tried to get a hold of my brother Ebo because I always had heard how anti-community he was. Ebo wasn't home, so I tried Chris's, and he was home.
I stared crying and I told him I was miserable and I was supposed to leave in three days and that I was seriously considering running away. He told me to hang in there until I was older, but I said I couldn't handle it any more. Someone walked in right then and I had to hang up. Next I phoned Dieter, and I told him that I was leaving. He said that if I could get off the place, he would pick me up and I could live with him and his wife Patti. I never have felt so relieved and excited, but I also felt somewhat guilty for all the havoc I was causing. I talked to him on Tuesday -- I was supposed to return to Germany the next day. The plan was that Dieter was to leave work at 4 P.M. and he would meet me at the local Pizza Hut.
My last evening on the commune was weird because everyone thought I was going to Germany the next day, but I knew I was leaving the place for good. I got into big trouble that night because someone had seen me talking on the phone and told the Servants who decided to check up on me. I was called down to the Servant's house and they said they knew I had called my brothers nine times in the past three days. They were all very upset, although I must give Cristoval credit for being extremely nice about it.
That night at supper, there was a joint meal held by Christoph who expressed how shocked he was that the schoolteachers were showing the kids so many movies. I thought the whole thing was rather ridiculous, and someone heard me muttering under my breath and it came back to haunt me. After supper, my sister urged me to talk with Christoph about my feelings about returning to Michaelshof.
"He's so sweet and understanding," she said. "He's very easy to talk to."
I was reluctant, but I figured that since I was leaving the commune in a few hours, I might as well. I was told to meet him on the front lawn, and when I got there, his wife Verena was there and she told me he would be there shortly. I told her I wanted to stay in Spring Valley because no one there knew of my sins, and anyway I was the only girl my age in Michaelshof. Christoph interrupted us by saying rather loudly that I had ruined everyone's summer. That was peculiar because most people were quite sad that I was leaving. He started yelling about my calling my brothers, and then he asked me if I had ever thought of leaving the community.
"Most likely when I'm older," I said.
"If you leave, you will get pregnant and die of AIDS," he said. "Then you will burn in Hell with the rest of the world."
His words did not have a great deal of effect on me due to my atheism, but I remember thinking he was overstepping his boundaries, especially when he said that my brothers were all leading corrupt lives and therefore they were also going to Hell. He was also shocked to have heard that I had said the whole movie business was stupid.
"You must make a choice," he said. "You are either for us or against us."
I avoided looking at him because the sight of him made me want to laugh. That annoyed him. He apparently thought I was being arrogant.
I got through his little speech, and four hours later, I was running away. I left the house at about midnight and got totally lost. It was pouring rain and there was a big thunderstorm. I stopped by the roadside and a car pulled up to drop someone off at their house. The driver, who was a women, asked me if my car had broken down or what. I asked her if she could tell me where the Pizza Hut was.
"It's five miles in the direction you're coming from!" she said.
I had been walking for what seemed like ages, so I asked her if she could drop me off there since she was going in that direction. She looked a bit nervous, but she drove me there. On the way, I told her I was running away from the Society of Brothers and that my brothers was coming from Hartford to pick me up. I don't really know why I told her -- she didn't ask. The worst part was waiting for Dieter to come. He had said that he didn't know the area very well, and I just hoped he would find me. After about an hour, two cars pulled up and one of them was Dieter. As we were leaving, he said to the person in the other car, "Thank you and God bless you!" I asked him who it was, because he looked like he had seen a ghost or something. He said that he had gone into a bar to ask directions, because he had no clue where he was. He went up to a woman and asked her if she knew where the Society of Brothers was. She looked at him and said, "You're looking for your sister. Follow me." He asked me who she was and I told him of our brief encounter. We both couldn't believe it! The coincidence was incredible!
Well, I've been living here happily ever after. Of course it hasn't all been roses, but I have never really regretted my decision. I hope everyone has/had a great summer!
Donald & Joyce Hazelton, 8/12/95: Dear KIT people at the Conference. Thanks so much for all your good wishes. We thought lots about you all too. Actually I would not have managed as I am all tied up with oxygen tanks and other things. I have not been out of house for quite a while, since the temp was so hot but that did not mean we were isolated. Our son and wife with whom we live had to go down to Detroit so the rest of the lads took over and kept us company for a week. It was really lots of fun. They are a nice gang, full of good humor. I noticed several new names were at KIT. Some I don't know at all. I hope to hear more about it in the forthcoming KITs! Am enclosing a contribution, wish it was more, but never mind. Every little helps, they say. I will try to write more often. Good wishes to all. Your friends,
Hilarion Braun, 8/6/95: Since Konrad Kluver's story about Konstantin appeared, I've had several letters and telephone calls confirming my own misgivings about it. It does no good to drown in sentimental adulation the truth about someone's life with the implicit assertion that a life other than a "saintly" life would not have been worth describing. I knew 'Tang' when I was a boy in Primavera where our family had practically adopted him. Later, I had brief conversations about him with my parents and others who knew him well and was left with the impression that Tang was living a rather hedonistic life and seemed unable to "stay put." I find it silly to try to paint a picture of someone's life that he himself would have considered nonsense, and I know that Tang had no illusions about his pursuits. Those who knew Tang during the last 35 years may wish to comment. I think a truthful report of Tang's life would be quite colorful and very much a way of preserving history rather than inventing it.
One event I vividly remember is that of meeting up with Tang in the Tuyango where he arrived with several Australians on Christmas Eve and we had a great time together! Tang's penchant for roaming from one adventure to another had more to do with his financial matters than "unfair competition". One of the issues that never seems to surface in any of the descriptions of Paraguayan life is the enormously Baroque nature of it all! It is a sensuous, vibrant Latin culture more influenced by seduction than redemption, full of adventure and beauty and hardship.
Hilarion Braun to 'Dick' at Woodcrest, 8/95: Dear Dick, long before your clippings appeared in my mail I was concerned about Jamal's plight and that of many others. All the criticism of our justice system regarding this case is valid, and the scandal is appalling. The political mood of a part of the electorate and media is one of self-righteousness, scape-goating and vengeance. This movement is sponsored by the "religious right" with a fervor and irrational dogmatism that is reminiscent of the early 1960s in the American Bruderhofe. Remember how hundreds in Primavera were driven from their homes and families without so much as a trial? Then Primavera was sold and the proceeds used to further the goals of the Arnold cult. Your leaders later claimed they had erred, and yet no compensation was made to those who had been driven into exile.
The Primavera and Wheathill mess was blamed in Heini's henchmen who, through their psychotic cruelties, wrecked home and family of those who would not bend. Now you thieves and home-wreckers of Primavera and Wheathill engage in an orgy of self-righteousness, and hand-wringing over Jamal's plight instead of first caring for the victims of your own criminal acts.
No one, Dick, who knows of your crimes, will take you seriously. We, the children of parents who were expelled and who took up the financial responsibility for them and watched their suffering and losses, cannot take any of your observations about society in general seriously. You sabotaged our idealisms, robbed us of parental help and guidance while brutalizing our parents whose only crime was that they would not bend to Heini's will.
You show only contempt for the secular world from which you garner tax support and other unearned privileges. It pains me to write this, especially because you were one of the few in Evergreen who wished me well and gave me hope. I will never forget your acts of kindness. May you and your loved ones enjoy good health and peace, and may the day come when you compensate your refugees whom you deprived of home and livelihood. It would be a small step but an important one.
Think for one moment how ironic this situation is. The German compensation for my parents (for their forced exile from Germany) was paid to the Bruderhof AFTER my parents had been expelled. Not only did the Bruderhof pocket this money, but it refused to consider financial compensation for the theft of Primavera, the home of many who were expelled. Germany, a country not known for its virtues, felt compelled to symbolically write a wrong by financially compensating those who had been exiled. The Bruderhof, on the other hand, a "Christian body," plunges many of its members into abject poverty and misery and refuses to even discuss a compensation for those in question.
Can you see now why I and many others cannot take any of your commentary seriously? With Best Wishes,
Dieter Zumpe, 8/12/95: Hello Again, I recently spoke with my mother on the phone and she was a little upset with my most recent submission to KIT [June, '95 - ed]. She felt that my depiction of her was less than flattering. I had no intention of causing any hurt, so I want to write some early memories of my parents, Ben and Marianne.
My mom always put her children's needs ahead of her own. She always had her hands full, as we were quite a rambunctious bunch. At bedtime, she would be sure to spend some time with each child. We would discuss the events of the day. I remember her praying with me and singing lullabies.
My early memories of Dad are of going on walks with him or going fishing. I remember the great stories he used to tell us of life in Paraguay. I think he stretched and exaggerated the stories a little in order to make a good story into a great one. He also had an affectionate nickname for each of his children, mine being 'Diddle- com-fiddle.'
When we moved outside, both my parents did their best to make our lives as good as possible. My father, who had training as an art teacher, had to settle for a job with a furniture manufacturer. Money was tight, but funds were budgeted for trips to a lake or a zoo, etc. My mother, who had training as a kindergarten teacher, stayed at home with the little ones. In order to save money, she would make homemade bread. I'm sure both had their share of stress at the time, but they strived to make the best of things for their children's sake. I would like to thank them for what they did during that time.
A Child of the Bruderhof (from age 8- 24, if that counts) 8/2/95: I was saddened by the Sunday morning session at the recent KIT Conference and sorry that I was unable to affect the proceedings. One of the things that disturbs me, and others, about the Bruderhof is the discrimination that is inherent in the organization. If you are not in the Brotherhood, you are not part of the decision-making process; you don't even know what decisions are being considered. The further up the hierarchy you get, the more perks you receive. The second-class status of women and children, and the resulting hurt and pain, has been described repeatedly in these pages. The term "plain brothers and sisters," described by Nadine, is evidence enough that even full members are not treated equally.
We now seem to be in danger of repeating a similar mistake in Children of the Bruderhof. If we form an organization that is only open to individuals who were children on the Bruderhof (I guess that would have to be defined in some way, such as being born to a parent on the Bruderhof, or moving to it before the age of 18, both events normally beyond the control of the individual), then we are forming a discriminatory organization. We will have very little credibility if we try to complain about discrimination on the Bruderhof.
I fully support the right of individuals to form associations with other people with whom they feel comfortable. That has already happened through KIT, with the women's support group in England. The Hummer, e- mail, camping trips, holiday get-togethers, barbecues, boat trips and even the conferences could be defined as special-interest groups formed as a result of the KIT process. I fail to see how COB will make any more of this sort of thing happen than KIT already has.
To me. forming a group of like-minded individuals (it can be a club or support group or even a party, if you want) is very different from incorporating an organization with discriminatory guidelines in its charter. If my parents, spouse, siblings, children, other relatives or friends cannot join because of accident of birth or parental membership in the Bruderhof, then I will choose not to become a member of this organization unless it is to vote against the guidelines. If the discriminatory terms are approved, I will then resign and contribute no money to that organization.
Maybe this disagreement over the structure of the organization is part of a growing process. I just hope we don't repeat the mistakes of one organization that has sparked our own existence.
Name Withheld, 8/6/95: Dear Ramon, and Elizabeth Zumpe: I read your book twice, Torches Extinguished, and many of my Hutterite friends also. You and your book are many times discussed amongst us, as of your part of the Bruderhof, and the sad (or good and bad) history, though also recently we are, like yourself, very unhappy in our hearts about them. But your attitude toward them in your book is kindness. You wrote the book in a very nice way. You show hate toward the sin that mankind committed, but not toward the individual himself. You show a great deal of love toward them.
I also recently read Brothers Unite, and Eberhard himself wrote on page 71, "Dear Emmy, tell our Steward, Hans, I also received his letter. I read it and understand how hard it is for him. God Himself will give him strength from above to lead our Bruderhof." In another letter, he tells him to wear a beard (rules and regulations coming from the Hutterites).
The book Brothers Unite is quite interesting. On page 96, David Vetter Rockport (Elder of the Lehrerleut at the time, July 1930, told Eberhard Arnold, "I have let you know... what you should do. If you really know the scriptures and our forefathers, and live according to them, then you don't need me as well..." Page 97, David Vetter continues: "If God has given you true zeal, faith, and spirit there in Austria, you had better stay there and make do without us... Otherwise a very great misfortune might come upon us through you."
How very true these words are today when we look back at the faithful old Elder of the Lehrerleut, that we can only conclude that after Eberhard Arnold's death, indeed great misfortune did come upon us, heartaches and countless tears under the rule of Heini and the Present Leader. The invasion of Forest River should have been a strong enough warning to us of what fruits their trees bear. Surely this act is the works of the devil and his children, worse even than Hitler. The EXPELLING and separating of families and not allowing contact by ex- members with their loved ones back homes. This dictatorial Leadership and Evil Attitude towards ex- members and family members is what Hitler did and had toward the Jews and toward all mankind. This practice, if it comes from the German Youth Movement, I do not know, but it's unacceptable on the human level. I want to thank you all again for writing to KIT, and hope to meet you some day.
Jonathan Clement, 7/18/95: Hello to my former-Bruderhof friends. I don't write to the KIT Newsletter often, but once in a while I feel the need to. There are a couple thing that I read about in the July issue that I would like to "gripe" about.
