Best of The 1989-1990 KIT Newsletters
The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT
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,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald,
Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor,
Witless (in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
It encourages the expression of all views, both from
and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed
letters we publish are those of the correspondents and
necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
------------August 1989 Vol. I #1------------
Dear ex-bruderhofers: This is a modest attempt to
create a network of those of us who experienced the life within
the Bruderhof and then either were excluded, expelled,
excommunicated or left on our own decision. The experience
of leaving was very traumatic for many, especially those who
were 'kicked out' after many years of community living. In
many cases we underwent the experience of starting over
completely isolated from other ex-hofers because there was no
way to make contact. When I started phoning around this
month to interview people for a book of memories of my
daughter Xavie (who died at 33 years of age of cancer at
Woodcrest last year) many expressed a wish that we start some
sort of newsletter. It seemed like an easy beginning for me to
share the addresses of those I have contacted. I am mailing this
list also to communities or organizations which may be contact
points for those leaving or already out such as Pendle Hill,
Gould Farm, Celo and Koinonia, so that anyone leaving will
have a way to find their brothers and sisters outside. Please
write to me with any current addresses or contacts or
corrections you might have. So here they are. It's been
wonderful talking with you all!
NOTE: I'm searching for anyone who knew my daughter
Xavie Sender Rhodes and can recall specific anecdotes or
incidents from her life that I can include in the book I am
writing. Thank you, Ramon Sender
NEWS: Lee Kleiss said "start with some news, not just
addresses," so here goes. I am just reporting what little I have
picked up in passing: Alan and Edna Baer spend six months of
the year in Hawaii, Luke Baer practices law, Mike and Shirley
Brandes work with developmentally disabled adults, Miriam
Baer is a nurse and manages some sort of rowing team, Naomi
Baer is a math teacher, Ruth Baer is working with cross-cultural
groups, Hildegarde Neuman is off to Paraguay to visit Dr. Cyril
Davies, Chrissie Bernard owns and operates a leather clothing
store in San Francisco, Jim Bernard has a long flowing beard in
Hawaii, Ricia Bernard is visiting friends in the USA and
Canada before returning to her home in Costa Rica. Thanks for
the delicious coffee, Ricia! Duffy and Susie Black operate a
plant nursery, Jere Bruner is a professor at Oberlin, Katerina
"Traindel" Kleiner Bruner's 14-year-old girl is starting boarding
school, Gillian Burleson is looking for a job, Albert D'hoedt
passed away this August, and Constancia would, I am sure,
appreciate a note. Dieter Arnold has a marketing-consulting
job, the Dunlops just celebrated their 50th anniversary and.
although retired from Gould Farm, are still involved, the
Elstons are moving into a brand-new house, Miriam Arnold
has two boys and works as a prison psychologist, Heidi
Strickland just started working at the same prison as a therapist,
and has three daughters, Vince Lagano has been working as a
medical librarian at Kaiser hospital, Lee Kliess has been taking
care of her two little grandchildren (3 and 5?) and getting ready
to teach classes this fall. Very busy! Josh Maendel is in the
building trades, Dave Ostrom jr. went to Central America on
his medical equipment business, August and Nadine Pleil have
enjoyed visits from Joergen and other family, Luke Staengl is
living in a very gemutlich neighborhood in the Blue Ridge
mountains, and Renatus Kluver has been visiting Ebo Trumpi.
There! Not bad for not having TRIED to collect recent news
when I was on the telephone, eh?
----------September 1989 1989 Vol. I #2-------
Dear ex-b'hofers: This continues an ongoing attempt
to create a network of those of us who experienced the life
within the Bruderhof. For me it has been very rewarding to
connect with so many of you, and feel the closeness we share
even if we never met face-to-face. My search for classmates or
others in my daughter Xavie's age group is gradually paying off,
although I am still eagerly searching for more names of people
her age -- she would have been 33 this year. Also I have
received Nadine Pleil's handwritten life story which tells of
how she came to the Oaksey bruderhof during World War II as
a nine-year-old, and went to Paraguay with the second boatload.
She promises to keep working on it, and a friend is typing it
into a word processor. It is stories like hers that make me feel
there is another book in the many amazing tales I am hearing.
Perhaps, as we continue with this newsletter, it will become a
way for others of you to share your experiences. Please
remember to write to me with any current addresses or contacts
or corrections you might have. It's been wonderful talking
with you all!
Addresses or 'In' or 'Out' info needed for: Charlie
Masterson, Wendy Rimes, Alan Stevenson & children, Steve
Button (at chiropracter's school Chicago), Miriam Button Long
Island, Harold Goree, Jonathan Clement, Michael Gneiting,
Pedro Gneiting, Alfredo Gneiting, a son of Claude & Billie
Nelson in Washington State, Dick Wareham, Scott Wareham,
Doris Greaves, Ruth Dodd, Mary Worth, Jack Melancon, Joel
Clement, Joy Jones (Ft Langley BC), Jack Warren, Esther Tabor,
Dave Noble, Elizabeth Johnson, Andrew Szilard, Anne Gale
and Hans Wiehler, the Trembley family, the Dietsch family,
Mike & Linda Cahoon, the Horning family, Matthew
McAdams, Tim McAdams, Marlene Wegner Gelman, Hans
Wegner, Gisela Wegner Anderson, Margot Wegner, David &
Rae Whitehead, Alan & Sue Wiser, Charlie Jory, Walter
Bennett, Walter Illingworth, George (Eddie) Halliwell, Edmund
Cocksedge, The Welhams.
NEWS: Belinda Manley writes: "Many of us in
England keep in constant and close touch with one another.
My main contacts are with Buddug Evans (now 86 years old).
She is lovingly supported by Killian and Lorna Zumpe who
live nearby. Also by the whole Holland family and others who
love Gwynn here. Dr. Margaret Stern Hawkins (now in the
British Home for Incurables) with both cancer and Parkinson's
Disease to struggle with. We also keep in close touch. Also,
especially, with Stephen & Anne Marchant and their four
children come over once or twice a year to stay with me, Also
Carol (Beels) and Mike Beck come, and Michael Rimes Caine
and Norah Caine. Nigel & Leonice Rimes and daughters Sheila
(14) and Jeannie (11) came from Brazil to live some months
with me after a disastrous flood some 4 1/2 years ago. They are
back in Brazil now. Christine & Jorg Mathis live in North
Wales and have adopted 3 Brazilian children (5, 2 & 2) All are
writing to me. My 80th birthday party last December gathered a
number of us together. I live a full and happy life & rejoined
the Church of Engand after 'wandering in the wilderness' for 20
years or so. I work especially for the homeless and in
counselling, and have just been given a "Diploma in Theology"
after a 3-year course. My book 'No Laughing Matter'
(autobiographical) is going the rounds of possible publishers.
Also, my children's book, 'Theodore Theophilous: A Cathedral
Mouse!!' I have rung John Arnold, and he was delighted to
hear of Dieter, and will contact you and Dieter."
Arthur & Mildred Lord write: "Two of our daughters are
married with 2 children each whilst Esther resides at a
community village nearby. Anthony is settled in Germany. In
June we spent a month with the Hazeltons in Massachusetts."
Helga Pleil Chapman gave birth to Sarah Antoinette on
September 15 at 9:34 am. A lovely baby weighing 6 lbs, 15 oz,
with lots of dark hair and blue eyes. Welcome, Sarah!! Leonard
Pavitt offers to distribute the newsletter to addresses in England
and Europe, thus saving me considerable postage. Thank you,
Leonard! Joyce Atkinson writes "I graduated from Christ for
the Nations Institute in Dallas, Texas. Since that time, I've
lived in the Buffalo area working for a small electronics
company." Dave Mathis works for a pharmaceutical company
in quality control. Paul Sayvetz is working as a carpenter and
running for the Ithaca City Council; Kathleen Marchant writes
that Will died five years ago at age 83: "For many years he had
been working with 'Amnesty International' writing many
letters to Heads of State, etc. asking for their support and
intervention for the release of non-violent prisoners." Ebo
Trumpi: "Thank you for your effort to get things organized.
My wife Annaliese is teaching 2nd Grade at the local school.
We have two daughters, Elisa age 18, and Gloria age 11 1/2. I
am working for Miron Millwork Corp. for 18 years now.
Timothy Johnson writes: "My professional career has been
primarily in public health and particularly population planning
with several years work in various Asian countries interspersed
with my doctoral and subsequent teaching and research career
at the University of Michigan. Since joining the Federal Center
for Disease Control in Atlanta six years ago, I've concentrated
more on programs and projects in Africa. Carol, my wife of
twenty years, works for the Carter Presidential Center which
focuses largely on international health and development,
human rights and diplomacy." Jon Greenwood: "My wife
Linda and I own a dairy farm near the Canadian border. We
milk 175 cows, and have three children -- Clara, Ben and Ted,
ages 8, 6 and 4."
About myself (Ramon): I'm busy giving readings from my
book "A Death In Zamora," published last June by The
University of New Mexico Press. It reconstructs my mother
Amparo's life in Spain, and in the process of course tells much
about my earliest years. I'm a contributing editor for the Whole
Earth Catalog and Review, do freelance editing and otherwise
devote myself to writing full time. My wife Judith has been a
teacher/counselor with the San Francisco public schools for 20
years, and also has been writing follow-up studies of many of
her Central American refugee kids. Her brother Jeff Levy is
running for the school board in St. Paul, her home town.
Gwynn's wife Buddug Evans is living by herself and would
appreciate a card, I am sure. I included her address above.
Roger Allain: "I retired from teaching in 1975, and am
still working hard, farming on a small 9-acre farm and giving
private language lessons at home. We have a large family, and
our now grown-up children are mostly living in Brazil, one in
England and one in Malaysia. Norah and I have made several
trips to Europe and contacted most old friends there since
leaving. Enough for the day is the news thereof!"
Leonard Pavitt writes: Since reading the 'Round
Robin' and seeing the list of names, I realize that as one who
left in 1959 before the "Exodus' that I have never known just
how many left then or since. But I sat down and, partly from
the list and partly from memory, counted up to 71 ex-members
who I know for sure spent a minimum of 20 years as full
members of the Bruderhof. Quite a few of them actually spent
several years more than that, and I have not counted the many
full members who had been with us for less than 20 years
simply because I had no way of knowing how long the various
folk had been members. This means that those who were
either expelled or left, disillusioned, have together put well
over 1500 years of work into helping to build the Bruderhof
communities. When the Bruderhof write their history, what
mention will they make of these 1500 or more years? Will we
rate a chapter headed perhaps "The Bruderhof's 1500-Year
Debt?" I rather doubt it. I feel that sometime, out of simple
justice, it whould be put down in black and white, not only just
how big the 'Exodus' was, but also how big the contribution to
the building-up of the Bruderhof communities was, from those
who were put out. They also gave their all -- homes and
money, the company of much love family and friends. They
also, to paraphrase the words of a dear friend's poem, "Worked
'til the hot sweat poured down their faces." They also "did not
fear that the sun would beat them down." And what's more,
after all those years, they had the courage to start their lives all
over again, from nothing, 20 years older, no job references, and
many with children to support. They don't deserve to be just
scattered to the four winds, and their sacrifices and courage
Ramon: Here is my reply to a recent letter from a
B'hofer child living 'outside' but with family at Woodcrest who
was critical of the first newsletter. I include it because I think
the issues discussed will be coming up frequently: "I received
your letter, and of course will comply with your wishes not to
be listed or on the mailing list. I'm surprised that you found
the opening paragraph of the newsletter 'very negative.' I
reread it just now to see if I could spot what it was that bothered
you. Frankly I couldn't. As you well know, many persons have
been expelled from the bruderhof over the years and found
their departures very traumatic and themselves very isolated.
It seems a good thing to create a support network for those
leaving of others who have already made their peace with their
community experiences and found their way on the outside.
And why shouldn't people who lived together so closely for so
many years not continue to share in each others' lives? I think,
as do most others on the mailing list, that the bruderhof's
attempt to kept ex-hofers from getting together is absurd. It can
only stem from a kind of paranoia which implies that they
have something to hide, certainly not a proper attitude for a
group that tries to set an example of brotherly openness and
"As for your criticism of the "News" portion as
gossipy,"News" by nature is "gossipy," but the word 'gossip'
itself comes, I am told by Barnabas Johnson, from the old
English 'god-sib' which meant a god-brother or sister privileged
to speak about you behind your back. I don't have any trouble
with this, and actually have some serious questions about the
bruderhof strictures on this point, because it means that any
leadership criticism can only come from single individuals
facing the combined weight of the membership, something
which usually requires more courage than the average person
can muster. I lived for some years with communal groups
where everybody talked about everybody all the time, down to
the most intimate details, and it was a very healthy, and at
times healing experience...
"I don't see the common denominator of the ex-b'hofer
network as 'antipathy' to the community. Of course there are
some deeply damaged by the unloving acts of the brotherhood.
And in some cases the brotherhood has asked forgiveness and
received it. Others have managed to keep the good memories
and forget the bad, and have gone on with their lives. But I
certainly have no interest in establishing a 'hate group,' but
rather a way for those of us who left to continue sharing in each
others' lives. This of course involves friendly human
intercourse, news about what we're doing, who is where, and so
on, but I don't see anything implicitly wrong or evil in this. I
find in your criticism, sadly, the overly judgmental severity
typical of the '60s bruderhof mentality."
COMMENT: I do sincerely hope that the new Bruderhof
openness I keep hearing about -- their willingness to see where
they were overly judgmental in the past -- is correct. Then we
can all look forward to a time when ex-b'hofers are warmly
welcomed on visits, without the need to challenge them to
rejoin. As I learned from visiting my sister's Episcopal
convent, the spiritual maturity of a religious community can be
measured by the width and sincerity of the smiles with which
visiting ex-members are welcomed.
----------October 1989 1989 Vol. I #3----------
Dear ex-b'hofers: Hello again! Here's your monthly dose of
Bruderhof updates, news, gossip -- Yes, GOSSIP! Nothing like
that wonderful 'forbidden pleasure' feeling you get when you
unfold these pages, am I right? Seriously though, newsletter
Number Two went out to 120 addresses, and of course the one
to Leonard Pavitt gets passed on to an estimated 50 more in
England and Europe. Roger Allain sent me his list, which
includes 20 or so in South America, so hopefully the contact is
spreading. Perhaps we will hit 200 by the time this one is ready
to be mailed! I had thought to wait a month before mailing #3,
but with the publication of the revisionist Torches Rekindled
and a recent letter I received from Woodcrest indicating a
certain willingness to 'set things straight' I felt it was important
this third letter get sent quickly. Please pay special attention to
the "A Call to the Hutterian Society of Brothers to Demonstrate
Their Change of Heart" and mail me back the enclosed self-
addressed postcard with whatever editorial advice you have.
Thank you so much for all the letters, telephone calls and
NEWS: Tom Sayvetz,.a doctor in Virginia,
writes: "My wife Halldis and I are avid horsebreeders. We raise
Great Danes and horses. Holly manages the farm." Tamara
Loewenthal: "I got the newsletter today, and it struck me: this is
just what we needed, to be touch with each other. How many
times have we told others about our lives at the community
and they say, 'How fascinating!' or 'How different!' For years
after I left, I longed to talk to others who had those same
childhood experiences... When I read that Miriam Holmes and
Rachel Burger are having a singing party, I got very nostalgic.
I'd love to attend, but since it's too far, I wouldn't mind if
someone in the Indiana, Ohio, or Illinois area would like to do
the same things. I'm definitely game. I left New Meadow Run
during college, got my degree in psychology, and moved to
Bloomington because I'd heard they played Old-time music and
danced here. It was the truth. I am a dancer in a step-dance
troupe called 'Rhythm In Shoes.' We do American clogging,
tap, English clogging and sword dances. If we can make sound
with our shoes, we do it. We tour professionally; next year we
go to Japan. I have two children, Ewan, 7, and Serena, 2. Both
are healthy and bright. Sometimes when I think of the courage
it takes to leave the community, it's clear to me that being an
individual, being assertive for one's own needs, is discouraged
at the Bruderhof. A support network, such as this promises to
be, may really be a great thing for all of us."
Ramon Sender: The Bruderhof's publication of
Torches Rekindled provides an excellent opportunity
for all of us to comment and discuss some of the issues
mentioned. The book describes Heini Arnold as The Suffering
Servant who never meant to deal harshly with anyone, but just
was not at Primavera for the mass exclusions. Hans Zumpe of
course is presented as the arch-fiend, conveniently not around
to defend himself. Also, it does a great disservice to the
memory Gwynn Evans, because it quotes in toto a letter
of repentance which he later retracted in a second letter,
claiming that the first was written under much emotional
duress. The book calls out for some sort of published rebuttal,
and may give the impetus needed to collect the stories of many
of the Bruderhof 'wanderers' into a second volume. Until such
a project becomes a reality, I will be glad to make this newsletter
available as a forum for critiques of and amendments to the
One sentence that especially stuck in my mind from the
time when Primavera was sold for a quarter of a million
dollars: "The receipt of money from the sale covered travel and
many other expenses and helped us send as much as we could
to our people who were away." I would be interested to know
how many members excluded at that time received any
financial help from the community. As far as I know, the
Bruderhof's attitude towards excluded members has always
been "sink or swim." Occasionally I have heard of the first
month's rent being paid on an apartment, but at least in the
USA the advice to an excluded family was "go apply for Welfare
(aid to needy mothers and children)." I bring this up not in a
muckraking spirit, but out of a feeling that the Bruderhof may
not be facing up to something very wrong in the way they
practiced church discipline.
Recently I received a letter from Tom Potts at Woodcrest
which stated: "We are sorry if Sibyl and Xavie's life in the
them off from you and your extended family. It has
to many of us and in many ways it is inevitable and even
That does not mean, however, that it has to be done in a
manner, and I apologize for the Brotherhood if we were
"Our need is to learn from any of those who left because of
wrong behavior so that we do not repeat our failures. If
across any specific instances, we'd thank you to tell us so
can make any amends possible at this late date."
I replied (in part): "I note your personal sorrow about the
way the Bruderhof cut me off from Sibyl and our daughter
Xavie. I would point out there is a distinct difference between
Sibyl's deciding she no longer wanted any contact with me, and
the Brotherhood's ongoing refusal throughout Xavie's
childhood to allow me any contact with her. Therefore,
regretfully, I can not accept the Brotherhood's apology for a
lifetime of separation from my daughter. It is too facile for the
Brotherhood in 1989 to put on a long face and say, "Oh, we're so
sorry now if we were harsh and unfeeling then." In the
meantime, Xavie spent almost her whole life without a father,
and I without the daughter I loved dearly. Perhaps, once I
receive some sort of convincing proof of the sincerity of your
request, I will somehow be given the strength to forgive you.
But it is not up to me to forgive your forcing Xavie to grow up
without a father, which caused her such deep, deep pain. Only
God and your conscience can do that.
Also, you have not yet spoken to the fact that I was never
informed of Xavie's marriage, nor of the birth of my
grandchildren, and only told of Xavie's death one month after
it had occurred.
Torches Rekindled raises Heini to near-sainthood.
Again and again he is skillfully shielded from having to take
any responsibility for the wrongs that were done. But whether
or not he was physically present for the major purge weeks at
Primavera, he was the driving force behind the overzealous
American team and must bear the major responsibility for what
occurred. Also, the publishing of Gwynn's 'repentance' letter
without ANY MENTION of the retraction he sent later
(claiming the first one was written under emotional duress), is
very, very unfair to Gwynn's memory and to Buddug. It only
proves the sad human truth that 'the victor always rewrites
history to show himself in the best possible light.'
"The word 'bitter' is bandied about much too much in
regard to ex-members. It is an easy way to pigeonhole and then
shrug off their valid resentment for the way they were
mistreated Many of them feel righteous anger for the manner
in which they were thrown out, for the many years they gave of
their lives to building up the Bruderhof (under near-starvation
conditions in Paraguay), only to be effectively abandoned."
From a Mennonite Reporter Editorial, July 10,
1989: The Hutterite battle currently being fought in a Winnipeg
courtroom is exposing the shocking secrets of a closed religious
community... The case raises many uncomfortable questions.
Are we seeing the inevitable results of a community which has
for centuries considered itself accountable only to God? Is this
what happens when a religious group becomes wealthy? Is true
communal living possible for more than one generation? One
of the most disturbing elements is the assumption that a few
male leaders have absolute authority to rule a group founded
on radical egalitarian principles. Our history has many
examples of how isolated Anabaptist groups quickly succumbed
to autocratic leadership. We could chalk this up to human
failure, but I suspect the tendency lies within the nature of
community itself. It is precisely the virtues of community
(equality, consent, submersion of individuality in the greater
good) that are its dangers and make it so susceptible to tyranny.
This susceptibility is aided by our theology of submission and
service which easily translates into passivity... One thing is
clear: this case is a deadly threat against the communal life of
the Hutterite church. The Hutterite community may never be
the same again.
Loy McWhirter: My family was one of the many who
were left to "sink or swim" after leaving. Mostly we sank, and I
don't know if I will ever come to forgive the Bruderhof for
their part in the destruction of my parents and siblings... The
Bruderhof powers-that-be purposely destroyed my father's
emotional well-being before we left and he never recovered.
He is dead now, so no amends can be made... but I am slowly
coming back to life and I am very angry. I know that what they
did was a most obscene form of bloodless torture. It was done
in the name of God and Jesus to the children who did not
choose the life, as well as to those who did 'choose,' if one can
call mind control a matter of choice (emotional and spiritual
Ramon: I have been reading John Bradshaw's two
books, Bradshaw On: The Family and Healing The
Shame That Binds You. His lecture series has been
appearing occasionally on educational TV over the past years.
Somehow I was always 'put off' by his manner, but I have
found his books very helpful indeed. I would recommend
them enthusiastically to anyone here. Each is available from
Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. 1988 for
$11.20 each postpaid. Just a few quotes:
(Healing the Shame:) "Our healthy shame is
essential as the ground of our spirituality. By signaling
us of our essential limitations, our healthy shame
lets us know that we are not God. Our healthy shame
points us in the direction of some larger meaning.
It lets us know that there is something or someone
greater than ourselves. Our healthy shame is the
psychological ground of our humility... Toxic shame
gives you a sense of worthlessness, a sense of failing
and falling short as a human being. Toxic shame is a
rupture of the self with the self. It is like internal
bleeding. Toxic shame is so excruciating because it
is the painful exposure of the believed failure of self
to the self. In toxic shame the self becomes an object of
its own contempt... Toxic shame is experienced as an
inner torment, a sickness of the soul... Toxic shame is
the feeling of being isolated and alone in a complete sense.
A shame-based person is haunted by a sense of absence
and emptiness. Toxic shame... is easily confused with
"One of the most insidious and toxically shaming
distortions of many religions is the denial of secondary
causality. What this means is that according to some
church doctrines, the human will is inept. There is
NOTHING man can do that is of any validity. Of himself,
man is a worm. Only when God works through him does
man become restored to dignity. But it is never anything
that man does himself. The theology here is abortive of
any true doctrine of Judeo/Christianity. Most main-line
interpretations see man as having secondary causality...
Man's will is effective. In order to receive grace, man
must be willing to accept the gift of faith. After acceptance,
man's will plays a major role in the sanctification process.
The abortive interpretation sees man as totally flawed and
defective. Of himself, he can only sin. Man is shame-based
to the core."
Page 88 : "A third layer of protection against the felt sense
of toxic shame is acting "shameless." This is a common
pattern for shamebased parents, teachers, preachers of
righteousness and politicians. Acting shameless embodies
several behaviors which serve to alter the feeling of shame
and to interpersonally transfer one's toxic shame to another
person... These behaviors are all strategies of defense against
the pain of toxic shame. They are mood-altering and become
addictive. These behaviors include perfectionism, judgmental-
ness and moralizing, contempt, patronization, caretaking and
helping, envy, people-pleasing and being nice. Each behavior
focuses on another person and takes the heat off oneself.
Perfectionism always creates a superhuman measure by
which one is compared. And no matter how hard one tries, or
how well one does, one never measures up."
Bradshaw also quotes Alice Miller's Poisonous
Pedagogy rules, from which we have all suffered to a
greater or lesser extent:
1. Adults are the masters of the dependent child. 2.
They determine in godlike fashion what is right and what is
wrong. 3. The child is held responsible for the parents'
anger. 4. The parents must always be shielded. 5.
The child's life-affirming feelings pose a threat to the autocratic
adult. 6. The child's will must be "broken" as soon as
possible. 7. All this must happen at a very early age so that
the child "Won't notice" and will therefore not be able to
expose the adult.
Such beliefs about the parents' absolute power stem from
the time of monarchs and kings. They are pre-democratic...
They presuppose a world of eternal laws... The poisonous
pedagogy justifies abusive methods for suppressing children's
vital spontaneity: physical beatings, lying, duplicity,
manipulation, scare tactics, withdrawal of love, isolation and
coercion to the point of torture. All of these methods are
Another aspect of (Alice Miller's) 'poisonous pedagogy' is
to impart to the child from the beginning false information and
beliefs that are not only unproven, but in some cases,
demonstrably false. These are beliefs passed on from generation
to generation ('sins of the fathers'). Again I refer to Miller who
cites examples of such beliefs: 1. A feeling of duty
produces love 2. Hatred can be done away with by
forbidding it. 3. Parents deserve respect because they are
parents. 4. Children are undeserving of respect simply
because they are children. 5. Obedience makes a child
strong. 6. A high degree of self-esteem is harmful. 7.
A low degree of self-esteem makes a person altruistic. 8.
Tenderness (doting) is harmful. 9. Responding to a child's
needs is wrong. 10. Severity and coldness towards a child
gives him a good preparation for life. 11. A pretense of
gratitude is better than honest ingratitude. 12. The way
you behave is more important than the way you really are.
13. Neither parents nor God would survive being
offended. 14. The body is something dirty and disgusting.
15. Strong feelings are harmful. 16. Parents are
creatures free of drives and guilt. 17. Parents are always
----------December 1989 1989 Vol. I #5--------
Dave Ostrom: Having read Torches
Rekindled twice, cover to cover, I am divided in opinion
and emotions. As a story related by one of the participants from
his point of view, it is believable. No doubt many readers will
find it fascinating and sometimes moving, as it was intended to
be. But as a participant myself in the major period Merrill
writes about, 1955-1960, I am confused by his narration, angered
by the glib glossing over of many pertinent facts, and amazed at
the audacity shown in the biased presentation of a period that
left some people dead and many others in a state of mental
disfunction. The entire tone of the book is a sort of shuffling,
"Gee-shucks, folks, we have made some little mistakes here and
there and we are really sorry. It was no big thing, and nobody
got hurt, and gee-golly, we sure had some fun times along with
the bad..." But I challenge the fact that there has been a change...
because of an experience I had in 1984: My family and I were on
vacation touring the East Coast where I took them to where I
had lived. At New Meadow Run, while parked on a public
road in front of NMR, a vanload of members pulled up and the
driver informed me that if I didn't leave, they would call the
authorities and have me removed (from a public place!). At
Woodcrest, again, we were parked on a public road, taking
photos of the covered bridge there, and a car with members
pulled up and informed me that "If I didn't get the hell out of
there they would call the authorities and have us removed."
