Best of The 1991 KIT Newsletters

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

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

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

------------KIT Newsletter, January 1991 Vol. III #1------------

.George Maendel, October 17, 1990: Dear KIT: I was seven years old in the summer of 1956 when the so- called children's clearing house was in operation (I'd never heard this event named before reading about it in KIT). We who were spied upon and reported to be engaging in various proscribed activities, such as watching each other pee or daring to take off our shorts under the covers when we went to bed at night, were isolated from the rest of the children for months, and taken from our normal families. My own family was systematically dismembered, which included sending my parents to Woodcrest and placing the rest of us either in the basement detention center or with other families. Two of my brothers were also sent to Woodcrest, and Mom had the youngest child with her as well. I remember enduring interrogation sessions during which I could only cry and sob. All my normal relationships were suspended as I was kept isolated from the rest of my family and the extended family of which I was a part in the colony. The questioning ended without any sort of resolution, and I was kept isolated from most other members of the group. There were other boys in the basement, but we were not allowed any unsupervised interaction. Later we were allowed to sleep at "home," such as it was, and during the days we used to pack tons of textbooks for shipment to somewhere. It was a very somber and serious time, and we felt like penitent miscreants.
As I see it, my family never recovered fully from this experiences. I do not know how our "crimes" were presented by "them" to our parents, but it was in such manner as made my parents agree that we be separated from them to live in the large basement at another house on the hof. My parents sat on the bed in their room and wept as they agreed to this arrangement. I don't know what they were told that made them agree to such measures. Sometime after I went to live in the basement, my parents and two of my brothers were sent to Woodcrest. I remember standing at the bottom of the basement steps watching my brothers leave.
In all the grovelling apologies that various HSOB leaders have made among the Hutterites, what they did to my family has never been mentioned. What happened to my family then, I am still trying to understand and place in some kind of context and time. Since KIT letters mentioned these events, I have questioned other family members and am surprised at the stories told by those who are willing to talk about what happened then. One tells of the questioner-accuser pounding the table with both fists when trying to elicit a confession to a supposed event that the accused had just described in detail! The described event was always something sexual. In this case, the accused know nothing of the supposed event and could also only cry.
The HSOB hierarchy of that era practiced a heinous form of psychological emasculation upon naive adult members whom they sought to control. There should have been outrage and rebellion, but the wily HSOB hierarchy vilely elicited submission from the adult Hutterites and parents present.
I think the KIT letters are the proper way to deal with these outrages now, because of KIT's neutral position. The HSOB people may still be of the opinion that they did the right thing under the circumstances. It would be dangerous for me to hear that! I have not heard anyone writing from the HSOB to explain or apologize for these actions. It seems to me that KIT provides a perfect place to do so. Thank you for turning some light into these corners and for an intelligent discussion in KIT.
Judy Tsukroff: A letter to Biene and Jonny Mason at Deerspring: Thank you for the stoellen you sent us via Alan Stevenson, and for your response to my letter. I think it unfortunate that you think KIT serves division. Do you know anything about KIT first-hand? Have you personally read all the way through several issues, or at least one? That is the only way you can possibly know what KIT is really about.
I think the HSOB's obsession with unity is divisive. Because of this obsession, information is limited or controlled. When Annie Maendel Hindley visited, she said she was free to read KIT simply by asking the servant for it. That would intimidate me -- I find it very controlling. Or am I misinformed? Is KIT available on a bulletin board where any adult can read it at any time? Or do members have copies to read personally?
Denying what happens, and denying how things really are, is an old Bruderhof custom. That is why KIT exists. We can no longer contain the repressed experiences and feelings that the Bruderhof refused to listen to and/or recognize. KIT is our way of dealing with the realities of our involvement with the Bruderhof which we never had a way to deal with before. I wish you could share it. With loving greetings to you both and your family for the holidays.
Geoff & Phyllis Welham, Dec 12, '90: ...Have just written Roger Allain after reading his letter in the Dec. issue. So much of what he writes echoes our own experiences and conclusions. To read the letters of so many ex-members, to realize how many had the same misgivings about what was going on, also the same fear to speak out. For those that were children in those troubled times, the letters are a help. To understand the confusions and fears brought about by the disappearance of parents, children removed from families, punishments meted out for what? Children made to feel that they were "sinful troublemakers" for reasons that in a more rational society would have been laughed at. Miriam Arnold's letter was most revealing.
To describe KIT letters as "Hate Mail" completely ignores the hurt and damage done to many youngsters so many years ago. The wounds are still there, and the opportunity should be given them to say in no uncertain terms what they experienced. Perhaps more importantly, for those children to be told why they were treated thus -- was it right or wrong? Were the adults concerned misguided, deluded, or what? Are children still being accused of they know not what? Harassed and interrogated until they "confess?"
This was done to one child in our family, for what reasons? Right? Wrong? And permitted by parents who were too scared of the consequences of objecting to such treatment.
FEAR is the one word that seems to be common in the answers of so many when asked "Why did you not speak up? Why let things go on without question? Why let other members suffer for asking the questions that you had but were afraid to ask?"
One conclusion I have come to is that complete "community of goods" -- the "everything in and nothing back" as practised by the HSOB, is wrong (however noble and brotherly it might appear on the face of it). The fact that one had nothing with which to face life outside if expelled or on resigning was a pretty strong incentive to keep one's mouth shut -- not "to rock the boat." Then there was the trauma of separating husband and wife, parents and children, with the "mind-poisoning" that usually accompanied such separating. The describing of the "erring" partner as "sinful," "evil," and forbidding the "faithful" contact with such a one. As happened with our eldest son on our expulsion in Paraguay, he was not permitted to see us off when we departed Asuncion en route for England with the possibility that we would not ever see each other again, and his parents branded as "evil-doers." Why? Because we had asked too many questions. (He was eventually evicted. We are all together and have been for many years.)
I echo Roger's cry "freedom" in spite of all the hardships involved in the years after our expulsion. I would never again put my life WILLINGLY, so completely, into the hands of other men. However noble the cause, political or religious, men do the most diabolical things to one another in the name of love, brotherhood, party unity, church unity and so on. We are a queer expression of the Creator's will: is there any other life form on this planet that does such horrible things to members of its own species? Look around the world -- it's appalling: black vs white, Arab vs. Jew, Moslem vs. Christian, Communist vs. Conservative, Hindu vs. Sikh, ethnic minorities vs. majorities, etc. etc. ad nauseam.
Sorry to be so pessimistic. Something needs to come to this planet greater than men, but somehow I do not see the HSOB as the channel. Warmest regards,

-----------Food For Thought----------

"Doubt is divine, for without it one would not be able to tell the difference between truth and wish fulfillment." (from a reader)
"Why do groups act more stupidly than the people in them?" The problem is that a group adopts norms -- habits of behavior -- and anyone who changes behavior (by evincing or attempting learning) thereby betrays the group and will be punished or ignored accordingly.