1. The name chosen for the Children of the Bruderhof "organization:" Why this name? Is using this name fair to the children who, because of their age of for whatever reason, still live in the Bruderhof? Why not Former Children of the Bruderhof, or something along those lines? Did people agonize over deciding on a name or was this name chosen to needle the Bruderhof? I plan to make a call to the 800 # to relay these thoughts, but also want to share them with KIT readers.
2. "Name Withheld" letters: I'm not talking here about the "Name Withheld" letters that express opinions or experiences. It's those "Name Withheld" letters that report on goings-on in the Bruderhof that really bug me. They usually stand alone as little titillating tidbits, not unlike those found in the tabloids. How are the writers getting this information and how do we know that it is accurate? If this information is being obtained directly or indirectly through visits to relatives in the Bruderhof and names are being withheld because people don't want to jeopardize their being able to visit them, I think they are being very dishonest with their families and themselves. Hopefully, this isn't the case. I also think that if these letters are going to be printed, the KIT staff should add an editorial note indicating that they have or don't have independent conformation of these stories. Then the reader can decide how much stock to put in them.
One recent letter says something about Christoph Arnold visiting the Pope. Was this person confusing this with the recent visit with Cardinal O'Connor in New York City (reported in the May/June The Plough?) I think it would have been appropriate for the KIT staff to confirm whether or not they had any knowledge of a visit to the Pope and make note of the Cardinal O'Connor visit, if needed, to clarify things. KIT staff get The Plough, correct?
KIT: We do not receive The Plough directly, although we are alerted to items in it. Thanks for the reminder not to abuse the 'Name Withheld' category. As you will note in this issue, Christoph did indeed fly to Rome in an abortive attempt to be granted a papal audience.
Hans Zimmermann to Mr. Inno Idiong, Palmgrove Community, Nigeria, 7/3/95: Dear Mr. Inno Idiong, I am replying to your letter dated March 13, 1995. Since you receive and read the KIT Newsletter, I'm replying through it as this has become the mode of communication for us ex-Society of Brothers (acronym SOB) members, or non-members by way of being born into the Bruderhof or other affiliations.
No, your letter did not upset me. KIT provides us with the opportunity to express our point of view and we need not tailor our opinion merely to agree and/or to please the other person. All we hope is that statements are factual and truthful. Each member will interpret our statements their own way, which is beyond our control.
Your letter is very interesting and provides us with new information about the situation in Nigeria, i.e. Palmgrove vs. the SOB. All the KIT members would be most interested to hear about future developments concerning this matter. Your statements about the Western Hutterites and the Mennonites are correct and I can fully agree with them. In you postscript, you ask why the SOB would want to buy a house on the outskirts of Lagos and maintain a foothold in Nigeria? My guess, and view is the following:
To successfully pursue their lawsuit in Nigeria against Palmgrove Community they need a presence. Hence the purchase of a house in Ibadan (a place I know personally). Even if they should win their suit, which I find unlikely, it would also be unlikely that the Nigerian government would let them take the money out of the country. The SOB would first transfer the money to their new front community in Ibadan and then slowly try to siphon it away. Pure speculation? Maybe. However, all we have to do is remember, and reconstruct what the American community did to Primavera, the Paraguayan community, in the early 60s as well as El Arado in Uruguay, and then later with the communities in England and Germany. Heini Arnold, the father of today's leader J. Christoph Arnold, wanted to be the King Pin of the SOB. Going on a personal vendetta, he wanted to exact revenge because he felt slighted during earlier years in Paraguay for not being elected to highest office.
When Heini Arnold was sent to the American Woodcrest community in the 50s, he managed to establish himself as leader. Once the American community had enough financial clout, he was ready for his move. With the aid of his American lawyers, he was able in a most devious, malicious and calculated way, through deception to first control and then dissolve the Primavera community in Paraguay. He did this by dissolving the Brotherhood and effectively isolating any and all of those who disagreed with him. Then they selected a few people who they felt could be controlled and manipulated. With this group, they formed a new "INNER" circle and took control of all the community assets, kicked out those who disagreed with Heini and his henchmen, or who they felt were not suitable for community living. The expelled people were literally put on the street with nothing after a life-long membership and service to the community. Of over 1000 members in South America and Europe, more than half were sent away with virtually nothing, and with that a kind of Diaspora of many SOB members began.
They then decided to sell and abandon all those communities which had been built up over more than two decades with blood, sweat, tears and much sacrifice and untold hardship. As far as I personally see it, this was a crime and outright theft. But Heini was victorious! I will not even attempt to talk about the religious aspects, since the SOB has no specific religion. It's interpretation evolves around the competency and intellect of their current and past leaders and the way these individuals view the Bible. Lately they are trying to reinvent the wheel. The leaders at the SOB call themselves 'Servants of the Word,' a real misnomer. It has become a self-serving position as they are elevated to receive special privileges over and above the common members. Witness Mr. Christoph Arnold's private jet airplane, an extravagance that is difficult to justify. Like everywhere else in the world, money corrupts and so does power. At the SOB, the Servants of the Word have assumed too much power, especially the top leader, first Heini Arnold and now his son. Also, for the first time in the history of the SOB, which is supposed to be pacifist in nature, Christoph Arnold is so paranoid that he is -- or at least was -- carrying a concealed weapon.
When a person joins the SOB, he pledges all his assets and future inheritances to the community. Should he decide at a later date to leave and/or is kicked out, that person is entitled to nothing and gets nothing. This process has repeated itself over a thousand times at the SOB. Regardless of how much money a person brought into the community when they joined, he leaves with nothing. Maybe now you can read more into the comments of ex- members when they write and publish their thoughts in the KIT Newsletter.
The way I see it in your case: the SOB joined Palmgrove Community in the same way an outside individual joins the SOB. The power to control assets rests with the local community. Any moneys given to you to build this community cannot willy-nilly be demanded back because you have a disagreement with the American communities. They have to be consistent on how they apply their own laws. GOOD LUCK!!!
Name Withheld, 8/2/95: For over a year now I have read KIT every month. I have been moved to tears by some of the letters, put off by others and indifferent to yet others. But I respect and honor the honesty and sincerity of all opinions expressed. I have thought deeply of the past and, like many of you, have had a desire to change a seemingly very painful situation for many. Since leaving the S.O.B. I have been associated with other spiritual groups, some of which have hurt me and others in a similar way. When God's revelation becomes hardened into theology and dogma, it often loses its power and the ongoing possibility of further revelation. I have been subject to power games and political ploys that we have all experienced. Through an ongoing spiritual search and much reading, prayer, meditation and thought, I have worked to overcome my basic resentment and bitterness and have adopted a more "live and let live" attitude. I have concluded that:
1. I cannot change "them."
2. I can only change my response and attitude towards unpleasant situations and other people's actions.
3. When I change, "they" change.
4. I want to use my energy for positive growth towards being a more loving and serving individual.
5. Prayer energy can work miracles. Send love, not anger.
6. God is working on many levels, thru many cultures and spiritual outlets. I cannot confine myself to narrow interpretations.
7. The past is dead. Leave it and live in the present.
8. "There is only one religion, the Religion of Love; there is only one caste, the caste of humanity; there is only one language, the language of the heart." (Sai Baba -- India)
I know many of you are doing wonderful service to others, in your jobs and as volunteers. It would be great to hear about what is happening to you now. Love.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 8/21/95: As always I keep myself very busy with all the incoming and outgoing mail and, believe me, it is a lot! The Michaelshof is not sold as of this day, and community people pop in and out of Birnbach as they wish, and always cause a lot of unrest amongst the villagers there. I had a letter Saturday from the principal of the Gymnasium (high school) in Altenkirchen -- the school the Bruderhof highschoolers attended. He wrote a 4-page letter, very pro-Bruderhof and against my involvement with the Citizens Union in Birnbach. I get the strong feeling that he was asked to write to me, because he just seems to know too much about me. I wrote back last night a letter of three typed pages, of which I translate excerpts:
"I want to thank you for the intense manner in which you answer both my letters, both to the mayor and to the press. You are correct that the Bruderhof holds my interest since I was born and raised on the Bruderhof and my mother and three sisters and two brothers still live within the community. However you are not right when you conclude that I am a bitter woman. No, I can tell you that I am a happy woman with a good marriage, 4 children and 3 grandchildren, and I see my task here within my family in Holland! Every day I rejoice in the fact that I am free! Free to make my own choices, free to listen to my own conscience. This is a true gift for a person raised to share all feelings in communal living.
"I can also understand that, 'as an outsider,' you have respect for the Bruderhof and all it presents. Believe me, there are so many people in the community that I respect and love, and it is therefore a very painful matter for me that all my letters to my mother return unopened, so that I am not sure whether she is alive or dead! But this is my personal problem, as my choice to live here is mine also. The communal life in itself has my deep respect. It is not only that I tolerate and accept their lifestyle -- no, I believe my grandparents really did something great in finding a life that includes all men!
When I was 19 years old, I was baptized in full conviction that this was the way for mankind. Sadly, I had to see and experience that faith is not something we inherit from father to son. Many things that were holy to my grandparents are now trodden on with big feet -- but this again is my personal matter. 'Intolerance' is something the Bruderhof people show mostly just against their own children, and especially those who have chosen a different lifestyle. The 'spiritual arrogance' was there from the beginning, even if it was not visible. This again is my personal problem.
"I originally wrote the mayor of Birnbach because I received so many newspaper clippings and articles that were so far from the truth. I visited the Michaelshof in 1992 and everyone was most correct and friendly towards my family and myself, but now things were happening that were too much for me to swallow. I wrote to the mayor because I knew no one in Birnbach and felt that the villagers had a right to know that the Bruderhof's decision to leave Germany was not their fault but rather a decision made in the States that the Michaelshof members had to obey. The American brothers just could not understand that you just cannot change the plans for a parking area into a building area, even when you have the best lawyers, advisors and a great deal of money! That we, the people, have the right to fight plans of this type is a sign of a true democracy. The same thing happened to us in Holland when a large factory wanted to expand into our back yard. We, the neighbors, fought for our rights, and got the expansion stopped! If I wrote that it is arrogant not to listen to one's neighbors, I meant just that, not more and not less. The right thing would have been to let the neighbors see the new building plans. They would have been less frightened and could have had a voice in the discussion.
"At that time, however, I did not know about nor was I interested in the building plans of the Bruderhof. If you want to accuse the Schwalms of wanting an 'All or Nothing' solution, I will not even respond to this because I was not involved at the time.
"The mayor never responded to my letter, but I had a visitor at that time, a student who wrote her dissertation on the Hutterites, and she gave me the Schwalms' address, to whom I then sent my letter. If you want to argue the fact that Herr Schwalm did not publicly take a stand before the cameras and press, I need to remind you that he was seriously ill in the hospital at that time. But if you need to know his reaction, you can always visit him since you live in the same little village.
"Yes, we went to Birnbach in an attempt to understand what was happening there. Naturally I did not visit a mayor who just never took the trouble to acknowledge my letter. No, I went first to speak to the neighbors whose houses and farms were close to the Michaelshof. I found their persecution by the press and media more than revolting and I wanted to stand by and with them in this difficult time. You write that I have to right to speak when I just listen to one side of the story, and you even call this 'prejudiced.' But my ambition has never been to take a legal stand in the matter. No, I wanted to support the neighbors whose names went through all the German papers! Why did I not come to you? I did not know of your existence at the time. I went to Birnbach to speak to the neighbors. This I did, and this was all I did!
"The fact is that the leadership in the community destroys the relationship between parents and their children because all children are pressured to fit into one and the same mold. This is tragic and very sad, because all children need the guiding hand of their parents and the love that supports their actions if they are to grow into individual human beings.
"In closing I would like to say why I felt I had to get involved in the matter Birnbach-Michaelshof. I was raised to be honest and open in all things. When I was a child in Paraguay, we were very poor but happy. Many children died due to tropical diseases, and this united the group of Europeans in the South American jungle. In 1960, the leadership changed. The Americans came with a lot of money. Today the communities are rich, very rich. They bought a boarding school near Canterbury in England and paid for it in cash. The ideology of the founders is lost and smothered in so much money. As with many great ideologies during the history of mankind, it changes through the generations. It is true that:
The first is inspired by the spirit.
The second has the wonderful example.
The third -- the vivid memory.
Whereas the fourth will have to live by the rules and regulations.
"The Bruderhof is in its fourth generation and like the communists in Russia and China, the Zionists in Israel, there is little left of the founders' idealism and enthusiasm. Believe me, this is very true!
If the Bruderhof uses the word "persecution" to get itself a nice place within Germany, I can only say it makes me feel ashamed! It just is not right! I think of people like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Alfred Delp or the students of The White Rose, all of whom were murdered by the Nazis for what they believed and stood for. They knew only too well what the consequences of their 'illegal actions' could be, and they took that chance. 'WE,' the Bruderhof, were protected from this, or perhaps not mature enough to die for our beliefs. If this 'persecution' excuse is then used again and again for financial profit, I feel deeply ashamed.
"A second point is the untruthfulness of calling themselves Hutterites when they never were, nor wanted to be, Hutterites....