(again, from a public road). In contrast to this attitude,a few
days later we visited Forest River colony. While I was not
received and did not expect the same reception as a brother
would, the reception I did receive still cause tears of joy for me.
Joe, Ben and many others there received us warmly and with
respect and true caring. At Forest River I was met with an
attitude that demonstrated why my parents had given up
everything and joined. At New Meadow Run and Woodcrest I
was met with an attitude similar to the one that caused me to
enlist in the Air Force as a young man, and which is why I
continue to have many strong, angry feelings towards the
Society of Brothers.
Ramon: In a recent letter from someone at
Woodcrest, I was informed that anyone who quits the Society of
Brothers will "still be treated as human and be loved and
prayed for. And he will not be under church discipline.
Church discipline is voluntary and MUST BE ASKED FOR."
I think this is an important point, because many of us are
still receiving letters that are accusatory and challenging. I find
it helpful to gently remind that person that I have said "I quit"
and have not asked for church discipline to be applied.
--------------Thoughts to ponder-------------
From Bradshaw's Audiotape on 'Religious
The psychology of (religious) totalism is based on absolute
control of the people under you. Anybody who stands up and
says one thing different -- look out! If you stand up and suggest
another nuance to the doctrine, look out! Another thing that
happens with these systems is that they're literally spying
systems. There's a lot of ratting on each other. There really is!
People tell on each other all the time... Conform! Be obedient!
And boy, if you say one thing different! There's this passage in
Luke where Jesus is talking to the rabbis at his Bar Mitzvah, and
he's laying those theologians on their ear! He's asking them all
these embarrassing questions. You don't ask those questions.
"Why aren't there any Blacks in this church?" "Oooohhhh!
Get that kid outtahere!" "We don't say that here! Shhh!" With
every closed religious system, there's s No-Talk Rule. We don't
ask why. We don't ask those questions. And if you do, you're
going to be in big trouble. Either the minister will get you or if
the minister doesn't get you your grandma will get you, or your
saintly aunt will get you or someone else in the system will get
you. "Oooooh!" The No-Talk rule is the most common one
that exists in certain closed religious structures.
Miriam Arnold Holmes writes: It's amazingly easy for
us SOB graduates to relate to prisoners. After all, we grew up in
a total institution also, and can easily relate to people who have
hardly any control over their lives. I always tell the inmates
who moan and groan about being in prison that they are lucky
that they can think whatever they please. We couldn't even do
that. These poor souls who are almost all the product of severe
child abuse are very grateful for any little bit of warmth that
comes their away. So the work is rewarding.
Loy McWhirter: I feel that we have to tell the truth of
our stories to stop the (mind control) machines. Ours was/is
very insidious because it (HSOB) looks so good to outsiders --
such a shining example, and with many of the ideals any
'conscious person' should aspire to.
People who do you wrong at random is painful.
People systematically destroying your self in the name of some
ideology, whatever it may be -- Christian, satanic, militaristic,
whatever, is survivable only if you capitulate and lose yourself,
or disassociate -- 'break.' When you are a child subjected to
ritualized/systematized destruction of the self, you have no
self-protection to fall back on, or no memory strong enough of
who you were to sustain you. You have to break or die,
physically, emotionally, mentally and/or spiritually.
Ramon Sender: (responding to a letter from Duffy &
Susie Black) Sometimes, dear Duffy, I wonder if we're talking
about the same Bruderhof. You talk about your "gratefulness
for the experience during the years we lived together." And
Susie of the 'riches' she felt she received. And you really
swallowed the Torches Rekindled apologia for Heini? I'm
sorry, but I can't go along with that. I agree that Heini had a lot
of charisma, but unfortunately he used it to serve his own ends.
It seems to me as if you have woven a web of sweetness and
light around your memories and are not really facing some of
the starker truths about the closed religious system which the
Bruderhof promulgates. Also I am surprised that you found
the December issue disturbing, because I thought it was more
'balanced' than previous issues. One of the reasons for the
creation of a newsletter staff was to bring a wider editorial point
of view and I thought with their kind advice we had done a
better job of not being so confrontational.
You say that you feel bitterness in some of the newsletter's
correspondence. Just what IS bitterness, anyway? I think of it as
anger which has not been expressed but held inside where it
becomes a kind of smoldering resentment and also wreaks
havoc with the health of the person. Anger can only be
unfrozen by giving vent to it and expressing it. Groups such as
the 12-Step Adult Children of Alcoholics provide supportive
environments where this sort of healing can take place. I hope
that the KIT newsletter can provide a similar supportive
environment, and now that it is being read and responded to by
the communities, perhaps also a place where communication
can be opened up between the Bruderhof and the mistreated
person. In the case of Dave Ostrom, I think the newsletter has
provided an important service, because he is now in active
correspondence with Christoph. Much of Dave's anger -- and
even the lawsuit itself -- arose from the fact that no one at the
Society of Brothers answered any of his or Marty's letters in the
This letters thing (Christoph claims he can find no one
who saw any of Dave's early letters) has brought up the whole
interesting question of mail censorship within the
communities. Perhaps you could throw some light on this
matter of whether letters always reached the person to whom
they were addressed?
I agree with you that the first place to lodge a complaint is
with the Bruderhof itself. But in many cases, the only response
to an attempt to open up communication was the 'silent
treatment,' no response, nothing, except for an occasional death
notice. So I feel it's good to provide an alternative, a place
where people who have been mistreated by the HSOB can not
only renew friendships and keep in touch, but also compare
notes on how they were mistreated and cry on each other's
shoulders whenever necessary. What's wrong with that?
What's even wrong with screaming and yelling because of the
years of accumulated pain and frustration? All the Bruderhof
did for me since the time I was asked to leave was to
consistently refuse me any contact with Xavie throughout her
childhood and act as if I was a leper with spiritual bad breath
and a body odor problem. I feel no 'burden of personal guilt' as
Kathy Mow called it in a challenging letter recently, because
whatever guilt I may once have felt I realized came from the
Bruderhof's own self-righteous, mean-spirited, legalistic and
shaming attitude towards me. I am endlessly grateful for God's
overwhelming love and forgiveness, which has been the ocean
of delight in which I have surfed throughout the past thirty
years of my life.
I don't want to get into all my personal ins and outs in a
letter to you, but suffice it to say that, after two rather lengthy
replies from Tom Potts, I am still waiting to hear something
like a recognition on the part of the HSOB that they wounded
Xavie deeply by not allowing her access to her father during her
growing up. Also I am still waiting to hear these concerns
1) I received no notice of her engagement and marriage.
2) I received no announcements of the births of my
3) I did not receive word of her terminal illness until a
month after her death.
When Tom asked me why I was writing the book, I
"Of course I am writing it to heal myself of the many years
of a father's anguish. I hope that other fathers who have been
cut off from their children by divorce or separation will find
solace in what I write. I also hope that it will console parents
whose children have joined splinter sects or cults, and perhaps
even give some good advice. I care very little about my
'reputation' or 'making money,' as anyone who knows me can
testify. Books of the sort I write barely break even financially.
The most compelling reason, above all others, is that I hope the
book will encourage the brotherhood to change into a more
humanistic, compassionate organization for the sake of my two
grandchildren who are growing up there. And for the sake of
those many, many other Bruderhof graduates who have
relatives within the communities. I also relive the story of two
young, romantic idealists whose emotional immaturity ruined
their marriage. I hope this particular part of the story will help
other young people who want to drop everything, their
education, their families, for the sake of an overwhelming
romance. If I worried about the market for my books, I would
not be the sort of writer -- or person -- I am."
I hope the tone of this letter is not too testy, Duffy. But I
feel I should emphasize that I don't think you're really seeing
the situation as it is. There are many, many very badly
mistreated ex-members and children around. Their voices
have not been heard by the communities except on a very
selective basis. It's time they were listened to, at least by others
who share their pain.
Best Wishes to you and Susie and your family for the
--------------From The Archives--------------
Some young adults seem to be unfamiliar with the
background of The Great Crisis except from the HSOB's point of
view. The KIT Newsletter archives contain some letters from
previous years which may help shed some light. The
following, dated, December 1972, from Roger Allain to the
Brotherhoods, could just as well have been written in answer to
You are indignant over the cruel treatment dealt to Heini,
Hardi, Hans-Hermann and a few others during their
exclusions... But why do you interpret it as almost exclusively
directed against the Arnolds? Don't you know that dozens of
other brothers and sisters were treated just as cruelly by all of us
while (they were) excluded in Primavera, Asuncion or other
And what of the cold, careless treatment of many
unbaptized, undecided youths whom we sent away to Asuncion
at an immature age without any help? What of the cruel, often
brutal, treatment of children whom we excluded for months
from school and family for some minor sexual misdemeanor?.
Don't we all share in this collective guilt? Why do you, Heini,
fail to confess the cruel way you, particularly, treated many
children when you were a Hortner and later a Servant in Ibate?
Do you know that several of them, now adults, say you are the
brother they feared the most?
One thing your letters, and our talk in Darvell six months
ago, did for me was to help me understand much better why
and how so many people were thrown out of the community 10
to 12 years ago. The chief reason was your obsession with the
"Arnold Question," ...that you were appalled by the 'hatred'
against the Arnolds and you wanted to find its cause. But you
ascribed it superficially to the presumptive envy of a few
individuals, and you failed to see that right through its history,
the Bruderhof has been swayed by an ambivalent set of complex
and confused feelings towards the Arnolds: love and
gratefulness for their faith and courage in starting the
community, but also vexation over the frequently and
variously recurring expressions of their patriarchalism,
nepotism, pride, prepotency and privileges. The term 'royal
family' offended your ears, but you failed to investigate the
deeper reason for its use.
Speaking of Primavera, where most of my community
experience was, I think its collapse was due to many causes of
which the Arnold question was only one. Other reasons were
that we had become afraid of the voice of our own conscience,
and often acquiesced in Brotherhood decisions without any
personal conviction for or against; we had grown callous to one
another, particularly when a brother or sister was 'down' in
exclusion; we had become cold and puritanical in dealing with
our children; we had become cold and indifferent to the
sufferings of our fellow-men (contemptuous of 'social work,'
closing down the Primavera hospital); we had become experts
in, and victims of, Orwellian double-think with others and
with ourselves; we had become artful and opportunistic with
the outside world in our dealings with wage-workers,
businessmen, state officials; we had become proud and
convinced of our superiority over other movements (while
professing our own unworthiness) or afraid of being
contaminated by them (e.g. work camps with 'world churches');
above all, we had been sinking deeper and deeper into a morass
of frenzied clearances and collective introspection. These are
not personal accusations against you who have written; I fully
include myself in the responsibility for it all.
Dear people, even if your letters contained more personal
recognitions and fewer attacks against others, they are coming
too late for me, and probably for many others like me, who
have managed to find a new foothold in life and have assumed
new responsibilities. And they are too late to reach those of us
who have departed from this life -- some of them out of a
broken heart (I personally know of two members who
committed suicide as a result of being rejected by the Bruderhof:
Felipe Baderssich in Uruguay in '61 or '62, and Nicko in Berlin
in '62 or '63.) However well-intentioned your letters may be, I
fear they will only exacerbate the differences which separate
many ex-Bruderhofers from your group, instead of leading to
the reconciliation you want...
...Your appeal to our baptismal vows... is to me an idle and
fallacious one. You yourselves ("the five of us from the States:
Heini, Doug, Merrill, Gert and I," to quote from Art's letter)
dissolved the old bonds and proceeded to form a new
brotherhood. You sent people away, often against their will,
under the pretext that they had entered the 'church' through
the wrong door (and you published this pretext in the Press).
To those few who, like Norah and myself, left in protest, you
said yes, it was better that we went, and you wasted not one
word about our baptismal vows.
In any case, your group (now) is different from the one we
joined thirty years ago, although many members of it belonged
to the S.O.B. in Paraguay and in Europe, and you still use the
same name. You have left off being a revolutionary world
movement concerned with God and the whole world, and of
significance for it, to become engrossed with yourselves and
sectarian perfectionism. I remember those of you with whom I
lived in community for years with love and gratitude, I
sincerely wish you all well, but I have no further obligation
towards you, and you have no claim over me.
Note added in Nov, 1989: Having recently received and
read the totally one-sided, tendentious Bruderhof history in
Merrill Mow's Torches Rekindled," I was amazed that
although the book deals at length with the 1960 - 61 crisis, it says
next to nothing about the spate of letters that the communities
sent to their ex-members in November, '72, trying to explain,
apologize and at the same time accusing... The letters we
received were from Merrill, Heini, Burgel, Milton, Mark, Art,
Hans Meier, Georg, Hans, Ben, Heidi, Klaus, 93 (!) typed pages in
The following is the final draft of the 'Open Letter to
the Brotherhood' discussed in KIT' Round-Robin # 4. Copies
will be mailed to all five 'hofs signed by Ramon Sender.
However it should have as wide and as personal an intra-hof
distribution as possible. Therefore KIT readers are invited to
sign and photocopy the letter, and then mail it to as many
specific brotherhood members as you know and would like to
An Open Letter to the Brotherhood
(to be read to all at a brotherhood meeting):
Sincere good wishes for the New Year! May the 1990's
bring a new freedom of expression and openness of
communication between all Hutterian brothers and sisters and
those of us who now live in the wider community.
In a recent letter, Tom Potts stated: "Our need is to learn
from any of those who left because of our wrong behavior so
that we do not repeat our failures. If you run across any specific
instances, we would thank you to tell us that we can make any
amends possible at this late date."
It encourages us to read that the brotherhood now
acknowledges some guilt for their previous judgmental and
unloving behavior. Of course in certain instances a time lag of
many years has occurred, and younger members cannot be held
accountable for the betrayal of trust that happened then.
Nevertheless, we still feel that we should ask the full
brotherhood: "What specific acts are you willing to perform
now in order to undo some of the pain which the Society of
Brothers has caused so many?"
We note that there are many elderly ex-members living in
poverty without access to Social Security (in the USA) because
the Bruderhof did not pay into the system. Also there are
parents with many children to support and educate. In some
instances they are also paying for psychiatric treatment as a
direct result of the emotional abuse the children suffered
during their time in the communities. Others suffer from
physical disabilities directly or indirectly caused by the heavy
labor required of them as Primavera teenagers, the poor diet or
other medical reasons, and do not have health insurance to
cover the cost of specialized treatment.
No doubt some of these needy individuals will refuse any
direct financial assistance from the communities out of their
own sense of self-esteem. As someone described it, "Anybody
who dared ask for money (from the community) was talked
about as if they were the scum of the earth." But there might be
a way to set up an assistance fund through some third party
whereby ex-members could apply for financial grants-in-aid.
Gould Farm might be a possible conduit, for example.
This is just one possible action which the brotherhoods
might consider. It is offered in good faith just as a suggestion of
a method by which you could prove your good intentions to
those who were mistreated and are now living in financial
The newsletter staff would also like to make two small
requests: there are those receiving the newsletter who are
afraid to list their names and addresses out of fear that their
visiting privileges to family members residing within the
communities will be revoked. Can the Society offer their
written promise guaranteeing that no type of reprisal or
retribution will be taken against any newsletter subscribers?
And a second newsletter staff request: now that the
newsletter is openly being shared both on and off the
communities, and many - even within the Bruderhofs - agree
that it is functioning as a ameliorative and healing influence,
would the Society of Brothers be willing to share with us the
names and addresses of all ex-members and 'sabra' children
living on the 'outside?' That way the newsletter could reach a
far wider group without our having to run up enormous
phone bills making the contacts, or waiting for the newsletter
over time to spread gradually further and further.
We hope that the brotherhood will continue to be open to
this dialog, and will understand that we are approaching them
in a listening, sympathetic manner rather than in a
confrontational or demanding one.
--------KIT February, 1990, Vol. II #2--------
Staughton & Alice Lynd: We are not among those
who feel wronged by the Hutterian Society of Brothers. In
saying this, we do not mean to distance ourselves from friends
who feel they were wronged. We only mean to say that this
was not our experience. Of course there were some particular
remarks and particular meetings that hurt us or made us angry
at the time. But anything of this kind is very much outweighed
by the following:
We were the only full members of the Macedonia
Cooperative Community who did not join the Bruderhof.
After we had left Woodcrest, the Bruderhof made the decision
to sell the Macedonia property. They took the trouble to seek us
out, and to give us the opportunity to purchase the place and
When Alice wished to return to Woodcrest in February,
1958, with a two-year-old child and also very pregnant, the
Bruderhof took her in and, more particularly, Hansuli and
Lizzie Boller took in our daughter Barbara and gave of their
wellbeing. Finally, when Alice asked to move toward the
Novitiate, and the Brothers saw that she could not move
forward, or indeed anywhere, without her husband, they
encouraged her to leave. They acted just in the opposite way a
spiritually imperialistic, greedy in the missionary sense, church
might have acted.
Our continuing concerns, which we have fully expressed
to friends at the Bruderhof, are these:
1. Reading Torches Rekindled has made us aware of
ways in which Macedonia and the Hutterian Society of Brothers
are fundamentally different, and we find ourselves wedded to
the Macedonian basis as much as ever. We had never seen so
clearly that the Bruderhof believes literally in rule by a king, in
an authoritarian rather than an egalitarian governance. We
don't believe that any human being is infallible, even if he may
be an Elder, a Vetter, a Servant of the Word, or a witness
brother entrusted with authority because of his great spiritual
receptivity. Nor do we believe that females are any less the
vessels of spiritual understanding than males. We believe that
human beings are endowed with a conscience, and that each of
us needs to use it, to keep his or her heart open and to be guided
by it. We need each other because none of us can see and hear
2. When we were at Woodcrest in 1957-'58, we expressed
the hope that the Bruderhof might start outposts in the city like
the Catholic Worker houses of hospitality. We are sad that the
physical properties at Macedonia and Primavera were given up.
Being at Macedonia would have given the community an
opportunity to be more in touch with the Southern civil rights
movement than proved to be possible, and continuing at
Primavera might have caused the community in one way or
another more fully to encounter the spirit of the Second
Vatican Council in its Latin American manifestation, liberation
theology. Next to Macedonia,.the Southern civil rights
movement and liberation theology have been the deepest
experiences of our lives. We think they may have been the
most important renewals of the religious spirit anywhere in the
world in the second half of the twentieth century.
With these two concerns in mind, we'd like to lay the
following before newsletter readers. May it not be that all of us-
-those who stayed at the Bruderhof and those who did not -- are
members of a larger community seeking to being about the
Kingdom of God on earth in the sense of a more just society?
We who left are perforce the "outposts." This is an
opportunity, and a responsibility, and may be valued more than
we imagine by those still on the 'hofs. The work of taking even
small steps toward a more just society is a task so much bigger
than us all that we can undertake it together, knowing that
nobody has all the answers.
Leonard Pavitt: From a letter to Margaret Loewen
Reimer, Associate Editor of The Mennonite Reporter: This
whole business with the Hutterites has made me wonder anew
what might have happened if Eberhard Arnold had simply
taken up contact with the Hutterites and learnt from them all
the useful and good things that they undoubtedly had to offer
regarding life in community, and remained in close contact
with them instead of attempting a so-called 'unity' with them
and taking on the useless encrustations that time had laid on
them. The Bruderhof could then have kept their integrity
intact by freely following what was clearly being shown to them
at that time, developing as it was given to them so to do.
Possibly also to the benefit of the Hutterite Church. Instead,
they have wandered through the years in ill-fitting Hutterite
clothing that keeps on causing discomfort and trips them up
from time to time...
Derek Wardle in his letter (to The Mennonite Reporter)
mentioned that the community is capable of renewal. I take it
he is alluding to the Bruderhof's renewal, circa 1960, born of
their desire for complete unity in the ranks, which
unfortunately entailed the loss of some forty percent of their
members who were 'asked to leave' at that time. Very many of
us follow the fortunes of various attempts at communal living
being made in our times. It will be a matter of great interest to
us all, I am sure, to note the effect on the various sections of the
Hutterite Church of the Bruderhof's desire for complete unity
with them. It is to be fervently hoped that such a complete
unity can be achieved without causing a similar loss to the
present Hutterite Churches' 35 thousand-odd members. If
Derek Wardle would like to send me a copy of the Bruderhof's
new book, I should be delighted to write a review that could
perhaps be printed in a future issue of The Mennonite
Reporter, if the editor so wished.
Loy McWhirter (replying to a letter from an HSOB
couple): My clearest memory of you and all the others who
upheld the Bruderhof's 'ideals' and ideologies is your standing
by while my father and my family were torn apart and shunned
by the very 'loving community' in which he so deeply believed
and had committed himself to be truthful with. You either
participated in his torment and destruction, or stood by in
fearful silence. This is real. And the ones whose lives were
affected are real, and cannot be dismissed with 'warm regards'
The years that followed our exile have been painful and
deeply damaging to my family and myself. I no longer am able
to see my family, even though I live two miles from them,
because they willingly clutch the happy lies to their hearts. I am
in intensive and difficult therapy at great cost to my chosen
family and myself.
I do not appreciate or trust your 'warm regards' in the face
of all that has gone before, and in the light of the painful
reclamation work I am engaged in. I might like to believe such
stories, but I have found them to be treacherous and
disappointing. I would welcome any real and tangible help
towards healing the deep and long-lasting pain the Bruderhof
has caused in my life. I do resent having to do the difficult
work without the help of the Bruderhof or my family-of-birth.
My father is dead, never having recovered from the
'break.' I have no idea what can be done for my brothers, sister
and mother since they, like so many Bruderhof cast-offs, either
have been able to pretend it never happened or that it was a
fleeting time filled only with fond memories. Since my siblings
were so young there, it has been easier for them to forget or
ignore the ways they have been affected than it has been for me.
Notes from Loy's Journal: 12/10:... The war in
Paraguay Bruderhof between the sexual and the repressive, the
sensuality of the place, the repression of the ideologies
controlling and ordering the community. The Catholic Church
has had a similar history in the place. What was the specific
history of the Jesuits in Paraguay ("The Mission" movie), the
arguments against church doctrine in protection of the native
sensuality of the people, against the enslavement of their souls.
That (enslavement) is sanctified by the Church because the
'child-like' souls of the uninitiated (and bodies, minds, hearts)
are deemed available to those who consider their own purpose
to be beyond question, indisputable and beyond reproach. The
Bruderhof may have fallen into similar inner and outer wars,
the manifestation of the wars between the flesh and the spirit,
the U.S. hierarchy representing the authoritarian spirit, the
Primavera brotherhood representing the practical/sensual
everyday requirements of the body and soul. The children are
always the sacrifice in such wars. You get a hard wisdom
surviving the extremes of the battles, but you lose your
innocence and childhood. It is stolen and sacrificed for the
'greater good' and the doctrines they serve. You have to die the
death they live so they will not be overcome by the great sorrow
and loss you embody with your small, shining, innocent life. It
is why they sentimentalize childhood in the child Jesus and
enshrine and distance his coming to the world of sorrow in the
dark time of winter. They have murdered childhood in the
bodies of their own children-of-the-soul and of their
bodies...."Love that cuts like a knife."
--------KIT Newsletter, March 1990,
Vol. II #3 --------
Victor Peters, a historian at North Dakota State
University and author of All Things Common: The
Hutterian Way of Life, (1965) reviewed Torches
Rekindled for The Mennonite Reporter. Here are
excerpts (quoted with his kind permission):
Narrative confuses readers not familiar with Hutterite
...This book traces the tortuous internal conflicts within
the Society's own history and its troubled relationship with the
Hutterites. It generously absolves the latter of all blame and
places the cause for disagreement on the Society and some of its
It is difficult to assess the author's share in writing this
volume. He died before the manuscript appeared in print and
the reader is informed that the story is presented as "told by
The writer is solicitous not to offend members of his
group, and he does not discuss the details of the conflicts. The
reader is left with ambiguities such as "When the underlying
causes of that was wrong were revealed, a crisis developed" (p.
132), or again, "Some were fearful and others were angry, all I
can say is that it was a mess!" (p. 133)
The author also appears to be overly protective of leader
Heini Arnold, son of Eberhard Arnold. In one instance he
writes, "we were in the very difficult situation of someone
having raised questions towards Heini that were absolutely way
off." (p. 139)
Often the reader is confronted with historical or
devotional pablum without a focus on the problem at hand.
No doubt the members of the Society of Brothers know
the omitted details, and many of the Hutterites, at least their
leaders, will have some grasp of the conflicts, but the general
reader is left with a nebulous narrative that confuses more than
Unfortunately, Torches Rekindled does not
measure up to most of the Society's other publications. The
most positive feature of the book are the symbolic torches on its
cover, where a brightly burning torch rekindles another torch.
Michael Caine: I really appreciate the newsletters.
Thanks for putting in so much effort. Please excuse my spelling
mistakes... I only had very little school on account of too much
Ausschluss (exclusion). The only complete school year
was First Klasse in Isla Margarita, 1946, with Roger
Allain, then followed by about three years, mainly
Ausschluss, in Ibate. Anybody who knows me will tell
you that I was not always a conformist -- in fact quite early in
life I learned that a life of delinquency was a much more
The older I get, the more I realize what a good life we all
had as kids in Primavera. What kids anywhere in the world
have a life like we did! I was taken in as an orphan by the
Bruderhof when I was just two weeks old. the most fortunate
thing that ever happened to me in my life... Primavera was a
lot more than a cattle ranch -- it was our Heimat -- in
English there is no word for that! Since leaving Primavera, I
never felt at home anywhere. I have lived here in Windsor for
many years, and if I were to leave it today, I would never miss
it, although it's fine for the Queen of England, it is not good
enough for me.
People who complain about the school in Primavera I just
can't understand. After what I have seen and experienced of
teachers here in England, I know we had the most fantastic
teachers there. Like myself, I might not have learned how to
write properly, but the things we learned apart from writing,
with people from such varied backgrounds, and all the different
guests who came from so many different countries. But that is
one reason why a Bruderhof can only last one generation. Had
we carried on in Paraguay, eventually we would have become
like the Mennonites. But still that was no reason to steal
Primavera from all of us! It is really sick to read in 'Torture
Rekindled' (sic) how Primavera got stolen, especially those
meetings in Pt. Rosario...