Stewart Brand, in "Costa Rica Saves The World," Whole Earth Review, Winter, 1989

------------KIT Newsletter, February 1991 Vol. III #2------------

News : We have heard that the Darius and Lehrer Leute have dismissed the Arnoldleut as Brothers in Faith within the Hutterian Church. This brings up serious questions re: the position of the Schmiedeleut vis-a-vis the Arnoldleut. It is no doubt a very painful situation for all concerned. Although we have been aware of this problem for some time, we sought not to become involved in the controversy. But now that the issue has come to a head, we will print whatever material we feel is newsworthy. The following article describes the relationship between Jakob Kleinsasser, the exiled Elder of the Schmiedeleut, and the Bruderhof (aka 'Arnoldleut').
Jacob J. Wipf: 'Strange Bedfellows' (excerpted by KIT)
Some kind of reconciliation took place in '74 (between the original and newcomer Hutterites in 1974 when the East [The Bruderhof - Ed] repented). The cleavage, however, was only partially healed in that the Lehrer and the Dariusleut would not be wooed. Nor was opinion unanimous among the Schmiedeleut. Some remain aloof and distant to this day. However those who would raise their voices in protest over the recent rapid acceleration in East/West relations would be subject to censure. The Elder Jacob Kleinsasser will brook no non-submission to what he perceives to be the greater good. Thus many are afraid to speak out.
By now Arnold must know that he will never penetrate the Lehrer and Dariusleut. That breach is simply irreparable at this point for the simple reason that Arnold has nothing to offer... It is unlikely he will even sweep the entire Schmiedeleut realm.
1) There are too many that detest the authoritarian measures of both Kleinsasser and Arnold. Sooner or later someone is bound to throw down the gauntlet and withstand Kleinsasser to his face. He has already lost credibility among the Lehrer and Dariusleut, and the displeasure of these two groups over recent developments is bound to strengthen the resolve of those not yet bowing among the Schmeideleut to Kleinsasser's whims.
2) There is a growing perception that the Arnoldleut manifest all the necessary ingredients of a cult. There is increasing awareness that brain-washing and will- breaking techniques are in use, and the people's zombie- like countenances (exactly what they look like -- I've seen two of their communes) is the tell-tale sign.
3) It is recognized that Arnold wants not just an influence among the Hutterites, but wants to consolidate all the colonies under a common purse. Arnold wants real equality among all the Hutterites. No colony could be richer than another. This can only happen where there is one purse and one ultimate head, which position he, Arnold, would (humbly of course) accept.
What this all adds up to is this: if Kleinsasser persists in his plan for total unification with the Arnold group, a split in the ranks of the Schmiedeleut is inevitable. Rumor has it that the thought is not as remote as it may seem.
1: Several months ago, Kleinsasser drew the world's attention upon the Hutterites by violating the Hutterite constitution. The Confession says "Christians must not sue one another at law" and "it is evident that a Christian can neither go to law not to be a judge." This fact is not unknown to the world at large. Note the coverage in 'The Winnipeg Free Press' [see KIT #4 Nov '89 The Mennonite Reporterarticle - ed.]: "Sociologist Victor Peters testified before Mr. Justice Patrick Ferg in Court of Queens Bench that... taking each other to court is contrary to Hutterites' basic doctrine dating back to the early 16th Century." For over 400 years Hutterites have adhered to this article in Peter Ridemann's Confession as reported by the Winnipeg Free Press: "It is unheard-of for Hutterites to turn to a civil court over an internal matter." But how is it then reported in The Winnipeg Sun that "Manitoba Hutterites had their dirty laundry aired in public yesterday," and in the 'Free Press,' "Hutterites need government protection to run their colonies according to their own rules, Kleinsasser said. If it is not given, we're finished." Has anyone ever analyzed that statement? It is absolutely packed with implications.
But this is not the only case that raises its ugly to condemn Kleinsasser. Note the evidence presented to the judge by C & J Jones, the company that manufactures for Kleinsasser: "C & J Jones received settlements of $25,000 from Grand Colony near Newton Landing, $10,000 from Lakeside and an amount he could not remember from Hutterite colonies in Alberta. After the legal fees were paid, the settlements were split with Crystal Springs Colony." In essence, what is being said here is that Kleinsasser received money that came from a lawsuit against other Hutterites. Kleinsasser, then, is clearly in favor of using the legal system when it is at his convenience despite a clear prohibition against such a practice in the constitution that is supposed to be the framework of the Hutterite life. Kleinsasser's heavy entanglement with the lawsuits thus raises widespread and searching questions. In summary, Kleinsasser has opened a can of worms.
2. Kleinsasser's breach of the Hutterite Confession is bound to have dire consequences in upcoming legal battles against the Hutterites. Kleinsasser, in a case that was watched the world over, has provided opponents of the Hutterites with a weapon that they will some day use against the Hutterites. Kleinsasser has told the entire world how much his constitution (on which the colony is based, the Confession) means to the Hutterites. It does not seem to bother him in the least that the Confession condemns his action. That article of the Confession is obviously outdated according to his action. "Oh, but wait a minute," the prosecutor may say next time the Hutterites are summoned to appear in court. "We will not allow you to have your cake and eat it too. You cannot have it both ways. You say your conscience forbids you to do such and such, and yet your Confession (which is the expression of your conscience) also says that no Hutterite is allowed to engage in a lawsuit. Ah, we seem to have a little hypocrisy here. It seems that your conscience is capable of changing when it is convenient for it to do so. You seem to be governed by dollars more than by your conscience."...
People I have talked to are simply astounded by this turn of affairs... But you say only the Schmiedeleut are affected by all this. Whoa, back up a bit. The differences between the two branches of Hutterites do not carry over in the Hutterite church as a whole. There is only one Hutterite church and therefore, the three groups act as one as far as legal matters go. There is an interconnection as long as there is no official break. It is recognized that whatever takes place does so with the consent of the Hutterite church as a whole. Which means that whatever Kleinsasser did is on record as an act by the Hutterite church.
There is only one option available to the Hutterites at this point to undo the damage done by the reckless behavior of Kleinsasser. Because there is this interconnection between the three Hutterite churches, the other two branches are responsible to rectify matters in order to clear themselves of the charge of violating their own constitution. This would mean soundly disciplining Kleinsasser (and his partners in crime) and removing him/them from positions of leadership. Furthermore, the Hutterites as a whole would have to drop and as much as possible undo the lawsuits responsible for the reproach, and with that go on public record in renouncing Kleinsasser's folly. Not to do so makes both the Darius and the Lehrerleut culpable by association and implication' and it will be only a matter of time before this whole affair will bring the roof down over the Hutterite's ear.
3. A further charge against Kleinsasser is his totalitarian rule. Kleinsasser has no confidence in the opinions of the masses. He himself knows what is good for them. They, poor fools, have not the wherewithal to think for themselves. Thereof, he sets himself as the undisputed lord of Midwest Hutterdom...