"A third point is the stupid 'poverty witness.' The Bruderhof is rich -- very rich, because the individuals live sober lives and have no idea what the community corporations own in their 'Million Productions' system plus all the money that people bring to the community or inherit. Believe me, they will buy the cheapest potatoes for their working men, but have helicopters, planes and other luxury items for their leaders. When people or children leave, they get nothing to support themselves. Believe me when I say that I have a deep respect for the life my grandparents wanted to live, but for the life today I cannot bring up any understanding nor respect. It is much worse that I would like to tell you. It is like a worm eating away at the inside of an apples, whereas the outside still looks red and healthy.
"I have been to Birnbach because I am convinced that if we really want to help the Bruderhof today, we will have to help them see the mess they have gotten themselves into. A saying here is, 'A good neighbor is better than a far friend.' If a Christian cannot find a way of love with his neighbors, then something is crooked. If a Christian tries to play 'the black Jack' into the hands of the neighbor, it is even more crooked. But if a Christian drags the neighbor before the media and press and accuses him of being a 'NAZI,' then it is evil. And that is why I wrote those letters, first of all to help the neighbors, but secondly to help the Bruderhof see the light once again after all the evil they have brought to mankind."
8/24/95: In Birnbach there still is a big division between those that fought for the Bruderhof and those against them. This coming weekend, the new parish minister is giving a village feast for everyone and also the members of the Citizens Union were invited to help make this summer festival a happy occasion for all. So Gerhard and Ursula Schwalm as well as many others got themselves busy arranging for a puppet show and all kinds of activities. Then the mayor, Alfred Walterchen, went to the vicar and said, "If the people from the Citizens Union come, than I will not come and neither will the brass band of which I'm a member." So the vicar wrote a letter to "exclude the members of the Citizens Union" from the festivities. Now the C.U. wrote a motion of distrust of their mayor to the government and also informed the head of the Evangelical Church about his matter. The mayor was so angry about this that he actually made serious threats against members of the C.U. Well, you see how involved I am in all these matters and try to help these people where I can.
Ruth Baer Lambach, 7/14/95: Dear George Maendel, thank you for being so open about the sexual abuse of boys at Forest River Colony during the time the Bruderhof occupied Forest River in the mid- fifties. I'm moved to write in order to make the point that sexual abuse was not introduced to Forest River or to the Hutterites by the Bruderhof. Sammy Maendel, you cousin who is buried at the Baers Poultry Ranch in the woods next to my parents, arrived from Sturgeon Creek Colony already an outsider, a weird guy by Hutterite standards. His father had died and Sammy grew up becoming skilled in all the female household arts such as knitting, crocheting, cleaning, canning, sewing and nurturing young children. He nurtured, bullied, strapped and fondled my younger brothers as well.
Eventually he married a Born-Again Christian, had five children, lived on the edge of whatever town he had his address in, and was several times bailed out of jail by my father. His other major problems were being a kleptomaniac and a writer of bad checks. Beyond that, he was an enormously creative person who could talk himself into job after job, perform brilliantly at them, but always lose them because he could not help stealing from the company. He attended Moorhead State College with me and, while there, had a lead part in several musicals. At Forest River I remember him walking across the yard early in the morning singing pieces from Handel's "Messiah." His voice soared in the crystal air. He knew every line. At his funeral, in itself a tragic affair since he and his wife were instantly killed in a freak accident, I brought the "Messiah" and played the "Hallelujah Chorus." It seemed like appropriate music to play at the funeral of someone who probably could have been helped had he been in the world and had been acknowledged for his great artistic talents and creativity. Unfortunately, communal life cannot afford to promote individual talent without loss to the very system.
Hutterites are silent about these kinds of things. That's right. They solve them differently than we do in the world now. They, like most good Anabaptists who do not want to involve themselves in fights, the glitz and sham of the world, prefer to shut up and look the other way. I can't say that I know which is better. However I do want to emphasize that we not demonize the Bruderhof on this particular matter, because the Bruderhof did not bring sexual abuse to the Hutterites. This kind of abuse happened before the Bruderhof arrived at Forest River. I know from personal experience. I also know that it continues today at other Hutterite colonies, and that it has nothing to do with Bruderhof influence. Probably it happens in settings where sexuality is not acknowledged. It happens to people who, for various reasons, are stymied in their expression. It happens when wives are frigid. If happens where women are viewed primarily as wives, mothers and housewives after they get married. It happened when women are viewed as objects and men as subjects. It happens where people are isolated. It happens when a person is stigmatized by the entire group and can find no way of interchanging in a healthy way. Sammy Maendel was close to our family. His aberrant behavior caused enormous pain to everyone who knew him, but most importantly to himself, his wife and children. His death, although a tragedy, was a release from turmoil. The "Hallelujah Chorus" at his funeral was absolutely appropriate. Hallelujah!
------ In Remembrance ------
Johnny Robinson
by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
We heard that Johnny died this month on one of the Bruderhofs in the States. Sadly, these old members are moved around all the time so that they remain unsettled even at the age of 90 years. Johnny was happiest in Darvell where I met him during Easter, 1989. At that time he sang the solos of Handel's Messiah, which was really wonderful. His daughter Veronica, married to Franzhard Arnold, oldest son of Hans-Herman, lived in Darvell also, and Johnny enjoyed being with his grandchildren, I think six of them. I had many talks with Johnny then, and he seemed his old self -- outspoken, critical, but most of all very warm and loving.
Johnny and his wife Betty came to the Cotswold Bruderhof in late 1939, I think, or the early 1940s. I remember so well because he brought the first Gramophone, 'His Master's Voice,' to the community along with many records, amongst which were Handel's Messiah, Beethoven's nine symphonies and piano concertos, and many other records. You had to change the needle every time you turned the record over. I have a photo with Johnny and Betty in the background when we were leaving the Cotswold in April 1941.
Johnny and Betty belong to my childhood. While we lived in Primavera, we were mostly on the same bruderhof, Loma Hoby. Johnny started the first men's choir there, which was loved by everyone who listened as well as by the brothers who sang. They made their very first appearance at Peter and Kate Cavanna's wedding. I remember it very well because they sang a funny round which has us all in fits of laughter while they sang on and on with very straight faces.
There was a young man, a young man who said 'How?"
Can I escape from this horrible, horrible cow?
If I sit on its tail and continue to smile,
Shall I soften the heart -- the heart of this COW???
He also started surprising brothers on their birthdays by coming to their houses at breakfast time every so silently and then starting to sing -- full volume! When the Displaced Persons came in 1949, the men's choir practiced a Russian evening song to welcome them.
At that time, Johnny worked on the campo driving the cattle, and we often could hear his roaring voice when they came home on their horses, tired and sweaty, but still able to sing! In later years, he and Betty often were the houseparents in Bruderhof House in Asuncion because his Spanish was useful to see to business in the capital as well as seeking out training possibilities for the young Bruderhof teenagers. As a couple they were warm and loving to the young folk and this helped them much better in dealing with conflicts that the 'firm hand' many of the Servants took with us. Betty was very outspoken. She never bore any grudges against anyone, but spilled out her feelings straight-away, and we always knew where we stood! During holidays I worked in the kitchen and she taught me how to make 'lemon curd' and 'swissrole,' a tremendous treat in those days. As they only had one daughter, Veronica, they also were asked very often to care for the large families when a baby was born. Betty found this very overburdening because she also had to work all day in the hot kitchen.
We children loved them both, Johnny with his black curly head, big black beard and twinkling eyes, had our special love and adoration.
1960, when the American brothers came to Primavera to dissolve all the bruderhofe there, both Betty and Johnny got into many troubles due to their outspoken manner of approach, their honest criticism and open- minded answers to questions put to them. This eventually led to their leaving the community "for good," as they thought. They had a lovely house where everyone was welcome. He had a garden for flowers and vegetables and was happy to have time for his beloved Betty, and Betty was happy to be able to look after Johnny herself as he had his first of many heart attacks shortly after they left. Their only heartbreak was that Veronica had chosen to remain on the Bruderhof, which meant that the wall between them and their only child began to grow higher and fiercer. But Veronica, like her mother, was outspoken and had her heart on her tongue. This led to many exclusions in England where she and Franzhard with their growing family lived under terrible circumstances in a lonesome, unheated place in the woods where Franzhard managed to get a job as a forester. Franzhard and Veronica always remained very determined to return to the Bruderhof, even in those times, and therefore would accept little or no help from their parents. This was emotionally hard for both Johnny and Betty.
Johnny had serious heart trouble and was advised strongly not to get himself upset or emotionally too involved, and Betty looked after him in her special, loving way. Then, out of the blue, Betty died while sitting in her chair in the living room. She suffered heart failure and was gone in minutes. Poor Johnny could not understand or accept this. It was so sudden! He was at a complete loss! Veronica and other members of the Bruderhof came for the many arrangements that had to be made. They were loving and compassionate and took him to Darvell to find his feet and look after him.
Johnny stayed in Darvell. He had to go to the States before becoming a member once again and visit all the communities there, but he returned to Darvell where he lived happily with all his grandchildren until early this year when Franzhard and Veronica got into trouble once again and were sent to the States. With people from the Michaelshof coming to Darvell, the place became crowded and Johnny also was moved to the States. His heart condition worsened, and the hospital said that they really could not do much for him, so he came home to the community again. Still determined and strong-minded, he insisted on walking to his room instead of being wheeled in a wheelchair. Not long after that he died, peacefully and clear in his mind. I am glad that I had the great privilege of having known both Johnny and Betty, and feel this has enriched my life.
Adolf Braun
by Migg Fischli
I met Adolf Braun for the first time in 1932 on the Rhonbruderhof. My parents took me there for a visit to see my sister Trudi (known as 'Trautel' on the Bruderhof) who had joined the community. To the rest of my family, I was just a sixteen--year-old boy, but I was interested, no -- more than interested, in fighting for peace without weapons to achieve a world where justice would reign, not the moneybag.
My father was a surveyor, like Adolf, and the two understood each other very well. So we were often together at breakfast or Vespers (afternoon teatime). Adolf's steel-blue eyes with their humorous twinkle in his oval, round face and his fox-red beard is still alive in my memory. I knew for certain that Adolf liked children and that he understood young people, 'teenagers,' as we call them now. Beside Adolf's wife Martha -- who seemed to me to be a very shy person -- sat two little girls, Gertrude, quiet, self-contained, and Elfriede, lively and very pretty. I had my little flute with me and after playing a few simple songs, I felt I was well 'in' with them. Two years later, I joined the community. It seemed the best -- and at that time the only -- way to do something about that goal of peace and justice.
In the Spring and Summer of 1935, I was to see a vastly altered Adolf. He was in the 'Big Exclusion.' He was not allowed to have contact with anyone except the 'Servant.' He had to hide and make detours to avoid people. He lived in a shed a bit apart from the 'hof and all communication was cut off. Instead of his usual work in the small printing shop, he had to work in the fields. His job was to break in a pair of young oxen called Kastor and Pollux. Breaking-in a young horse takes a lot of time and patience, but breaking-in a young pair of oxen is quite a different story.
At that time I was a so-called 'firm novice' and was working with a pair of horses in the fields and wagoning. The names 'Kastor' and 'Pollux' (after the heavenly stars -- not film stars) were so often heard shouted across the fields during their training -- I can still hear them. Adolf had a very, very hard time with those two hardheaded, silly-clever oxen trying to go their own way or just refusing to move. How helpless and sorry I felt for Adolf when he came back to the stable with his pair of oxen, his red face streaming with sweat, his eyes sadly avoiding any contact with mine. I felt his heart was crying out for communication, but he had to 'repent.' 'Repent' from what? Had Adolf committed such a terrible sin for which he had to repent? This Adolf who had sung the 'Sonnen- gesang des Franz von Assisi' as printed in the first pages of the 'Sonnenlieder' with such a deep understanding and beautiful voice? This man whose warm and understanding heart I knew? I kept wondering.
In one Gemeindestunde Eberhard spoke about judgment, that we were all standing in a time of judgment, and Adolf in particular, that we should not put ourselves above Adolf because he was, in a sense, repenting for all of us, "also for myself," Eberhard said. Being an amateur in theological things, I kind of accepted this explanation. Anyway, it seemed to be an easy way out (I still tend, strongly, to take the easy way). After that long time of Busse (repentance), a time of utterly hard punishment, Adolf was taken back into the community and the brotherhood. But he never again was the same man I had known before. Was something broken in him?
In the time of the Cotswold Bruderhof, my parents came for a prolonged visit. They considered joining the community and almost asked to become novices. My father worked together with Adolf planning and supervising the sewage system for the 'hof.
Some very good and fitting reminiscences have been written in KIT about the time in Primavera. As Adolf was and still is a dear brother to me, somehow still being alive in me, I could not help but write down these few lines. Some of his children and grandchildren may read them and, I hope, enjoy them.
An afterthought. To those who feel angry about such severe and unjust punishment, I would say: both the imposer and the sufferer of the punishment are alive only in our memory. Both have died a long time ago. Both had probably stood before the only just judge in whom both believed. So let it be. Greetings,
Margarethe Boning
by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
Coming home on August 30th, I found a letter telling me that Margarethe Boning died peacefully on the 16th at the age of 84. I wrote a lot in my book about Margarethe, and feel it is only fitting to write a little piece of remembrance.