I remember my first Ausschluss, I was seven years
old -- the long interrogation: "What were you doing with
yourself in the bathroom?... What were you doing with the
girls? Do you love Jesus? Your mother's sin is in you!" (I was
born illegitimate, and it was never the sin of the father, only my
mother) And the endless beatings with his bamboo stick. Heini
really taught me the art of hatred. With him being such a
creature, it is not surprising that he found more of his kind. No
matter how big the jungle is, one monkey will always find
another monkey, and that is how they managed to smash up
the Bruderhof! I felt really sick reading what Duffy said in his
letter, but then Duffy was never in Ausschluss as a little
boy under Heini. Heini could take advantage of me because I
had no parents. The Bollers with whom I was supposed to live
were themselves often in Ausschluss because they were
too honest. More than often they were treated like dirt for
taking everything so seriously, like only the Swiss can do.
When I think of how much they contributed to the Rohn -
without the Bollers there would have been no Rohnbruderhof.
Yet they were always humble people, always thinking of others
all the time, especially when they lived and worked near the
hospital, often 'til all hours of the night, and up again at 5 am.
They really put themselves out, especially for the arriving
patients and their families. I can tell lots of stories about the
Bollers and how they really gave their lives to the Bruderhof
cause. Til the end they kept their strong faith in the brothers
and sisters and then got kicked out of Woodcrest by some
*&%$# Yank over a box of nails in the toy shop.
The Bruderhof can exist only when poor because that is
the idea it was founded on: 'Give your money to the poor and
follow me.' That was the purpose of the hospital, and
everybody who contributed to the closure of the hospital has
paved his path to heaven in blood. When I was in Paraguay in
1969, a Paraguayan told me that he estimated that since the
hospital's closure until that point in time about one thousand
people had lost their lives, more than often just from things
like the lack of a hookworm cure for a child. Merrill Mow is
just blowing a lot of hot air when he says that the Freisland
hospital was better equipped. That's just a load of rubbish!
I could go on and on about how I feel about Heini and
Heini-ism. A lot you will know in any case, but what I must
most strongly object to is: calling those disciples of Heini 'the
Bruderhof.' What an insult! If you have a table or a bed at
home and I come and smash it all up, you cannot call those two
items a bed and a table anymore. Well, that is exactly what
happened to the Bruderhof in 1961. The Bruderhof was a place
where anybody could walk in as a guest. Everybody there had a
concern for the poor, and most important, they always took in
orphans like myself. Look at the time in the Rhon, how poor
they were, and how many orphans they had...
In your newsletters there are scores of names and
addresses -- you don't mind if I inquire about one or two I used
to know? Like Jim Bernard, Ray, Ed and Nancy Saibin, Lee
Stern and Henry Little? I see where Crisi Bernard is helping
you with KIT -- she must know where her father is? In Loma,
Jim and Ricia were very good friends of mine, and Jim sure left
his mark in Paraguay. He was always a very hard worker, and
very popular with the Paraguayans.
The Bruderhof was something very special to most of us,
and that's why its destruction was so painful. My first
recollection of life was the Galophutte in Isla, and just
outside it, the first logs being cut up by hand over a pit, one
man on top, the other in the pit. At dinner when all the men
were there, the logs were repositioned for another cut, and all
by hand and muscle. Kurt was carting the water from the
Orangewood to the place with his two white horses,
"Schimmel" and "Dodilio." When he bucketed the water from
the wagon to a tank, he would sometimes tip a bucketful over
us kids. He was always very popular with us kids, especially
later when he had the 'Hort' -- it went without saying - down to
the river. What a good time we also had with Gertrut Wegner
in the kindergarten, all those long walks to Reveros, the
Brennloral, Orangewood and the spring, and Abopoii, and all
the stories she used to tell us. And the teachers we had at
school, Franzi Whitty, Marei Braun, Fritz Pfeifer, Fritz
Freiburghaus, he was my favorite, especially for history and
geography. He inspired me to look up lots of different Indians
all over South America. And from Trudi Hussy I learned so
much about Europe that the first time I went to Paris I just
remembered what Trudi told us and didn't need a map. I
wasn't lost in the least! And in the Sahara I never got lost
because Roger had taught us how to use a compass, from
Marrakesh to Mauritania, Algiers, Chad, Niger and then to
Nigeria. All in a car more than thirty years old. Without the
Bruderhof background I would never have had experiences like
that. The Bruderhof motto was always: 'Nothing is impossible.
Where there's a will, there's a way.' The Bruderhof has given
me a good life. Everybody can come up with hard luck stories.
It's part of growing up. But one just has to put everything on a
scale, the good on one side, the bad on the other, and the good
always outweighs the bad when one had the fortune to grow up
on the Bruderhof! But how much more good there would
have been if it wasn't for Heini!
The thing (about 'Torches') that annoyed me the most was
the way Hans Zumpe was dragged through the muck.
Personally I never liked him, him being a Po Guazu
(Big Boss), but what I learned later in life quite apart from the
Bruderhof was what a courageous man he was. Just before
World War II it was he who dealt with the Nazi authorities, the
SS officers and suchlike, he being Wehrphlichtig at the
time. And it was NEVER certain IF he would walk out the
same door he had come in. Why the hell did Merrill Mow not
put that into the book? All of us who enjoyed the Bruderhof
have a lot to be grateful for for what Hans Zumpe risked for us
all. Because one thing he was definitely not, and that was
stupid! And Heini was never good enough to tie Hans
bootlaces! So tell Duffy to put that in his pipe and smoke it!
And of course Hans Zumpe never gave the 'Heil Hitler' salute.
I know from lots of people how dangerous that alone in itself
was. Well, I can go on and on about different things. It sure is
good to hear about so many people I used to know and grew up
Interesting how different our lives have become, and how
instantly I spend time thinking of one and the other in a kind
of a daydream. Like just now I looked at your newsletter and
there is the name: 'McWhirter.' Is that to do with Jim
McWhirter? I remember when I was 14 in Pt. Rosario, it was
raining like mad, as it could only do in Pt. Rosario, and there
were some Royals in Rosario at the same time, so we, the
baddies, stayed at Meggetti's instead of the house, and Jim sided
with us. He had just come from Asuncion. The oxen had had
nothing to eat for three days, so he went out with Atillano
Sanchez to buy some alfalfa for the price of one meal in the
USA. About three hours later the oxen almost died from
bloating, but Jim stayed with us 'til we went back to Primavera.
Then he invited me once to his family, his wife spoke a bit of
German -- Loy was one of his kids?
Another family I have good memories from are the
Ostroms when they were at Forest River. I was often in their
family, and of course the Baers and Maendels as well. I really
like the time in Forest River, especially riding round Death
Valley and the university grounds where the beaver lodge was,
and to Trojans and McConnelly Spring. It was really good
riding on the frozen river. Forest River was really a beautiful
My regards to everybody who knew me, and those who
don't. If any of you come to the U.K. and you got nowhere to
stay and you don't expect luxury and don't mind a few
cucarachas, you are welcome to stay here.
Roger & Norah Allain (from their Dec. '89 newsletter):
Since (our visit to Darvell in '87) we have received well-
meaning, challenging letters from various B'hofs. At first I
tried to engage in a friendly, noncommittal dialogue about such
points as their relationships with the Kibbutzim or the various
Hutterite groups (Schmiede-, Lehrer- and Darius-Leut). My
questions were ignored and the challenge renewed. So I felt I
should answer more clearly and bluntly how and why a return
to the Bruderhof did not come into question for us. First, we
have evolved a lot in these 30 years, and we no longer uphold
the kind of narrow, fundamentalistic Christian faith preached
at the Bruderhof and by Peter Rideman, the prudish attitude
toward sex and opposition to birth control, the male
domination over women or the discretionary power of senior
servants, such as we knew it at the Bruderhof years ago. And
the Bruderhof itself has evolved. It has renewed, deepened and
narrowed its unity with the "Western" (Canadian) Hutterites.
We have no desire to join a sect again, let alone the Hutterite
sect with its mixture of medieval religiosity and servitude to
ultramodern, mammonistic agriculture and multi-million-
dollar business practices...
Finally there came the book Torches Rekindled, going
public for the first time, as the blurb said, to tell the history of
the Bruderhof, warts and all, lifting the veil from B'hof errors,
crises and failures. I began reading it with an open mind, but
soon grew tired of the pious repetitions about following Jesus,
more and more impatient with the raising of Heini to
sainthood while damning Hans Z. as scapegoat, and finally
incensed at the cold-blooded publication of a letter Gwynn had
written in one of those insane soul-searchings we had during
brotherhood crises, and then clearly retracted. It just beats me
how the B'hof, whose people are so lovable as individuals, can
be so insensitive and cynical as a body. The thing is so cruel to
Buddug, insulting to Gwynn's memory, and stupid, really, for
this breach of faith will arouse the indignation of many.
John G. Arnold:This is a short response to what Doug
Moody wrote in the KIT newsletter, Is it not time, Doug, that
you start apologizing for the serious injustices and injuries
which you so heartlessly inflicted on others? You not only
poisoned my grandmother's heart against me, but you also
stated that I was not allowed to attend my mother's funeral.
How is that possible? For four solid years I protested against the
lies you inflicted on others. Your accusations were all false. I
wrote over one hundred letters to Heini and the other servants.
Why is it that you servants had no love? With a little
love and humility, in no time all differences could have been
resolved. Until today, nothing has been cleared up. I shall
never be reconciled to the lies you told about me.
An ex-member replies to John G. Arnold: Dear John -
thank you for your report about the
Bruderhof. Yes, your father was excluded several times
unjustly, and by his brother at that. The Bruderhof still defends
Heini and Christoph. Torches Rekindled describes it all, and
that book is one glorification of Heini. There is no other
description for it. Now the Bruderhof seems to have changed
their tune from "repent and come back" to "we are seeking
personal reconciliation, and God will take care of the rest."
Loy McWhirter: (from a reply to a letter from Elder J.
Christoph Arnold) You are representative of a system that
destroyed my father and crippled me. You are not just yourself,
in your position. Let us not uphold and perpetuate this
pretense. As you embody and participate in that system, you are
accountable for its abuses, corruptions and damages. Maybe you
were 'only a child' in the time I wrote about. But you have
absorbed and taken up (presumably willingly) the legacy of
those narrow, exclusive and life-diminishing dogmas that so
systematically and heartlessly invaded and destroyed my
I deeply resent the bruderhof's consistent and self-
righteous denial in regard to those of us who cannot chose your
way for the sake of our own self-protection, because of the
effects it has already had on our lives when we did NOT have a
choice. It is not appropriate that you would insist, or even
suggest, that the bruderhof is 'a need for me,' considering what
I know. I do not believe that your interpretation includes my
experience in a way that Jesus and God intend...
The way of love, forgiveness and reconciliation is not the
easy one your message suggests. The way is difficult and the
damage must be acknowledged and healed. Jesus will not do
your work for you. You add to the pain and damage by your
denial and sacrosanct versions of the painful emotional,
mental, physical and spiritual damages of the bruderhof's
history. It makes me angry and sad the way it is presented and
explained as love and spiritual devotion, the torment and
torture carried out so meticulously and purposefully on me and
others. Torture and abuse are perpetrated in many forms:
physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. The bruderhof is
guilty of all of these. Maybe Jesus will help you find your way to
heal the destruction you condone and perpetuate with your
collective denial; the damage to the lives for which you are
Maybe the bruderhof has changed. If this is so, I hope you
are capable of seeing beyond the narrow and exclusive vision
that has sustained it through my childhood and growing years.
And to help in the ways I have found to begin to heal myself at
long last. Given the trauma of my memories of the bruderhof
and its servants, and its provisional truths, I cannot choose the
way it offers. My own way is equally valid and true and hard-
won. It is more suited to my own needs.
I am reading the book of bruderhof white-wash, Torches
Rekindled. It is sickening to me; the deep and attentive
concerns that are expressed constantly, self-righteously and
dripping with sentimentality, towards Heini and the other
adults in the positions of power. And how everyone goes on at
great and oppressive length about the 'love' and 'warmth'
embodied by the power-adults then and now, as the defenseless
and innocent children were scape-goated and sacrificed to
justify and protect this terrible pretense of love. It is a great
travesty and an obscene lie which we children were tortured
mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually to uphold...
Perhaps some of us more than others, as an example to those of
you who were 'good.' I know that Jesus will not offer you
forgiveness, love and reconciliation until you come out from
behind your self-serving and sanctimonious stories and safely
fabricated memories and make appropriate amends to those of
us who were damaged.
It you think it was difficult moving bruderhof families
north, try to imagine the traumatic and frightening move it was
for those families, like mine, isolated with no money or help or
knowledge of outside ways. They had given all their worldly
and other-worldly strengths to the 'loving community of God,'
and had to struggle to survive in isolation.
I bought Torches Rekindled only because the
advertisement of it promised photos of the Primavera years. I
think it should be given to us survivors of the bruderhof, and
we should not be made to pay for pieces of our past. I found the
account, and even the photos of that time, to be sentimental
lies. I lived in Macedonia and Isla from 1953 to 1959, at which
time my family was shunned and cast out in a cruel and
'unloving' manner. I would like to have copies of the photos
of these times and places that are available to you. And I would
like to hear and be part of a true and inclusive account of the
suffering sustained by those of us who lived the less accepted,
less official view than the one Torches Rekindled propagates.
....I have a lot to lose by sharing with you what
happened. I am subject to what I have known of your collective
denial and reinterpretation. I have learned the hard-won
lesson of not trusting your interpretations of what I have to say.
I am not interested in having my memories and feelings
distorted and reinterpreted to suit the bruderhof's well-tended
version of 'truth' and reality. You may consider your motives
to be beyond human reproach, but that is not my experiential
memory of the bruderhof, and particularly its' more 'successful'
If you truly want to know more of what happened, for
your own human understanding apart from the destructive
system you serve, you will find a way. I hope you will have the
hope and perseverance to try to hear the difficult things I try to
say. I can supply you with a bibliography, so you can do some of
the difficult work to understand and educate yourself beyond
the subjective and controlled myths and presumptions of the
bruderhof system, as I have had to do. When you keep yourself
protected from the painful truths, you abandon others to suffer
and die of them.
I could write much more, but it is a great effort to say
clearly and with some measure of compassion these things with
which I still have to struggle so much to heal alone. I must
send what I write to Ramon Sender, and my friend who puts
out another newsletter, for my feeling of safety, protection and
support. Maybe, if I come to trust your willing ability to
understand and support and help, this will not be necessary. I
do hope. We shall see.
Item: From an ex-member's phone call: I know that the
mail at Woodcrest was censored. One of my sons left a
postcard with one of his high school teachers to mail to him
his final grades. Anyway, the card came and he received
very high marks on his Regents and a 99 for the semester.
Also the teacher wrote, "Congratulations! It was great to
have you in the class."
"I don't think your boy should have this," Heini said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"It's not good for his ego."
"But it's addressed to him," I said. "What can we do?"
"We can lose it," Heini replied. "Tell him he got a 99, but not
the rest of the post-card."
"Somehow it doesn't seem right," I said.
But you didn't argue with Heini, because then he would say,
"You're sticking up for someone not in the Brotherhood?"
Well, I told my boy exactly what happened, but I also said,
"Don't tell your mother."
If someone not in the inner circle received something
noteworthy, it really bothered the inner circle. And my
child was the far-thest removed from the life among the
Highschoolers. That he should get such a good grade was a
tough nut for them to swallow.
When I left, I sent my kids letters and presents for their
birthdays. But I never got a response, so I don't know if
they even received them.
'Warts & All' Item (from an ex-member): I am not
surprised by Heini's suggestion (reported in KIT II #2) that the
teacher's postcard to the boy be 'lost.' The mail definitely was
not respected. When I was in small exclusion and one of my
children was on another community, the servant there read the
letters I wrote to my child. When I protested, they said that
because I was excluded it was necessary for the servant to know
what we were writing about. Later on, two others who were
servants in Primavera both admitted they had opened my mail
there and that they withheld one or two letters from my family
to me. Who are Doug and Ruby defending?
The Evergreen servant also read the letters I wrote to people
in Bulstrode. It was the time of the Civil Rights movement and
I had expressed my feelings about the whole issue. The servant
opened them before they were to be mailed and called me up to
his office. He told me that I should be careful not to be too
emotional about these things. I was shocked by this incident
and again was upset that there was no privacy on the
Bruderhof. So they can say what they like about mail being
respected. It was NOT respected when I lived there.
Also, newspapers were censored. They were taken out of
the reading room because Heini said that there were too many
things and pictures in the papers that were not good for the
soul, especially for the young men -- it brought them into
temptation. If you tell Doug that, he would defend Heini and
say that he cannot believe Heini would do such a thing, but this
whole issue was brought to the brotherhood, and the servants
said this change was recommended by Heini. Only the servants
and work distributors were able to read the papers. I could
never figure out why the newspaper could cause so much
temptation for the young men when there were so many other
things that could be tempting? It was all so ridiculous!
Charlie Lamar: I believe the KIT newsletter is a
significant event in the history of the Society of Brothers. Until
now, the Society could count on the fact that household or
brotherhood members living outside the community would be
separated from each other in most cases. Members of the
Society could shape their public profile much as they wanted to
because, except for the publication of "The Joyful Community,"
no one said very much about them except they themselves.
Now that there is a network of former members and
householders willing to make their names public, and eager to
communicate with each other, the Society can no longer
manage public relations so simply, and must now decide what
its policies will be in view of this new state of affairs.
Initially, they seem to have moved in two different
directions. We know that they all realize they can't stop the
publication of KIT; we also know that they all become very
upset whenever hard things are said. But while we know that
some of them do see the benefits, and even welcome the
sharing of views, we also hear how some of them, apparently,
do not yet understand that there really is no upright way for
them to prevent anyone, except possibly their own brotherhood
members, from communicating through KIT. It is sad when we
hear about people who dare not put their own names on the
mailing list, going over to other people's houses to read copies
of the newsletter. But can the Society realistically put itself in
the position of creating anIndex of Forbidden
Literature? They might consider two different policies: one
for those who they know will never go back, and one for those
who might possibly want to rejoin: "If you love us, you
won't..." But what would that do to the premise that they are
not a closed religious system, as described in Bradshaw, or to the
idea that their children should taste life outside the community
before making up their minds about joining? Either you favor
the free flow of information in decision-making, or you do not.
The "outside" has in principle become a somewhat different
place, now that people the Bruderhof excluded over the years
have an open forum of communication.
In the past, it may have been possible for the Society to
ignore former bruderhofers who had a problem with them. But
now ex-bruderhofers are no longer so alone. I know that the
brothers and sisters who raised me and taught me in school all
understood the necessity of First Amendment freedoms in an
open society, especially the freedom of the press. It may be that
some of the brothers and sisters whose families have never
lived outside of the community in the United States do not.
But Glasnost has been good for the Soviet Union, and it will be
good for the Bruderhof in the long run as well.
It may not always be pretty, but the newsletter staff all
agree, we will continue to print all shades of opinion in KIT.
And we would like to convey our very particular greetings to
those who are reading these words in secret.
Bradshaw On: The Family, by John Bradshaw;,
Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. 1988:
..."Obedience and orderliness are essential to any family and
social structure. Law as a guide to human safety through its
protective structure is essential to human fulfillment. Learning
to be agreeable, cooperative, unselfish and meek are useful and
"However, it was obedience without critical judgment and
inner freedom which led to black Nazism, Jonestown and
Mylai. It was obedience absolutized and cut off from human
sensitivity and natural law.
"Similarly, cleanliness and orderliness without
spontaneity lead to obsessive enslavement. Law and
intellectualism without vitality and emotions lead to
mechanical coldness and inhuman, heartless control.
Considerateness, meekness, unselfishness without inner
freedom, inner independence and critical judgment lead to a
"doormat," people-pleasing type person who can be ruled by
almost any authority figure.
"Soul-murder is the basic problem in the world today; it is
the crisis in the family. We programmatically deny children
their feelings, especially anger and sexual feelings. Once a
person loses contact with his own feelings, he loses contact with
his body. We also monitor our children's desires and thoughts.
To have one's feelings, body, desires and thoughts controlled is
to lose one's self. To lose one's self is to have one's soul
--------KIT Newsletter, April, 1990, Vol II #4--------
Addresses & 'In or Out' info needed:
Lee Durgin, Carl Durgin, Ivan Mercoucheff, Emil Maendel,
Kent Blough, Mark Francham, Harold
Goree, Alfredo Gneiting, Jimmy Nelson in Washington State,
Scott Wareham, Mary Worth, Jack Melancon, Jack Warren,
Esther Tabor, Andrew Szilard,Walter Morris the Tremblay
family, the Dietsch family, Mike & Linda Cahoon, Matthew &
Tim McAdams, Anderson, David & Rae Whitehead, Alan & Sue
Wiser, Charlie Jory, Walter Bennett, Walter Illingworth, George
(Eddie) Halliwell, Edmund Cocksedge.
Former Bruderhof Members Launch New Efforts At
by Margaret Loewen Reimer
Reprinted with permission from The Mennonite
Waterloo, Ont.- Former members of the Bruderhof are
making contact with each other and with their former
communities through an initiative begun last fall. The contacts
have opened discussion about the painful effects of expulsions
from the Bruderhof during the 1960s.
Ramon Sender... began research last summer for a book
about his daughter Xavie who died a year ago at the Woodcrest
Bruderhof in Rifton, New York, at the age of 33. Sender was
refused any contact with his daughter throughout her life and
was told about her illness after she died. In gathering
information, Sender established contact with other former
members who had been cut off from communication with each
In early fall, Sender published over fifty names and
addresses in a round-robin letter as the first step in creating a
network for those who were "excluded, expelled,
excommunicated or left on their own." By December, the
monthly letter had become a thriving newsletter mailed to over
Out of the dialogue has come renewed contact with the
Hutterian Brethren as well. In January, Sender sent an open
letter to the five Bruderhof communities in the name of former
members. The letter seeks to open conversation about past
"injustices" and suggests ways in which wrongs may be righted.
"May the 1990s bring a new freedom of expression and
openness between all Hutterian brothers and sisters and those
of us who now live in the wider community," begins the letter.
"It encourages us to read that the brotherhood now
acknowledges some guilt for their previous judgmental and
Consider elderly ex-members
The letter urges the communities to consider assisting the
"many elderly ex-members living in poverty" because they had
to leave everything in the community and now receive no
social security. The letter also asks for a guarantee that no
reprisals, such as cutting off visiting privileges, will be taken
against those who publish their names in the newsletter.
Called "Keep In Touch," the newsletter has become a forum for
Bruderhof "grads" all over the world to share their stories and
Art Rosenblum and Ruth Baer Lambach, former
members, reported on the conference of the Historic
Communal Societies Association held in South Dakota last
October. "Although many aspects of communal life are covered
in the conference, no mention is made of the problem of
dealing with ex-members," noted Rosenblum. He reported,
however, that the western Hutterites, especially, "treated all of
us very warmly. No one was concerned about 'not shaking
hands,' so I guess they've dropped that dogma. They are
definitely treating us more like friends than before."
Lambach reported, "I'm not so sure about the union of
East and West (Bruderhof and Hutterites). It is particularly in
worship that I'd think the Bruderhof and Hutterites will not
come together because of the Hutterites' emphasis on sticking
so closely to the Bible and to perpetuate a world view of self
negation along with a deep mistrust of anything that could be
seen as fun."
One of the the Bruderhof leaders told her that they put
"instruments and other worldly activities" in the background
when the western brothers visit. The Bruderhof may have
more outlets for fun -- dancing, music, art and theater -- but the
Hutterites are much more frank, she noted.
"The women and girls in the colony (that conference
participants visited) were very spontaneous and free in talking
and joking with me... They treated me in every way like a
Some of the submissions to the newsletter are bitter
accounts of being expelled from the community after many
years of hard work. Several express concern about the
whitewashing of facts and the leader-worship illustrated in the
new history of the Bruderhof, Torches Rekindled."
"I feel that sometime, out of simple justice, it should be
put down in black and white not only just how big the 'Exodus'
was, but also how big the contribution to the building-up to the
Bruderhof communities was from those who were put out,"
said one reader.
Signs of hope
Others see signs of hope that Bruderhof members are
becoming more conciliatory toward former members. One
reader had recently spent five weeks at four colonies visiting
old friends, bringing up old grievances and "why-the-heck-
does-the-B'hof-do-this-anyway? type of questions." He came
away "amazed at how much I'd accomplished and how much
better I feel."
One member had summed up the visit by saying, "We still
disagree with you, but let's be friends."
Rosenblum spent five days recently at the community he
left 25 years ago. "The major change I found was spiritual," he
reported in his newsletter from Philadelphia, "Aquarian
Alternatives." "There was now a clear recognition that the
community needed to be reconciled with the many people who
had been members in the past... I had the experience of being
listened to with love."
Roger Allain: Regarding the Moodys' visit to the
Ostroms and Ramon: I wouldn't be overly hopeful about the
B'hof's new "attitudes of openness and reconciliation." Doug's
answers sounded mostly evasive to me (for instance about
Heini or mail censorship: "couldn't think of an instance where
this had occurred.") The B'hof's history of the past thirty years
has got one used to and expectant of a constant seesaw of
alternating periods of glasnost openness and Tiananmen
re: Staughton Lynd: I agree with him that it would have
been great if the B'hof could have gone on in Paraguay and
joined the spirit and the action of the modern Catholic "option
for the poor" and liberation theology; also that the civil rights
movement and liberation theology may have been the most
important renewals of the religious spirit in the world in the
past decades. In spite of protestations of "concern for the need
of the world," however, the large majority of B'hof members in
Primavera remained supremely ignorant of and indifferent to
the fate and poverty of the masses round them.
re: Heidi Strickland, John Arnold: I was specially moved
by their painful memories of their respective fathers whom I
intimately knew for years. I felt special love and admiration for
Fritz, and his sudden death (at work) meant a greater personal
loss to me than the death of a brother or father in the flesh. I
also admired Hardi for his intellectual power and historical
perspective, as John so aptly says, for his cheerful openness to
people and more balanced personality (in comparison to Heini
who was charismatic, no doubt, but extremely one-sided and
limited). I still feel sorry that, along with all the other
brotherhood members, I so readily, and often so unknowingly,
acquiesced in their exclusion and that of others, hardly pausing
to think of the pain and trauma this would bring to their
children, however young they might be. I was no longer at the
B'hof during the last 25 years of Hardi's life, but I occasionally
heard indirectly about his repeated exclusions and often
wondered how Heini could find the knack and nerve and the
brutality of squashing his own brother, humiliating him,
despising his intellect and tearing down his natural gift for
One of the great things about KIT is that it didn't only put
us in contact again with many old companions we had lost
sight of, but it also brings welcome news from 'younger' people
whom I knew as children and could hardly recognize again if I
was to meet them today, and yet in whose experiences and
thoughts we are keenly interested. For instance, Heidi, John,
Miriam. One thing I notice with them and also with other
former Primavera children is that even though they often had
difficult or traumatic experiences due to the frequent
brotherhood crises, on the whole they had a very happy
childhood in intimate contact with their environment and the
freedom to be outdoors, as Heidi writes. Another friend
recently wrote to me with what joy she remembers her school
days in Primavera, the good quality teaching, the hikes, the
wide horizons, the heavens full of millions of stars.