4. Kleinsasser's reckless behavior is further evidenced in his wild financial schemes... Note the Free Press again: 'Kleinsasser said he, Edel, a South Dakota Hutterite and an Atlanta lawyer formed a limited partnership named Welk Resources Ltd. to engage in petroleum exploration." Finally, a worse charge against Kleinsasser is his confederacy with the New Age movement of the East (the Arnoldleut). The Arnoldleut still hold Eberhard Arnold up as their inspiring leader whose writings are revolutionary, anti-government and leftist.
Judy Tsukroff 12/28/90 to George Burleson, Deer Spring Bruderhof: I have seen several articles about the HSOB in recent weeks. This morning in the 'Register Citizen' there is one headlined 'Hutterian Youths Bring Songs of Peace, Joy to U.S. Leaders.' How wonderful for the children to witness to world peace this way. I also saw your letter to world leaders in the middle of November. But George, I am disturbed by the way you misrepresent the truth about yourselves. This group of children sounds to me like it is coming from the eastern communities, and these are largely composed of people who joined the modern Bruderhof-Society of Brothers in this century. Why then, do you represent the group in a confusing way about your '470-year history?' The way the details read in today's paper, you sound as if the Hutterians were in Germany in the 1920s...
...How much part in this are ALL the Hutterites taking that you are in unity with? George, if you misrepresent yourselves, it can come back later to haunt you, and undermine the effect you are trying to have on the world.
I also want to say something about the Bruderhof- Society of Brothers' witness for peace. It is much easier to have peace among yourselves when you can get rid of people you don't agree with. Which is what the community did to so many of us in the 1960s and at other times. For a group who doesn't allow divorce, this is a cockeyed witness -- for the church to divorce itself from members who don't come up to its standards. If you people said something about your own 'struggle for peace,' 'not always successful attempts' at it, it would ring more true. It would also be honest to say quite clearly that many of you have a 460-year witness for peace and that some of you joined in this century. Some straight, honest words from you people would be a refreshing change from the good-sounding front you find it necessary to put on so much of the time. I hate half-truths!
Susan Welham Dec. 12 '90: It's me again! Now here is my dilemma: I was too young to remember who abused me or how I was abused, especially in 1948-49. You may wonder why I want to know. I want to know because I have been carrying pain inside all my life. It will surface and catch me unawares -- a harsh word from a loved one is enough to catapult me into a pit of grief and anguish so overwhelming that it takes me days to claw my way back out. In this last year I set myself the task of contacting the places where this grief and despair comes from. My search takes me back to my earliest years, to Wheathill, particularly to a time when both my parents were gone. My parents have told me what they recollect of the 1948-49 crisis. My father was one of the first to say NO to Llewellyn Harries and was exiled in the middle of winter to Bromdon Ruff in a tent, and then later marched off the hof and told to get going. My mother was exiled to Cleeton Court. They have told me of the great efforts that were made to get things back to normal afterwards, and I said to them, 'What happened to us while you were gone?'
I remember being locked up -- bread and water. My parents don't know. I now ask anyone out there, in or out of the HB, what happened to the children of the excluded parents during that time? In my family there were Geoff (7), me (5), Hilary (3), Rosemary (1) and Piers in utero (can't have done him much good either). Who cared for us? Would the person or people please write to me. I realize from my own life how difficult it can be in times of stress to really be aware of the children's needs. I feel that while the adults were busy with their madness, we were forgotten, were treated like dumb animals. For this to be rectified, the whole episode needs to be placed in the light. We need to know what happened. You, the adults, may have forgiven and forgotten, but we the children cannot remember and have never been consulted. Before I can forgive and forget, I need to know and understand....
In his letter (Dec. '90 KIT) Roger Allain mentions the difference he perceives in the reaction to, and/or the recovery from, the b'hof experience between the people who joined as adults and the people whose formative years were spent in the community. From my point of view, the key to this disparity lies in the wider experience the adults had. They had already formed an identity that was not the product of the SOB reality and nevertheless adults graduates have described their dismay at realizing how they allowed themselves to change; how they agreed to and were party to decisions, attitudes and actions they later deplored. For me as a child, having no other perspective or experience to draw from, this mind and heart-binding was crippling. Binding, as the Chinese bound their daughters' feet to make them fit a cultural concept of beauty. If the bindings were taken off, it caused great pain and the feet were never really healthy and whole. I feel this way about what was done to me. The crippling of the inner concept of myself, and hence all others, has left me with a painful legacy. The HB would still prefer things to be pretty -- a quote from the Dec. '90 KIT: 'We don't want our children or our guests to read KIT. It might cause doubt, they may question.'
They may find out that all is not right in heaven. Well, I grew up in that heaven -- the heaven I could never be an angel in. I never was good enough. My lessons were:
I was essentially an evil being whose whole life
had to be dedicated to controlling and/or stamping
out the worm inside.
When people make mistakes, they lose the right to
be loved and either live like ghosts without a voice
or are cast out into the void to perish.
This may sound rather extreme, but children absorb the essence in emotional terms. For an example, my father was cast out a number of times. I was given no explanation, he just disappeared. Imagine my delight when one day, when walking with a school group, I saw him in the distance. Off I ran calling 'Daddy, Daddy!' I was hauled back by the teacher. 'You must not talk to him.' No explanation. He must be a ghost. My life was full of dark confusion. I was eight at the time. We were having a really hard time of it that winter of 1951. My mother was pregnant with Oliver, the rest of us aged 2, 4, 6, 8, 10. My father had transgressed. My mother had forgiven him, but in true SOB style, he must be punished. WE WERE ALL PUNISHED. The desire to punish took precedence over any other consideration, especially how the children would fare. Oliver was born defective -- we were still being punished. We did not know as we sang 'Golden slumbers kiss your eyes' outside the baby house that Oli would have physical-mental-emotional problems which psychiatrists attribute to the extreme stress and deprivation my mother suffered during her pregnancy.
I understand why Loy reacts the way she does to the Christmas cards which depict the sweet little Christ child. If WE had been treated as if we were that little Christ child, with love, respect, reverence, the divine in us would have had a greater chance of blossoming (Alice Miller, 'Thou Shalt Not Be Aware'). As it was, the SOB created children who had no parents and parents who had no partners by putting the ideal of the unity of the church, or group, above individual responsibility and inner peace, above the bond between partners and above the parents' role as guardians of their children. So, superimposed on our own powerlessness was the frustration and powerlessness of our parents. For example:
None of us in my family agreed with the harsh treatment meted out to my sister aged 9 when she was excluded, sent away to Ibate. She had been playing doctors and nurses with another little girl. 'The Powers That Be' decided that she had latent homosexual tendencies which must be squashed. The 'best' way to do that was to rip her from the relative security of her family, to send her away and let her suffer. We all suffered. We still do. She still puts herself into exclusion when she is troubled. She does not reach out to her family. They were not there when she needed them most.