Margarethe was born in the German town of Nordhausen in March 29, 1911. Her father was a socialist, and felt a lot of pity for all the poor people in Germany after World War I. He tried to help his patients as much as he could in his practice as General Practicioner. One of his patients was Manfred Kaiser, married to Rose Kaiser, who joined the Sannerz Community in the 1920s. Margarethe wanted to study art, but her father sent her to the socialist women's school in Thale to become a Kindergarten teacher. It was there that she met my mother, as well as Annemarie (Arnold) and Gretel (Gneiting). She married young and had Neckie in 1934. Her husband was a convinced Nazi and from the very beginning was very active in the party. They divorce when Neckie was two years old because Margarethe was very much against the Nazi methods of thinking and wanted nothing to do with it at all. She went to the art college, Burg Rothenfels, where she also met Charlotte Putz, later the owner of the Sinntal Bruderhof. She married again in 1936 to her teenage love, Wolfgang Boning, who then left for military service in the German Army. He could not live with the terrible things the Nazis were doing and committed suicide while in Poland. Margarethe had little Peter born while his father was away, and Neckie to care for alone. She moved around in the artist world, and one of her closest friends was KŠthe Kollwitz, the famous painter of human suffering.
As the war proceeded, she took KŠthe and her sister into her own house in Nordhausen as well as her paralyzed brother Hans. After the war she was in the Russian sector of Germany and much afraid for her children. She had made a bronze sculpture of KŠthe Kollwitz and when the Russians saw this, they asked her to make a sculpture of Stalin. That was when she knew that she had to leave. She bribed the soldiers guarding the border between East and West Germany with paintings and also the sculpture she had made, and traveled in the coal carrier of a train with both her children to the West. There she contacted my mother.
We still lived in Paraguay at the time, and I remember her letters distinctly because they made a great impression on me. She visited Wheathill in 1949 and stayed for good and was baptized and became a full member of the brotherhood. Her daughter Neckie came to Paraguay to train at our hospital and we became great friends. In 1953 news came that Peter had a sarcoma of his knee and his leg had to be amputated, but the cancer had metastasized all over and he did not have long to live. He wanted to die at home on the Bruderhof. So Neckie returned to England with us that same year (end of September). Margarethe was happy in Wheathill, and after Peter's death found new joy in a life that she gave herself 150%. She had a very happy and convincing nature and felt so much at home in the community that she convinced many guests to do the same. She believed that finally she had found her true destination and goal for her life.
In 1960 the trouble started. Neckie had left the Bruderhof and had a lot of trouble digesting her war experiences and all the many difficulties she had undergone. Finally she was admitted for therapy to help her come to terms with her own life. Margarethe was in Woodcrest at that time and asked the brotherhood if she could visit her daughter or at least help her financially. This then led to Margarethe's being sent away for the reason of "having emotional ties to her daughter." She returned to Germany and we had contact almost at once, which continued throughout the years.
During the past ten years, she and Gabriele von Borries joined a community in Germany called Der Christusstaat (the State of Christ) and she found a home there. She felt that finally her soul had come to rest in the faith of a living Christ who died for all men. Like on the Bruderhof, she again was very strong-minded in the rightness of this way and tried to convince Hans and me many times that this was the only true way of life for all men. For the last three years she had a lot of trouble with her heart and therefore was taken into the special care unit of this community, where she died peacefully and happy to have found brothers and sisters in Christ. I am happy for her, that she finally found a place where she felt she belonged, and shall miss her phone calls.
------ Articles ------
How I Escaped From The Bruderhof
by Ramon Sender Barayon
In spite of sex information pioneers such as Dr. Kinsey, and TV personalities such as Dr. Joyce Brothers and Dr. Ruth Westheimer, our own sexuality often remains a difficult topic to write about because of old taboos that linger in our culture and our minds. What a mountain range of suffering these no-no's have created for so many generations! As for me, it took ten or so years of raising my bliss tolerance level on rural communes in the 1960s to be relieved of various wrong attitudes. Apart from the obvious need to practice safe sex, the rest of the no-no's, in my humble opinion, just come from self-righteous old patriarchs whose bliss tolerance level probably could have been jacked up a notch or two.
In July, 1994, I was prevented from presenting a scheduled paper at the Elizabethtown Anabaptist conference by a last-minute change in travel plans. Julius Rubin, co-presenting with me, forged ahead bravely and read my "Heini And The Early Woodcrest Community" that dealt, amongst other things, with that big no-no in some Anabaptist circles, masturbation. I am permanently indebted to my dear friend for facing the flak that various listeners aimed at him, which it should have been my responsibility to receive and respond to.
Recently someone asked why my paper never has been published in KIT (although both Julius's and mine have been advertised as reprints in KIT ever since they were presented). Mostly it was a word length problem, and perhaps also some lingering hesitancy on my part to address such a personal topic. However inasmuch as I'm always telling KIT writers that "your most personal is your most universal," here, then, are some excerpts relevant to the sexuality issue:
In the Spring of 1958, my wife (here I will call her 'Rosemary') and I were included in a Woodcrest baptism preparation group that was an ego-shattering experience for me. We had come to Woodcrest as a separated couple and had been accepted into the novitiate a few months earlier. Heini pulled out all the props shoring up my identity, all the excuses to which I had clung for my previous pre-Bruderhof behavior. After the confession session, I sat alone in my room. I realized that nothing was left inside me except a silent emptiness. Out of that vacuum came an unassailable experience of God's love for me that permanently altered my view of reality. Later, I was able to express to Rosemary my deep sorrow over the wrongs I had done her. She seemed to accept my contrition, although without any thaw in the frozen relationship.
Over supper that evening, Heini made a reference to 'self-abuse,' as he termed masturbation. It was an impurity and would not be tolerated within the Brotherhood. I had experienced increasing guilt over masturbating in the shower earlier that winter and had talked to the Welsh Servant Gwynn about it in a roundabout sort of way. Afterwards, I made a determined effort to stop and somehow found it easier to do so than to face the anguished embarrassment of having to confess to it. For the following year I still awoke some mornings from a wet dream, but even these occurred with less and less frequency.
Although neither Rosemary or I were baptized into membership after the preparation group ended, we were invited to attend brotherhood meetings. We sat together as husband and wife in the circle for the first time, although otherwise we remained separate and single. At our first meeting, a brother who had been committed for shock treatment came in to address the group. After he mumbled a few incoherent phrases, Heini shouted at him to leave until he could find true repentance. For the first time I was jolted by the severity of our Servant's treatment of a 'down-and-out' brother.
I began to join Rosemary and our little daughter at after-siesta snack times in their apartment. Our relationship remained very formal because Heini insisted that I not express any affection physically, even with a hug or a peck on Rosemary's cheek. When I moved from the shop to the Community Playthings office to assist the Office Manager, I interacted with Rosemary on a daily basis in her role as secretary-typist. To an outsider, she and I probably seemed no different than any other Bruderhof couple.
In May of 1959, we attended a second baptism preparation group that began meeting in the schoolhouse. Annemarie, Heini's wife, confided to me that "You and Rosemary will be moving together very soon," and explained that the housemothers were preparing an apartment for us.
I began to feel anxious regarding my role in the preparation group -- and as Rosemary's once-more husband. In the group, I couldn't figure out what I was expected to die to that I had not died to before. The 'ego death' experience had been extraordinarily painful, and I shied away from going through it again. After all, God had assured me of His love and acceptance. Hadn't I experienced His forgiveness for all my past sins? Was I supposed to confess to them all over again? And as for moving in with Rosemary, although I thought that I wanted more than anything to be a happy Bruderhof couple just like the others, I couldn't imagine Rosemary in the role of my wife. She still seemed so distant, so uninterested in me except perhaps as the father of her child.
Meanwhile Rosemary caught fire at the preparation group meetings. She challenged me to participate more and once brought me to tears by telling me that I loved the marriage more than I loved Christ. Later, in Heini's presence, she taunted me for being "soft." At this point something snapped inside me, and I lost trust in the marriage-healing process that Heini personally was overseeing. Rosemary's sharp edges reminded me of just how much power she wielded over my emotions. All the reasons why we had broken up before resurfaced, my jealousy over her intimate relationships with other men foremost. Suddenly I was filled with a deep anxiety. I felt desperate to escape, but immobilized by my deep desire to continue my relationship with my adorable four-year- old daughter.
After a year of celibacy, I suddenly felt a compulsive urge to masturbate. I was fully aware that within the context of Bruderhof teachings, I was committing a sin that, if confessed, would result in immediate exclusion and/or banishment from the community. However it never occurred to me not to confess immediately to the nearest available witness brother. Over the next week or so, I basically masturbated my way out of Woodcrest, and the irony was that I didn't even enjoy it -- just sort of wham, bam, excuse-me-I'm-sorry. Never during that time did anyone ask me what was wrong or show the slightest empathy or concern for what I might be feeling. First, I was excluded from meetings, and then I was asked to leave the community. Throughout my time of travail, Heini remained at the Oak Lake Bruderhof, overseeing a crisis there that anticipated the yet even larger storm brewing in the European and Paraguayan communities.
I was sent to Evergreen, the new Connecticut 'hof, and after a few weeks asked to leave and take a kitchen job at a nearby children's camp. My work consisted of setting up the dining room for meals, overseeing the food service and cleaning up afterward, a job so similar to Austeiler at Woodcrest that it contained no surprises. I bunked in a small cabin behind the kitchen. The camp also needed a shop instructor, so I taught two woodworking classes each day. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping one step ahead of the kids on projects.
Finding a Japanese ink stick and some rice paper in a drawer, I began to paint in the Japanese Sumi style I once had enjoyed. I wet the paper and meditated on emptiness while softening the ink stick in water. Then as rapidly as possible, I scribbled on the paper, not allowing myself time to become aware of what I was drawing. The results often astonished me with their literalness. One was a runner drawn in an elongated style. With the addition of a final line, the runner became a pole-vaulter running to clear his obstacle. The Freudian implications made me smile, because I was continuing to pole-vault my way out of any possibility of return to the community in the privacy of the bathroom -- and setting some sort of new Olympic speed record in the sport.
What was my body doing so obsessively? I asked myself over and over. The rewards for my return to the Bruderhof fold were so obvious! Once more I would be embraced by the Church and all my needs met. Once more my little daughter's sweet presence would delight me daily. But between me and this dream of happiness stood Rosemary's shadowy form. I felt much too vulnerable to her assaults. The pain she had caused and continued to cause me overbalanced all other considerations. I just could not live with her again.
One day after lunch, the boss told me that some people were waiting outside the kitchen to talk to me. I went out, and there sat Heini and at least a half-dozen Witness Brothers in a semicircle on some logs. They had decided to stop by on their way from one Bruderhof to another. By then I knew that I could never return. Worst of all was the realization that my daughter's daily presence would be lost to me, but I comforted myself with the thought that at least I had managed to get her out of New York City and into what I thought of at the time as a sheltered children's community. I decided that if the price of her protection and happiness was my loss of her, well, somehow I would have to find the strength to bear the pain of her absence.
A week after the camp job ended, I wavered. I felt that I was going against God and losing my daughter forever, so I asked to meet with two Witness Brothers at the Poughkeepsie YMCA.
"Can't something be worked out?" I begged. "I could find a job near Woodcrest and keep seeing my little girl!"
"No, no," they said. "You have no relationship with her outside of the Bruderhof."
I gave it up. Before moving to Woodcrest in 1957, I had been referred to a teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, so I returned there, having learned before the healing effect of geographical space and time. It took me many months, even years, to overcome the trauma of leaving. A month after I arrived, I wrote Rosemary in desperation, suggesting that she and our daughter join me in California. I also offered to meet her on 'neutral ground,' with a therapist in New York City, but she never answered. Instead I received an official notice that she had been baptized into membership. This put a definite end to any possibility of a resolution.
Later, I met another woman and we fell in love. The following summer I filed for a divorce and remarried. Heini and Rosemary traveled together to San Francisco to confront me, but there was no longer anything to talk about. Rosemary told me I was giving myself to death, and as I left her for the last time in their hotel lobby, I shouted an angry something which now I do not recall. Heini reported back to the brotherhood, with an air of finality, that I was 'rebellious.'
Over the ensuing years, whenever I was on the East Coast visiting family, I would gird myself for the psychic onslaught and phone Woodcrest. Palms sweating, my heart racing, I would ask to visit my child. Always they refused and I acquiesced meekly when now I know that I should have insisted or gone to court for my visitation rights. But I could not face the collective disapproval of the brotherhood, and convinced myself it was better to allow my daughter an undisturbed childhood instead of, to quote one of Heini's favorite phrases, 'bringing a disturbance.'