Many letters in KIT might give the uninformed reader the
impression of warped partiality and deep-seated hostility to the
B'hof. In reality I think they may do so because very many
people, young and old, suffered through years from the ruthless
intolerance and religious fanaticism of a few servants and
leaders, mostly led or inspired by Heini. On the other hand, all
the people of different ages I have known and spoken to agree
in all sorts of ways in saying that they also experienced many
moments of deep joy and fellowship and real brotherly love.
As regards Torches Rekindled," my feeling is that the
book, which they blindly hoped would appeal to and rally the
lost sheep, is only deepening the rift between the brain-washed
members and the objectively critical ex-members who were
once deluded and are now revolted by the venomous attacks
against Heini's opponents.
From a second letter: KIT II/2 was a very good issue
indeed, and we can look forward to KIT II/3 and the still further
issues with glad anticipation. I am very happy 1) that you had
the idea, the ability and the energy to launch the whole thing; 2)
that so many contributors responded and contribute to make
KIT a really meaty publication. If you have room in one of your
issues I'd like you to publish my appreciation and my thanks
and congratulations to you and the newsletter staff. I wonder
how you manage with the financing aspects: you must have
pretty considerable costs for paper, xeroxing, mailing, etc. I wish
I could be in a position to contribute, but my contribution can
only be words, words...
John G. Arnold: Doug and Ruby's visit to you have
precipitated fundamental truths, but I do not believe they
believe in KIT. They can say anything! Meaningful
negotiations can only be with the brotherhood. From my visits
to the HSOB, it seems that individual members are quite weak,
emotional and easily manipulated. Also, since you published a
summary of my experiences, I had a call from Darvell, and last
Saturday, Bob Clement and Franzhart Arnold paid a surprise
visit. This was the first visit since January 1978. They admitted
to the fact of the existence of dictatorships on the Bruderhof.
These recognitions seem to be in a state of infancy. It seems that
Torches Rekindled was born from the need to justify
dictatorship. Once the HSOB truly renounces dictatorship, then
Torches Rekindled will be neither valid nor reliable. My own
experience of Merrill Mow is that he ruled by fear and
Mail censorship: my own destiny or past life has been
determined by the censorship of letters. In 1958 I was a member
of the Oak Lake community. In October of that year, the US
Department of Immigration sent the permits to immigrate
directly to me. Mark secretly opened these and refused to give
them to me. When I reached for the letters, he refused to hand
them over. He then said to me, "You and your father are a
burden to Heini, and therefore I send you to England and
Germany. I think you should no longer live on the
Bruderhof." He said the same thing to my sister Miriam (that
she should not live on the Bruderhof.)
In 1955, Christoph Arnold told me that his father Heini
opened a letter from Klaus Siebert's father Herbert. Herbert told
his son why he left the Bruderhof, and asked his son to join
him in Germany. What right did Heini have to do so?
In January, 1977, I confronted Heini about this incident.
Heini then said, "If there is a legal threat, or when there was a
legal threat, I did open letters."
From the evidence of three members of the Bruderhof, I
must conclude that censorship and a Secret Service was fully
operational. If I had received the immigration papers, I would
live in the USA today.
From an excluded son to his father in the
Bruderhof: Dear Father, when you were seriously ill, I
thought of you day and night, and now that you are better, I feel
the need to answer all your letters and tell you why it would be
wrong to see you now. I believe that God has given us a free
will to choose what we want to do, and that any authority that
arbitrarily orders other people about is quite evil because it
destroys free will, conscience, or the essence of life. I feel it is
quite wrong that you ordered me to visit you on the 'hof. I am
not in the army.
When I was in the community in 1977, Merrill Mow told
me what I should do to become a brotherhood member. He
told me that I needed to have my head cut off and then simply
accept the brotherhood without questions. To have one's head
cut off is not only irresponsible, but it is an aberration that
opposes any sort of genuine affection. The whole system of
ruling by services has repeatedly ended in failure. The evidence
of hundreds of people have proven without a shred of doubt
that the brotherhood has been deceived often and that the
greatest social injustices have been and probably still are
committed against many members. People have become cold-
hearted because they were not able to exercise their freedom of
choice. This is reflected in the children's community. There is
the small elite or royal family who make all the decisions and
give all the orders. And there is the majority who do as they
are told. It is a system similar to the feudal system in the
Middle Ages, and it contains the germs of Nazi domination and
methodology. On the Bruderhof, a sense of intimidation is
maintained by sending people away, especially those with many
but unruly children. Once children are sent away, there is no
witness of any value. This is not the life that Eberhard founded.
I want to emphasize that I hate any kind of authority that
disregards freedom of choice. The greatest injustices have been
committed on the Bruderhof, and everybody is witness to that.
Community of goods has often been a cloak covering a
multitude of sins of all kinds. Wherever there is a dictatorial
system in operation, the past can never be redeemed because it
would undermine that dictatorship. The Bruderhof morality
and love seem to be based on the Old Testament rather than
being Christian. I hope this letter will explain why I feel the
way I do, and it does not take away any affection I feel for you.
Miriam Arnold Holmes: About your statement on
the "State of KIT," be assured that you have done an exceptional
job of presenting as balanced a picture as is possible under the
circumstances. To create 'an atmosphere of openness and trust'
is extremely difficult if there is no basis for trust. If one's trust
has been violated in the past, the person or group who have
violated that trust has to EARN trust before they can be trusted
again. Right? My heart goes out to you thinking about Sibyl
and the Domers visiting you. I imagine that that must have
been very stressful and painful. I'm sorry, but I just don't trust
them. I have this nagging suspicion that they want to keep you
quiet. I felt the same when they called me two weeks ago to
announce they wanted to visit me the next day (this was in the
middle of the work week). I told them that I had no time to talk
then, and that we would have to do it later on in the year. I
thought it was typically arrogant of them to think I would drop
everything to suit their schedule. I would not stand for it. I
also asked them, "Why now? What 's the big urgency?" No
I loved Victor Peter's review of Torches Rekindled. Did
he also mention the horrible English? It's downright
embarrassing. It was good to hear from Michael Caine (an old
classmate of mine). I fully agree that we had a good childhood
in Paraguay, excellent teachers and exciting adventures. The
bad thing was being excluded, which happened to me also. That
was unadulterated child abuse.
I would like to let Loy McWhirter know how much I
admired her letter to Christoph. She has very good insight and
expresses it clearly. She needs to be assured that many of us
support her and encourage her to continue to insist that the
HSOB accept the truth and not whitewash their travesties with
banal platitudes. I also want her to know that I remember her
parents with much affection. I will never forget how her father,
a very sensitive, quiet man, would spontaneously recite poetry
in the dining room. A good experience for us kids.
A little addendum to your 'Warts and All' item: of course
the mail was censored. Someone would pick up the mail at the
post office and deliver it directly to the servant. He would open
every letter and go over it before it would be put (or not put) in
the mailboxes. I saw this with my own eyes. Also we used to
have Look Magazine, Newsweek, Time, The New
Republic, and The Nation, on the newsrack. Gradually they
disappeared. First they cut out certain articles, probably the ones
that had something about sex in them, also ads for underwear.
Finally nothing was left but The Christian Science Monitor.
This frightened me. Years later, after I had been discarded, I
went for a visit, I believe in 1977. I asked one of my step-
brothers (Fritz Kleiner, jr.) who is an avid music lover, whether
he still listened to KDKA FM (an all-classical music station in
Pittsburgh). He told me that they were not allowed to have
radios any more. 'How awful!'
I thought. 'How oppressive!' Boy, was I glad I had been
Charlie Lamar's comments about the significance of KIT
in SOB history are so true. And I find your experience of
imprinting Heini's personality during baptism preparation very
enlightening. This really makes a lot of sense and explains the
personal affront people take when Heini gets criticized. I can
identify with that experience to some extent. I understand that
people had a similar experience with the Bhagawan Rajneesh
in Oregon. It's like falling under someone's spell, part of the
brain-washing process. I wonder what Ben Zablocki has to say
about that. [Ben agreed with Ramon's explanation - KIT]
I thought the enclosed chapter (from the book Toxic
Parents by Susan Forward and Craig Buck) was important
for all of us as an antidote to an idiotic piece on forgiveness by
Norman Vincent Peale (which the communities are
From Toxic Parents Chapter 9
You Don't Have To Forgive
..."You may be asking yourself, "Isn't the first step to
forgive my parents?" My answer is NO. This may shock, anger,
dismay or confuse many of you. Most of us have been led to
believe exactly the opposite -- that forgiveness is the first step
"In fact, it is not necessary to forgive your parents in order
to feel better about yourself and to change your life!
"Certainly I am aware that this flies in the face of some of
our most cherished religious, spiritual, philosophical and
psychological principles. According to the Judeo-Christian
ethic, 'To err is human, to forgive divine.' I am also aware that
there are many experts in the various helping professions who
sincerely believe that forgiveness is not only the FIRST step but
often the ONLY step necessary for inner peace. I disagree
"Early in my professional career, I too believed that to
forgive people who had injured you, especially parents, was an
important part of the healing process. I often encouraged
clients -- many of whom had been severely mistreated -- to
forgive cruel or abusive parents. In addition, many of my
clients entered therapy later claiming to have already forgiven
their toxic parents, but I discovered that, more often than not,
they didn't feel any better for having forgiven. They still had
their symptoms. Forgiving hadn't created any significant or
lasting changes for them. In fact, some of them felt even MORE
inadequate. They'd say things such as: 'Maybe I didn't forgive
enough;' 'My minister said I didn't truly forgive in my heart;'
or 'Can't I do anything right?'
"I took a long, hard look at the concept of forgiveness. I
began to wonder if it could actually IMPEDE progress rather
than ENHANCE it. I came to realize that there are two facets to
forgiveness: giving up the need for revenge, and absolving the
guilty party of responsibility. I didn't have much trouble
accepting the idea that people have to let go of the need to get
even. Revenge is a very normal but negative motivation. It
bogs you down in obsessive fantasies about striking back to get
satisfaction; it creates a lot of frustration and unhappiness; it
works against your emotional well-being. Despite how sweet
revenge may feel for a moment, it keeps stirring up the
emotional chaos between you and your parents, wasting
precious time and energy. Letting go of your needs for revenge
is difficult, but it is clearly a healthy step.
"But the other facet of forgiveness was not as clear-cut. I
felt there was something wrong with unquestioningly
absolving someone of his rightful responsibility, particularly if
he had severely mistreated an innocent child. Why in the
world should you 'pardon' a father who terrorized and battered
you, who made your childhood a living hell?... The more I
thought about it, the more I realized that this absolution was
really another form of denial: 'If I forgive you, we can pretend
that what happened wasn't so terrible.' I came to realize that
this aspect of forgiveness was actually preventing a lot of people
from getting on with their lives.
The Forgiveness Trap
"One of the most dangerous things about forgiveness is
that it undercuts your ability to let go of your pent-up emotions.
How can you acknowledge your anger against a parent whom
you've already forgiven? Responsibility can go only one of two
places: outward, onto the people who have hurt you, or inward,
into yourself. Somesone's got to be responsible. So you may
forgive your PARENTS but end up hating YOURSELF all the
more in exchange. I also noticed that many clients rushed to
forgiveness to avoid much of the painful work of therapy.
They believed that by forgiving they could find a shortcut to
feeling better. A handful of them 'Forgave,' left therapy, and
wound up sinking even deeper into depression or anxiety.
"Several clung to their fantasies: 'All I have to do is
forgive and I will be healed, I will have wonderful mental
health, everybody is going to love everybody, we'll hug a lot,
and we'll finally be happy.' Clients all too often discovered that
the empty promise of forgiveness had merely set them up for
bitter disappointment. Some of them experienced a rush of
well-being, but it didn't last because nothing had really changed
in the way they felt or in their family interactions.
"(With Stephanie, one of my clients) I told her that if she
wanted to get rid of her depression she might have to
'unforgive' for a while, to get in touch with her anger. She
insisted she believed deeply in forgiveness, that she didn't need
to get angry to get better. A fairly intense struggle developed
between us, partly because I was asking her to do something
painful, but also because her religious beliefs contradicted her
Stephanie did her work dutifully, but she refused to tap
into her rage. Little by little, however, she began to have
outbursts of anger on behalf of other people. For example, one
night she embraced another group member, saying, 'Your
father was a monster! I hate him!'
"A few weeks later, her own repressed rage finally came
out. She screamed, cursed, and accused her parents of
destroying her childhood and crippling her adult years.
Afterward, I hugged her as she sobbed. I could feel her body
relax. When she was calmer, I teasingly asked, 'What kind of
way is that for a nice Christian girl to behave?' I will never
forget her reply:
"I guess God wants me to get better more than He wants
me to forgive.
"That night was the turning point for her. People CAN
forgive toxic parents, but they should do it at the conclusion --
not at the beginning -- of their emotional house-cleaning.
People need to get angry about what happened to them. They
need to grieve over the fact that they never had the parental
love they yearned for. They need to stop diminishing or
discounting the damage that was done to them. Too often,
'forgive and forget' means 'pretend it didn't happen.'
"I also believe that forgiveness is appropriate only when
parents do something to EARN it. Toxic parents, especially the
more abusive ones, need to acknowledge what happened, take
responsibility, and show a willingness to make amends. If you
unilaterally absolve parents who continue to treat you badly,
who deny much of your reality and feelings, you may seriously
impede the emotional work you need to do. If one or both
parents are dead, you can still heal the damage, by forgiving
YOURSELF and releasing much of the hold that they had over
your emotional well-being.
"At this point, you may be wondering understandably, if
you will remain bitter and angry for the rest of your life if you
don't forgive your parents. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
What I have seen over the years is that emotional and mental
peace comes as a result of releasing yourself from your toxic
parents' control, without necessarily having to forgive them.
And that release can come only after you've worked through
your intense feelings of outrage and grief and after you've put
the responsibility on THEIR shoulders, where it belongs."
Charlie Lamar: (From a letter to Dick Domer) ...The
word 'slander' has been used several times in communications
from Woodcrest. It's possible that some of the letters printed in
KIT do contain slander. I don't know. I was not there for, for
example, to see if Heini beat Michael Caine with a stick.
Neither was anyone else, I assume. If Heini beat Michael Caine
and treated him as he describes, then Michael's letter is
understandable. But if Michael is lying, then his letter indeed is
full of slander and mockery. But that would not mean that KIT
has slandered and mocked you. I don't know Michael Caine,
but I think that we all, not just a few of us, need to be able to
take a look at who he is, what he is, and find out how he got to
be that way, as well as what he might know. The same goes for
You who live in the carefully controlled communal
environment may have grown unaccustomed to the way
communications are handled outside. But the readers of KIT
can see that everything we print was sent to us above
somebody's signature and can only be regarded as an allegation
or as good as that signature until corroborated. We are not
detectives; we don't have unlimited resources, all we can
provide is a forum. We must count on our correspondents to
supply corroboration or refutation. Outside the community,
that's what people would expect. Everyone must make up his
own mind about what to believe. This is standard operating
procedure when reading a newspaper, for example, especially
the Letters to the Editor, and KIT is almost entirely letters to the
editor. But in the B'hof, you ordinarily never see or hear
anything that is not the brotherhood version of things, unless
you are looking at something in order to clean it up for others.
So I can well understand how you must feel when you read KIT
on the 'hof.
But don't forget how we came to be here. We wouldn't
have a relationship with Michael Caine if we didn't print him.
Most likely we wouldn't have a relationship with you if we
didn't print -- Michael Caine...
We print the various responses we receive. We certainly
would have printed Sandra Banas's, but the actual text of her
letter seemed to be telling us not to. We will print her letter
just as we received it if we get her permission, in this case, in
writing, from her. In view of the professional position she is
in, we should have her signature.
I appreciate your writing to let us know what your feelings
are and what is most important to you. The gap between us is
huge, and we need all the help we can get. Please keep on
Now I would like to mention a concern that is of the most
critical importance, in my opinion. You have emphasized that
your life is voluntary. I too believe that any walk with God can
only be real if it is voluntary. In view of this, we will be looking
to see that individuals, both on and off the 'hof, receive
absolutely no pressure - either to refrain from communicating
with us, or to communicate, - even from family members, and
that when they do write in, we will be looking to see that they
are completely free to say anything they wish. That was the
point of the article I wrote in the most recent KIT; I hoped you
would take up the point in your letter.
--------KIT Newsletter, May, 1990, Vol II
Name Withheld: I was shocked reading those (KIT)
first editions, and am more shocked and shattered as I receive
each new one. I had never realized that for so many years I was
part of an organization which harbored such false expressions
of what started out as a community to which I felt I could give
myself. I find it almost impossible to put into words the extent
to which I grieve for all who have suffered under the 'regime.'
And I have felt guilty that I was part, altho' I must say I had
never realized to what lengths the 'rottenness' had and has
gone. The foregoing is said very sincerely, since I have come to
realize how I am one of those wronged, and most terribly.
Hopefully, now that so much has been revealed, the HSOB
will at least admit that much of that which was spoken of over
the years was, is true. So many of us have had denials of
events, etc. given us individually, yet now one hears of many
who raised the same sort of questions, always with apparently
the same result -- we were not listened to by them about just
those things to which many can attest. Are all those who are
'out' the biggest liars going? Of course not.
Up until now, there has not been "gossip" in KIT. Rather
it is a vehicle for pent-up hurts and thoughts, and we all need
that, because who, other than those who experienced the
community, can have the faintest idea of what we mean if we
voice our hurts?
Heidi Kleiner Strickland: I was outraged by some of
the SOB's responses in KIT (April, 1990). To call Johannes
Arnold a liar is a far cry from suggesting that the SOB is in a
reconciliatory mode. From my experience, especially as a
therapist, I have come to understand 'truth' to have many
faces. People hear, understand and perceive information in
many different ways, depending on their state of mind, their
position, their opinion, their vulnerability and their
defensiveness. I would hope that if the SOB is going to use KIT
as a forum for their position that they do not become
slanderous. It is only through true love that understanding can
Alice Miller's thoughts on forgiveness may be relevant
here: ..."Genuine forgiveness does not deny anger but faces it
head-on. Such forgiveness cannot be coerced by rules and
commandments; it is experienced as a form of grace and appears
spontaneously when a repressed (because forbidden) hatred no
longer poisons the soul. The sun does not need to be told to
shine. When the clouds part, it simply shines." p. 248, For
Your Own Good.
Alice Miller explores what she calls the "poisonous
pedagogy," principles of child-rearing that in many ways deny
the feelings of the child. Adults experience a great deal of
discomfort with their children's feelings of anger, sadness,
frustration and humiliation. They exert much effort to mold
and control children's feelings. I believe that the expression of
feelings in the Bruderhof was extensively controlled. As
children we were not allowed to express our sadness, confusion
and anger at the loss of our parents. The losses were repeated
through death and exclusions. There was no safe place to
explore feelings and have them acknowledged -- which I
believe is a basic right and need of a child.
Having grown up with Johannes, as my step-brother, from
age 5, I know him to be a gentle, sensitive, kind person with a
tendency towards absent-mindedness. I know how much he
hurt as a child, and how he has been hurt repeatedly as an
adult. I wonder why it is so difficult to recognize his pain.
"Harsh love," the kind of love we were raised on, has never
healed any wounds. It only allowed them to fester.
Thank you, Roger Allain and Michael Caine, for some
truly delightful memories and stories of my father Fritz
Kleiner. Because he died when I was 2 1/2, I have very few
memories. I have missed and grieved not knowing him.
In brief response to Hans Meier's letter, I was never
baptized or in the novitiate. I was challenged by the life in the
Bruderhof; the challenge being to be true to the principles
taught. In order to be true to the Bruderhof teachings I had to
leave, because honesty was frequently not practiced there.
Finally, I must admit I am puzzled by the Bruderhof's fear
of KIT. KIT is a healthy forum for communication, sharing our
roots (which we were cut off from by leaving) and airing
feelings that have been pent up for too long. Thank you to all
KIT staff for making this newsletter possible. You are truly
John G. Arnold - Extracts from Bruderhof History:
What happened could be divided into three parts. The
formative period could be classified as the whole life of
Eberhard Arnold. I have my grandmother's account called
"The Locked Papers." Eberhard's life was a continuous search
for the truth which was revealed as a continuous revival of the
Holy Spirit amongst men. It was the Movement of the Spirit, a
constant awakening to new meanings of the truth. The
Bruderhof should become not only a vessel of the truth, but
also a focal point of true life. George Fox would have called this
'the Sea of Light.' Eberhard called it 'the Ocean of Love.' It
included a special love for deprived people.
The second phase could be seen as Eberhard's death until
1960. The last two months of his life have been recorded by
Emmi (Oma) and Moni Barth. Seeing his imminent death,
Eberhard wrote a testament to the new elder, Hans Zumpe. I
am still waiting to receive a copy of the original letter. Here is
what my research has found. My information came from five
members of the Rhon Hof. This letter was read in the
About Heini, Eberhard expressed a deep love but also a
1) Heini shall not be the main servant of a Hof. He needs
to be guarded and corrected.
2) Heini loses his balance too easily, is too emotional,
which affects his better judgment.
3) Heini should not be in a position from which he can
exercise too great an influence over the souls of men. The
power over souls is morally wrong.
Eberhard felt that his son Hardi was more gifted than he
was, and that his (Hardi's) battle would be the fight against his
own pride. Oma (Emmi) also confirmed this.
Eberhard seems to have died of a broken heart. He was
glad about the Alm, but grief-stricken about the Rhon. Was
Eberhard's judgment not affected by his infection and by his
utter physical and mental exhaustion? Amongst members
could be found a clinging emotionalism One guest openly
attacked. Nobody intervened. The threat of a Nazi occupation
was imminent. After Eberhard's death, the Arnold families felt
hurt, forsaken and even betrayed. My grandmother taught me
to read between the lines. The exclusion of Georg Barth and
Hans Zumpe on the Cotswold Hof seemed quite harsh. Emi
was against the exclusion of Hardi and Fritz Kleiner in 1942.
The extreme harshness of the terrible exclusions in 1944, I
believe, was partly due to Hans Zumpe's and Georg's exclusion
in 1937. These acts destroyed the Movement of the Spirit.
What happened in 1960 was partly a result of 1944, but it also
was retaliation. The third period could be called Heini Arnold
(1960-1982). My own conclusions are a continuous process.
New insights change the whole picture. Eberhard wrestled with
problems for many years. The truth emerged gradually.
Solutions could often be found by historic research. The
Anabaptists and Hutterites determined the direction. Real
solutions could only be found in the Movement of True Life.
Peter Riedemann, a Hutterite imprisoned, believed that truth
would be revealed through the light of gathered believers.
In 1977 I attended a very special meeting in Darvell. The
purpose was to shed light on the 1960 crisis. There seemed to be
a clear separation between what the Brotherhood felt and what
the servants represented. Merrill Mow and Arnold Mason
defended what happened in 1960 and especially what happened
in England and Sinntal. Brothers and sister objected by telling
examples. To me, it seemed quite clear that most members
would like to limit the power of their leaders. I kept a record in
my blue and red book. David Mason recorded that meeting.
Before I ever could rejoin the Bruderhof, the following
changes would need to be made:
1) The powers and responsibilities of all the services need
to be clearly defined.
2) No elder or servant is allowed to appoint another
3) All services should be appointed by the Brotherhood.
4) Each community must choose all services from its own
5) All services should be periodically reviewed.
6) No community has the right to interfere with the affairs
of another community.
KIT NOTE: On a number of occasions HSOB members
have denied there ever was a letter from Eberhard warning
against placing Heini in a leadership role. However we have
had two other independent sources confirm this was the case.
This letter has been printed exactly as it came to us
-----------Food For Thought----------
John Bradshaw: 'On Co-Dependency and Religious
Addiction,' a lecture available for $20 from Bradshaw Cassettes,
P.O. Box 980547, Houston, TX 77098.
Religious addiction is such a menacing addiction because
the pathology is so much more hidden than in most addictions.
Because how could somebody be bad, how could somebody go
wrong, being a follower of God?...
A lot of what I am going to call 'co-dependency' would be
looked upon as a virtue by a certain kind of closed-system
religious thinking. Anybody who comes out of a family that's
committed to a religious system like this is basically getting a
double-whammy. You're not only getting set up to have your
reality denied you, but you're also getting what I call 'parent
tapes of parent tapes.' It's not just your parents that are doing it,
but they bow to a higher parent that is telling you that this is
what's good, this is what you should do, this is what it's right to
Every addiction is a kind of mini-religion. It will have its
God, its rituals and its rubrics... When the addiction is to
religion itself, it can be the most awesome addiction because it's
the kind of addiction that it's hard for a person to hit bottom in.
It's hard for him to get out of the mood alteration, especially if
there's a pastor of the church, or there's a pope. You can
imagine a kind of being-entrapment there. You never get out of
the feeling of righteousness which is the mood alteration. It's
the feeling of righteousness that mood-alters.
Why would someone want to mood-alter in the first
place? If you were really comfortable with being yourself, and if
we really believed that we were made in the image of God, that
we were unconditionally loved by God, it would be hard to
think of somebody needing to mood-alter. Show me somebody
who really has faith and I'll show you a healthy person. To
believe that the power that is greater than any other power
loves you unconditionally -- if a person could get that at the gut
level, not just at the head level, that would have to be the
ultimate transforming experience. Unfortunately that doesn't
happen to a lot of people...