Tell me HOW DO I FORGIVE AND FORGET THIS UNNECESSARY SUFFERING? How DO I live with my fear of loving those close to me -- my children, my husband (ex)? I do not choose to live this way. My early lesson was, 'It is not safe to love. People you love can be whisked away for no apparent reason.' There is no way I can put a pretty face on this pain. My early childhood experience is what I am made of. It is in my bones, in every cell of my body. I spend my life trying to re-educate myself. I have found someone recently who is prepared (professionally) to re-parent me, to help me recognize the falseness of so much of what I was taught. She is helping me towards a less judgmental, gentler attitude towards myself and to chase away those stern and punishing voices that clutter my mind. I now understand I am the outcome of all that has happened to -- with -- from me. This raises the question: what HAS happened?
I can access much of this material, but the most difficult areas to reach are pre-lingual. I cannot catch them with my mind. They reside in my physical/emotional being. In order to know what I am made of, I have to contact, re-experience the child of my childhood. To contact the pain, the vulnerability, the joy, the innocence and spontaneity of the child - 'WERDET WIE DIE KINDER' -- involves dedication and hard work. And I believe it is the only way to truly love myself and others. Instead of giving lip service to love while acting out every combination of repression and projection, repressing my real feelings and/or projecting onto others the things I can't accept in myself.
I am breaking through a barrier at present. It has to do with my sexuality. This has been a major stumbling block for me. I have come to realize I was sexually abused as a child. The repressive, prudish atmosphere of the SOB did not eliminate sexual desires. Instead they were driven underground and created a breeding ground where, locked in silent embrace, the perpetrators impregnated the innocent ones with the seeds of their own guilt and self-hatred. Do I now have to endure further by facing the villains and offering them forgiveness?
First of all, I have to learn the truth of my innocence. To stop protecting these people. To take away the blanket of silence. To find my anger. I need my anger, my righteous indignations. Sometimes anger is the only appropriate response. I stand with Loy in her anger. Maybe that anger will diminish if there is some recognition of its right to be.
Everywhere I turn, my deficit, my bankruptcy, stares me in the face. I grew up in a place where the only acceptable emotion was LOVE. The IDEAL was love, and yet I did not experience love. I will tell you of an experience I had when I was 4 or 5. I had been stealing other children's toys and burying them like a dog with a bone. I was taken to the 'Servant of the Word.' Something seriously had to be done about my unloving behavior. A marvellous remedy was orchestrated: I was given a box of chocolates to share with all the children in order to 'learn' to be 'giving.' I remember the whole incident very clearly, including my reaction. I dutifully went around sharing all those sweets. I knew I had nothing to give. The sweets were not mine to give. I was just carrying out orders. I had to manufacture love; create it out of an emptiness. An emptiness caused by not having consistent caretakers -- by not feeling safe -- by not being able to trust -- by feeling abandoned. My needs were not being met.
Instead of my behavior being recognized as a desperate cry for help, of the obvious great need I was in, I got behavior modification which further violated my already bleeding insides. That was my childhood -- manufacturing acceptable behavior and never having the right to experience or express anything else -- my emotions bound, like those poor little feet. Now when I take off the bindings, the biggest SHAME that binds me is that I feel I am not entitled to be human. I am in pain. I have not yet learned, on a feeling, that all my emotions are valid. They just ARE. There is no need to judge them. They are there for a reason, to guide me.
Maybe I can allow myself not to be so loving and forgiving. I can say to myself that the caregivers, the SOB, did their best - did as they knew. They too had childhoods that left them in deficit. I look at my children and feel the sorrow of my inability to give them what they need and have needed. I want so much to see this cycle broken. It's no use going on about the Middle East crisis -- surely, those people in power are also in deficit and perhaps in their own way, and in the only way they know how, they too are using power play and threats of open conflict to assuage and fill the gaping hole inside themselves.
But I can only start with myself.
The first stage is understanding that my needs are not met -- and not to be ashamed of trying to have them met now. A large part of that need is to be HEARD. LISTEN TO ME. Do NOT tell me what I have to say is INAPPROPRIATE. I could not say that when I most needed to. Another great need is to be ACCEPTED. NOT to be rejected for who and what I am. I have had great anxiety about being cast out if people knew the IMPERFECT ME.
And YES, I do face you all, SOB and HB. YOU, by your own definition, are a conglomerate. I hold you ALL accountable. You are the perpetrators, either by commission from lecherous glances to voyeuristic inquisitions, or by omission -- omission that left me unattended by night -- that left me ignorant of the facts of life. I have to hand it to you. THIS is not mine. I do not have to forgive you. I will leave it to you to forgive yourselves.
Charlie Lamar: Some of the cruelty which a supposedly loving, pacifistic and Christian way of life has engendered, results in my opinion, from a conflict between two fundamental beliefs. All bruderhofers seem to be very clear on the point that spirituality cannot be forced, that love is a gift, that the free, personal volition of each believer must operate uncompromised in relation to God. So why, then, have they so often used the most ruthless psychological if not physical force in the pursuit of their spiritual goals? I believe the answer lies in the fact that while they believe adult believers must spontaneously desire the gifts of God, it's acceptable for the community to circumvent personal volition and use psychological force to combat evil in the cases of children or those of their baptized brothers thought to be under the influence of a 'wrong spirit.'
These two beliefs are in flagrant and insupportable contradiction, in my opinion. Surely parents must play a godlike role in the lives of small children. But when has anyone personally seen God using the kind of psychological and physical force on believers that has so often been used on their children and baptized brothers? Either God wants His children to be volitionally free or He does not. The idea that God uses force on people may be found in the bible, but this biblical God is not the God I know and love. The idea that it is permissible to try and force evil out of anyone, even children, is no more plausible to me than the idea that God would force goodness on anyone. But various kinds of psychological as well as physical force have been used over and over again on bruderhof children, such as in the 'clearing rooms' in the children's communities.
When I was at Woodcrest, I heard a lot about getting rid of one's ego. This was borne in on all the children on a daily basis. But I never bought it. In my opinion, an ego is like a skeleton. You can't live without it. It's no more of a spiritual advantage to reduce one's ego than it is a physical advantage to have delicate, fragile bones. It is rather a question of the motivation of the ego. But I personally was never given any positive spiritual instruction while on the bruderhof. For example, I was never personally told to pray. However, for that I shall always be very grateful, because when I finally did pray, it was entirely my own discovery. But along with all the other children, I always was told to reduce my ego, not so that I might be filled by God, but that I might be better directed by the people around me. Not until I was away at college did I open my eyes to the nature and gravity of that substitution, the substitution of the community for God which the bruderhof makes in its practical religious life. Consider the meaning of the phrase, heard so often in the community: -- "All you are asked to do..." --
In the future, I am sure we will hear more about forcible community attempts to smash children's egos. It is one thing for an individual intentionally to empty the human vessel so that it may then be divinely refilled. It's another thing altogether for other people forcibly to smash the pitcher. Many people who write in to KIT were literally smashed by the b'hof. This is hard for many well-intentioned people to understand, who keep offering the standard spiritual instruction -- 'Empty yourself of all the bad feelings, and let God in. -- Forgive and forget. -- Let bygones be bygones' -- not realizing that this is impossible for people who find themselves in that situation, and that the attempt would only cause further damage.