In the 1960s I dropped out and helped to found two open-door hippie communal ranches that were the exact opposite of the Bruderhof in almost every way imaginable. There I pursued my spiritual quest with yoga, meditation and occasional LSD sessions. During three or four of the latter, I wrote or telephoned the Bruderhof in a misguided attempt to communicate with them. In retrospect this was an error, but it does not surprise me, after the heartless way they treated me, that I experienced some sort of reaction. Currently the Bruderhof is publicizing a letter that I wrote to them in 1969 during my 'hippie days' in which I used the dreaded "f" word a dozen or so times, and advocated free sexual expression for children. They are using my letter to defend their having refused me visitation rights to my daughter. I would point out that I wrote the letter after ten years of their ongoing refusals to allow me to visit her. Also twenty-six years have passed since that letter was written, and I think I have matured a little in my views since then.
Summing up, masturbation removed me from the Bruderhof in 1959 when my brain, paralyzed by an anxiety attack, refused to function. I always have remained very grateful for my body's innate wisdom and unique rescue method. Recently I was reminded of the Bruderhof's abusive attitude towards masturbation when I heard how young men in Woodcrest are forced not only to confess "self-abuse" to their fathers, but then have to make the soul-wrenching climb up the Carriage House stairs to the elder's office and confess to him also. Lucky are those who then are not compelled to stand before the brotherhood (or all the brotherhoods listening in on a conference phone hook-up) and stumble through an embarrassing public admission! What a horrible nightmare for a Bruderhof young person to endure for a pleasurable act that nowadays is accepted as totally natural! During earlier times, the Bruderhof allegedly employed methods that included tying a child's hands to the bed frame, placing their body in a sack with a drawstring around the neck (hands outside), smelling a little girl's hands in bed and slapping them if they retained any telltale odors. Despite questions I have asked as a concerned grandparent as to whether such physical restraints are still used, I have not received an answer.
It bears restating the obvious: at least for the past fifty years, the view held by various puritanical, old order or orthodox religious groups that masturbation is 'sinful' has been totally discredited by psychiatrists and doctors everywhere as extremely damaging emotionally. Old wives tales such as "Self-abuse destroys the mind," or "Eek! You will grow hair on your palms!" terrified adolescents for generations. The abuse comes from others trying to control you, not from yourself!
Chapter of a Life Story
by Ethan Martin
Ethan Martin is not my real name, and I have changed some other names, and clues to names. Those I want to know, will know who I am. Almost a half a century ago, when I was 20 years old, I embarked upon a strange adventure. In the spring of 1948, along with two of my fellow undergraduate students at Harvard University, I dropped out of college at the end of my second year, to go down to Paraguay, where we made a lifetime commitment to the Bruderhof. As it turned out, that lifetime commitment became just an eleven-year interlude in my life, and a slightly longer one in theirs. I was the first baptized American member, and the first baptized American to leave.
I remember those eleven years as a time of unparalleled emotional and spiritual intensity. I am still evaluating that time as part of my whole life, and finding new liberating insights. I'm glad I left when I did. And I wouldn't have missed my Bruderhof years for anything. At the end of my time there, I became a witness to, and a minor player in a crisis that blew the community apart. The parallels between the events of that historical crisis and the struggle that had long been going on within my body and soul are what I think make my story worth telling.
Why, as my mother put it, with angry and permanent bitterness, did I "run off to the jungle" and join this "weird outfit?" It started one day when I was in high school, with the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima, August 6, 1945. I picked up the paper from our country post office, and just stood there on the gravel for a good hour reading the news of that. Next, I found out all I could about it. I concluded at once that everything had changed. There must never be a war with atomic weapons. We needed a world federation with teeth, with a monopoly of nuclear arms. We had about ten years to make such a government, or World War III would destroy civilization, cover Europe and America with six inches of radioactive green glass. That was the message I preached in debate contests, and in competitive oratory matches, my senior year in high school.
During my two years at Harvard I learned from courses and from sophisticated Manhattanite roommates how provincial, Midwestern, middle-class, ignorant, and plain dumb many of my accustomed views had been. I learned how ethnocentric my whole life had been. I learned to respect and long for the life of primitive peoples, wrapped in the arms of myth, not in the chaos of modern contradictions -- religious ethics vs. business carnivority, Golden Rule vs. Me First, peace is wonderful vs. when there is war, you go. Human brotherhood, but not for the hunkies, the wops, the yids or the Negroes.
I learned from Professor (and prophet) Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin, Sociology department chairman, that Western Civilization's history was marked by the rise and fall of two opposing cultural systems, the Ideational (inward, religious) and the Sensate (this-worldly, commercial, scientific, sensual). We were living out the collapse of the second Sensate wave. Conflict would get worse, and end in cataclysm. 'Brute force assisted by fraud' would rule society. Out of the ashes, or green glass, a new wave of the Ideational would, over centuries, arise.
Harvard didn't support me in my green glass visions (my shrink thought I was projecting), but I went on seeing the country and the world heedlessly drifting toward universal atomic holocaust, as the Cold War set in, while everybody, in the longed-for After the War time, was happily and blindly making money, having kids, planning careers as if nothing was going to happen to them.
Actually my vision was right, as we now find out. The late General Curtis LeMay, boss of the Strategic Air Command, and the other finger on the Button, did all he could to start World War III (his term), and was furiously disappointed when it didn't happen during the Cuban missile crisis, since we had already missed some good chances before that. "Doctor Strangelove" came very close to happening.
Academically I was doing very well indeed, getting 15 A's out of 17. That was before grade inflation. I was learning marvelous new stuff -- Baudelaire, Abnormal Psych, Kierkegaard, Auden, Patterns of Culture, Yeats, Freud -- and inwardly I was at my wits' end about the world's future and my own. I was coming apart.
That was my frame of mind when I set out in the spring of 1948 to become a pacifist. No more patriotic bamboozle gearing up for one more (the last?) War to End War. On a Sunday afternoon at the local Quaker meeting house, I committed myself, in a circle of newbies my age, and of older veterans of the Conscientious Objector camps, to refuse to register in the draft that was about to be renewed, and consequently go to prison.
Moments later I made two new friends, Jack and Ron, fellow Harvard students, who shared my fascination with Sorokin's ideas, the nuclear future, and the coming collapse of Western Civilization. They told me about a settlement in Paraguay, where people from 16 nationalities -- mostly Germans and English! -- lived in peace and harmony, shared all their property, made decisions by unanimous consent, and believed that they were the forerunners of the next civilization, the Kingdom of God. They were absolute pacifists. They lived a simple agricultural life. The seed of the new Ideational age? And they were in Paraguay, where that seed, and with it, a recognizably human culture, might hope to escape being fried dead.
Within days we all made the decision to go. We dropped out of school and went down to the Bruderhof in Paraguay. We were delighted, overwhelmed. Jack and I roomed together. We used to clown about looking under the bed, to see if this was all just a wonderful illusion. "This is the flowering of the German spirit," Jack said, "not the Nazis." We used to talk that way.
Jack and I said we had the Deluxe Guestship. We got invited to one family after another for afternoon tea-time, and we were glad to see them and they were glad to see us -- the Serious Guests who had come so far, and not as tourists, but as Seekers! We worked in the garden, and plied one brother after another with questions about what they did about this and the other, and why, and about their history.
We were delighted with their culture. They were not the tightass black bumper Mennonite fundamentalist peasants we had assumed they would be. Some were peasants, but smart and witty ones. Most were middle class in background. Many were educated and well read. A few had advanced degrees. They were aware of politics and history. They had a library of 25,000 books, to which ours were added. They were absolute pacifists.
They had a large store of German and English folk songs that everybody could sing. They would have meetings where the people got together for some kind of tedious manual work. For example, they would take the seed pods out of a whole bunch of fruit bushes, rosella, so as to make jam out of the blossoms. So all the people would get together and cut off the pods and put the blossoms in baskets, and sing folk songs. All evening! Without looking at books or anything. Everybody knew the songs by heart, in three or four part harmony.
And they all seemed so joyful. That awed and mystified us, however much we tried to find cynical real explanations, dirty secrets. And we worked hard at it. Jack poked around in their archives, and I translated what he found. We got found out, but they were quite good humored about that, reckoned we were "Seeking Guests." I can't imagine that kind of humor in the Bruderhof of today.
Part of the joy we felt came from a sense of the worldwide, historic and even the cosmic importance of this way of life, from its ideas and faith to the details of daily work and play. One brother said to us as we worked in the garden: "You can find people who are ready to die for a cause. It's harder to find people who for a cause will hoe the crops, for years, all day long in the sun." It was work for the community, for the Cause, for the centuries- long war of the underground Good against the organized empire of Evil in its four aspects: Money (mammon) -- lies -- murder (war, violence) -- and sexual impurity. It was the sexual impurity part that brought the Struggle home to me.
The metaphor for our structure was concentric circles. Outside, way outside, was Outside, or the World Outside, as we called it Closer in were friends who in some way shared our faith and practice -- Quakers, pacifists, secular people concerned about The World Need (Weltnot, suffering humanity). Then came guests -- from tourist to Serious. A distinct step closer in was the Considering Novice, who had decided to join -- but had more to learn and change about faith and about one's own fallibility. A Firm Novice had reached a more solid decision and was seen to be more serious and devoted. Then came baptism into the brotherhood. Closer to the center were the Witness Brothers, who were elected for their ability as wise counselors and deciders. Then the Servants of the Word, or ministers. And at the very center, God, Jesus, the holy Spirit.
In the center in another sense was the Gemeinde, the Brotherhood with a capital 'B'. This was the mystical body of all of us who were fully united with one another in faith and action. You couldn't see it, touch it, hear it. It wasn't us as people, and we didn't own it. The Gemeinde came to us. We didn't own it, and we could lose it, drive it away. But it came to us. And when it did, it was more real for us and more significant to us by far than what, in precommunity times, we would have called our individual selves.
And of course, once in the center, you could go out. Out of the prayer. Out of the meetings. Into the Small Exclusion of limited formal talking with people. Into the Great Exclusion, with the terrible words: "Because you have despised God, you are given over for a time to the power of the devil for the purging of your soul. Go out, and bewail your misery to God." And still farther out, those who broke their vows and left, the traitors, the Lost. The damned, in fact, although we didn't use those words.
I spent almost a year as a Serious Guest, learning a lot. But it was not until my first big crisis that I began to "come closer" in a decisive way, and asked for the novitiate.
As I became aware of their views about sex, I felt I had to go make some confessions. I went to a gentle young Servant of the Word, and told him about my sins. I had copulated with my high school girl friend. Twenty times. And once with another girl. And then further questions about masturbation. Yes, I did. And I had some kinkier things to admit to, which I'll spare you.
So I was instructed about purity. I was asked to stay away from prayer for a while, until I had reached a spiritual equilibrium. The brothers and sisters, who were of course not told the details, only that I had confessed to Impurity, were, it seemed to me, loving and even glad for me. Why? Because I had been struck by the light of God and the dirtiness of my self. I wrote a poem about it:
O Lord O love cast love's rebuke upon
The solemn insolence of our revolt,
And shed upon our endless goings on
Mercy descending like a thunderbolt.
Bring the cheap skeptic and the grand aspirer
To that great shattering clash with the I AM,
And lead the self-possessed and self-admirer
To weep beside the cradle of the Lamb.
They had all had some shattering clash. They were glad I had found the gate. Soon after that I asked for the novitiate, and was taken into it.
The Bruderhof demanded absolute surrender of the self. I could accept that -- as an idea -- with enthusiasm. Liberal Western warring commercial dying technological civilization was a terrible destructive failure. We needed a life of unity and brotherhood. No, for me that idea of giving up Western Sensate Freedom for Unity was not the problem. Doing it was.
It was not only that every last bit of private property had to be irrevocably signed over to the community so that, even if you left, you could take nothing with you except what the community chose to give you. That was the easy part. Then came the hard part, giving up your little willfulness, your precious old ideas. There was no private space. Every last corner of the brain, the heart, the soul were to belong to God and the Gemeinde, the church-community as a spiritual presence, and as a total earthly society. When the body or the mind rebelled, you had to join in the Fight of Good against Evil. Our human nature was weak and evil. You had to struggle against your selfish self, asking for the help of God and Gemeinde. What made me take the Firm Novice step was an experience of the call for absolute surrender of everything in me.
We were having a Pentecost night celebration and there was a big bonfire. One of my close friends, a big solid Swiss, stood straight and strong beside the flames. He was standing there making, in a thunderous voice, his Firm Novice declaration about all the things he was giving up. And I looked at the roaring flames and I saw those branches burning. I suddenly realized what they meant. To get into this life, you had to be like one of those sticks and you got burned, you got consumed, to make those glorious rising flames, and it scared the hell out of me, it really did.
What came over me when I saw the sticks being burned was that sometimes it gets down to a very subliminal level, where you can't say exactly what it is you stand to be deprived of, but you know it's something pretty vital. And at that point its like some hand just grabs your heart. You know that it's too late to back out. You're really scared. And there's something deep inside you that you very badly don't want to let go of. That is the Pentecostal fire.
Here is a poem, actually from later:
"Thy Kingdom come," I prayed, and there was sorrow
"In the still voice that rose to answer me:
""Oh it will come, and come quite suddenly.
"What would you do if it should come tomorrow?
""Thy Kingdom come --" "And when it comes, you lose
"The dozen other things you hope to get.
"Pray if you will, but never once forget
"That every time you pray, you have to choose.