Remember, whenever you have to play a role, you are no
longer real... Co-dependents will tell you they're fine when the
roof is falling in!... Hero, super-responsible, victim, -- martyr is
a role too. The second you have to play a role, you can no
longer be yourself. You can no longer be real. And every one of
these roles have prescribed emotions that go with them. For
instance. if you're playing victim, you have to have a lot of
sadness, you have to look melancholy a lot. Your choices are
determined by the role. The word for all these roles is a 'false
self.' A false self arises. Forty years of being a hero, a super-
responsible one, if you put a lie detector on me, I don't know
who I am! I think I am that. I've been doing that for forty
years! Once you get in these roles and they get ingrained, you
think that's who you are. You think that's your essence. You
think that's your identity. But the fact is that you don't have
any identity. All you have is a role. And the core of that
problem is shame.
--------KIT Newsletter, June, 1990, Vol II #6--------
Wendy Alexander Dorsey: My parents have expressed
real concern about the newsletter. I hastened to assure them
that nothing you or anyone else said in KIT would change the
fact that I loved them or that I knew that I had received many
blessings from the Bruderhof growing up there. They asked me
not to read KIT. They also asked me not to pass on information
from them to you, which latter I won't. However I do want to
share some things with you: I feel the newsletter is providing a
tremendous forum for dialogue between ex-members and
members, as well as among ex-members themselves. You must
know you are treading sacred ground and needs must walk it
gently! I believe the Bruderhof is in the midst of a Glasnost of
mighty proportions. You are contributing to it. It could
however be perceived as dangerous and threatening to their
When we visited Woodcrest in February, we had quite an
intense dialogue, and in the end most came around to my view
that I could read KIT and understand its purpose without being
against the B'hof. Although I feel I am treading a delicate line,
somehow it seems more honest for me to be clearly FOR BOTH
GROUPS. I thought it was tremendously brave of Sibyl to visit
you, and respect her for that. She in the end said that she did
not want to be against you. I said I felt the people writing to KIT
have real pain, anger and sorrow that need to be heard, and that
you are providing a place for that. There is a real concern that
you are printing lies and slander in order to get back at the
B'hof, if not to destroy it. I said I thought they were giving KIT
too much power, and therein lies the REAL danger. If they
ignored or, alternately, responded in a genuine fashion to the
letters, healing could take place (and I believe some dialogue
toward reconciliation is already happening.)
Now I have written a letter to my family explaining why I
am not interested, at this time anyway, in joining the B'hof.
The reasons were as follows:
1) The B'hof is hierarchical in structure. I live in a church
community that is more egalitarian, with shared leadership.
2) The B'hof is male-dominated (closely related to the first
reason). I am part of a community that has female as well as
3) The B'hof requires everyone to think one way about
everything (or it has traditionally been so -- things are changing
currently, I believe) to preserve unity at all costs. I live in a
community of people who think differently on a variety of
issues and who try to find a common ground of faith and action
to base our communal life on - embracing the differences.
One of the main concerns raised by my family was that
people who have problems with the B'hof should go directly to
them -not write them in a newsletter. I said how difficult it
would be for someone who had left a large community to feel
the trust to go back and confront the community, especially
when they presumably left because of a disagreement in the first
place. There seems to be a lack of understanding of group
psychology and what a powerful force that can be.
I'm glad to see that KIT is printing a variety of opinions
and memories, including those of B'hofers. I think you should
actively encourage this. I was especially grateful for Duffy
Black's and Joyce Atkinson's letters, although I realize they
probably anger some who feel they are being dictated to as to
how they should remember or feel. I agree with Charlie Lamar
about the need to keep the forum completely open for ALL -
and you should keep the disclaimer on the heading of your
newsletter. Chapter 9 reprinted from "Toxic Parents" was
EXCELLENT and very relevant. Thanks! Keep up the good
work. May you keep in mind always the END of the means,
which are healing, reconciliation and empowerment.
Jack Elston (from a letter to Tom Potts at Woodcrest):
Thanks for your letter and invitation to visit. We could not
accept your offer because we couldn't afford the air fare. I
missed any personal interest in our spiritual life. It reminded
me of the time you came to visit us soon after we arrived here
and decided to stay in the States because of the illness of
Janetta's mother. You showed no interest in us. You were only
concerned that we would hurt your community. I did not like
the idea of the "challenge."
We were put out against our will. We were both sick and
we were given $100 to start life over. Later, we asked you for
financial help. You lent us $500, and at the same time we got a
very self-righteous letter from Art Wiser and you about serving
Mammon because we wanted to adopt children.
The community buys, sells and owns property as we do.
The only difference is that we are two and you are many. I
think our material possessions are given to us by God and we
have to be good stewards. We shared our larger home with
many people; this is the reason we want to enlarge this one.
Kathy Mow offered to lend us Torches Rekindled, but we
had already paid for one. I think the book gives a good picture
of the community at that time. There is a lot of praise for
Heini, but none to God for what was good in Heini. I did not
see much prayer to God for His guidance before the men went
running around spending lots of time and money to patch up
the cracks in the community. I think the kind of life you are
leading prevents the Holy Spirit from moving because of the
human rules and regulations that leave a person bound to non-
essentials. You folks claim to be Christians. We have received
apologies for 1967 but how many of us did you contact to find
out how we were doing spiritually or financially? This is
Christianity in action - not words!
We are members of the Four Square Church which does a
lot of missionary work in Central and South America and Asia.
God is moving in a mighty way in East Europe, Russia, South
Africa, etc. He needs laborers to bring the Word and His love to
these people. I challenge you to be a part of this work. I don't
believe the community is the Church. It can be a part of it. The
Church is made up of all those who love Jesus and are in God's
will for their lives. Why don't you go to Times Square in New
York and see what God is doing through David Wilkenson and
the Church there? Maybe you can help.
Miriam Arnold Holmes: It was nice to hear in KIT II
#5 from some dear people I had thought and wondered about
thru the years, such as Jack and Shonaid. I have fond memories
of studying 'King Lear' with Shonaid in Loma Hoby during
Vortbildungschule. We had such interesting, varied teachers,
and Shonaid was one of them. I can feel the hurts and pain as
well as the triumphs as she and Jack experienced the past 30
years in her letter. And welcome, Arny and Judy Tsukroff! So
nice to hear from you. So much fun we had dancing with both
of you (also in Loma), even though you, dear Judy, were SO
tired. I am happy for your discovery of Adult Children of
Alcoholics and 12-Step groups. What you say about co-
dependency fitting so nicely into the SOB's controlling lifestyle
was very well put.
I'm much impressed with Belinda Manley's energy, vim
and vigor, especially her receiving a diploma in theology --
what a noble subject, investigated by many great minds thru the
years (I say 'Yuck!' to the fundamentalists who, I believe, miss
the whole point, not to the study of theology!). So keep up the
good work, Belinda, and give my love to all in England.
Now, dear Selma StŠngl, about your concern about some
of us expressing our anger - you say it's not healthy. In my
work, for many years, with people who have been damaged,
especially our children, I have found that it is extremely healthy
and healing for them to express their anger in a safe
atmosphere. It is true that anger is unhealthy when it is
swallowed, turned against oneself, causing depression and
physical illness, or when anger is let out on innocent bystanders
such as children. Only when we learn to vent our anger
towards the persons, directly OR indirectly, who caused the hurt
can healing take place. Swallowing it, repressing it and lashing
out at the innocent is unhealthy. Please continue sharing your
I would like to express my gratitude to Dick Thomson for
his honesty in expressing his frustrations. I do wonder about
one of his statements and would like to understand it. In his
first letter to Ramon: "If your appreciation is real, show it by
caring about the hurt and damage you have been doing to us..."
etc. etc. I can understand the "hurt" part, because sometimes
hearing the truth is very painful indeed, but I can't for the life
of me understand the "damage" part. How have we damaged
you in the SOB by expressing our truths and feelings? I would
love an explanation. Anyone over there care to explain?
It's too bad that many have to remain silent or
anonymous. Hopefully that will change.
Miriam Arnold Holmes (from her reply to a letter
from a Woodcrest sister): ...What disturbs me about your letter
is the underlying assumption that I am not happy, not free, that
I am resentful, that I do not take responsibility for who I am,
that I blame others (for my misery). Let me assure you that
those assumptions are false. I am happy, I am free, I am not
resentful, I do take responsibility for whom and what I am, I
have nobody to blame for my unhappiness because I am happy!
As a matter of fact, the most miserable time in my life was in
Oak Lake (New Meadow Run). I was deeply depressed and
beaten down. It was incredibly freeing for me when I decided
not to return four years after I had been kicked out. That's when
the stone rolled off my shoulders and the depression was lifted.
Why do you people feel so threatened by KIT? There must
be a reason. I feel good when I read KIT, and I feel inspired
when I write. I feel obligated to point out things that are wrong.
What's wrong is wrong, regardless who the perpetrator is. I
believe it is wrong to worship human beings, and I believe it is
wrong when people oppress people, especially in the name of
"love." I will continue to speak out when I see it. I have to.
I wish you continued satisfaction in your life, and I hope
we can keep the lines of communication open, even if we don't
A Bruderhof graduate: On memories of Heini -- my
impression and memory of his role in my life was that:
a) He cared very deeply about the spiritual life of each of us.
b) He knew intimately what was going on with me.
c) He squelched every sign of creativity when it became
threatening in any way.
d) The reason for this was that he sincerely feared for the
soul of the person if he or she got too involved with their
creativity or ideas -- that he thought they would get too proud
and go to the Devil. This fear was based on the belief that
human beings are born sinful and one must root out the sin.
Time and again I was encouraged to be creative and to learn and
to ask questions -- to a point -- and then quickly squelched when
they or the process went too far. I could give many examples of
this, but won't for now. My impression is that Heini was
behind ALL of this, and in several instances confronted me
directly. His little book "Freedom From Sinful Thoughts" is
clear evidence of Heini's paranoia.
On the reason Heini is getting so much flack from so
many ex-B'hofers: The book Torches Rekindled clearly
shows how Heini willingly, in martyr-like fashion, took on the
sins of a whole community (actually all of the Eastern
communities) and asked for forgiveness from the Western
Hutterians on behalf of all the Eastern communities. His is
presented in the book as a Christ-figure taking on the sins of the
world for its redemption. This explains why he is both blamed
for so much and glorified for so much. A person cannot take
on that kind of responsibility and not expect to get blamed for
all that went wrong. Personally, I think a much healthier way
of Christian living is to EACH accept blame for one's actions
and EACH accept responsibility for the whole. Shared
responsibility doesn't expect one person to be either the Savior
or the Scapegoat. I believe we need a new model of leadership
for our time -- one of SHARED leadership. Problems and
possibilities are too big for ONE leader. Too much creative
energy is wasted when the gifts of each person are not evoked
and developed and put to use fully. That's the business I'm in
-- and I hope many of us will be engaged in.
After the anger and frustration and pain and guilt have
been vented and heard and healed, then we must stop trying to
find Scapegoats and Saviors. Then it's time for each of us to
take up our Cross and work out our own salvation with fear
and trembling -- i.e. discover our giftedness and work toward
the empowerment of ourselves and others for the sake of God's
reign on earth which is happening now IN us and AMONG us
in quiet, but powerful ways.
Joshua Maendel: (edited by KIT staff) Part IV of a
comparison of Eberhard Arnold's teaching to that of The New
The SOB is now trying hard to convince us that they have
changed, when over the past 30 years they hardly lifted a finger
to so much as apologize to people who were literally pushed
overboard with hardly a piece of driftwood to hold onto. It was
a real struggle getting to the shore of some normal economic
existence. What most of us heard was how we had betrayed our
vow that we swore at baptism on our knees to God and "all
holy ones." But I do not believe in making them "pay for it
now," so to speak, because that would be subscribing to the
same error that Heini committed during the holocaust of the
'60s by exacting retribution from those involved in the '40s
Much of what former members experienced with the
Bruderhof was because of the nature of the organization and
the beliefs to which they subscribed. Because of their doctrines,
they cannot help being and doing the things they do.
The testimony which Naomi wrote in KIT was a fairly
recent incident. If Christoph is so callous as to send people
packing in a blinding snow storm, and needed to be threatened
with an appeal to civil authority before he backed down, that
tells me he has degenerated to a point below his father as far as
compassion is concerned. I have heard of Heini sending a
pregnant woman away without her husband in Paraguay, but to
refuse to reach out to somebody in a howling blizzard tells me
something about the present condition of the Society. They
may have an "H" in front of their name and wear Hutterite
clothing, and have transferred their wrist watches to their
pockets, but they are still the Bruderhof.
There is a Hutterite saying preached at least once a year
and it goes something like this: a crow might paint itself snow-
white like a dove, but the moment he opens his mouth his true
character is revealed. This may seem caustic and bitter, but
when you consider the tragedy so many of us experienced trying
to push ourselves into the counterfeit mold of the Bruderhof, it
is time that the truth is said so that people are not sucked into
their net again. I doubt if Snow White would have taken an
apple from the wicked witch a second time, but just in case
there are some naive Snow Whites out there, let them be
The following is a list of 9 points that recently came to my
attention which define cultic leadership. I believe they are very
appropriate and depict the Bruderhof to a tee. Some may be on
the mild side, because this list depicts what is going on in more
loosely-knit organizations than the Society. There are many of
these organizations around with gurus leading them, and the
Bruderhof is no exception.
1. ISOLATION OF DISCIPLES FROM OTHER
PEOPLE -- Leadership will instruct their disciples not to
associate with anyone outside of their "camp." They will either
separate their followers geographically, psychologically or
intellectually. They will be instructed not to read or listen to
any teaching unless it has been pre-approved by the leadership.
2. ABSOLUTE AUTHORITARIANISM -- The leadership
will demand unquestioning surrender to the authority pattern
of that leader. Anything less than "Yes, Sir," is usually
considered rebellion and insubordination. This type of leader
will only want "yes" people around him.
3. DEIFICATION OF A STRONG, CHARISMATIC LEADER
-- The disciples will elevate the leadership to a divine place of
authority where the leadership becomes the final authority
over conduct, doctrine, family situations and even marriage
partners. The leader is the "voice piece for God," and therefore
hears God's voice much more clearly than the disciples.
4. USE OF FEAR TO HOLD THE DISCIPLES -- The
leadership will unleash threats and warnings of divine
retribution. The individual who attempts to pull away will
experience great group pressure through such things as
"personal" visits. The disciples might hear statements such as
"If you dare leave us, you'll die because you are missing God,"
or "If you leave, you'll miss the next move of God and you life
will amount to nothing."
5. INTOLERANT DOGMATISM -- Leadership will say,
"Our group sees it this way" rather than saying "the Bible
teaches this." Any interpretation of scriptures will not be
tolerated because the leadership has been given a "special
revelation" by God.
6. COERCION TO SURRENDER FINANCIAL
RESOURCES -- There will be extreme pressure to give
everything away for the common good.
7. CLAIMS WILL BE MADE BEYOND SCRIPTURE --
Scriptures which seemed so clear in the past will now become
cloudy to the disciples because of poor leadership interpretation.
The leadership will announce new insights which oppose the
spirit and the letter of the written Word. These new teachings
will be disguised as "fresh revelation."
8. EMPHASIS ON WORKS -- Those who work the hardest
and longest for leadership will be elevated, rather than those
who demonstrate a Godly spiritual life and character.
9. LEADERSHIP BEGINS TO REDEFINE BIBLICAL
TERMINOLOGY -- The truth of the Word is "stretched' beyond
In the next issue, I would like to continue with a hopefully
shorter digest of the counterfeit doctrines of the Bruderhof. I
believe that once you understand what was behind all the
things you experienced at the community or that happened to
you, your hurt and antagonism will turn to the feeling "what a
fool I was." Until my wife and I began to become familiar with
the teaching of the Christian faith as recorded in the Bible, we
had no way of knowing what was right. All we knew for sure
was that we did not want to have anything to do with the SOB
way of life. My sense of right and wrong from my Hutterite and
parental upbringing was my mainstay during my tenure with
the Society. Others, unfortunately, did not fair as well. Until
you become familiar with the real things in life, you will not be
able to detect the counterfeit. And what is so deadly about the
counterfeit is that in order for it to be effective, it has to sound
and look like the real thing. But I believe that if we place the
different teachings of the Bruderhof alongside Christian
principles as stated in the Word of God, the counterfeit will
--------KIT Newsletter, July, 1990, Vol
Guillermo Fischer: Sorry to bother you again, but after
reading your April edition with Hans Meier's comments I can't
contain myself. This well-known "YES" he mentions is only
ONE side of a three-party contract. The facts from the past speak
clearly enough. Miriam was not the only one to hear the words
Abgestorbenes Holz (dead wood). If this is the way this
contract works, then we have come back to the simple animal
herd instinct, where the odd ones are pushed out by the
stronger. Simple and perfect way to end a partnership. The
Community (I name it first) and God, being two to one, should
surely, in the right spirit, be able to help and reconcile. In
another passage, Meier goes on that people outside "were not
able to unite among themselves." This statement really got me
going. What a ridiculous twist to the story!
For six or seven years, my mother was scared to meet any
ex-members as she had been told that in doing so, her returning
to the Hof would become more difficult. As I see it, the fear
therapy worked effectively.
Further, Meier's observation 'that this way of life does not
leave you in peace' is amazing and perfectly true. Most people
that left or were asked to leave, even the younger ones, carried
on searching for truth and inner peace, each in their own and
different way being faithful to this 'yes' they once gave. In my
mother's case, as I saw it, this was only possible after this man-
made fear had been overcome and she realized she had not
Meier has not realized that ex-members still cannot see
these re-lighted torches for the smoke. Let's try to clear some of
that smoke so the heart of the fire can be seen a bit more clearly.
To sum it up, there is nothing wrong with community life if
the binding factor is a caring spirit. Where it goes wrong is
when man's power struggle takes over. Looking back to the
battle of '59-'62, the state of some scattered victims is still clearly
to be seen and needs clearing up. Greetings to all.
Ruth Baer Lambach: Excerpts from an article entitled
The Spirit Or The Letter.
Oak Lake: the old hotel with its thin, worn carpets and
stuffy hallways was the only living space. However the lake
was beautiful and the path around it even more so. We learned
to swim. The Baer children went to school and, because I had
graduated from high school, I was given the job of being the
kindergarten teacher for a dozen children. I took the
responsibility seriously. After the children left, I carefully
cleaned things up and prepared for the following day. I
conscientiously watched the pre-school teacher to get ideas
about activities for the children. The students my age who were
going to the local high school played volley ball in the gym after
school. I didn't join them because I didn't feel that I belonged. I
was alone, but in my aloneness I tried to do a good job. I was
confronted by the elders of the Bruderhof who told me that I
was becoming like my mother. My mother worked diligently
but did not share her emotions with others freely. She was not
participating in the joyful community spontaneously. They
recommended that either I live with another family on the hof
or leave the community and experience the world for a while.
That night they put me upstairs in the attic and locked me in.
For two days I stayed there,. My meals were brought to me and I
slept there alone. I spoke with no one. My task during this time
was to decide whether I wanted to leave or not. I had no idea
what life on the 'outside' would be like. I had no basis on
which to make a decision. But for me it was so threatening to
think of living at the same place with my family and not be
with them during family times that I decided in favor of the
lesser of the two evils.
The next day when I announced my decision, I was taken
to Pittsburgh some 70 miles away. Howard and Marion
Johnson drove me there. I remember saying goodbye to my
father. He was working in the shop. He stretched out a hand
and said curtly, "Mach's gut." I don't remember my mother
seeing me off. In Pittsburgh we stopped at a Salvation Army to
buy some clothes for me. I didn't know where I was being
taken and I didn't ask. I trusted that things would be taken care
of. I had no sense of what I was doing. Somewhere around 3
o'clock in the afternoon they dropped me off on the street. I
walked to the nearest house with a big porch and sat down,
waiting for the people to come home. I guessed that they would
be nice people. It didn't occur to me that food and shelter
would cost something. I had twenty dollars but no idea how
much that was worth nor how to make change. When the
family, the Daglish's, came home, they did take me in. They
were the caretakers for the Quaker Meeting House.
For the next two weeks I walked the streets looking for a
job. I walked to every hospital. Once as Hutterite I had been in
the hospital. I knew they needed people to do cleaning and felt
confident that I could clean. Sometimes I walked by restaurants
and could see people inside, dressed up. I figured it would be a
while before I could work in fancy places like that, but I could
see that perhaps being a waitress was something in my future.
Another time I watched an ad on television. I reasoned that I
could talk like the lady selling the laundry soap.
Eventually it was through the Daglish's that I landed a job
as a dental assistant. They helped me to buy a white uniform,
shoes and nylons to get started. When I got my first $85
paycheck, I repaid them. Also I moved to a rooming house.
For the next nine months I kept that job. Every morning I went
to work, every noon ate my lunch at a lunch counter, and every
evening went home. I could as well have been in prison.
There was little that I understood about how to be in the world.
I live in a prison I carried around with me, a prison of my own
ignorance. Sometimes it was a blessing, sometimes a curse.
The Daglish's also taught me how to ride a street car.
When I first got on one, I started talking to whomever sat next
to me. I introduced myself to them, telling them all about
myself. After several days, I realized that no one else was
talking. I stopped at a drugstore and bought a paperback. The
first book I read on public transportation was 'On The Beach' by
Nevil Shute. The desolation described in this book matched
what I was feeling in Pittsburgh. When I walked along the
streets I was overwhelmed with frustration because I was used
to getting to know people on a first-name basis, and I presumed
it would only be a matter of time before I knew all the people
that I met. But there were so many! I was exhausted even by
the possibility of relating to them all. Then I noticed that they
did not even look at me. They just walked by me as though I
were a piece of furniture, and that made me feel even colder
and more alone.
On the weekends I stayed with several different widows
who had befriended me through the Quaker Meeting House.
They treated me well. They cooked meals for me and we talked.
They also took me to concerts and lectures. I remember going
to a lecture by Earl Butz who was then Secretary of Agriculture.
I don't remember anything he said, but I was aware it was an
important event because so many people attended it. One of
the widows did volunteer work at a hospital. I told her that she
was just assuaging her conscience by doing that work, and that
if she really wanted to live a Christian life she would live in
community. It was very clear to me that I was out to experience
the evils of private life and that it was some kind of a
punishment. Inside I held to my Hutterite-Bruderhof values
and judged everything I experienced accordingly.
The people I talked to must have wondered at this self-
righteous attitude. Many times the police picked me up because
I was walking in dangerous areas. Since I didn't read the
newspapers nor listen to the radio, I was unaware of things like
strikes. Also I had little sense of private property and would
walk diagonally across people's back yard if that was the
direction I was going. But at least I had a good sense of
directions and I could speak English.
I wore my white uniform all the time, even when I went
back to Oak Lake for a visit. They told me that weekend that my
dress was too short. I stayed one night, and all night I cried and
shook. The next day, emotionally drained, I had to go back to
Pittsburgh, this time by Greyhound bus. My father took me to
the bus. He pushed me on the bus to make sure I went. I felt
his big paw pushing me. Maybe he could tell how scared and
lonesome I felt. He used to tell us about his first time away
from his family when he wasn't more than fourteen. He was
desperately lonesome but didn't dare come home. So he
walked to within sight of his family home and just stood
looking at it across a field. During my entire nine months in
Pittsburgh I didn't get my period. My menstrual periods had
been normal before that.
In Pittsburgh I held out for another several months before
I wrote another letter asking if I could return for good this time
to try 'the life' again. With my savings of $500 I stepped off the
bus just outside Oak Lake. My father greeted me. Suddenly I
saw again the alive, enthusiastic father I had not seen for years.
He announced that the family was leaving the next day. I took
my money and put it on the steward's desk. That evening there
was a love meal to say goodbye to my family. The next day my
father and half the boys left with an old car, and my mother and
the other half of the family left by train. They were on their
way to North Dakota. I stayed. Later I learned that they had
given my father $50 and my mother the same amount. My
brothers tell delightful stories about the drive back to North
Dakota. My father slept crouched all the way left on the driver's
side while various boys took turns at the wheel, waking him up
whenever the cops were sighted.
The Bruderhof, always sensitive to nuances of feelings and
sentiment, moved me to Woodcrest where I could more easily
make a new beginning. I lived in a small house with several
other girls. Every day I cleaned the bathrooms and the floor of
the entryway of the main building where people tracked
through. At some level I was aware I was functioning at half-
mast in a mechanical way during my entire time at Woodcrest.
I was lost. I didn't know what I felt or if I felt anything at all.
When I asked about specific people I had known at Oak Lake, I
was asked why I wanted that information. Since I was not
participating in the Gemeindestunde meetings, I was
unaware, except on a feeling level, of the paranoia under which
everyone operated during this time of spiritual housecleaning.
I did not know specifics about how many people had left or how
many others were in mental institutions with nervous
The house in which I lived was at the edge of a thick
wood. It was very dark inside. One day I decided to cut down a
small tree that was totally shading the window. I was chastised
for being callous towards nature. Another time I walked by
some budding crocuses but did not rejoice in their beauty nor
wax eloquent about the buds as harbingers of spring. I
apologized about this and used it as a demonstration of my lack
of love and warmth of heart. One night I decided to sleep out
under the stars behind the house. Several of the men evidently
spent hours looking for me because they were worried. The
next morning they took me to the Greyhound bus station in
New York City. About three days later I got off the bus in Lake
Park, Minnesota. I asked for a cab at the town gas station. The
owner looked at me as though I were a person from outer space.
When I told him I was Allan Baer's daughter, he told me he
would take me to the Baers who lived on a farm about five
miles out of town.
My parents knew nothing of my impending arrival. It was
Halloween, 1960. They lived in a ramshackle, drafty, old,
unpainted house on top of a hill with an outhouse in back. I
walked up the muddy hill. Goats tied to tires bucked and bleated
as I walked by. My brothers ran out of the house to greet me.
Later they told me they thought at first I was a ghost.
First KIT Conference at Friendly Crossways
On the weekend of August 17-19 the KIT Newsletter
staff, in conjunction with Miriam Arnold Holmes and Heidi
Kleiner Strickland, hosted a conference for graduates and
survivors of the Bruderhof communities. It was a historic
occasion because never in the seventy-year history of the
movement has such a meeting taken place. The Bruderhof has
always warned the people they send away from meeting with
each other and has never been willing to share addresses of
ousted families. And although there were rumors that Hans
Meier might show up from the Deer Spring bruderhof, we
received word the night before that he would not attend at
Sunday lunch, the only part of the weekend which we held
open to a Bruderhof member since there were many people
there who did not want to see anyone from the communities.
Ramon and Judy Sender, Dave Ostrom and Charlie Lamar
gathered at Roger and Heidi Strickland's Thursday evening.