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe: I read the anonymous ['Eyebrows'] letter, and was really very upset by it. As you point out, you did send a copy to the SOB, and Dick Domer left it up to KIT to publish the letter or not. That makes me feel that the Bruderhof must know who the writer is. I think it's absolutely disgusting and serves no good purpose whatsoever! So I want to give you an account of my memories and all the facts I know about my uncle Heini's sickness in the 1940s. The facts are based on what my Oma and aunt Moni told me when I was a child. First of all, you must know that the Arnold children were not very strong. World War I had left its marks on their general health. Two of Oma's sisters died on the bruderhof (Tante Olga & Tante Else) with open tuberculosis. My mother had shared 'Tata's' room until she died. That is where my mother got her T.B. All the Arnold children had T.B. at one point in their lives. When my mother was 16 years old, she was told it would be better not to think of marriage because of her infection.
1939 - My father was excluded for one thing or another, and my mother was pregnant with my brother Killian. I remember her vomiting blood, but she said not to tell anybody as it would mean that she would have to be taken away from us. Shortly after Killian's birth, she went into hospital (not with Papa but with Hans Meier, as Papa was excluded). She was told she was a menace to the British country, that they could not and would not treat her anyhow because she was German and there was a war on. She was isolated in a little house far away from us and lived there all alone. As the air raids got more and more severe, my father made the choice to be isolated with my mother, and we children were looked after by Heini and Annemarie together with Margot who again had the special responsibility for my brother Ben who was very ill with asthmatic pneumonia. Heini would carry me into the air raid shelter many a night. He would lift me up and show me the burning lights of a bombed Coventry. Our relationship was nothing else but a very close and loving one. We traveled to South America together. Mama was isolated on the boat as well, so I spent much time with Heini and Annemarie who had two children by then, Roswith and Christoph. The journey was a long one as the boat had to change course all the time because of the submarines. The adults were very close in the struggle of this trip. I felt the warmth and shelteredness of them very much indeed.
On our arrival in Primavera, there was a lot of sickness. We had left my mother in Buenos Aires until an isolation house was built for her in Isla Margarita. At the end of the hof, three homes were built, and it was there that Heini was put when he had his serious kidney infection. My mother was in one house with a T.B. meningitis, my brother Ben in a very small house next to her and Heini in the third little house. The community would come and sing in between the houses. I write this in detail because there was absolutely nothing and no one against these poor sick people! As I said, Heini had a very bad kidney infection with a very high temperature and a lot of terrible pain. Cyril, our doctor, was still a novice. He had just finished his studies in England when he decided to join the community. He had no antibiotics, nothing to examine anybody, like an X-ray machine. He was needed in 100 places at the same time because many children were dying. He did all in his power to try and let the fever drop and help Heini with his pain. He gave him morphine injections but it seemed like nothing would help. So the community came together for song and prayer around his bed. It seemed as though Heini's hours were numbered. Then Moni and Cyril decided that a lot of drinking would clean out Heini's kidneys. They gave him anything he wanted to have. A special wagon went to Friesland to get beer for Heini. He loved it -- and it helped. The fever dropped and he was very slowly on the mend again. What happened then is not so difficult to understand. Heini still thought he was a dying man and kept calling the brotherhood to repent, and love and trust Jesus. He was still calling out for his medication because his body had gotten used to the stuff. The community could no longer cope with the situation. Heini had reinstalled my father as servant together with Georg Barth. The brotherhood decided that Heini should see a specialist in Asuncion. A plane came from the capital to bring Heini to the hospital. There he got the best care anybody could ask for in those troublesome days of the beginning Primavera years.
At some point, my dad was asked to have a confidential talk with Dr. Revarola and Dr. Buttner in Asuncion. He went with Annemarie. The doctors said that Heini needed a lot of rest, fresh air and good food. That his mind had suffered from the morphine and that his mental state was very highly strung. Papa, Annemarie and Heini talked together in Asuncion about the situation, and later with Moni and Oma. Papa felt that when a servant needs rest under such circumstances that this is a very confidential matter. Therefore he did not discuss that talk with the brotherhood. But Heini had agreed that his service should rest until he was really feeling up to it again.
The Arnolds moved to Loma Hoby and our family too, because the isolation house for my mother was finished. Heini worked in the school. He was my teacher in geography and he also gave us teachings of the bible and the early Christians. We had a Sonnentrup which was something like a Kinderschaft nowadays. Annemarie gave us singing and handicraft lessons in the afternoons. Heini was a loved and very much accepted teacher. We loved him dearly. He was a jolly man, and we had lots of fun with him!
There there was a crisis. We didn't understand any of it. Wagons kept rolling off and on for communal meetings. Then there was the great exclusion. The reason was that Heini, Hardi and Hans-Hermann felt that my father was not 'Hutterite' enough. He read too much from Romano Guardini and other theological teachings. They met secretly and wanted to contact the Hutterians for advice. The brotherhood felt that this was destroying trust and love, and violated the essence of communal living. In his later years, my dad felt very bad about these exclusions. The brotherhood had not realized how very different it was to be excluded in Europe than it was in Paraguay.
To make my story short - and in answer to KIT's anonymous 'Eyebrows' letter:
1. The evil servants did not maneuver Heini out of his service. His illness had made him very unstable and he agreed to have a rest.
2. The 'evil doctor' did not poison Heini. No, Heini received the best and most expensive treatment! The doctor was a very loving brother who did everything in his power to help the sick with little or no medication on hand! How is it possible that such slander is said about a brother who helped each and every one of us?
3. No, there were no wicked ones that tried to starve Heini to death. We were all close to death because we just didn't have any food (e.g. milk was only available for pregnant women and babies under a year. So we never had a drop of milk!!)
4. "Hold off with this garbage about 'dialogue, openness and truth.' You change the meaning of these words just like Hitler and his Nazis did." That is really evil and what is said above that as well. Nobody is printing blasphemies and lies about Heini, but it is true that Hitler was worshipped by the masses. Should we see a comparison here?
Actually all this makes my heart ache! How are we following? Where does love come from? What is the essence of life? Why did my grandfather start community? Is all of this lost? I cannot and will not accept that! Somewhere along the road, hero-worship came in the place of brotherly love. This made my father fall, like he did in the 1950s. Not before! Why do people always want a leader? Is it so that we do not have to take any responsibility for our own actions? I am quite sure that today on the Bruderhof many brothers and sisters really believe that they are following Christ, but actually they follow the writings of Heini.