""Thy Kingdom come --" "Yes. In the market place
"The people laugh and chatter as they pass
"A dying body hanging on a cross.
"Look up and see the face." It was my face.
As a firm novice on the way to baptism, I had not just to accept, but to joyfully experience certain articles of faith. In the baptismal ceremony at that time, we had to stand up and declare our faith in each point of the Nicene Creed. I took it very seriously and didn't want to say it unless I could really find it in my heart to believe it. I stretched myself on the rack a bit. Some people, I later learned, did not operate with my assumptions about inner passion for articles of faith. Some people could say to themselves, well, this is a traditional Christian belief. I accept Christianity in general. Therefore, I'll accept this. Or, I want this Life, so I'll accept this creed.
My two biggest creedal problems were the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of the Flesh. I rebelled and growled within myself. Yes, myth was the good enveloping presence for human life. But it was myth, not the truth of scientific anthropology.
Then I found a solution in Albert Schweitzer -- who seemed to have had my creedal problem exactly. There are two kinds of truth, he said: scientific truth -- and life- truth. Scientific truth was what was established by evidence and logic, the same for everybody. But life- truths are those things that burn in our hearts with the fire of the Living Word.
I said to myself, Well, boy, it's no accident if you're having trouble with the Virgin Birth. Sex sinner that you are. Once I had realized that my past sexual behavior and my present inclinations were a pile of filth and I felt a longing for purity, then it came upon me like a great illumination and I realized that, if a new and true life were to be given to the earth, it could only start not by sex but by a direct word from God. I realized that there was something contaminated about the sexual relationship. Then I began to see what this meaning was, this mythical truth. When a truth came alive to me, it began to glow.
That's the way the 16th Century Anabaptists used to talk about the Living Word. Go ahead and read the Bible, that's OK. But unless a thing jumps out of the page at you, comes alive, you don't really have The Word of God. The key passage that I found for this interpretation was some place in the Bible where Jesus says, "You don't believe me but if you do what I say to do then you will believe." First you leap, and only then do you land.
The Resurrection of the Flesh? The coming of the Kingdom of God would mean, not that people would fly about the ether as holy ghosts, but that the solid earth, the trees and seas and bears and bees, and human life, would be restored in their full Edenic material beauty. It would be unjust if the Second Creation left that out. "I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day, upon the earth. Though worms shall eat this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." How beautiful! Those lines from Job, and from "The Messiah."
At the Bruderhof, each of us had, sooner or later, to be brought face to face with things in ourselves that were repulsive to us. The purpose of this was to show us what schnooks we really all were; to allow us to have no self- respect whatsoever; make each of us a nothing. Because it was only then that we were really ready to embrace the new self, the values, the personality traits, that were being offered to us. You had to become your own worst enemy, your own most eloquent self-accuser. All, of course, for the greater good of eventual spiritual rebirth. The community could make life very miserable for you unless you did: Isolation, standing up and confessing, being grilled, having everybody against you.
Now, this is terrible to have to admit but, after I became a Brother, I thought, here are some new novices wanting to become members and, oh boy, they're going to have to go through the creed grinder the same way I did. But, by this time, the community was evolving in a more liberal direction. The school girls started to wear slacks, we got some record players, and listened to worldly music, folk songs. In the church meetings, we adopted the Quaker custom of people standing up and saying what was moving them.
I felt deflated when the newer novices didn't have to go through everything I went through. No Nicene Creed. They just stood up and told what was moving them. We had given up some things that later people didn't have to give up. I think that had something to do with the great crisis in 1959. They used to say, there is a donkey that brings you to This Life -- pacifism, Youth Movement, Methodism, anarchism, socialism, humanism. And the point is, when you arrive here, then get off the donkey. We had got off the donkey into the Nicean Creed. I think by 1959 some of us climbed back up and looked at the world from donkeyback again. People now didn't have to give up what we gave up. What else had we given up, than we might now take back?
Personal. Sex, that is. I heard, on a rare tense occasion or two, being officially informed in a meeting of somebody else's sin, the words "fornication" and "adultery." But I don't think I ever heard the word "sex." It was always the "personal." I once asked if I could look again into a psychology text I had brought to Primavera, along with piles of other books. I was told, why No, there were very personal things in those books. So they were kept in a shelf accessible only to the doctors. I would be allowed to read my book if I could produce a good and sufficient reason. I passed.
Let's not be too gloomy about my life there. I had some beautiful, peaceful, funny, energetic times, milking cows, joining in celebrations, teaching school, driving the steam engine, translating. But I never became a Bruderhof member in totally good standing. I was repeatedly plagued by my masturbation compulsion. It was a sign that I had not let go and turned myself over to God and the Gemeinde with all my heart. It was a sin, although not the worst.
The community was prudish about all sexual matters. I never heard anybody ever say that somebody was pregnant. Even though many women obviously were -- we had high birth rates. I know that the laundry washed the equivalent of menstrual pads. I lived near the laundry for a time and I never saw these things drying. I don't know where they dried them. I never knew how they were constructed.
Of course some people had more masturbation problems than others. There were a couple of guys whose lives were ruined by it. They became hangdog, burned- out personalities from having to get up and confess so many times. I particularly remember one of them, this poor little bald-headed bookkeeper, who lived where I lived. He had to get up and confess to it so many times that he was numb about confessing. It was the numbness that got him sent away to Asuncion. His confession lacked pain.
It seemed to me, the older one got, the nastier this sin seemed to the other Bruderhof members. We had a paraplegic guest, an old guy who had been hit by a car in Buenos Aires, and could barely shuffle around, an old German. The only work he could do was peel the skin off garlic, all alone. This was his daily work. I noticed that some of the important people had a hostile attitude toward him. I asked, "What's the matter? I know he isn't very bright, and he doesn't seem to be all too with it as to the requirements of faith."
"He's nasty. He's a dirty old man." So they apparently knew that he was jacking off. Probably from his laundry. And I think this is what tore it for him. After that he had no chance.
I was probably the only one who'd pass the time of day with him. I lived in the same place with him. I was a single brother and that's where they put him, being single, too. We used to sit there and talk.
So, finally the leadership decided that he was not for us, and they were going to ride him out. He insisted that I be present at the meeting. Two older brothers were going to tell him that he was kicked out. He was sitting there looking at me, appealing to me with his eyes. When he understood they were kicking him out, he wailed. "Can't you let me stay here? Don't send me back into the horrible city of Buenos Aires."
A person like that, had he been a loyal community member, would have been a beloved figure. You'd have such sympathy for him. If his foot ached you would go there and sing songs outside his house to make him feel good. You would bring him little presents. You would go and visit him and listen to his pearls of wisdom. And here we were sending this man back to the city to perish. There was no overflow of emotion about that, not from me and not from anybody. It just had to be done.
I refused to have doubts. I continued to think to myself that I would never leave the Bruderhof no matter what happened. While I was there I thought at least I'm going to be loyal. My troubles were such that unless I told about them, nobody would know. And so I often had internal conflict. Maybe this wasn't really as serious as I was making it. Perhaps this wasn't really a sin. Maybe I shouldn't say anything. But I found out by practice that I couldn't take it, not to tell. When you have something on your conscience the world changes shape. I thought rather than destroy the things I believed in, which would have been the effect of not telling, I had to confess. It was better for me to be punished and shamed, than to have my inner life distorted.
This was a problem mainly for single men. For more of them than I realized at the time, since I was not privy to other guys' confessions to Servants, and missed considerable time from meetings through being Out. Occasionally, it might conceivably been a problem for a married man, but I would never have heard, since such things were discussed "in the circle of the married members." Which is where sex was supposed to be, nowhere else.
I do remember an instance of a married woman who got tied up in a knot over sexual fantasies. She was women's work distributor at the time. And, very vocal, very robust, a solid citizen. Of course I never heard the details, but apparently she began to be obsessed with sexy thoughts and she would accuse herself, and pray about it and get over intense in the prayer and then be guilty about praying so much, and be guilty about her self-concern, guilty about her guilt until she finally got herself tangled up in a first class depression. We looked upon it as a disability more than a transgression. She had to be relieved of her responsibility and given a different job, a change of scene and it was hoped that she'd recover. I think she was actually sent off to Asuncion for therapy.
Other people had more serious chronic sexual problems. A teacher, and another guy with pederastic inclinations, for example, would make improper physical contacts with children. They'd been excluded for this years before but then they would be reinstated and it would happen again. We would conclude that something wasn't cured back then when it should have been. The community stood ready to give people another chance if the repentance seemed sincere. Sins were supposed to be repented of, forgiven and forgotten. I'm afraid the forgetting was sometimes incomplete. Some dogs got a bad name. In the end, so did I.
Because of this chronic disability that I had, I never did fulfill the potentialities that I might have otherwise. A leader told me in the beginning, "You're a very promising young man. Why don't you get over this business so we can use you." Years went by, and I was still diddling around on the margin.
What made my sexual conflicts all the more sharp was that, for the last seven of my eleven years of struggling with this issue, I was fervently in love with Adelina, a young woman born in the community. I was reasonably sure she felt the same way about me, although of course we could never speak of it. From my point of view, this put a greater stake on whether I was going to get through or not, cure myself of this infirmity, and become really a legitimate Brotherhood member, firm and solid. I would think, well now it can almost happen, and then bang, down I'd go again. I would raise my hopes, and then dash them with my own hand, figuratively and literally.
You might think that marriage would be seen as a solution to my problem. But there was a Catch-22. To be married you first had to not have this sort of trouble. The Servants used to say to me, "You know, the real solution to this is marriage. The real problem is not this thing itself. You could solve that if you only wouldn't get depressed and bitter about it every time it happens. It's the brooding that goes along with it that's really making your trouble. You get critical, you get cynical, you get depressed, you go off by yourself and wind up doing this thing again."
That was quite true. As I now see, I with my love for the dramatic was fascinated by the Evil, the darkness, the duel with the devil. I prayed hard and desperately to God the distant Judge, My Will be Done. My will wasn't done. I felt God was playing with me, as a cat plays with a mouse. I got bitter against God, very bitter. If I could just have relaxed and got bored with the game! A brother told me he had had this problem, but "Now this has gone out of my life."
But there was no way to reduce the salience of this sin from my or their point of view. It was a sin. It had to be confessed. It had to be punished in some way, by a small exclusion. And then forgiven, and the sinner embraced once more. And so the cycle went round and round. Sin, horror, confession, shame, being taken care of, forgiveness, harmony and bliss, resolutions, boredom, temptation, resistance, struggle, fascination, crisis, SIN! I always cooperated. I kept the wheels turning. In the past few years I have come to know some "recovering Catholics" who are familiar with such cycles. Much of the hierarchic power of the Church is built on this game.
Let me explain what I mean when I say that I was quasi-engaged to Adelina for seven years. This is hard to explain to someone who hasn't been in the Bruderhof or a community like it. The Bruderhof courtship custom was that you are not allowed to have dates or anything like that. Theoretically you're not supposed to let your beloved know at all that you're interested. She should be the last to know.
One time, a friend of mine was wildly in love with a young woman for about two years. And he had already asked the Servants if they could get married. And they said, "Well, wait a little bit, she's only eighteen, she's so young."
They went on a Youth trip together, along with the whole Youth group, down to the river. And he went so far as to take her for a little boat ride about a hundred yards down and back. Just her and him in a boat. Of course the other Youths were all around, all over the place. But he was very worried about this. He thought, Woe, have I gone too far? They didn't say anything to each other. They didn't hold hands. God forbid they should hold hands. But just being alone with her, maybe he'd gone too far. I don't think she even knew he was interested in her before that. But he figured that after that she must have twigged it. And he was worried. The Youth would sing together, folk dance together, but no pairing off or anything like that. The farthest they would go would maybe make a few cow-eyes in a very stealthy sort of way.
Now, this was the theory. In fact it was prescribed in the old Hutterian rules. If a brother becomes interested in a sister, he should not go to counsel with flesh and blood. This means he shouldn't ask himself, do I have sexual feelings toward her? He shouldn't court her in any way. He should ask, is this girl an outstanding member of the church, and if so then he should go and talk with a responsible brother. And they would take counsel together and decide whether this would be a good thing or not. And that's the way it was done. The Bruderhof yenta system. I would say that in about half the cases the couples were aware of their mutual interest in each other. Especially if they were part of the born-in-the-Bruderhof Youth group. There were ways, you know, like glances and so forth. That's the way it was with me, eye-messages. I was pretty sure she knew. But I could never be absolutely sure, since we couldn't talk about it. Here is how I wrote about it in 1955:
Even This
If I could speak, I might well tell you this:
That I have kept hope small, and tried to soften
Looming impossibilities, and often
I have been thinking of you -- not to kiss.
Whenever we talked, we talked about some book
Or teaching methods -- some safe thing like that.
At mealtimes I have known just where you sat,
And not allowed myself a single look.
But still I keep on longing, willy-nilly,
And I imagine what we'd say together
If we but had the chance, and wonder whether
I'm not too old for being quite so silly.
I've tried to keep on doing what I ought
And make no motions, since for all I knew
Somebody else might have pet names for you,
And rights to say them to you, that I've not.