We decided on the menus for the weekend, and on Friday
formed two teams. One spent $400 at a local supermarket,
while the other spent $100 on vegies at a local farm and picked
up a keg of beer and some wine. Thus well-stocked, we
converged on Friendly Crossways, a conference center in the
rolling hills of Massachusetts' apple country near Littleton,
about 40 minutes west of Boston. This place was chosen both
because of its geographical convenience and also for its
historical role in the early years of the American bruderhofs.
There were already a few folks waiting for us, and by
suppertime we numbered thirty. Ramon had his hands full
assigning rooms while keeping an eye on the Pasta Primavera
sauce bubbling on the stove. Some of the men buzzed like flies
around the beer keg in the patio and many very happy reunions
took place between people who in some cases had not seen each
other in thirty years. And what a happy surprise to see John
Arnold from England! Miriam, his sister, was especially bowled
over. We all were very happy to have a representative of the
English KITfolk who would be able to report back about the
conference across the ocean.
Although we had not planned a formal agenda, it became
obvious that people really wanted to meet as a group and hear
each other's stories. So Saturday morning forty of us gathered
in the meeting room and started going around the circle. Tale
after tale was told of crises and exclusions which the circle
experienced both as children and adults. A few also mentioned
that if just one Bruderhofer had spoken two loving words, he
or she would have returned eagerly to the community, and yet
they now felt relieved that this had never happened.
Others spoke of the hardships of adjusting to the 'outside
world' without adequate preparation and with just the few
token dollars the community had given them in their pockets.
Many descriptions of traumatic childhood isolations and
punishments brought tears to the listeners' eyes. It was obvious
that in many cases people are still processing their pain. Some
seemed stunned to find themselves there, to be experiencing in
reality a scene they had obviously fantasized or dreamed.
After lunch we met again, and after supper we continued
until1:30 A.M., still not having gone around the full circle.
More and more people kept showing up including Ben
Zablocki, the sociologist who wrote The Joyful
Community in the mid-sixties, (now in print again via The
University of Chicago Press) and John Hostetler the Anabaptist
scholar and his wife Beulah. It was especially good to see Ben,
and many thanked him for his book which had been so helpful
to them. He offered numerous free copies to people there.
Someone mentioned to him that a copy of The Joyful
Community used to sit symbolically in a waste basket in
the Servants' office at New Meadow Run. John and Beulah
Hostetler also were very thankful to have been invited.
It would be good to be able to list all the names of those
who attended, but unfortunately there were many who
requested anonymity because of their fear of losing visiting
privileges to family within the communities. Rather than give
just a partial list, we'll just say that we had a representation in
all age groups. We sang a number of songs, with Ramon on the
accordion, and a wide diversity of views were expressed, all the
way from church-attending Christian, original and individual
forms of spirituality, to people who would not say anything
about spirituality at all.
A special concern was brought up about the treatment of
children within the Bruderhof, and the Sunday morning
meeting focused on this issue. Many incidents were reported of
young people experiencing deep depression and a conviction
that they were harboring an "evil spirit." Opinions were
expressed that these seem to be an inevitable outcome of their
doctrinal belief in their negative obsession with sin and in the
devil as an actual entity who can possess or inhabit individuals.
It is our hope that the HSOB will learn from Twentieth Century
discoveries in psychology and modify their beliefs which seem
in many instances to lead to psychological discomfort and
sickness. Many agreed that this is a terribly sad state of affairs.
Another concern mentioned is that now that the Bruderhof has
its own doctors, many of these cases now are treated inside the
community with anti-depressants.
All in all just being LISTENED TO by forty others who
knew and understood what was being said was very helpful and
healing to many. A number of people wept openly, but there
were also many happy moments. Also there was discussion
about creating a fund to help children continue their education
or pay for necessary counselling when they are ejected, as well
as older ex-members in need of medical help, housing or job
training. Sunday afternoon everyone said goodbye, very happy
with the reunion, and with the feeling that this is just the first
of many more. Considering that we announced this one only
in May, we think that next year, if we give KITfolk a longer lead
time, we can count on probably close to one hundred
participants. And thanks, again, every one of you, for making
this our first annual reunion such a smashing success!
An Open Letter to the Bruderhof Communities
from a Workshop of the Friendly Crossways Conference
August 19, 1990
Almost fifty of us former members and children of the
Bruderhof communities gathered for a weekend of sharing
memories and concerns. Many of our memories are happy and
precious. Many are not. This open letter addresses the latter.
Our former association with you gives us a unique
insight into various problematic aspects of the Bruderhof
communities. We therefore request that you give careful
consideration to the concerns we here express:
1: The frightening prospect of expulsion leads to
community-wide fear of honest communication. Members and
children dread the effects of their candor. Genuine honesty is
only possible if its results are not calamitous. Guaranteed
financial support and the right of continuing contact with
family and friends are minimal requirements for making the
prospect of departure from the Bruderhof less traumatic.
2: Children must be educated and acculturated so that
they may easily leave if they choose. They need to be able to
make meaningful choices, get training in a field of their choice,
and know that if they choose to leave the Bruderhof, they will
still be respected and will not be cut off from family and friends.
3: Physical and psychological abuse has definitely
occurred in the past. At the Friendly Crossways Conference, we
heard numerous, detailed personal accounts of such abuse. We
are really concerned as to whether this is continuing. We have
many thoughts on this important subject, and want to start a
serious dialog with you about it. We believe that our insights
and concerns in this regard could help you understand more of
the nature of this problem, address it effectively and thereby
immeasurably enhance your witness to the power of love and
reconciliation in the world. That witness remains ours too, and
we have made this plea in that spirit.
We ask that this Open Letter be read in membership
meetings on each hof. We ask that you let us know how we can
help you address these questions. And we invite you to
respond through the ŇKeep In TouchÓ Newsletter, now going
into its second year of monthly publication.
All this we ask in deepest sincerity and seriousness,
The Friendly Crossways Conference Workshop
Christoph Arnold, Bruderhof Elder, to Tim Johnson:
Dear Tim: Thanks for your letter. It was wonderful to hear
from you. I really feel your concern about the KIT circular and
how we can work together more. That is very much our
longing, I can assure you.
Thank you also for your suggestions. About the mailing list, it
might surprise you that KIT has a much better mailing list than
our communities have.
I also want to reassure you, dear Tim, that no one has been
threatened by the community that if they associate with KIT
their visiting privileges will be revoked. I know this is stated in
KIT, but it is not true. [our emphasis - editors]
So please continue sharing with us. We are glad for any kind of
contact with anyone. Should you have contact with any KIT
readers, please encourage them to write directly to the
community. No one who has written in a respectful way to the
community has been turned away or discouraged. There is a
tremendous longing in the brotherhood for reconciliation.
Name Withheld: After reading the posthumous letter
from Heini to Christoph, I am beginning to wonder why it was
printed in the second edition of Torches Rekindled." So many
people already were upset about the first edition without that
letter from Heini. What is it with the "PLAIN BROTHERS?" I
really think this is going too far! Apparently the 'plain' brothers
and sisters had no say and Heini got upset that the plain
brothers puffed themselves up in the Bruderhof in Loma Hoby,
and he for one was not used to that type of behavior.
Well, I for one, object strongly to the use of the term
"PLAIN" brothers and sisters. We were always told that
everyone was equal on the Bruderhof and that there were no
class differences. However of course there were class
differences, but I had never before seen it put down in black and
white. The Servants always stressed the fact that we were all
equal. When reporters came to interview the Servants to write
about the Bruderhof, they were told very emphatically that
everybody was treated equally. Of course we know that it was
not so, and now in this letter Heini has confirmed that feeling
that so many of us had, that we were not equal.
I am shocked to say the least, that this is now in print for
all the world to read. Such class distinction should not even
exist on the Bruderhof, but sad to say it obviously does, even
The word 'parasite' has been used to describe some very
dedicated brothers and sisters. That is almost worse than being
classified as a so-called "PLAIN" brother or sister. How is it
possible that brothers and sisters who have dedicated their
whole lives to the church be called "PLAIN" brothers and
sisters or even a parasite? All this is beyond me and not easy to
understand at all. So now so many of us know how the
Servants and Heini felt about us. When we joined the
Bruderhof, we did so in good faith that we were giving up a life
of competition and class distinctions. We gave up everything
to join the Bruderhof in order to live a life of dedication and in
peace and harmony.
Susan Welham: I have been following the KIT letters
with interest for the last few months. Reading the various
accounts has helped me to gain perspective on my formative
years. My parents were excluded in Paraguay in December, 1959.
I was 17 at the time, having just spent a year as a student in
Asuncion where I had experienced a small taste of freedom. I
was happy to leave with my parents and launch myself into the
adventure of life.
I feel like sitting here and writing FREEDOM, FREEDOM,
FREEDOM - to dance FREEDOM, to cry FREEDOM. That is
what living in the SOB did for me. It created an unquenchable
thirst for FREEDOM. It became the driving force in my life and
still is. I seek freedom from everything that stops me from
exercising my God-given right to choose. Freedom to become
I can understand my parents and others with them
choosing the communal way of life, especially since the war was
raging around them. I however joined the SOB at six weeks old
by default. My love affair with true choice and everything it
implies in diversity, adaptability, the forward thrust of
evolution in the human species toward understanding and
enlightenment is fairly recent. In order to feel safe in these
unchartered waters, I have had to find my center - my solid
core, to experience unconditional love. God does not set any
conditions on love. I am loved no matter what I do. I can love
myself now even though I'm not perfect. I now know that sin
means to be without love. As soon as I realize (recognize) that I
am without love, I endeavor to be with love again, and that
does not include beating myself over the head with my
mistakes or other people with theirs.
I have had many years of adaptation, trial and error, to
reach this understanding of myself. My initial reaction on
leaving the SOB was to try anything and everything. The word
NO did not feature in my vocabulary any more. I wanted to
experience my life, not live it according to some one else's idea
of the truth. When I was just 19, I had my first child.
Fortunately for us, my parents were loving and accepting.
Marcus, now 26, is a great inspiration to us all with his vision of
communal living which encourages personal freedom.
Incidentally, Judy and Arni, I named him 'Milo' after your son
whom I cared for in the toddler house. I used to enjoy his
expressions of defiance. I was also very happy that Arni was
able to introduce us to square dancing. It gave my life a new
dimension. I read your letter, Judy, with great interest and I
send you both my warmest greetings.
Dancing, in fact, has been my saving grace, helping me
through the years of bringing up my children on my own. I had
two children before I married and then two more - just what I
always wanted, 2 boys and 2 girls. Divorced at 30, I looked
around and thought, now what? At least I am free again. I
became part of a dance troupe. We practiced and demonstrated
Country and Morris dances at fairs, fetes, country markets, old
folks' homes, cathedrals and concert halls. My children all
joined in as did my mother and brother Geoff and family. It
kept us physically fit and spiritually alive!
I also went back to school to get my high school certificate
and on to the university, but found full-time study, two hours
travelling each day and a young family to care for a difficult
combination. So I decided to put formal education on the back
burner for a while and went to live on a little island half an
hour boat ride off the coast. I learned to grow food, eggs, milk,
go fishing, swimming and sailing. My parents had also moved
to Lamb Island and were by then keen sailors, so we were able to
enjoy our surroundings to the full.
In the meantime, Geoff junior and wife had bought a 100-
acre farm further down the coast, "Upson Downs." We have all
joined forces here now. We hold the land as tenants in
common and have the legal right to erect 8 houses on the
property. We now have 6 households, each being self-sufficient
financially, and retaining the right to sell their house and share
should they decide to move elsewhere. Our communal
responsibilities include paying the rates and maintaining the
roads and fences. Otherwise we get together for meetings and
workdays when we want to, sometimes at frequent intervals.
At other times, if we are all busy with other activities, we have
a holiday from each other and come together again with
renewed vigor. Maintaining the interests of the individuals,
the group and our interaction with local people and
organizations simultaneously is truly challenging.
My children are all adults now, with children of their
own. They have bought a 500-acre property, "Piller Valley
Community" one hour's drive from here with some of their
friends. Their concept of sharing (the individuals are all
shareholders in a public company) is about as far removed as
possible from the one forced on me as a child. No distinction is
made between physical, emotional, mental or spiritual sharing.
All are encouraged. Dress is optional if at all. Decision-making
is by true consensus, no leader, no expulsions. Conflict CAN be
a creative process. Children are respected, nurtured and given
the freedom to be themselves, integrating their community
experience and their interaction with schoolfriends and the
world at large. The potential for positive change being
exponentially greater if free exchange of materials, ideas and
feelings is practiced by as many people, with as many people as
Constant exchange takes place between Upson Downs and
Piller Valley, yet at the same time the younger generations are
running their own lives, working things out for themselves,
very often teaching us a thing or two. We combine a concern
for the environment, fighting against a proposed pulp mill and
a toxic waste incinerator in our area. At the moment the
establishment of the LETS System (Local Employment Trading
System), an expanded version of bartering, is keeping us busy
along with running the environment center and organizing
recycling materials. Some of us also spend time working at a
healing center in Grafton.
When I read the first KIT letters, I wrote a contribution
which I didn't send. I have now included part of it (see next
letter 'March 3rd' - ed.). I felt the need to be part of the boil-
lancing process, letting the poisons out. Having read further
letters in which so many people have expressed my sentiments
so well, I moved on to the next stage - recognition, then letting
go. I had already done a lot of work on releasing self-limiting
patterns in myself: not being able to feel or express my feelings,
fear of rejection, not being able to receive or express physical
closeness and warmth, etc., in therapy sessions one-to-one, in
groups and on my own. There has been a lot of undoing,
having to go back and understand how I acquired such crummy
ideas about myself. A lot of the impetus for my own healing
came from my concern not to pass the same rubbish on to my
children. The work I now engage in, healing body, mind and
spirit, looks at all the influence that cause disease -
environmental, social, pollution, nutrition, emotions,
attitudes, etc., recognizing that most physical illness has
repressed emotions or self-punishing beliefs at its roots.
For many years the only letters we received from the SOB
were death notices. I had the impression that these reminders
of our mortality were meant to scare us into submission, that
the SOB needed to have its reality validated by a return of the
flock. What I became particularly aware of, though, was the
high incidence of cancer, which speaks to me of repressed
emotions, especially guilt - not something I would want to
When I reflect on how I feel toward the SOB now, I realize
that I feel great love for so many individuals, but at the same
time feel that the system is rotten to the core. I have a picture
in my mind of the SOB as Dornroschen, the sleeping princess
under the spell of the wicked witch of ignorance behind the
hedge of thorns of fear. Well, princess, you don't have 100 years
to spare, Now is the time to wake up. I think you can rescue
yourselves with a little help from your friends. Maybe if we
knock hard enough and shout loud enough the princess will
wake up and help to get rid of the thorns that separate us.
I call on you SOB people to rejoin the human race. When
Christ said, "What you do to each other you do to me," he was
talking about all others, every single one of us. Would you
have turned Christ out in the cold because you could not agree
with him? What terrible things had 50% of the SOB population
done in 1960 that they had to be cast out, rejected and abused?
Adults had been encouraged to have big families which
made survival in the outside world very difficult, with no
financial base which would have normally been built up over
the years. Employment skills in need of reconstruction or
repair. Teenagers and children who had not been taught
survival skills for the outside world. I know I was like a
"Stranger in a Strange Land," suffering from culture shock. It
was left to the "sinful" outside world to exercise compassion
and the common human decency that compels a helping hand
to reach out to a person in need.
I believe that all adults present at meetings where
inhumane decisions were made must recognize and take
responsibility for their actions. That the best way now to make
amends is recognition of the underlying corruption and the fear
that produces this behavior. It would be a great relief to know
that the cycle of the sins of the fathers being visited on their
children has some hope of resolution.
I have now made two attempts to put my thought and
feelings down. It would be much better for me to have direct
dialog with the SOB, to stand up in front of a meeting and state
my truth bold and clear. I don't know if I have the strength, the
personal power, to withstand the onslaught of a belief system
which I have as yet not completely exorcised. I find that each
time I read the latest KIT letter I still go into restimulation, so I
know that there are still unresolved issues.
I have great admiration for Loy. Her pain has indeed been
great to feel compelled to throw herself again and again against
the blind self-righteousness of individuals who have lost the
ability to access their own inner truth, who have become so
disempowered, have handed their consciences over to others to
be manipulated, that they are unaware of how deep the cancer
goes. When I look at the pain I have experienced as a
consequence of my upbringing, the tyranny made all the more
insidious by the sugar coating, the lip service to loving intent, I
say to the SOB, "Looking at the truth can be painful." I have
wept many tears for my mistreated inner child. Lancing the
boil will be painful, Those of us who have graduated, either
through the force of eviction or by our free will, have also had
to face ourselves in order to heal.
For the last 30 years I have tried to disassociate myself
from my childhood. Fortunately for me, I had no family
members still in bondage to keep the sore open and bleeding.
But when I confront my self-limiting patterns, I realize it is still
very much with me. That early childhood programming is so
powerful that I have to confront it again and again. I have been
very angry with God, the god of my indoctrination, the one
who told me to deny my physicalness, that sex is bad, that sex
and punishment go hand in hand, so that I could only reach an
orgasm when being brutalized in some way. My partnerships
have been unsatisfactory. I have been alone a lot. I have
allowed myself to be dictated to by others for a while and then
have escaped into the freedom I experience when alone with
nature. The plants, trees, wind and sea are so accepting of me,
no fear of rejection, no having to work out how to be accepted
or acceptable. I am still learning to speak out, to stand my
ground. No more "What's the use." For that reason I say to the
SOB, "Don't be afraid to lance the boil. Only you can make that
choice. But if you do, all of us who were party to the belief
system which caused the disease will be there actively involved
in the healing process. You might be well advised to seek the
expertise of an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous, as
they are well-versed in changing disfunctional patterns and
addictions. The addiction to 'power over' on the one hand and
'disempowerment' on the other, so evident in my upbringing,
is being fought worldwide. You are about to find out that none
of us will remain untouched by the powerful force of the
disempowered toward self-empowerment, self-empowerment
that ultimately leads to unconditional love of ourselves and
others. In order for true healing and peace to occur, it must
happen for each one of us. I challenge you to come out of your
ivory tower, to recognize the efforts being made all over the
world about peace. If you have love in abundance, share it with
the rest of us. I quote to you the "Song For The Present Day" by
He is speaking to the North, "Oh come."
He is calling to the South "Withhold no more."
One of the few physical possessions I took with me when I
left Primavera was my hand-written book of Phillip's poems. I
have referred to it often.
And finally, a comment on Torches Rekindled." Reading
it has certainly rekindled much sadness in me. It is such an
indictment against the SOB with its distortions and tunnel
vision. It reminds me of blind rats in a maze. I am very
surprised it was published. Did all present members agree that
it represents the experience of the community as a whole? I'm
glad I got out when I did. I think what we need to balance the
account is the publication of "The KIT Response." When we
have all had our say, and by all I mean everyone who wants to
speak out and be counted, "The Plough" could publish it for us.
After all, it's the least the SOB could do for its disenfranchised
members. Thank you for getting this movement going and the
ongoing effort to keep KIT coming to us each month. I would
be happy to have my letter printed, warts and all, in the next
P.S. This statement is incomplete unless I acknowledge the
key factors in my own healing process.
1) The birth of my first child. The overwhelming love I
felt for this new life gave me an anchor, compelled me to start
making some sense out of my world.
2) The loving support of my parents and family.
3) My own desire to be whole which led me to experience
life as widely as possible and to read voraciously, often my only
means of accessing other people's thought for inspiration. A
few authors I found helpful were Carl Rogers ("Becoming A
Person and Becoming Partners"), Doris Lessing, Carlos
Castaneda, Jane Roberts (The Seth material) and recently Louise
Hay ("You Can Heal Your Life").
4) A close friendship I formed on Lamb Island with Jane
who had the honesty to really look at what was going on in her
disfunctional marriage. Our acceptance and love for each other
made honesty possible and our damaged feelings, tucked
protectively away, could come out like trusting children to be
soothed and healed.
I have gone on to discover how our self-image is formed,
how to unlock the limitations and distortions imposed on us by
our early childhood experiences, and the pain that this
disfunction continues to create in our lives. My introduction to
this form of healing was through the work of Gordon Stokes
and Daniel Whiteside of Three in One Concepts, Inc., 3210 West
Burbank Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505 tel: 818 841 4788.
5) and last but not least the unending love and support my
present companion Peter has given me. For the last four years
he has told me many times every day how beautiful I am, how
gorgeous and desirable, how much he loves me. He asks me to
imagine how much he loves me and then tells me to multiply
it a thousand times to get a small measure of his true love. If I
protest, he says, "I am only giving back to you what you are
giving to me."
I think I have finally graduated.
P.P.S. I have so much to thank my childhood in the SOB
for. The issue of power emerged uncluttered by the insanity of
power over others through wealth and money, power over
through education and knowledge and power over through
physical strength. I could see that the most insidious tyranny of
all is emotional blackmail. The need we all have to be loved
and accepted, particularly in early childhood, gives those who
wield power a chance to stick their claws in deep.
The only way I have found to counteract this force is to
love MYSELF unconditionally. If I can do this, knowing also
that God loves me totally and unconditionally. How could She
not? I am Her creation. Then I have some chance of standing
firm against the monster of fear that has its talons firmly
embedded in the psyche of the human race.
The people in my life who have by their own efforts
extracted these claws one by one from their hearts and minds,
provide delightful, enchanting, exhilarating proof that love is
letting go of fear, and that FREEDOM and LOVE go hand in
March 3rd 1990: So many times in the last 30 years I have
felt the urge to contact the people of my childhood. They would
appear like phantoms in my dreams. It was as if they had all
died. I could not reach them across the abyss that separated
their reality from mine. I would decide to write, and then think
"What's the use? We don't speak the same language."
My parents recently received some of the KITs from
Leonard Pavitt which I have enjoyed reading. I think it is a
great idea to form this support group. Some of the phantoms
are coming back to life and we do speak the same language. I
send special greetings to Clementina Jaime. I will write to you
soon. I welcome the opportunity for growth in this contact with
everyone who shared that strange mixture of beauty and love,
distortion and fear so hard to explain to anyone who wasn't part
of it. It was an absolutely overwhelming (for some devastating)
experience for a child. The conflict between verbal messages
(indoctrination) and messages received on an intuitive or
feeling level created in me a distrust of myself on a very deep
level which I have only recently been able to contact and
As children we were presented with ONE model, ONE
reality, which was even (word erased - ed.) because what we
were told and what really went on underneath were not the
same thing. Disinformation, deliberate withholding of
information, the veil of secrecy about the past. I could not
contact the deep pain of my early childhood. 1947 in Wheathill,
a group crisis of monumental proportions, hardly mentioned
in 'Torches Rekindled.' Separation from my parents because
they were in disfavor and excluded for a time. Fear of disunity
decreed that "If we don't talk about things they will go away."
Where they go is underground where they have the potential
to cause far more trouble. I have only recently realized why I
am so paranoid about gossip. What is wrong with gossip
anyway? We think about each other, so why not talk to and
about each other? At least it is in the open then and can be
That model of love was very limited and limiting. Instead
of opening me up to the touch of my innate goodness and
worth, an understanding that this solid core will always shine
through if it is ALLOWED to, I had a set of guidelines and the
concept of control instilled in me which has fear, not love, at its
roots. With no other model or experiences from which to gain
perspective, we could not learn to exercise freedom of choice
which for me is the whole point of our human existence.
Control through fear as practiced by the SOB is an
abomination that people in the so-called "sinful" outside world
are appalled by. The frequent response I have had from
psychologists and others involved in helping me to sort out my
confusion has been incredulity that a) I am still reasonably sane
and b) that a group of people coming together to love and share
disregard even the most basic human rights.
Censoring mail, excluding and ostracizing adults and
children when they most need love, splitting up families. My
sister age 9 was sent to another hof as a punishment for some
minor sexual infringement. The pain of that separation is with
her still. I could go on and on. A strange group indeed, with
the concept of the family, brotherly love, as its aim, which then
proceeds to demolish that which holds families together,
openness and trust.
Fortunately my love of nature and the enjoyment of my
relationship with many individuals created a balance that
leaves me with many fond memories of my childhood.
I also recognize, particularly in the reconstructive work I
do, that we are all in varying degrees disfunctional, both in and
out of the community. But I think that in the outside world we
are more likely to have our disfunctional behavior challenged
because we are personally, as individuals, answerable for our
behavior. We can no longer hide behind the apron of group
When the group creates a reality which enables
individuals to act as if possessed, they mirror the acts of the
Hitler regime or the religious cult led by Jim Jones that
committed group suicide, children and all. Then maybe the law
of the land needs to be invoked. Surely souls are more
important than hogfeeders!
Loy McWhirter: I have been thinking about your
request/suggestion that I write the few tangible and accessible
pieces I do remember of abuses and accusations - being labeled
the demon child, being possessed of the devil, manifesting evil
when I was a child. My memories are very fragile - of being a
child at all - and the fear-of-telling and being 'rooted out' and
destroyed is still very great because the child I was did not
I am thinking about the real memories of the demon
child. I do not remember where and when she began, yet one
time I do remember that she was isolated and named was when
we were learning to make letter loops in First Grade (I was 5 or
6 years old). Mildred Lord was the usual teacher, but on this day
it was the tall woman with the tiny head who always had a stiff
smile on her face because, I think, she tied her hair too tightly
in the bun on the back of her head. She was showing the 'f' and
'l' loops on the blackboard. She was pointing with the yardstick.
We made loops at our desks on the paper with the pencil. The
child liked to feel the loops making in her hand. She made
bigger and bigger loops that filled the paper because they felt
beautiful and round. The child saw the shadow of the woman
moving fast towards her on the floor. The tight woman grabbed
her and the paper and made all the children look at her letting
the devil take her and make her disobey and be evil by thinking
she could do better than anyone. She said that the girl's father
thought he was better too because of his paintings, but he gave
them for the good of the community. The girl was bad because
she was making only idle marks for her own selfish and willful
pleasure and that makes her evil and strayed from the good
children that she knows all the others are. She said the girl
must be alone again to reflect on her evil ways and root out the
devil in her heart and soul. She put her in the dark corner
where the coats and school things were kept. She said that the
spiders and snakes would keep her afraid and then she would
not go to sleep so she must attend to her task. It seemed that
the child was in the dark corner for many hours and she was
very empty, like the dark room. She looked for her hands to see
if she was still here but she could not find them. She thought
she could hear poisonous snakes and spiders moving around
her and she did not move and stayed very quiet as much as she
could. There seemed to be people moving in there also. She is
still in there. She disappeared when someone opened the door
and the brightness washed her away.
Heini was the ghost always in the background . He did not
show his face.