About the last letter my grandfather wrote to my father. I know that letter. A very loving letter to my father, in which he gives advice because somehow, he knew he would not live any longer. It is a personal letter of a father to a son-in-law. It should not be used for people's own ends. It should also not be used in any other spirit than it was written in. He advises my father on such personal matters as his own children. Heini was a very sensitive child and youth, and out of love, my grandfather advised him, but also my father, not to burden him with difficult, spiritual matters, but rather let him work as a brother in and with God's nature, thus on the land under God's blue sky -- in and with God's nature. That is why he had an agricultural training.
I believe that all of us have the possibility to love and to hate, to give and to take, to be humble or proud. A schizoid person has all these qualities to an extreme excess and is therefore so loveable and hateful at the same time. That makes life truly difficult. If we let go of the person that has so much power over us. we will find inner freedom and assurance and be able to help such a person. That is enough for today, I'm sure. Sorry for the length of this letter, but I do get carried away. But you see, not many people remember all the ins and out, and I DO.
Let us remain hopeful that we will reach people who have come into distress because of all this and maybe let the brothers see that true inner peace is never found by defending a man's actions or beliefs but is rather found deep within us in the little bit of love that God put there into each of us.

------------KIT Newsletter, March 1991 Vol. III #3----------

Joel Clement, 2/6/91: While weighing the pros and cons of whether to go public with my thoughts, I am reminded of the saying: "It is better to keep silent & be THOUGHT a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt!" Nevertheless I am firmly convinced it is time for me to make a fool of myself! And I would invite other Bruderhof kids to do the same!
My publication of the following correspondence with Kathy Mow is not an attempt to torpedo the bruderhof's willingness to make amends where need be. I will visit the bruderhof and we will talk, and on some points we will have to "agree to disagree." Kathy is obviously a really cool person (pardon the modern language), and I trust she is not offended that I am airing my letter to her as well as her response.
To Kathy Mow: 12/1/90
Dear Kathy: I want to respond to your letter of a year ago in which you asked me to share my "basic differences" which I have with the community. I appreciate your acceptance of those of us who have felt led in different directions, although I'm not sure the Bruderhof by nature can really fully accept us who are "outside." I suppose this shouldn't' keep us from some kind of communication, so hang on -- it may get a little bumpy. There are many things about the community which I find GENUINELY disturbing. Let me start "close to home" and work my way out.
My father, whom I have always loved, was sent away for two years in 1975 and '76 for pride and ambition, as I understand it, I guess for his part in getting Heini off the 'hof in 1959 (referred to on p. 140 of Torches Rekindled). He had been in exclusion in 1960 or '61 for the same thing, had he not? Where does this fit in with the basic teaching of forgiveness? I suppose it is possible that more things were discovered about him, but doesn't that lead to endless digging? I heard that one of the charges brought against him was that he was too friendly with people "outside." How can you explain that? Upon what basis does the Bruderhof break a person's spirit and personality to this extent, to punish them for an obviously God-given trait -- yes, call it what it is -- a gift? It is quite evident to me that the Bruderhof has trampled on people's spirits. I've seen it happen to my dad and to Jonathan and to others. I would guess you might see these events differently, but to me they are quite plain. In my opinion, this is a misuse of Church discipline as spelled out in Matt 18: 15-17 or 1 Corin 5.
I am theologically and politically very far from the Bruderhof. I am basically a conservative fundamentalist, Southern Baptist Christian, although the image which this conjures up in your mind is probably quite different from who I am. These things are the result of years of searching, and I mean YEARS of open-minded searching. We left the Brethren Church where I met my wife and stumbled across the Baptists through their Bible study.
I sit in one of those "American churches," my 6-year- old son's head in my lap and his feet on the pew. In front of me, a teenager puts her arm around her parent's shoulder, and it goes through me like a knife. You guess why. The hymns bring tears to me eyes: "Blessed be the Name!" Around me are handicapped and homeless (just fed), old and young, rich and poor.
I weep tears of frustration over my parents and the Bruderhof, and tears of joy over Christ and what He did for me and all men who will accept Him. What else do I need beside the Son of the Living God as a friend, and the chance to express my concern for those I love? In my ability finally to get bent out of shape over these two things, I am complete! I don't want to serve Love, I want to serve Christ! I don't want to serve Church-Community, I want to serve Christ! Like Peter on his knees in the boat before Christ -- because I too suddenly recognize He is exactly who He said He is! At that moment, Peter also realized his sinfulness -- why wasn't HE sent away? He was proud and ambitious, but was taken in and accepted instead of sent away.
What did you lose to the Bruderhof? I lost two years with my dad because he was too much like Peter.
I'm not mad at the Bruderhof. I am grieving (I'm also lying -- I am mad as heck at the Bruderhof -- who am I kidding?) Obviously there are days when I feel the Bruderhof has stolen my parents from me. This is not an attack on the Bruderhof, just a statement of how I feel. I have a vested interest in the Bruderhof because you people have my loved ones in there. If they -- and if I read your attitude towards members and even former members correctly -- "belong" to you, I can only pray that you will take good care of them.
My experience going through adolescence at the Bruderhof and as a young person was that the area of human sexuality is mishandled when it is handled at all. I went to the Servant of the Word in 1974 and confessed to a minor sexual infraction and to having feelings for a Bruderhof girl. Perhaps in bringing these two things together I set him up, in a sense. Why is it that having feelings for a girl is made out to be bad? He could have assured me that this was normal. Instead, he said something to the effect that "the basic law is: 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.'" Then he read to me something which Eberhard Arnold had written on the subject, a text which I already knew, and gave me Blumhardt to read, something rather complex about Creation. Isn't it sad that people in leadership positions can't even distinguish between normal adolescent feelings and adultery? To put an adultery trip on someone who wouldn't even hold hands without permission is really something! I shouldn't have to remind you that adultery is sex outside of marriage, which is a big difference from having normal attractions for the opposite sex!
Later, when in college, I asked if I could spend my weekends working as an orderly in a hospital to get a distance from the community. I was told I shouldn't run from my problems when, in actual fact, I was doing, or trying to do, quite the opposite.
After the crisis of early 1975, Dad was sent away without so much as goodbye. My brother Mark and I happened to flag him down on Route 44 on our way back from college. We wished him well.
I felt more and more that I needed to leave. I couldn't really say why at the time, but I felt a clearer and clearer calling to leave. I finally left in May of 1978.
Trying to dialog with the community has been difficult and intimidating in my experience. 8 years ago, I made a very carefully thought-out attempt to get my parents and the community to come to some kind of understanding with my brother Jonathan. The result wasn't quite what I hoped for, but I think it did some good. If the letter I wrote then has been lost, I have a copy which I would be glad to send , although this would not be an attempt to "re-open" the dialog I so badly hoped would happen 8 years ago.
The overwhelming feeling I get from the Bruderhof in regards to anyone that isn't at the Bruderhof is that they have totally missed the boat or worse. Pressure to come back seems to saturate the place, although I know, and you have stated, that it is mostly well-meant. And there seems to be the attitude that, given enough time, everyone will see the "absolute rightness" of your way of life.