If I pretend that this is next December,
Since, after all, by then I ought to know,
And be consoled by knowing, yes or no --
Even this will be pleasant to remember.
Until 1957. I went through another short exclusion period in 1957. They had a big three-continent conference there in Primavera, and they were shifting people around and she was to be sent off to England for medical treatment. One of the Servants of the Word came up to me down by the horse stable and said, "Before Adelina left she said she wants to marry you." I jumped up in the air. He went on: "We would like to see you two get married. I've had my doubts up to now, but if you could just straighten out and behave like a solid brother for a while then it will be possible."
That was so much encouragement to me that I came right out of my gloom like a Polaris out from under water. I was flying. They sent me down to an outpost hof in Uruguay for a "new start." I wrote this shortly after I arrived there. I knew, without quite admitting it, that I wasn't sure who this wind was, the Spirit, or my love for Adelina.
You Wind
Over my heart's sprawling city,
shaking the rooftrees, the cowering walls,
you, wind, sweep battering.
I start awake in the vibrating darkness
at the surf-surge of your voice.
You, bitter flood assaulting my body,
iron in my mouth, of joy, of fear, of future, dim looming,
dark angel over the doorpost,
far trumpet resounding.
You are thunder astray on the peaks, shouting,
on the remote red mountains.
You, uncanny burst of rain
shocking the listless meadows.
There is haste in my heart, is running, fluttering curtains,
slamming of doors, a crying, a song,
secret plunging of delight:
Come wind, come flood, come storm:
Come Lover, Stranger, Fate and Friend.
I tried hard, too hard, to be an outstanding brotherhood member. I caught myself trying to sound like a certain Servant of the Word, using his vocabulary. While I was down there I was writing to her in England and we were all but engaged. She was in the hospital over there and I was writing love letters to her. We wouldn't talk about marriage in so many words, of course. But we would write the word "love" to each other. We even kept that under control, but it was obvious that we were having an intimate correspondence. And then, bang, I bombed out once again.
That was the low point of my entire Bruderhof career. I was never more bitter and despairing. Especially because I wasn't even fully aware of how it happened. I had got talking with an Argentinean guest that we had there named Felipe. We felt drawn to each other because we had common interests in intellectual subjects that you couldn't talk about with most people, particularly psychology. We'd have long marvelous conversations. He used to get up early in the morning to start the bakery going. And he came in one time to where I slept to wake me up, about four o'clock one morning, and there I was apparently jacking off. I was told about this. I had no awareness of it whatsoever. I just did not know. I must have been sound asleep and doing it.
They weren't quite so sure I was asleep. But to me, here I was right at the pinnacle of my hopes. I'm a kind of a guy that elaborates fantasies, thinking about marrying this woman for seven years. I'd been writing in my journal about it, stacks of tablets, writing poems about her. I'd been imagining what it would be like, imagining how it would be if it didn't happen, how it would be if it did. What if she marries some one else, what if, what if. I was finally right in sight of my goal and smash. "We're going to send you back to Primavera," they eventually told me. "It's too much of a burden to have you excluded here in this place with only 80 people." I was profoundly ashamed and despairing.
Over in England they told her what I had done, told her I was no good, made her burn my letters, told her to forget me.
So I got back to Primavera, into another official Small Exclusion, and some ghastly despairing times. In the early weeks I had a companion, a rat who nibbled the soap at night, and would run over me in the dark from head to foot. I finally caught him in a box and held him under water in the rain barrel. After all, a rat! We looked each other in the eye until he let out his last bubble. Afterward I was sorry. And lonely. I missed him.
Time went on, I worked in construction. Eventually Adelina came back from England. We would catch sight of each other every once in a while. She was in another hof so I didn't have much daily experience of her. But once she shook my hand and gave it an extra hard squeeze at the end. That was a big thing to dare to do that much. I took it as a gesture of love and also rejoicing that I was getting back onto the way. I began to have hope.
Two years after I arrived back in Primavera came the Great Crisis of 1959. My view is that it sprang out of a "bitter root" that had been growing in the dark inside Heini and possibly a few others for two decades, maybe even much longer. Let me first describe what occurred and then go into more detail about my particular role in it all.
This is what I have understood. The founder of the community, Eberhard Arnold, died in 1935. It was a big shock to everyone and many people predicted that since the whole place had been so dominated by Papa Eberhard, when he died the community would expire. But they endured, through expulsion by the Nazis, the Blitz in England, emigration to Paraguay, and pioneering in the bush.
Eberhard left behind three sons, Hardy, Heini, and Hans Hermann, but they were still too young at the time of his death to hold positions of top responsibility. He also left behind two daughters who had married somewhat older spiritually gifted husbands. One of these sons-in- law, Hans Zumpe, assumed a first-among-equals leadership role. Eberhard left him a letter with instructions bestowing the mantle upon him. And advising him to keep Heini in the agriculture, and out of a responsible post. When they went to Paraguay, the two sons-in-law were high in the leadership, but the sons had respectable positions, too.
Possibly Hardy, the oldest, was the foremost of the three sons at first. But he and his brothers got knocked down. There may have been resentment against this royal family clan feeling. You know, we are the bigshot sons of Eberhard Arnold. In 1941 Heini Arnold went religious- nuts for a while, spent months on his deathbed prophesying, said he felt an Evil Spirit in the community, and it had to be rooted out. They all got hysterically spooked for a time. It was chiefly (but not only) Hans Zumpe, the brother-in-law, who shooed the spooks. Heini got sent to Asuncion for psychiatric treatment. Then in 1944 the Arnold boys and a supporter or two planned a coup, but that was unveiled and put down. So these guys were in the dog house, excluded and sent away. Eventually they regained leadership positions but, until 1959, none of them were able to dominate. Hans Zumpe got to be more First, and less Equal. A new member from Germany said to me, before he quit and left: "Hans Zumpe comes on like a little tin God." He had a point. They were talking about making Hans Bishop, an office we never had. Heini bided his time and waited, probably not all that consciously, for an opportunity for revenge and retribution. This finally came in early 1959.
By 1959, Heini's new Woodcrest Bruderhof in the United States was the scene of great enthusiasm, as new Americans came to join. It was prospering economically, a novelty in Bruderhof history, having taken over a school- toy business from a community all but one of whose members joined them. The "mother" communities in Paraguay were struggling along as usual. Heini had recruited a bunch of very competent high energy young American lieutenants who thought the world of him, owed their positions to him, and would follow him anywhere. His and their view came to be that Heini and Woodcrest had the True Spirit, while Hans Zumpe and Primavera had extinguished their torches. This is their official view now: that Hans was a devil, Heini was a saint, and the torches were extinguished from Eberhard's death on, until Heini relit them in Woodcrest. My view is that Heini was a gifted paranoid. Such people can be loving and inspiring, and then crazy cruel. They can have tremendous charismatic power. And be spectacularly destructive: see David Koresh, Jim Jones, Jim Bakker, Oral Roberts, Jimmy Swaggert, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong, Sri Ragwan Bazhneesh, and other assorted Elmer Gantrys.
We in Paraguay had come up with a plan to grow and sell rice. We were going to plant about 400 acres of rice in the swamp land. We had already cleared the land, dug the canals, bought a big diesel pump, and constructed a long nine foot diameter wooden pipe to pump water from the river. We had put a lot of sweat into this project.
Suddenly Woodcrest started sending letters criticizing our plan. We should manufacture things instead -- like them with their toy business. We were puzzled. Quite a few members had been sent up there by us. Didn't they know the transport and market conditions in Paraguay?
Then the people at Woodcrest began to notice some disturbing things, they wrote, in letters they'd received from Primavera. Nothing to do with agriculture, but, for example, someone writing to a friend at Woodcrest and saying, in effect, one of the things that bolsters our resolve here and gives us the strength to go on under these adverse conditions is our awareness that we are an outpost of the Kingdom of God.
Under ordinary circumstances nobody would have noticed anything about such a statement, but in this context, they began to ask if Primavera had somehow gotten too smug. Heini and the Woodcrest leaders asked, Are you so sure you are an outpost of the Kingdom of God? Don't you know that we will only know at the Last Judgment if we are God's representatives or not? You seem to think there's nothing that can possibly be wrong with you. And look to it brother. You better examine yourselves. We took this to heart and we began to examine ourselves. We examined ourselves to pieces through the first three months of the year 1959. We made ourselves into spiritual and emotional basket cases. And that was not the end.
By mid 1960, people from Woodcrest decided that they had to come down to Paraguay and set the house in order. That's when the real purge began, in July of 1960 or so. By this time, I was gone. Apparently, it was an agonizing mess. They were in and out. They were a Brotherhood, they were not a Brotherhood, they had never been a Brotherhood. It got really chaotic. Heini came down from Woodcrest with a hit list, and a Goon Squad of young Americans. Get rid of these people fast. Hundreds of them. Including my fellow Americans from 1948, Jack and Ron and their families. Some of of the expelled were old people with no money and nowhere to go. They weren't even asked to make a statement or to repent, just out the door and good riddance. Some of you never should have been here in the first place. Those who are meant to be with us will, with the help of God, eventually find your way back. Subsequently Heini and the American Goon Squad cut a swath through all the other communities as well, descending like Avenging Angels, expelling and excluding.
I left in September of 1959. I saw the beginning of the crisis but not the end. But I took a very active part in the beginning. I'd been in Small Exclusion for two years, from 1957 to 1959. I was attending church meetings, but not the prayer. But then, as the crisis began, the leadership felt I should take part in the discussions. Everybody should. "We're all on the same bench," Servants and simple members side by side.
This was a novel situation for me. Here I was a semi- excludee, and what right did I have to talk? Yet I was encouraged to feel like an equal in this crisis, all on the same bench. So, to my own astonishment, I had a go at it. It became the general view that if the whole community was in such a mess, something must be wrong with every one of us. No matter how innocuous we had appeared before this. So, all I had to do was listen and look for it and I would find it. Some guy would get up and make a statement that I thought was blah and I would sit there busting inside, and come storming out with "What is going on? Don't we realize how serious this is? We're standing here making blabbing statements like this and we don't realize the depth of our guilt, the depth of the things from which we have to repent." And everybody nodded. I picked out things that ordinarily you would admonish people for in private and I brought them out right there in front of everybody. I quoted Hebrews: "For our God is a consuming fire!" I said I had felt all the time I'd been here, something was not quite right. Now, at last we were going to be absolutely, totally devoted to the Kingdom of God.
I was excited, constantly praying, grateful that at last my calling had come. I started discovering powers I didn't know I had. I would sit listening with the Third Ear of symbolic awareness. There was an old harmless guy, who had taught me chess in my abundant spare time as a Small Excludee. He was single, a short guy, a funny guy with a little white beard. He was making a short confession. It was obvious that he just didn't get the point. He wasn't quite with it. I sat there and started feeling, when is it that I don't comprehend things? It's when I've got something on my conscience. So I got him off in a corner. I said, "Look, I can't tell you how I think I know this, but I think you should ask yourself if there's a sin that you have on your mind that you haven't confessed. And don't tell me, go and talk to a Servant."
And bang. He had done something fifteen years before and then sure enough it had been on his mind during that meeting, hovering around. So that came out. It had survived fifteen solid years of annual Lord's Suppers when everything was supposed to be cleared up. Fifteen years of solid challenges of people getting excluded for similar things.
I had noticed over the years how another older brother, a former parson, often spoke of God as punishing, told children not to run and squeal when a storm was coming up, but rather to fear the majesty of the Creator. I took him aside and put it to him: "Willi, have you ever forgiven your father?" Bullseye! I was startled to see him crumble into tears right in front of me, and he told me a painful story.
I said during one meeting that what I'd heard so far that evening gave me the impression that people didn't mind confessing their sins so long as they didn't loose their dignity. I reserved my particular wrath for those who never seemed to have anything very serious to confess. I made a specialty of working over these silent types to see what I could find. I seized on the idea that besides the sinful sins of people like me, there was such a thing as the sins of the Pharisees. The sins of the good, law abiding people who never got into trouble, but were lukewarm. As Jesus said in a parable, the one who will love the master most is the one to whom much was forgiven. Like me. And you can quote usefully from the book of Revelations that those who are lukewarm I will spew out of my mouth and I would you were hot or cold, but not just halfway between. If you had something flamingly wrong and confessed about it, you got out better at purge time than if you sat there and finally made some pious statement. Oh I was a real terror there for a while. Even if incidentally I made a real fool of myself on several occasions in public. What I now see is that I was acting out the fanatical terror tactics that later became standard practice under Saint Heini. And that was my worst time, not my best.
After this had gone on for a while at the three villages, we had a communal meeting. We all got together in the huge dining room in Isla and we asked ourselves, "Can we get some sort of sense of the meeting about this." And here I noticed something really terrifying. Where was the Brotherhood? That was the question. And the Brotherhood had always been there, somehow. The Servant might be exposed as a charlatan and get put into exclusion, but the brotherhood was still there. Such and such a respected person might fall but the Brotherhood was still there. We all of us might be a little confused for a while, but the Brotherhood was still there working on it and we knew we'd come through. Now I suddenly had a feeling of a great emptiness. It was an existential shock. Something you've always been able to rely on is not there. As if a kid had had his parents killed out from over him.