In Memory of Two Brave Women
Miriam Brailey, a doctor from Philadelphia, became a
member of the Bruderhof. As she grew older, she began to lose
her sight and was confined to a wheelchair. She was sent away
for a time and then was brought back and lived in Woodcrest.
During her time there, a meeting occurred during which each
member had to go up to the microphone and say "Yes" to
confirm again that Heini was the Elder. Miriam had the
courage to say "No." Heini stated that she had created a
disturbance at the meeting. She was sent away to an old
people's home where she died in 1976. She is not buried at
Woodcrest. This is another sad ending to a long and dedicated
life both as a doctor and a sister.
Maria Perez Eckroyd joined the Bruderhof in England.
She had escaped from Spain during the Spanish Civil War
where she lost her husband, an English Quaker, and her son, an
only child. Maria travelled to Paraguay with the Bruderhof and
worked hard as a very dedicated sister. She helped look after
the toddlers and became a 'grandmother' to all the little ones.
When Primavera was closed, she came to England and lived in
Bulstrode. Maria contracted diabetes and found it very hard to
keep to her strict diet. Finally she was told that she was causing
too much trouble and was placed in an old people's home. It
was felt she was too much of a burden.
She fell out of bed and broke her arm, and then a little later she
died a very lonely death. It was a very sad ending to such a long
and dedicated life. She was a very loving person and deserved
better than what she received. It was tragic that she had to die
all alone, especially since she had experienced so much tragedy
in her life.
Andreas Meier Woodcrest Bruderhof:September 17,
1990 Dear Correspondents of KIT: Your unsigned open letter of
September is a poor witness to honest seeking. Most of the
people who might have been able to respond to the complaints
you have are not living anymore.
Could you please let us live our choice of life in peace. All
this stirring up of old wounds brings only more pain and does
not allow healing. If anyone has a specific hurt or need to one
of us who yet lives, let them come and reconcile man to man.
What you require of the Bruderhof, how it should or
should not do and believe, I find unreasonable.
We live this way because we have a conviction, and for
anyone who would like to have a say and take a responsibility
upon himself for what we do, he would have to first become a
full member or renew his commitment. Our lives are short,
the times are serious; let us live the life of our choice to the full
and look forward.
Name Withheld: Does the Bruderhof prepare their
young people for the world 'outside?' No, it does not! So
many young people have had to face the world on their own,
totally unprepared. Some did not even know how to make a
phone call from a phone booth. Others had no idea how to
write out a check.
One young woman who was on her own said she thought
it was sinful to have a bank account. Now these things are all
practical issues and can be learned. In time one adjusts to the
ways of the world. Very much worse for young people coming
from a very sheltered childhood is the emotional adjustment.
How do they cope with the trauma of adapting, making friends,
finding their feet? All this is like a slap in the face for them. It
is amazing, though, how many young people, with the help of
others who were concerned for them, made it through and
have become successful. On the other hand, many still suffer
under the impact of it all. They have anxieties and have to seek
counseling in order to become well-functioning and balanced
The Bruderhof bring their children up thinking that the
children will decide to stay in the community and not have to
face the problems of the world. But that is not good enough.
As it happens, not all young people decide to remain. Children
have to be prepared for life whether they grow up on the
Bruderhof or not. They have to learn to think for themselves.
They need a rounded education to learn how to live in the
world without their parents and without the Bruderhof in the
background. They should know what they will be up against.
I would like to comment on J.C. Arnold's letter to Tim
Johnson. J.C. is trying to hide behind something, what I do not
know. But to say that KIT has a better mailing list than they do
is simply absurd. Furthermore, to say that no one has been told
that they cannot visit the community if they go the the KIT
conference, or if they actively take part in writing for KIT, is
even more absurd. We all know one person who was told by
their family that they could not visit if they went to KIT
conferences. So if the family says such things, why does J.C. not
say, "It is fine. They can come even if they do go to KIT
conferences." We know that Servants encourage parents to tell
their children they cannot visit, so that if there is any
resentment, it is directed towards the parents and not towards
the community. Yes, we know only too well how that is. We
went through all that nonsense. It is disgraceful to realize that
we let ourselves be so brain-washed! And who suffered? The
children, who often were in need of parental advice or just
wanted to spend time with their families. Why does the
community still think they can get away with all this stuff?!!!
So many people have suffered under their cruel stupidities.
We are still waiting for them to give their word not to
penalize anyone who reads KIT. Also they just cannot admit to
censoring mail. I don't think we have made much headway on
these issues. Nor have they admitted that so many people have
suffered lasting damage to their lives from the way they were
treated by the Bruderhof. It is horrifying to have to see how our
children, now adults, still suffer severely under such terrible
The young people are the ones who suffer the most,
especially now when we hear that not everybody gets the
chance to go to college or train for a profession. If they are sent
away with a large family, what foundation can they stand on? It
still is hard for us as parents to find our feet.
ITEM: While visiting the Bruderhof recently,
Charlie Lamar was given as an example of KIT's biased
reporting the fact that a letter of from Kathy Mow to Ramon
was not published in an early KIT as she requested. Originally
we did not print Kathy's first letter because of her follow-up
apology for it. We publish it now to lay to rest any notion that
we do not present all sides of issues. Here is the entire
November 21, 1989 from Kathy:
Dear Ramon: When you first came to visit Woodcrest (in
1957), Merrill and I spent an evening with you. You were
excited about what you found at Woodcrest. You were very
much aware and concerned about the need of the world, and I
still remember how you expressed it. You felt that the evil and
sickness of the world is contagious and is spreading like a
disease, and you enthusiastically hoped that the healthy
atmosphere of love and healing that you found at the
Bruderhof could also be contagious. You were excited and
wished it could spread all over the world. I remember being
quite impressed about how you could express it.
But what has happened to that hope? What frightens me
now for you Ramon is, as I understand it, you are making a big
effort among Bruderhof members who have left, to work on
the side that is spreading the disease of division, of false
accusations, of nursing hurt feelings of hate and unforgiveness.
Ramon, you should be working for reconciliation, peace and
It must be because of the personal burden of guilt you carry
by deserting your wife and child and being unfaithful to both
your novice vows and your marriage vows, that you are left
with a guilty conscience which you are seeking to justify.
Stirring up mistrust and accusations and trying to put brothers
in a bad light will not soothe your conscience, but will only add
to your guilt. I plead with you to stop and think what you are
We read your Round-Robin newsletters with interest.
You have my permission to print this in one of your letters. In
hope that your letters will serve to bring all of us closer together
and not drive in more wedges, Kathy Mow
November 30, 1989 From Ramon:
Dear Kathy: Thanks for your letter, so full of warm
thoughts and uplifting advice. Even after lo these 30 years, I still
remember my breakfasts in your family in Evergreen when I
was groping my way out of the Bruderhof. I was sorry to hear of
Merrill's death because I remember him as a kindly albeit
ineffectual person in terms of offering me any spiritual
guidance or support at that time.
A few things you wrote saddened me, namely that I am
working "on the side that is spreading the disease of division,
false accusations, of nursing hurt feelings of hate and
unforgiveness." So often the qualities we imagine in others are
the exact qualities we suffer from in ourselves, and in this case I
sense a lot of "hurt feelings, hate and unforgiveness" streaming
from the communities to those who are attempting to rebuild
their lives outside the Bruderhof. Nevertheless it is true that
there are some Bruderhof graduates who feel righteous anger
for the manner in which their trust was abused by the
Brotherhood, the unloving manner in which the famous
Bruderhof 'sword of love' was applied. And there are others
who as children were treated cruelly and are still in the need of
counseling and help. Although the HSOB now admits to
having been overly judgmental in the past, and even cruel and
unfeeling at times, there are many of us who feel that actions
speak louder than mere words, and are awaiting some specific
demonstration of the Society's awakening compassionate
concern for those 'on the outside.' And because we have tried
for years as individuals to either correspond or otherwise 'put
things right' with no visible results, it seems the time has come
to create a support group through which we can, in somewhat
the same manner as the 12-Step groups which have proved so
helpful to Adult Children of Alcoholics, create a warm and
understanding network for those who have left and those will
will leave in the future.
I find in your letter a challenging and accusing spirit, and
would like to quote something Tom Potts wrote to me recently:
"About your comment on the (HSOB) member who says, '
I quit.' It's a free country -- anyone can quit. And he
will still be treated as human and be loved and prayed
And he will not be under church discipline. Church
discipline is voluntary AND MUST BE ASKED FOR."
I was happily surprised by Tom's words, and would point
out to you that it's been thirty years since I said "I quit," both to
the Society of Brothers and to Sibyl. So I do not need to be
challenged to repent of a 'personal burden of guilt,' and 'being
unfaithful to my novice and marriage vows.' It not only is a
free country, it's a free universe, and God does not mind at all if
we discover we made a mistake by marrying the wrong person
or becoming hypnotized by a religious cult and say "I quit" to
either or both. I will gladly accept your apology for attempting
to church-discipline me without my having requested it,
because I know that since you wrote the letter you have been
suffering terrible pangs of conscience and remorse.
All the Bruderhof has done for me since the time I was
asked to leave has been to consistently refuse me any contact
with Xaverie throughout her childhood and treat me like a
leper with spiritual bad breath and a body odor problem. I feel
no 'burden of personal guilt' as you call it, because whatever
guilt I may once have felt I realized came from the Bruderhof's
own self-righteous, mean-spirited, legalistic and shaming
attitude towards me. God's overwhelming love and
forgiveness has been the ocean in which I have surfed
throughout my life.
What has been very painful all these years has been the
Brotherhood's ongoing refusal to allow me access to my
daughter when she was a child. I don't want to get into all the
ins and outs of it in a letter to you, but suffice it to say that I am
still waiting to hear something like a recognition on the part of
the HSOB that they wounded Xavie deeply by not allowing her
access to her father during her growing up.
Also I'm still waiting to hear these concerns answered:
1) I received no notice of her engagement and marriage.
3) I received no announcements of the births of my
4) I did not receive word of her terminal illness until a
month after her death.
All this despite the fact that I was on the 'death notice list'
for Emmy, Annemarie and Heini, among others.
I am glad you are reading the newsletters. They are
serving a real need for many of us. However I will not print
your letter because I am sure that once you have had time to
reconsider the spirit it was written in, you will write a second
one more in harmony with your own sweet and understanding
nature. All the best, Ramon
December 15, 1989 From Kathy:
Dear Ramon: I am sorry my last letter seems to have only
brought more need. Maybe it was unwise of me to send it, and I
apologize. Perhaps it is unwise to send this one, but I want to
try again on just one of those concerns in your letter of
It is a heart-rending picture you give of a father who has
not been informed of his daughter's marriage, her children, her
terminal illness. One would have to be pretty hard-hearted not
to feel compassion for you. And I do -- my heart aches for you --
it also aches for my brothers and sisters whom you blame for it.
It also aches for Sibyl.
Xavie and her mother objected to the occult literature and
nude coloring books you sent to her even as a child. Xavie, like
her mother, was a courageous, loving and decisive person. She
firmly acted as she felt right and did not want to mix up with
spirits she felt were wrong. My wish is that you could respect
her decision on this. What I want to say is -- can you in your
heart find the grace to stop accusing Xavie, Sibyl (and the
brothers and sisters) for something that you actually brought on
The Bruderhof did not put restrictions on Xavie -- she was
free to make her own decision, to say "No" to not going to a
concert in New York with you, or "Yes" to meeting you in a
restaurant. She was free to write to you or phone you, or tell
you about her marriage and her children if she wanted to. She
chose not to. I and we could only respect her wishes.
She once reported to Sibyl that she had asked you, "Please
do not try to tempt me away from my commitment." After
that, there were no calls from you for a long time and she was
grateful for the respect she felt you were showing for her
Put it another way -- you want the freedom to say "I quit,"
but can you not give your daughter the freedom to say, "I don't
want contact?" I beg you to see a little bit your own
Dave Ostrom wrote me that he felt I misjudged you, that
you are not working against us but seeking to be a moderator
working for reconciliation. If you could understand and forgive
on this, that would indeed be a step toward reconciliation. I
greet you with that longing. Greetings from Kathy
January 1, 1990 from Ramon
Dear Kathy: Thank you for your letter of December 15th
containing your apology for your previous remarks. I knew
that given time, you would see things in a more loving and
understanding light, although you are still only pointing to
Xavie's decision as an adult not to see me and not to the crucial
point: that I was consistently refused any access to Xavie as a
You write that "Xavie and her mother objected to the
occult literature and nude coloring books you sent her even as a
child." You must be referring to the children's coloring books
by my co-author Alicia Bay Laurel which we mailed in 1973 or
'74. Xavie would have been at least eighteen years old at the
time, so I don't quite understand the "even as a child" remark.
I found the coloring books very innocent, and since the
publisher sold out the printing in regular book stores, I can't
think many parents found them objectionable. However I can
understand how the SOB, with its prudish and outmoded
attitudes regarding the human body, might have found them
objectionable. As to the remark about "occult literature," I can
only think you are referring to "Being Of The Sun," a book I
co-authored with Alicia (and published by Harper & Row) which
contained a few quotes from Zen Buddhism, a translation of the
Gayatri, a Hindu hymn to God which is perhaps the most
ancient hymn known to man and traditionally used as a salute
to the rising sun, and a series of songs and chants for the
changing seasons and phases of the moon. If this in your eyes
consisted of 'occult' literature, I can only feel sorrow for the
clouding of your critical faculties, unless you are now in unity
with the Pope who recently made some sort of narrow-minded
remarks regarding Zen meditation. But hardly 'occult,' since
Zen Buddhism is a recognized and respected world religion.
You write, "Can you in your heart find the grace to stop
accusing Xavie, Sibyl (and the brothers and sisters) for
something that you actually brought upon yourself?" How did I
"bring on myself" the consistent refusal by the brotherhood to
allow me to visit Xavie AS A CHILD? I emphasize 'as a child'
because, once Xavie achieved her majority as an adult, of course
she was free to either conform to the strict doctrines of the
Bruderhof or be thrown out into a society about which she only
had been told that it was evil and sinful.
I only feel sorry that the Bruderhof's stern and wrathful
visage still terrified me to the point that I could not find the
courage to insist on my legal rights as a father and force you to
allow me to visit her during those first years. But I was so
traumatized by my experiences at Woodcrest that whenever I
phoned I always became very anxious. The truth is that I
always considered those calls among the most unpleasant tasks
in my life. Yet I felt my little girl calling out to me and tried to
find a way through to her side.
Of course in any misunderstanding the fault never lies 100
percent with one of the parties. I should have been able to put
aside the terror I felt at any renewed contact with the
brotherhood and their shunning, judgmental, holier-than-thou
attitudes. I should have brought a great deal more pressure to
bear regarding childhood visits. But I always acquiesced
whenever the solemn voice on the other end of the line said,
"No, we think it's in Xavie's best interests that you don't see
her." I'm speaking now especially of the years 1961-1966, when
I came to the East Coast regularly every summer to visit my
American mother and my sister. By the way, they also were
refused visitation rights to Xavie, for which Tom recently asked
From 1967 through 1972 I did not visit the East Coast at all.
I telephoned a few times, but these were ill-considered and
distraught calls for which I recently apologized to Tom. Then
in 1973 (or perhaps '74) I came East and was allowed a one-hour
visit with Xavie after I insisted, after the usual refusal, saying
that I felt she had been brainwashed. That was a wonderful
moment, seeing her again in the diner in New Paltz. However
she was on the verge of becoming a novice, and I could see her
struggling with her delight at seeing me again and her
realization that she had to 'toe the party line.' This tension put
her in an unbearably painful position, and when she wrote later
asking for no further contact, I drew back and only wrote
occasionally, trying to find a delicate way to continue the
relationship. But of course by then it was too late.
The only 'something' I 'brought on myself' was my
emotional inability to spend the rest of my life as Sibyl's
husband. The cutting and cruel remarks she made to me
during the second preparation group made me realize that the
healing of the relationship I had hoped for would never occur.
Never once during the year and a half we were both at
Woodcrest did I feel the slightest tenderness or softening of her
stone-hard facade, even during the first preparation group.
Sibyl would always remain 'Sibyl,' a unique character whom
even Heini realized was 'different.' "Never expect Sibyl to be
like other women," he told me. However, in the normal
world, the break-up of a marriage does not cut the father off
from further contact with his child. It is recognized that a child
needs both parents, even if they are no longer together. Xavie
desperately needed her father as a little girl, and it was a hateful
and destructive thing the Bruderhof did to feel that their
'noble' witness to the sanctity of marriage came before the
emotional needs of a little girl.
The last three paragraphs of your rebuttal do not address
the main point, that of the brotherhood's purposeful punishing
me for divorcing Sibyl by placing a wall around Xavie. I know
as a certainty that Xavie's greatest desire as a little girl was to see
her Daddy, even if only for a few visits every summer.
I cannot forgive what the brotherhood has yet to
acknowledge as a cruel, heartless act against a defenseless child
in their midst. What I would LIKE to hear from the brothers
and sisters is a statement such as: "Yes, we now are beginning
to realize what a terrible thing we did not to put Xavie's need
for her father before our strict interpretation of Christian
doctrine. All those childhood years without contact with you
were a terrible burden for her to bear. We should have
encouraged you to visit, even perhaps taken the initiative and
phoned you with a kindly invitation, putting aside whatever
moralistic attitudes on divorce we believe in. Sibyl or someone
else should have sent you occasional reports on Xavie's
progress in school and photos of her." But instead you treated
me as if I was some kind of ogre or monster, a common
criminal who would pollute the sanctity of Xavie's
surroundings by my mere presence.
If I had been allowed contact with Xavie as a child, I have
no doubt it would have healed the anguish from which we
both suffered for many years because of the Bruderhof's
unloving, pharisaic orthodoxies. It also would have created the
possibility of a continuing relationship with her as an adult.
And last but most important of all, I truly believe that she
would be alive today.
As I was writing this letter, one came from Tom with a
sentence that moved me very much because it is the closest any
of you have come to a recognition of the terrible damage you
have wrought: 'If we had been more concerned for you, we
would have known that though you left her (Xavie), you could
not leave her in your loving heart.' I very much appreciate
Tom's words, although I would point out that I did not 'leave'
Xavie. I was asked to leave Woodcrest and did so. The
unbearable pressure I experienced during the second
preparation group triggered a near-nervous breakdown, an
anxiety attack which manifested as compulsive masturbation. I
was asked to move to Evergreen, then to a job nearby. My
choices at that point seemed either to request hospitalization in
a mental institution or put enough physical distance between
myself and the Bruderhof that my symptoms would subside. I
chose the latter route, and indeed by the time I had been in San
Francisco a few weeks I was able to function normally. I always
felt very grateful for my body's 'ringing the alarm' before I
made a serious mistake by continuing on into membership in
such a repressive and totalitarian community and back into a
marriage which had already caused me unbearable pain. But I
DID NOT leave Xavie. I left Sibyl and the Bruderhof to save my
sanity. In your eyes, one inevitably led to the other. From my
own and the greater society's point of view, one event does not
preclude the other. And to have crawled back to the
brotherhood beating my breast just for the indescribable
pleasure of continuing to live near my little girl would not
have worked either, although I came very close to it a number
of times. I even thought of trying to live nearby in a situation
similar to the Geigers. From San Francisco I first wrote inviting
Sibyl to meet with me and a psychotherapist I knew in
Manhattan. The only response I received was from Duffy (I
believe) saying that "outside of the Bruderhof you have no
marriage with Sibyl." If that was the case, and inasmuch as the
next letter from Woodcrest merely announced Sibyl's baptism
into membership, I then felt I had no choice but to institute
divorce proceedings and continue with my life.
I am determined not to make the same mistake with my
grandchildren, Dorie and Gareth, and allow the Bruderhof to
shame me out of a relationship with them. Hoping with you
that the communities continue their ongoing interest in
Ramon: Since these letters I did receive an apology in
person from the Domers and a request for forgiveness from
--------KIT Newsletter November 1990, Vol II #11
The Second Biannual Report On The State of KIT
Every six months or so we sum up KIT's accomplishments
and future goals. In terms of accomplishments, one of KIT's
primary aims has been achieved, that of putting people in
contact with one other. Between the sharing of addresses and
the Friendly Crossways conference, KITfolk are in open
correspondence and telephone contact. News updates travel
quickly along the network, and sometimes we wonder if, in an
odd sort of way, our success is not putting KIT out of business.
Because the more we succeed in meeting this particular goal,
the less need there is for people to write in to be
heard.However there still are many KIT readers who are
fearful of listing their names and addresses, signing their letters
or even of writing KIT at all. Some of this fear is justified,
because some Bruderhof families have judged individual
members in the wider community on the basis of their
relationship to KIT. Yet at the same time we have Johann
Christoph Arnold's assurance that those who post their
addresses and write to KIT will not be punished or penalized in
any way by the communities. Quoting Christoph in his reply to
Tim Johnson (KIT II #8):
"I also want to reassure you, dear Tim, that no one has
been threatened by the community that if they associate
with KIT their visiting privileges will be revoked. I know
this is stated in KIT, but it is not true.""
Although Christoph speaks in the past tense, our concern is for
the future. But we should take Christoph at his word, and
those of you who have been in any way coerced or threatened
should challenge your Bruderhof family members on their
attitude and, if necessary, quote them Christoph's own words.
It is, after all, a free society we live in. Even as editors of KIT,
Ramon Sender and Charlie Lamar have been able to visit
relatives at the communities without any problems or
challenges. There are other KIT readers whose fear may be
merely a holdover from their time within the community and
should be encouraged to let go of it. Let your feelings out,
people! The Friendly Crossways meeting taught us all the
healing power of sharing our stories. We at KIT want to
encourage those of you who have yet to come forward to speak
out. If anyone is penalized or criticized for their involvement
in KIT, whether for listing an address or writing a letter, we
certainly will bring their case directly to Christoph and the
brotherhoods and demand an apology.Another goal has
been to initiate a dialog with the Bruderhof via KIT, and this
goal has been only partially successful. After an initial flurry of
responses, the Bruderhof correspondence slacked off. We have
urged them to write, and there have been a select few brief
replies to the Open Letter. One major reason for the lack of
Bruderhof response is because our readers within the
communities consist only of a limited number of the hierarchy.
Another reason has been their insistence on dealing only with
personal grievances and on a one-to-one basis. They are
unwilling either to acknowledge KIT as a forum representing
the disenfranchised Bruderhof ex-members and graduates or to
deal with issues dealing with Bruderhof doctrine and ideology,
or of general concern. No matter how often we point out that
their insistence on a one-to-one puts the person with a
grievance at a disadvantage (because it places the full weight of
the brotherhoods against the sole individual), we never receive
a satisfactory reply.We would like to ask for help from all
our readers in making sure KIT is a place where both the HSOB
and KITfolk can listen to what each other's hearts are trying to
Anonymous: An open letter to Ramon Sender, and
other writers of the filthy tabloid of lies known as
KIT:Your slanderous lies are quickly gaining you a
reputation as one of the biggest liars of the century. Yes, you are
probably dying to know who we are... but the joke is on you this
time -- in the same spirit of openness that pervades your crazy
publication, we are withholding our names. Your letter of
September 1 was the most incredible, idiotic, pernicious,
slanderous, and misdirected letter yet. You claim to spread the
truth, but every word from your mouth is a LIE, and you know
it damn well. While Heini Arnold lived his life in love,
humility, purity, and undeserved suffering, you and others (Hans
Zumpe, for example) have lived lives of shameless sin. You
are an adulterer and you know it! Meanwhile, your former
companion lives on at one of the communities, steadfast and
faithful. (Let's see if you will publish this kind of "truth" in
KIT -- remember that you have promised to publish every
anonymous letter. Obviously, you won't print this one, you
liar!) In your letters you slander and mock Heini and allude to
his "mental instability." For a change, why don't you admit
that it was those evil, wicked servants in Primavera, who along
with an evil doctor whose name we aren't even going to utter,
who poisoned Heini with bromides and effected a psychosis to
remove him from his service and cut off his witness which was
so badly needed. Nice job, you hypocrites! And why don't you
write about how those wicked ones in Primavera starved Heini
almost to death when he was in exclusion? You are a WIMP!
Face up to the real truth and repent! It's never too late. Finally,
you accuse us of child abuse. Unfortunately we recall how you
deserted your own daughter Xaverie while she was yet a child.
Now doesn't THAT classify as abuse? IN spite of your sin
(that's right, SIN) Xaverie remained faithful to her
death.Do you realize that we actually pity you? You have
got yourself into a real mess, you and your breed of liars, and
you will never be at peace until you repent. Until that time,
why not just hold off with all this garbage about "dialogue" and
"openness" and "truth". You change the meaning of these
words, just like Hitler and his Nazis did.In conclusion, we
ask you once more to own up and admit to the truth. We all
make mistakes -- c'est la vie -- but you have made more than a
few little blunders. And don't you ever, ever, ever dare to print
blasphemous lies about Heini Arnold again! So long,
KIT: A photocopy of the previous letter was mailed to
Dick Domer along with the following from Ramon:
Dear Dick:The enclosed anonymous letter was received
Friday, October 5th, in the KIT mailbox. Because the
individual or individuals claim to speak on behalf of the
communities, we are bringing the letter to your attention.
Upon analyzing the style and contents, we have a pretty good
notion of whom the author may be.We do not want the
level of discourse in KIT to sink to such low levels of thinking,
but we need your help in this regard. Of course we are entirely
willing to publish this somewhat primitive communication
unless a spokesman for the brotherhood specifically states that
they do not wish to see it in print. Regarding the
anonymous writer's phrase on lines 17-18, page one,
"remember that you have promised to publish every
anonymous letter," we have made no such promise. We retain our
editorial prerogatives, and should point out once again that
everything published in KIT is not my own personal opinion.
Apparently many people on the 'hofs still do not grasp that
fact.I keep hoping that a real dialogue can start between the
communities and the KIT readership. Is this too much to hope
for?All the Best to you and Lois Ann. Please greet John,
Margaret and Sibyl for me. It would be nice to have a word
about how Dorie and Gareth are getting along. Sincerely,
<Ramon: In a personal phone call, Dick Domer assured me
that the Bruderhof had no knowledge of this letter and that the
author, of course, did not speak for the community. Dick left it
up to KIT whether to publish the letter or not. We publish it
because we believe it to be genuine and expresses what some
people in the communities feel.