Basically, I would go to the trenches to defend your right to live as you see fit, but I can't see the absolute rightness of any particular way of life. Some orthodox Jews actually hold a funeral service when a family member leaves the faith. There are times when I have wished, for the sake of both sides, that we who left could have been given the courtesy of a funeral!
I am quite surprised at the attitude of the Bruderhof towards the Bible: that it is not the Word of God. I note with interest in the same paragraph the thought that the persecution of the Christians will be cloaked in scripture. That means effectively that when someone comes to criticize the Bruderhof and bases this criticism on scripture, you can easily dismiss this as persecution. I am distressed that you cannot find more trust for this wonderful testament to a 4000-year heritage of justice and mercy, not to mention the central theme: Christ. I don't know anyone, including myself, who believes that the Bible is the Word of God and also thinks that God ONLY speaks through the Bible.
In my view, what is unique about the Bible being the Word of God is that it can be printed, bought and sold, and as such is available to everyone. This is what was so important during the Reformation, that the common man could read the Bible as it was made available through the invention of the printing press. Indeed this is one reason the Hutterites taught their children to read. I don't think an ordinary book would have changed the course of history this way. I think of your scratch-picture of Simon reading the Old English Bible by candlelight in my mother's story "The Secret Flower" and how important this discovery was to him. I would have to say I have made a similar discovery myself.
In some ways, the Bruderhof is my enemy. It is quite clear from KIT that many ex-b'hofers feel this way about the Bruderhof. Probably quite a number feel this way but are so upset and bitter that they can't or won't express their feelings. In Christ I now have the ability to love my enemies, and so I love you Bruderhof people even though I am at odds with you. I hold great hope for KIT and how it works for the good, both for the Bruderhof and for those of us outside. What a diverse group these KITfolk are, young and old, rich and poor, agnostic and fundamentalist Christian, various racial and ethnic groups, etc., and we are all in search of one thing: healing. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that this kind of diversity has played a part in Bruderhof history. I agree with many of the concerns raised in the KIT conference Open Letter, and with various letters and articles in KIT.
Lest this letter have an entirely negative feel to it, I would say that I remember with great thankfulness the individual acts of love and kindness of many people there, including Merrill. The love my parents showed to me is the reason I can function today. It is my not entirely biased opinion that they are the best thing to ever happen to the Bruderhof. But I take inventory of what I believe and what you believe and what I hold dear and what you hold dear, and I see that I really don't have much in common with the Bruderhof. I certainly don't mean this in a hostile way.
Well, I have bared my soul at some risk, I suppose, and left little doubt about how I feel about many things. It is my sincere wish that this doesn't ruin your day or upset this wonderful time of Christmas. Please share this letter as you see fit.
Miriam Arnold Holmes: (Excerpts from her Life Story) Early in the summer of 1963, my parents came back to Woodcrest from wherever they had been. They lived in the upstairs of the baby house and I was allowed to visit them. I always enjoyed being with them. My father was his usual interesting self, and my mother worked mornings in the sewing room and in the afternoons she cleaned the single men's places like the Bug House and Paul Willis's place. The men got a maid to clean their places, and I would help her. I think I worked in the kitchen in the morning. Also I spent a lot of time at home. We used to have people come over at night after meetings and just sit and talk with us. My father was always interesting to talk to. He always had a much broader perspective on things than most other bruderhof people did.
Little did I realize that my little visit would have some very very serious consequences. One afternoon I was down in the Bug House helping my mother clean the boys' quarters, and like always, I wanted a little music. Music makes work bearable. They had a record player in the Bug House, and I found a recording of "Judas Maccabeus" by Handel. Now I had never really heard that piece before, at least not the whole thing. This was a two- record set, maybe three. So while we were cleaning I put it on, and I really really fell in love with it. There was one piece that started out with a choir of children's voices, and then the adult voices slowly joined in. "See the conquering hero come." It was the same melody that we used for a Christmas song, "Tochter Zion Freue Dich." And I absolutely fell in love with this music. The recording belonged to Dan Maendel, so after we had finished cleaning around suppertime, I ran into Dan.
"Dan, my mother and I were cleaning the Bug House and I was listening to 'Judas Maccabeus,'" I said. "What a beautiful piece of music! Can I borrow it? Can I bring it back with me to Oak Lake and share it with the Singles?" I said all this in a very nice, humble way.
"Naw, I don't think so," he replied. "Nah."
"Come on, Dan, don't be so selfish. You should share."
"Ah, I don't want to lend it to you."
So I pushed him a little bit but not much, and just dropped it.
But I told my father, "You know, I wanted to borrow those records, but Dan Maendel didn't want me to."
I did not think much of it. I finished my 2-week visit at Woodcrest and went on my merry way back to Oak Lake and my regular grind with the toddlers again. What a wonderful age that is! I sure loved those children and those children loved me. Some would even cry when their mothers came to pick them up because they wanted to stay with me. It is amazing what a strong bond these children formed with their caretakers. But actually they spent more time with us than with their parents whom they only saw a couple of hours in the evening, one hour at noontime after naps, and the weekends. Often on Monday mornings the mothers would bring their kids and say, "Thank God we can bring them to you! They were driving me crazy this weekend!" And I would say, "Well, I'm glad to have them."
One day Art Wiser, the servant, called me into his office.
"I had a phone call from Heini," he said. "And he was very very shocked that you, Miriam, had asked for a record from Dan. That was very very selfish, and then you even put pressure on him. There is something drastically wrong with you, and Heini was absolutely horrified about what you did. He wants you to give an explanation in the brotherhood meeting tonight."
Heini also wanted Hela Ehrlich, who was visiting Oak Lake from Woodcrest, to take down everything I said in shorthand because he sure would love to know what were my explanations of my selfish actions. That is what Art said that Heini said.
I was totally flabbergasted! I was mortified! I was scared, and I was in shock. I had forgotten about that episode, and from what I heard, my father was sort of upset that Dan would not loan me the record. I heard later that he went to Doug Moody about it, and Doug thought that wasn't very nice of Dan Maendel either, that he would not loan me that record. So Doug must have told Heini. Now Heini, of course, saw a golden opportunity here to trample his brother's daughter into the mud, and that is exactly what he did. I guess this was the only time my name ever came to Heini's attention, any kind of conflict or anything to do with me. And he quickly realized he had a golden opportunity to make his brother look bad. That is the only way I can explain it, because I certainly did not do anything that a lot of other people didn't do. I know that Dick Mommsen -- what a beautiful person Dick is -- he used to go to Woodcrest and borrow records all the time! One time he brought back all of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas. We had every last one of them, and Dick loved Gilbert and Sullivan and so did I.
In any case, people borrowed records back and forth all the time. Here I was in big trouble for asking, and I didn't even get the damn records! Me asking for a record was a major sin! So I went to the brotherhood meeting that night with fear and trembling. And I was challenged, and here was Hela Ehrlich with her steno pad taking down every word I said!