The final blow for me came when the Brotherhood was reconstituted. I was not made a Witness Brother, as I had imagined in the intoxification of my Prosecuting Attorney dramas. I was taken back into the Brotherhood. But into the Non-Decision Making Brotherhood. These were people who were asked to leave a meeting if anything serious came up. These were the guys who would never get married, ever, and were looked on as weird at best, and at worst, Unclean. That was the end of any hopes of my marrying Adelina. Inside me, something broke.
I fell into a pattern of masturbation again. I went to my trusted Witness Brother friend and said, "I've tried everything. I tried praying and not praying; I tried reading and not reading; I tried being sociable I've tried being solitary; I've tried fasting. There isn't anything on God's green earth I haven't tried. And I don't want to start all through it again because it seems to me futile. I don't know how to cure myself of this vice. I can't go on. I just don't know what to do." Under the newly sterner standards I had helped set up, I could not just drift on any more, didn't want to.
And he said, "Maybe you'd better go back home to the States." Break my vows? I was thunderstruck. I said, "I think I'd better." So that's how I left. Not with a bang, with a whimper.
I have told people that I was in a critical frame of mind and eventually began to see all of the contradictions. That is true enough. I read Schweitzer's The Quest for the Historical Jesus and from then on, in the back of my mind, remained alienated from all forms of Churchianity, including ours. I was disgusted when the community refused to take in a severely malnourished Paraguayan child, because, they said, yes the Good Samaritan Parable, but Social Work was not our task, being an outpost of the Kingdom of God was. But actually it was my own inner contradictions that made me leave because when you come right down to it, it broke my heart to keep on trying to do something impossible.
Technically speaking, they didn't kick me out. In my last brotherhood meeting, the decision was made by the brotherhood that I should leave. I made a statement and then the Servant of the Word said a few things. I thought he was slightly bitter. He said, in so many words, "We haven't been able to do anything with you so now you go out and we'll see you again if you find a way yourself." They even said in my last Brotherhood meeting that it was odd but they felt a kind of unity with me in spite of the fact that we both could see that I had to go away, and they hoped very much they'd see me again, eventually, and hear that I had gotten back into the Brotherhood. I had been a sinner, a failure, but somehow a loyal one.
When I was leaving a Servant said to me: "Well, what are you going to do now? Are you going to go back to Harvard and become a professor?" And I said, "Ach! Nonsense!" One of the Youth, a person of no particular distinction, gave me an admonitory lecture, which I think lifted his self-esteem. I was going up a walk by the hospital, and Adelina, who had been coming my direction, saw me, flinched, turned away and went somewhere else.
When I came home I had to tell my parents what had happened and why I left. My father said, "Oh, but that's natural. That's a human thing."
I said, "No. You don't understand: from their point of view, it's wrong. They were right to send me away. I failed. They were right." I didn't want to lose the feeling that what I believed in was right even if meant that I was wrong.
I forget whose idea it was -- I drove down to a roadhouse near the Pennsylvania bruderhof, Farmington. Art Wiser and another brother met me and talked over my situation. His suggestion: I should get a job in Pittsburgh, live by myself in Great Exclusion, and try to get back in. His parting words were: "I'm sorry for you." In a day or two I had decided I wasn't going to go back and go through that again.
I lay about for two months and watched television, a new experience for me, a dozen hours a day, so as not to think, not to feel. Then I went and got a job collecting weekly insurance payments from a poor and almost entirely black set of customers. I needed new clothes. I bought a black suit, a black hat, black shoes, and a black overcoat. A customer once asked me, "Hey shoonse man, you a preacher?" I guess I acted like one. I bought a record of The Messiah. I lived with my parents, had no friends. The future did not exist. Sometimes I'd see from a distance and from behind, a woman who looked slightly like Adelina, and my heart would give a smashing thud.
After a few months of this, I got a letter from Kay, a young woman who had visited Primavera for a workcamp there. She had talked with me briefly. We corresponded for a while, and got together at the college where she had graduated the year before. We quickly decided to get married, and did. I went back to college, and eventually got a Ph.D. and became a college professor after all.
There's more to tell. Much more. I'm just getting started. But there's space only for a satellite overpass.
I see my personal troubles in Primavera from the perspective of my experience, these past four years, in a 12-step program, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. The Bruderhof didn't make me into what I was there. I had, and potentially still have, an addictive personality. Adelina and I quit smoking cold turkey the 18th of August, 1973. And then my drinking took off. I stopped drinking in 1983, and my sex and romance-intrigue addiction took off. I got into recovery from that in 1992. Right now I have to work the program against the Internet, the World Wide Web, Computerholism. Peeling the onion, we call it. You keep going deeper, and shed some tears.
I have been married four times to three women. After 11 years of marriage, and a new born baby girl, I was divorced from Kay, my first wife -- because against all my expectations, Adelina left the Bruderhof, finished college, and got in touch with me. We found each other after all that time. The past was not forgotten, it wasn't even past, as Faulkner said. What a story! The Golden Legend. People loved to hear us tell it. It ran in a local paper. The trouble with the Golden Legend was that it left out Kay, my first wife, and Susan, our daughter. Susan read the story in the paper, and it hurt. Not only did she have no daddy, she didn't even exist in the story of his life.
Adelina and I were married, had a wonderful life together, our own baby daughter, Renata -- and then came my crazy time. Sneaking off to porn movies. Hiding collections of porn magazines. Several one-night stands. Acting out with a mistress for four years, all the while picturing myself as a devoted husband and father. Until finally I left Adelina and Renata for Caroline, a sexy woman who'd been married six times before, was married to her for six years, was slowly destroying myself and her, until finally, as we say in the Program, I Hit Bottom, saw my life disappearing, left, was divorced again.
And now Adelina and I are married again, together again but anew in a life of joyful discovery. I have had a thorough reconciling talk with my first wife Kay. I have made amends with my daughters, cried with them, and kept more and more in touch. I have changed. I am a person in recovery. I have come to understand my wounds, and the way they go back through the generations on both sides of my parents' families. And how the Bruderhof was a setup for my acting-out dramas in one form. Later I found other forms.
I know now how we addicts, how I, have used addictive behavior to drug away the inner pain of self- contempt. I have got in touch with my Shadow, who appeared once in therapy as a black monkey, a demon, and at the same time as a lost and lonely part of my Child self who needed to be taken in out of the cold and the darkness, and who knew how to work destruction on me and those I loved, until I finally paid him the attention and love he had always wanted. Now a little black cloth monkey sits on my night table, wearing a T-shirt that says: Get Well Soon. We could think of him as the mascot of Adelina's and my increasing delight and healing as we work our way through Margo Anand's The Art of Sexual Ecstacy, a Western-hospitable Tantric way of action, uniting body, soul, and spirit. We delight in learning and using new ways of sensual massage.
I can see now how my Bruderhof situation set me up to Fight the Devil, and always lose. The Devil was really my own Shadow, my lonely little black monkey part. The day came when I realized my God was not the one who had nailed me to the cross. I had been addicted to sex, but really to the forgiveness moment -- no, actually to the shame, because at bottom I felt that was my own fundamental Ground Zero identity. Whereas God had always loved me, just as I was, and waited for me to reach out. His Will Be Done was no longer a frightening threat, since he knew what I needed far better than I did. And if I asked for bread, he would not give me a stone.
Therapy and healing imagination and working my program have made my life a peaceful adventure, full of discoveries, bringing together more and more of my history into a Story with a happy ending. I have come to experience increasingly the Promises of Alchoholics Anonymous and its cousin recovery programs, especially these:
We shall know peace.
We will not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.
No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.
We will suddenly notice that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
We will lose interest in selfish things, and gain interest in our fellows.
Stopping the addictive destructive behaviors has been only the start. The continuation is the rebuilding of our lives with the help of God as a loving partner, not a punishing judge. Along with my new life with Adelina, my greatest joy is the sense of the gentle, humorous presence of God, with all these Good Surprises, time and again. I remember reading, as I ran the Loma steam engine, a little book by Brother Lawrence, called The Practice of the Presence of God. I had a glimpse of that presence then. And now constantly. My God, my Higher Power, is always right there, and I turn to him often, leave things up to him, or (just as much) her. My sense of this presence is of the Loving Father Jesus spoke of, but also the Mother Goddess of the East and the Mideast. The inner god of Thou Art That. Even fortune cookies give me messages:
Trust your intution. The Universe is guiding your life.
You have some new ideas, do them. (Seems refer to this article!)
God's blessings keep arriving when I or we need them, I just have to keep watch for them. Sometimes they arrive in a nearly impenetrable disguise. And look at me with a grin when I recognize them.
I wrote this about Adelina back in 1956:
The Changes in Your Face
The ringing silence there, the low light burning
Like echoes of spent music, like the turning
Of white wings lifted on a distant sea,
Told me that time was done,
That all the years were one,
Imaged, unlost, in this eternity.
I moved through frames of memory unnumbered
Down the bright gallery of years remembered
And traced fate in the changes of your face:
Child's fresh wonder, young girl's laughter,
Work and childbirth, slow age after:
I held the perfect wholeness of your days.
And a wild sorrow and a wilder longing
Sang in the years and pierced me with its singing
Until I woke, knew where I was, and knew
I'd watched what I might never see,
Looked back on what is yet to be:
The time is now, and you are twenty-two.
------ Book Review --------
Cults In Our Midst,
by Margaret Thaler Singer, with Janja Lalich
Foreword by Robert Jay Lifton, San Francisco, CA., Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995, 381 pp. $25.
by Vincent Lagano
This is a well-organized handbook for people and organizations needing to cope with the effect of cult groups on individuals who manage to leave under dire circumstances. While the emphasis is on extremist groups like Jonestown and the Branch Davidians, elements of cult behavior are detailed in everyday life. Based on Margaret Singer's lifelong professional experience, with the assistance of Janja Lalich and an apt foreword by Robert Lifton (especially his reference to the Protean self), all of whom are dedicated to social counseling and analysis, a thorough case is made for what cults do to families and young people in society and in the workplace.
The three sections, "What are Cults," "How do They Work," and "How Can We Help Survivors to Escape and Recover," give the cult experience its historical, scientific and practical due. Careful attention is given to the process of persuasion and manipulation used to reform thinking in vulnerable people and in the working environment. Older and experienced people may be less susceptible to the process, but often go along with it for the "good of the whole," as we sometimes do daily. The authors take a stand and are engaged in turning around the effects of coercion that we see in almost every letter sent to KIT.
Personally, I have seen how the interaction of a communal solution to a dysfunctional society can become dysfunctional itself in spite of its ideals.
The book contains five graphic tables and many text outlines that plainly show how cult factors operate, beginning with a three-point group-origin/leader-role, power-structure, and coordinated-persuasive- programming that unambiguously describes cults. The authors then move ahead to all the ramifications of cult- like phenomena.
Much of the book can refer to the KIT process, although the Bruderhof itself is not cited. Twenty-two pages of notes, documenting by page and phrase, reveal many sources and read like a history of our time. A short bibliography and a basic listing of resources and organizations round out the usefulness of the work. The American Family Foundation, P.O. Box 2265, Bonita Springs, FL 33959, is listed as a special source for locating other local and foreign organizations.
I was especially impressed by this book, particularly with the litigation experiences shared and the special concern for children in and out of cults. Cults are indeed in our midst if the media is any indication: sitcoms, MTV expose, a Law and Order episode called "Apocrypha," the June 1994 Modern Maturity special report, a December 1993 Scientific American article on the prehistoric Maltese death cult and ongoing coverage of the government's handling of the Branch Davidians.
ITEM: Another bit of news is that we have been offered an East Coast property for sale that can handle up to 75 people plus a three-bedroom house. The sellers are asking approximately $350,000 for 2.4 acres plus the buildings., or $1.4 million for the 'spread' of 40+. They really like the idea of a non-profit foundation buying it and continuing the non-profit tradition, so I think they would work with us. It nets in income about $50,000 annually. Muschi would love to move there, if her cats approve. We have a list of the major users to contact for a donations drive, and could use any advice or help from KIT readers.
Brother Not-So-Witless: If a group denies its shadow side, the same occurs as when an individual denies and does not accept the humanity of their shadow side. Denying the shadow gives rise to (1) projecting it onto others, who (2) thereby come to embody total evil. This (3) gives the group permission to treat others ruthlessly, thus (4) coming full circle and enabling the group's shadow to express itself (albeit in a twisted and dishonest way). This is the essential process of fascism and similar movements of which we are seeing a lot today.
NOTE: Ben Zablocki has generously allowed us to offer for sale spiral-bound 8-1/2 x 11 copies of his definitive account of the Bruderhof,The Joyful Community. 230 pages, $20 US/$25 Canada, postpaid.
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Torches Extinguished, by Bette Bohlken-Zumpe
The Community That Failed, by Roger Allain
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Open Letter To The Hutterian Church, by Samuel
Kleinsasser, with added articles, 85 pages $5 / $8 Our Broken Relationship With The Society of Brothers,
by S. Kleinsasser, 16 pps $1/$3 each
My Years In Woodcrest 1988-1990,
by John Stewart (reprint from KIT April '95) $3/$5