Miriam Arnold Holmes: I was deeply pained by both
Andreas Meier's reply to our Open Letter and by Kathy Mow's
letters to Ramon as published in the last KIT edition. What
both Andreas and Kathy don't seem to realize is that there are
certain common standards of decency recognized in our society
which, when violated, are dealt with through government
agencies. This means that we who live in the "world" have an
obligation to live by these standards and, when necessary,
intervene when others do not. Andreas says "Could you please
let us live our choice of life in peace." I think we all would
gladly do that if we were assured that the standards of decency,
which include freedom from emotional abuse, were followed
in that choice of life. If my next-door neighbor abuses his
children, I cannot in good conscience let him "live his choice of
life in peace." No, I would have to intervene to protect
innocent children. If that neighbor does not want to hear what
I have to say, I am mandated by law to report that abuse to the
authorities. The Bruderhof is not above the law.Similarly,
in the "world," there is an accepted standard of decency which
mandates (except under extraordinary circumstances) that a
father has the RIGHT to see his children after a divorce. I
believe many states have laws which also give grandparents the
right to see their grandchildren after a divorce. The Bruderhof
violated that law, dear Kathy, and then, adding insult to injury,
blames the victim (in this case Ramon) for their wrongdoing.
This is simply not acceptable to me and I will continue to speak
out whether the SOB likes it or not.From Andreas' letter, I
get the impression he believes that we KIT people are against
them. Speaking for myself, I am not. They can live the way
they want to until they turn blue in the face for all I care, BUT
STOP ABUSING PEOPLE. If you don't understand what I am
talking about, let's get a dialog going as suggested in our
Friendly Crossways Open Letter. And by the way, the people
who perpetrate abuse in the SOB are not all dead. And trying to
resolve these issues on an individual bases ('man-to-man' --
what about us women?) has so far proven fruitless.
Miriam Arnold Holmes - An Excerpt from Her Life
Story, 1959-1961:We used to go to Woodcrest in the
summer for a couple of weeks. We'd stay in Heini's and
Annemarie's family. Now Annemarie was really really a very
sweet, warm, nurturing person. She always took me in very
warmly. She felt I needed a rest and always said, "You sleep as
long as you want. Sleep in every morning". I'd get up
whenever I pleased. She would have all the housemothers and
the work distributors in there for their daily planning meetings.
I would sit there and drink my coffee and eat my eggs, and
listen to how they planned the day. And mostly what these
women really discussed were very practical issues. This one
was sick so they had to find a replacement for her as the Watch
that day. This one wasn't feeling well and maybe needed a day
at home to take care of the house. Or they would talk about
what they would get on the shopping trip. They made lists as to
what they would buy for different birthdays. That kind of stuff.
I didn't find those meetings really that gossipy. They were very
practical, nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts meetings.However it
was a very different story in the evening. After the
brotherhood meeting or whatever went on that night we would
all meet in Heini and Annemarie's living room. There would
be all the Arnold children, Christoph, Roswith, Annali, Edith,
Monali, Else and Dorli (Doris Greaves). Doris was in Heini and
Annemarie's family to help out with the dishes and stuff. I
guess she was their maid because Annemarie was always so
busy. It was a privileged position, so Doris was privileged to
come over in the evenings and sit in on these little pow-wows.
Of course I was there, and that was where all the decisions were
made. Everybody was talked about. So-and-so is nice, so-and-so
is not nice. So-and-so was excluded and they would talk about
them, saying, "Gee, they don't seem to be doing too good yet,"
or "They're doing much better." Then at the next brotherhood
meeting suddenly so-and-so was invited back as they had
decided. I remember them talking about Mike Brandes and
how Mike had such a clear spirit. At the next brotherhood
meeting Mike was appointed Witness Brother. They talked
about various others, and woe to you if they talked poorly about
you. I am sure they did about me later on, because I sure had
holy hell to pay for something, I'm not sure what. In any case
that is how it was with Heini and Annemarie's family.At
one point Annemarie asked me if I did not find it sort of hard
that I wasn't going to college. All her kids who had graduated
from high school were going. "Wouldn't you like to go to
college?" she asked."Sure, I'd love to go," I replied.At
least she acknowledged that I might be thinking about it.
Because we were not allowed to say, 'Hey, I want to go to
college!' You had to wait until somebody broached the subject
with you. Nobody ever did with me, and of course I wanted to
go to college. Annemarie did bring it up, but it was almost
like the first time that somebody acknowledged that this might
be going through my head. That was good. It was now
1961, the time of the big crisis in Primavera. In those days they
let novices come to the brotherhood meetings. I wasn't a
baptized member, but I was a novice. So I experienced the crisis
in Paraguay from that perspective. A lot of people from Oak
Lake went down to Primavera and when they came back,
somebody else would go down. Gerhard Wegener, Art and
Mary Wiser, Mark and Peggy Kurtz, Howard and Marian
Johnson went down, and of course Heini was always the talk of
the brotherhood. It was a pretty big deal what happened in
Primavera. It was taken very seriously. The report we heard
was that the brotherhood in Primavera was completely off the
track, that it had to be dissolved, and that a lot of people were
living in an evil spirit so they had to be sent away. Heini was
always reported as the poor, suffering, all-enduring, all-loving
leader who had to be taken care of because he was not well and
he bore so much. The evil powers of course attacked him more
that anything else down in Paraguay, and they had to send
people away. Now it just so happened that the people
who were not sent away were the ones who were old-timers,
people who had joined in Sannerz and the Rhon bruderhofs,
and their children. The younger generation of these old-timers
were the good guys. The bad guys were the people who had
joined in Wheathill, the Cotswolds even, and people who had
joined in Paraguay. They were all discarded, although no
specific charges were mentioned. It was basically said that the
bad guys were against the Arnolds in the '40s, and wanted to rid
the bruderhof of any remnants of Eberhard Arnold. These
people had decided that Eberhard was an emotional romantic
who shouldn't be taken seriously. They were more
humanitarian than Christian. Jesus Christ wasn't as important
as he ought to be in their lives. And Heini knew exactly who
had been kicked out. I know he called the shots. I don't care
how much Merrill Mow said that it was the overeager
Americans. I can guarantee everybody that Heini was consulted
about every last one of them. He knew exactly what was going
on and who was being sent away. This pathetic "poor me" stuff,
"I suffered because of all the people being sent away," that is a
lot of bull crap. He knew exactly what he was doing. For
the life of me, I cannot figure out what he had against British
people. Even in his letter to Christoph in the second edition of
Torches Rekindled he speaks about the English people as if
being English was like having some kind of disease. I can't
figure that out. Germany and England haven't gotten along all
that well through the centuries. They fought two world wars
against each other. Maybe Heini was just prejudiced against the
British. It was really weird.I remember how we in the
brotherhood, and I have to include myself, although of course
what was reported to us was very very very twisted from what I
found out later, we really truly believed that we were fighting
for the very life of the Kingdom of God on earth, and that all
these people that had to be sent away were on the side of Satan.
We even sang a Hebrew song in the choir in those days when
we had Love Meals for people who came back from Paraguay or
when we were sending somebody to Primavera. It started out
with some Hebrew text which I forget, but the chorus in English
said, "Let the evil powers work against us. Let untruths be
spoken about us. They shall not harm us. They all shall be
scattered. For God is with us!" I have the feeling that is what
they are saying about KIT nowadays. The same kind of thing.
"There's the evil spirit fighting against us". Really a very
bizarre, cultish attitude that was coming up in those days which
I can't ever remember in Primavera. Maybe there was, I don't
know. But I think it was definitely a Heini phenomenon.
Heini turned the Bruderhof into a cult.Now this is my
opinion about Heini and what happened. I experienced that
crisis from the inside, and I remember the feel of it. I remember
the intensity of the emotions of the brotherhood and of the
people who were sent down to Paraguay, the zeal, the real zeal
to purify and to protect Heini, to admire Heini and put him on
a pedestal. I must admit I bought it at the time. I was totally
caught up in the whole thing. It is really scary when I think
about it now that I could actually fall for something like that.
Now I have to be clear, though, that I had never been on the
outside of the Bruderhof except for the year at high school
which really didn't count. So the Bruderhof was all I knew
except what I had read in books and so forth. But those were
very very very shaking times. It's very true. But the way I see it
now, it was a really really cult thing which can be extremely
dangerous if it is carried any further than that. And I think it
was very dangerous in the sense that so many people were so
deeply, deeply hurt by this horrible experience. Like I said, there
were no specific charges against anybody. It was all
'atmosphere' stuff. And that is so nebulous. Nobody can
defend themselves against these kind of charges. If somebody
says to you 'You have a bad spirit,' or "You don't have the right
spirit," you cannot reply "Yes I do." Then they would say, "See,
you do!" You can't win when you're accused in this way. You
really have no defenses which is why it is so insidious! It's so
disgusting to me now!A little before this big, big crisis in
Primavera, we had taken in a lot of people from the Evergreen
community because they closed Evergreen down. It was nice to
have some new blood come to Oak Lake. Besides the crisis, of
course the regular life went on. I continued working with the
children, and was very active in the youth group. We did an
awful lot of rehearsing and singing. At the drop of a hat we
would say, "Okay, let's sing a part of a Bach cantata at the Love
Meal." Some of us girls would get together and rehearse a Bach
cantata and we would go and sing it. When there was an
engagement, we sang a lot of Hebrides love songs. Even
Paraguayan love songs we used to sing in the dining room. So
we were always busy preparing something for the whole
community. It got to a point where I was so exhausted taking
care of ten two-year-olds and being the Watch and doing the
dishes and doing extra work in the evening. When a mother
went into the hospital to have a baby and then stayed in the
mother house for 6 weeks, who would take care of her
children? Us single girls. It seemed like I was always taking care of
someone else's children! The Gneiting children, Mike and
Shirley Brandes's, and they had some babies who cried all night
long! I had to get up every two hours and hand them a bottle of
Kool-Aid or something. That's the way they were trained.
Then I had to get up in the morning and take the two-year-olds.
If I got eight hours rest I was lucky. I usually didn't. It was one
thing after another, tremendously hard work. If somebody
approached you and asked you to do a job, you certainly
couldn't say no. As I said before, the word 'no' did not exist in
our vocabulary. It was always 'yes, gladly,' with a smile on your
face, even though you were so exhausted that you felt like you
wanted to drop. Thank God my back came to my rescue. I
developed these awful lower back pains, and I couldn't get out
of bed. I don't think there was a damn thing wrong with my
back. I just needed the rest. So I stayed in bed for two weeks.
That is how hard they worked us. It was incredible! In
those days they were sending a lot of the young people to
Woodcrest. Woodcrest was always the place to be. That is
where the real true spirit was. We in Oak Lake always felt a
little bit like second-class citizens compared to the people at
Woodcrest. Woodcrest was where "it was at," whatever "it"
was, probably because Heini exuded some kind of holy spirit
which spread all over Woodcrest. But it didn't quite make it to
Oak Lake somehow. So we always felt a little inferior to
Woodcrest. A lot of youth groups used to go to Woodcrest for this
and that. That was the thing to do. And while you were there,
maybe you would catch a little bit of that wonderful spirit. You
felt a little more whole than you did just living in Oak
Lake.So this went on, and then of course the decision was
made to bring everybody up from Primavera, and that was
pretty exciting too. My father and mother came back from
England around the end of 1961, I think. I really don't know
what my father's position was. Mark Kurtz was the servant,
and I don't know if my father was supposed to help him. I can't
for the life of me remember what he did. But they did come
back and Heidi went to high school. She was very traumatized
by that experience. She felt very alienated from the
highschoolers. She would just home and lie on the bed and cry
and cry. She was one of those teenagers who couldn't verbalize
her feelings. It was very frustrating to see her so upset and not
able to do anything about it. I really wanted to help her out but
she wouldn't talk to me.
Quotes from "Facing Shame, Families In Recovery" by
Merle A. Fossum and Marilyn J. Mason, W.W. Norton, New
We distinguish between the terms 'guilt' and 'shame.'
Guilt is the developmentally more mature, though painful,
feeling of regret one has about behavior that has violated a
personal value. It emanates from an integrated conscience and
set of values. It is the reflection of an integrated self. A person
with guilt might say, "I feel awful seeing that I did something
which violated my values." Or the guilty person might say "I
feel sorry about the consequences of my behavior." In so doing,
the person's values are affirmed. The possibility of repair exists
and learning and growth are promoted. While guilt is a painful
feeling of regret and responsibility for one's actions, shame is a
painful feeling about oneself as a person. The possibility of
repair seems foreclosed to the shameful person because shame
is a matter of identity, not a behavioral infraction. There is
nothing to be learned from it and no growth is opened by the
experience because it only affirms one's negative feelings about
For many people shame exists passively without a name,
Its origins are in identity development or in the premises of
'who I am.'
P. 19: A shame-bound family is a group of people all of
whom feel alone together. To the individuals in the family,
shame feels unique and lonely... The family system in which
relationships are bound up in shame tends to demand that
experience and people be judged on a goodness-badness scale.
Within the family secrecy is rampant and relationships are thin
The shame-bound family is fixed in its form and highly
resistant to change, even though change is a natural fact of life...
The shame-bound family is perfectionistic. The
absoluteness of perfectionism does not provide for repair.
There are only two categories for people: perfect and imperfect...
The important point to notice here is that within this system
there is no way back, no repair available or relevant. A strike
against you is a strike against you forever. Within this system,
mistakes can be brought up to a person years after they were
Respectful and Shame-Bound Systems
Respectful Systems Shame-Bound Systems
Violation of values Violation of person
leads to guilt leads to shame
Self is separate & part Self has vague
of a larger system personal boundaries
Rules require Rules require
Relationship is Relationship always
dialogue in jeopardy
Produce individuals with:
accountability, repair more shame,
deepening and modi- increasing rigidity
fication of values
growing empathy alienation & distance
growth of self as a development of an
whole person image and of control
Christoph Arnold: Woodcrest, 11/5/90
Dear Ramon and KIT readers, On behalf of all our
communities, we greet every one of you with very much love,
thinking of the coming Advent and Christmas weeks which is
such a special time in our communities.
Verena and I, Chris and Else were very thankful for the
meetings which we had in San Francisco with Ramon and Judy,
Charles Lamar, and Dave Ostrom Jr. One of the reasons we
went to San Francisco was to attend a medical conference on
thyroid disease, thanks to a letter from Art Rosenblum asking
us to be more diet conscious. We are glad to inform you that
this conference really stressed this, and those of us on our
medical staff who attended the conference felt very enriched by
Now Ramon and Charlie made some notes which, I
understand, will be printed in the December issue. They were
kind enough to present us with a copy of these notes. Of course
we did not come to any agreement, because we did not have the
authority from the Brotherhood. We mainly came to listen,
and to show the love of the Brotherhoods. In actual fact, while
we were meeting on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning,
all the Brotherhoods in the 8 communities were meeting
jointly, and were praying to God that the barriers between us
should really fall, and that the bond of love, reconciliation, and
forgiveness should unite us.
We were joyfully surprised that the many concerns which
the KIT staff brought up were actually the same concerns my
father and I always represented. For example, prudishness
about sex; to have respect before all people and how Christ
works in them. We completely agree that spirituality can never
be forced under any circumstances. We also want our children
to grow up and be able to process different facts and opinions.
Sad to say, many of the concerns expressed in KIT had
been represented by brothers and sisters who left in 1961. So I
invite every one of you to come and visit our communities to
see yourself how much actually we have in common.
I have another suggestion to make. Ramon and Charles
expressed the wish that the Bruderhof shows a true adult
Anabaptist witness. This we try to do. I know we fail, but we
are trying. It would be great if Ramon and Judy, and Charles
themselves would start an Anabaptist community with all the
KIT readers who want to join, to give us an example what a
true Anabaptist community should be like. We would not be
too proud to learn from you. This might be even a better idea
than having a Bruderhof house in New York or Pittsburgh. In
the real longing that this will open up a new relationship with
every one of you, we greet you with very much love. On behalf
of all Brotherhoods your Johann Christoph Arnold
P.S. No one is forbidden to read or write to KIT, or to meet
with others in whatever way they wish. (our emphasis - KIT)
Ramon 11/7/9 Dear Christoph: Thank you so much
for your report for KIT. It expresses very well the brotherhoods'
longing for a new relationship. I was especially glad to have the
brotherhoods' statement that no one is forbidden to read or
write to KIT or meet with others in whatever way they wish.
That I think will put to rest many fears.
Whether or not a Bruderhof house is a practical idea, I still
think you might consider a 'halfway house' idea for families or
individuals leaving the communities. The change is very
traumatic, especially for those who have never lived in the
wider community before. I think it would be a loving thing if
there was a place where the rent was paid, meals were provided,
counselling services by some outside agencies were available
including career and job counselling.
I know that there is a tendency for the b'hof to hope that
the exit experience WILL be so traumatic that it will force a
change of heart in the individual. This, I think, has to be
thought through, because it implies that the community feels
its way of life superior to any other and that of course anyone
"in his right mind" would choose to return. But this
assumption leads to not anticipating the real need of the exiting
person to be placed in a position where he/she can make an
informed decision without any pressure. A truly loving
attitude would make the person/ family as comfortable and
unstressed as possible (in an obviously stressful situation). And
curiously, the more you "let go" of any type of 'hidden'
coercion of this sort, the more trust would remain and the
better the relationship.
I must ask again regarding Christoph's remark about how
at Wheathill during the big crisis (1948?) "There was a demon
behind every bush." Was this meant to show how paranoid
and fearful a community can become or as a statement of fact? I
sincerely hope that the HB is moving away from the sort of
"Boogyman" mentality which a morbid fascination with
demonic possession and 'evil spirits' inspires. I woke up the
other morning (after our first meeting) thinking "Repression
(of feelings) plus Obsession (compulsive, repetitious cycling
behavior) leads to Possession (hysterical, uncontrolled
outbursts)." I think a great deal of work has been done with these
mental states since Blumhardt's amazing experience. We know
a great deal more about the brain and the emotions.
Above and beyond the insights science has acquired, there
also remains the fact that belief in a personified Devil and
demons which can invade a person's mind is not a healthy
paradigm. It inevitably leads to the sorts of crises, both personal
and communal, which the bruderhof has suffered so many
times in the past. I would most humbly beg you to review your
attitudes regarding this important issue. I think it is much
more positive to think of evil as just a slower-evolving good
than as some sort of sinister, demonic energy which must be
extirpated surgically from the human soul.
Needless to say, these opinions are my own and do not
necessarily represent those of other KITfolk. Indeed, every time
KIT readers write in, they are speaking in their own voices,
expressing and sharing their own memories and opinions.
(There is no standard party line in KIT).
I feel very grateful for the opening of a dialog on these
issues, and hope they can continue in an atmosphere of mutual
seeking for the truth. On the other hand, we received as
recently as yesterday a letter describing KIT as waging "a hate
campaign" against the communities. But the only campaign we
are waging is for the right of everyone's voice to he heard.
Enough for now. More later
Miriam Arnold Holmes Nov 16, 1990: Responding
to the anonymous 'eyebrows' letter in KIT II #10, I would just
like to tell the author one thing in regards to the "blasphemous
lies about Heini" part. I looked up "blasphemous" in Webster's
and it means "impiously irreverent or reproachful toward
God." Now if I remember my Morgenstunde lessons correctly,
Moses' first commandment says that we should have but ONE
God. Does this then mean that to the writer of that letter Heini
is that God? Or does he have more than one God? Or maybe
he's just ignorant and misused the word.
Loy McWhirter 10/31/90: Yesterday on the way to
therapy I got this card from the SOB with an SOB regimental,
saccharine baby Jesus on the cover. I take it to be a covert, direct
response to my article being in KIT, to reinforce the fear and
isolation expressed by my words. Usually Bruce intercepts these
things, but he missed this one. I had an extreme reaction and
shut down severely - triggers of the programming to die, in
these words, before you speak the truth. Here are the words
"Advent and Christmas 1990: Dear Loy, warm greetings
for Advent and Christmas Time. In this dark, cold world which
seems to be on the brink of war, how much we need the Spirit
of Christmas to break in - that Jesus may come and touch all our
lives with his loving and uniting power. In this sense we want
to send our warmest greetings. May you have a joyful and
blessed Christmas. Much love from Sara King from all at the
This is what I respond with: "Attention Bruderhof
hierarchy, in response to your bogus 'warm' Advent and
Christmas greetings using Sara King as your current device to
get thru to me. The war the world is on the brink of, that you
can and must do something about, is inside of yourselves &
within your closed communities. I am a casualty of those wars.
There are many others besides me. You have sacrificed your
children and my childhood for your narrow, invasive 'beliefs.'
I have told you plainly, and so have many others who suffered
under your systems, what you can do to redeem yourselves and
heal the torment you have caused and are accountable to. Until
you do so I do not forgive you, and I do not believe your God or
Jesus will forgive you. I know what you have done. Those of
us who survived and are struggling to heal are witnesses to
your weakly disguised treachery. Your words are empty
gestures. Your saccharine images are self-delusions. We will
not give up. We will not go away."
Name Withheld: Tom Potts writes in the October KIT
letter: "Church discipline is voluntary AND MUST BE ASKED
FOR." Well, I did not ask for it. Several days before I was
excluded, the brotherhood decided with Heini present that I
should be excluded. I had no knowledge of what was being
decided. The next day I was called into the austere presence of
the servants and informed that I was to be excluded, and that in
the meeting I would be asked, "Do you ask for this exclusion?"
I could not have been more astonished! I felt like a trapped
animal. I was told to wait outside until I was called into the
meeting at which time I was to "ask for exclusion." So where
does the voluntary asking come in?!! And once you are in
exclusion, it is almost impossible for you to get out. The
servants pester you with questions as to other sins you might
have committed or perhaps thought of. There is "no rest for
Even today, if you wish to return to the community, you
first have to ASK to go into the great exclusion. Now where is
the voluntary asking?!! Is it right to feel like an animal held at
bay or as if a gun is being held to your head? That is how I and
many others have felt. I'm sorry to shatter Tom Potts' rosy
description of what and how exclusion works. I have very little
patience with such nonsense. The servants in their extra little
meetings decide who is excluded and who is included again.
All the so-called brotherhood does is rubber-stamp it all.
Whatever anyone says. it is all colored by what the hierarchy
has decided. It would never be possible for us to return and
subject ourselves to all the pain and sorrow again.
John G. Arnold, Oct 26, 1990 Excerpts from an Article:
Without a hearing or even a talk I was evicted and condemned
by the Bulstrode Brotherhood. The accusation were all false.
How was this possible? I was sent to a good psychiatrist who
said that I was quite normal. There had been no sex in my life
whatsoever. Two single girls liked me and followed me
around. I shared this. Is this the reason why I got kicked out? I
had not even said a word to any of the girls. I was accused of
chasing after sisters.
Once I visited Don Noble in his office. He asked me to
write all my confessions on paper. This was used to get rid of
me. It was a very tense time and all members experienced some
silly thoughts. When living in Birmingham, Doug Moody
used these records to condemn me too. If he had any love, he
would have seen me.
Records Of The Leaders: Hans-Hermann Arnold, my
father and Ullu Keiderling were leading Bulstrode. Hans
Zumpe kept all private correspondence including Eberhard's
letters locked in a vault. Harry Magee and I were asked to burn
all correspondence of the two elders Hans Zumpe and Balz
Trumpi. True history was burned, about 50 Kilos of letters (all
about Primavera and Wheathill). Here we found also the most
important and controversial letters of Eberhard. His letters
from America in the early 'thirties to Emmy explaining his ups
and down with the Hutterites. Eberhard had been very
concerned about Hans Zumpe. He could not understand the
cold nature of his attitude. He hardly wrote and Opa felt no
In 1961/62 Hans-Hermann Arnold was Servant in
Bulstrode. Shortly after we read some of Eberhard's letters,
Heini, Don Noble and Mark Kurtz came from America. Hans-
Hermann and my father were disqualified and sent to America.
In my last brotherhood meeting as a full member, Heini said
that all of my father's life went wrong. He achieved total
control. Now he had also captured and could do as he pleased
with Eberhard's letters. Hans-Hermann and Gertrud were sent
out for three years, and my mother and father for a long time
too. Did this have anything to do with Eberhard's letters?
In conclusion I would like to say:
IF JAKOB HUTER'S CHILDREN & GRANDCHILDREN
WOULD HAVE BEEN TREATED LIKE THE CHILDREN AND
GRANDCHILDREN OF EBERHARD AND EMMY ARNOLD,
THEN THERE WOULD BE NO HUTTERITE COMMUNITIES
IN EXISTENCE TODAY. PERHAPS THE HUTTERITES WILL
SAVE THE BRUDERHOF.
Loy McWhirter: The Child's-Eye View of The
'Emperor's New Clothes' and Its Effects 11/12/90: In the
bruderhof, if you have something or are someone, they hide it
and take it away or destroy it. You learn not to be connected so
that you won't have to lose or give up anything more than you
already have. You learn to operate on remote
control/automatic. You don't want to feel any connection
because it is too much to feel connection and have to give it up
AGAIN. It's too much to feel connection and caring need or
desire for anything or anyone or any part of yourself, always
knowing that it will be taken away. You give up. Your feeling-
connection is your sense of self. You give it up. You give up on
it because you know from experience that they will tear you
apart to find it, and they WILL find it, and then they will
destroy it or take it away and make it their own. Search and
destroy. The 'secret police' of the bruderhof. It could be
anyone. They take away your things and yourself. They say you
will not need it. They will provide things and self, provide for
your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. But they
leave you to starve to death. You die. Your self dies. What you
are and might have become as a human being dies. They say,
"No loss. You will live in the kingdom of heaven Hall of Fame
where you will go BECAUSE you are selfless, having given up
yourself to our higher good." They will resurrect it and put it to
some useful purpose for their ant hill kingdom of heaven on
earth. They say, "You can live without it and what we have is
worth more and it can be yours as well." But you cannot live
without your body, heart, mind and soul. And what they have
is empty words and it will never be yours, no matter HOW
empty you try to become to be filled by them, because you are no
one and nowhere left to fill and they are empty of body,
CLOSED hard of heart, NARROW, small of mind and dry of
spirit. They give you nothing in return for what they steal and
who they kill of you, because they have nothing to give and
they are nothing but fabrications built after an ideal that has no
human grounding and has sold its soul for power. It is a
stillborn hybrid fantasy that they offer you in place of your loss.
You learn not to have to be anything but the most superficial
surface you must present to them so they will see you are
nothing and think you are "FINE," no trouble at all, not
dangerous, and won't come after you. Only then will they not mess
with you because you're "FINE." IF you do this long enough
you lose the ability to know you are anything else. It is all you
experience yourself to be -- the surface that is "FINE." You come
to believe that is what you are. And that surface is all they
respond to. This is the Adjusted Child that becomes a remote-
controlled grown-up. You are the remote. They are the control
-- The SOB "elders."
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