Basically what I said was "I am really sorry and I'm ashamed of myself. I was very selfish and it wasn't nice of me, I should not have done that."
But that wasn't good enough. I was sent out of the brotherhood meeting. I was sent home and told that I was not in the brotherhood any more. Ausgeschlossen -- excluded. So I went back to my little room which I shared with two or three other single women and could not sleep that night. I did not sleep a wink. I found that experience so traumatic that I stayed awake all night, lying in bed, feeling awful, just awful. That was the beginning of the end for me.
Of course at that time I thought Heini must be right and I was wrong. There was something the matter with me, even though I said I was sorry and I said I was selfish and whatever. I probably said I was proud too, because that was always a standard self-accusation, to be proud. And I really meant what I said. God's sake, I meant it! I did not want to be in trouble! But it was not good enough. They wanted more.
Emotional blood wasn't good enough for Heini. He got that out of me, I can tell you. He got plenty of emotional bleeding. Now being thrown out of the brotherhood did not just mean you did not attend meetings. Of course you were out of the 'Gemeindestunde' also. It was much more than that. It was feeling disgraced, feeling worthless, feeling almost dirty and having those feelings reinforced by being treated as less than human. People stopped talking to you. When you went to second breakfast, people just left you out of the conversation. It was just a nasty, nasty feeling. They still let me work with the children, which to me was a lifesaver. Because the children did not treat me as if I was Ausgeschlossen . It was like the animals when I was a 11 years old and excluded. The only beings that treated me well and the same were the animals. When I came home, the dog jumped up and licked my face, just as happy as could be. He did not know I was excluded. And neither did the little children. They loved me just the same as they did before, and greeted me with enthusiasm when they came to their groups in the morning and afternoon. And as I said, tears were shed when their mothers picked them up. That was really really important to me, the little bit of love and acceptance I received was from the little children. I loved them dearly for it.
At the time I thought this would last for a month or two and then I would be back in the brotherhood and everything would be fine. But that was not the way it happened. One month turned into another month, and another month. It seemed as if I could not do anything right. After a while they decided that I should not work with the children any more, that I probably was contaminating them with my dirtiness, whatever that was. That is how I felt. So they took me away from the children. Now that was devastating. They put me on the cleaning crew which was responsible for cleaning all the common areas in all the buildings, the bathrooms and sinks. Each group of apartments had a general food area with a shared stove and refrigerator and a sink. By that time we had more than one building at Oak Lake. We had the Harvest House and the new shop. The children had moved to the old shop which had been turned into a children's house. So there were quite a few areas which had to be cleaned quite aside from the dining room and lobby in the main building. They had to be cleaned every day, the floors mopped and waxed, the carpeting vacuumed. The long long hallways upstairs had to be dusted. A lot of toilets to be cleaned. So here I was, cleaning toilets, mopping and waxing floors.
I remained with the Singles for breakfast and other meals they had together. But for family suppers and Sunday breakfast I was with Mike and Shirley Brandes. They were very active in the Civil Rights movement, especially Mike who participated in marches. I very very strongly identified with the oppressed Afro-American person in the South. Not consciously, it would have been a no-no, but I certainly felt for them. My heart went out to these people, and I think being treated the way I was being treated had something to do with it. Both Mike and Shirley treated me well and with respect. I never felt that they looked down on me. A few others were nice, and I will never forget that. Juliana, Jacob Gneiting's wife, treated me like I was a human being. She always had a kind word. Another person was Emmi-Ma Zumpe, Hans Zumpe's wife and my father's older sister. Emmi-Ma probably knew how it felt to be thoroughly humiliated, and Juliana just was a very good-hearted person.
We had a lot of guests. Mike and Shirley would invite people to their house for family supper and I would sit there all miserable, devastated, depressed. And these people would talk about how wonderful it was on the bruderhof and how everyone seemed so happy and all that stuff. And I thought to myself, "If you only knew!" If they only knew how miserable I was. But of course I could not say that. I was very depressed. I always felt that I did not feel bad enough. I felt maybe if I would feel a little worse about myself, truly truly badly about myself, they would take me back. But that did not happen.
People started to pick on me. Sarah Maendel called me aside and admonished me because I did not eat breakfast. I always showed up for breakfast, and had my coffee. The irony of it was that I never ate breakfast in my whole life! I don't eat breakfast now! I felt sick to my stomach every morning, especially then. But it really was not anything new that I did not eat. I just drank my coffee in a sort of zombi-like fashion. But now suddenly the fact that I did not eat breakfast was a sin! I was trying to call attention to myself. That was what Sarah Maendel told me. And I said to myself, "For God's sake, the last thing I want is to call attention to myself!"
That went too far. I told Mike, "Mike, listen, this is ridiculous. Now Sarah Maendel is admonishing me for not eating breakfast!"
Mike knew I never ate breakfast at their house either, and he didn't care. I think he had a little talk with Sarah. I hope he did, because I certainly did not start eating breakfast. I never heard anything else about it. But it was that kind of stuff, you know.
The other person who was really, really mean to me, and I will never forget it, was Johann Christoph Arnold. Christoph Arnold and Dave Maendel came to Oak Lake to do their Alternative Service in the print shop. In those days we still had the draft. Somehow the Bruderhof had arranged with the Alternative Service bureau that their young men could go to another bruderhof instead of having to work in a hospital or work with the poor somewhere. Pretty slick, eh? Anyway, Christoph and Dave came to work in the print shop because we had started The Plough Publishing house there. Christoph! God! What a #$%&@!)*#& he was!! I was still with the Singles, and we would go on outings to Ohio Pile and roast marshmallows and play games. And every frigging single time after one of these little excursions Christoph would call me aside and admonish me for something. Either I was calling attention to myself or I was not participating properly or something. He found some fault with my behavior. There was just nothing I could do right. I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't. If I tried to participate, I was calling attention to myself. If I crawled into a hole and did not do anything I was not participating. For God's sake, it was just like kicking someone who was down! In the years since then, when I thought about that, I could not help but think he was following his father's instructions. I mean, why in heaven's name? I was already excluded, I was in the cleaning crew, I tried to stay in my room as much as possible!
Every once in a while there was some celebration after a brotherhood meeting. Everybody would come down and have some refreshments, but I tried to avoid those. I felt I was not wanted. Sometimes people would coax me, and I would force myself. We had a couple of engagements at that time. Dave Maendel was engaged to Annali Arnold, and after a while Verenali, Hans Meier's daughter, came down and Christoph was engaged to Verenali. Now here was the strange thing again, because Verenali and I were good friends when we were kids in Paraguay. I got along well with her and her sister Hannabeth. Some of that childhood closeness really does stay with you. And Verenali was relatively nice to me. Whereas her fiance Christoph was just plain downright mean. Every chance he got, he kicked me.
Annali Arnold, now Maria, worked as a nurse. Now Annali was nice. I remember having a high fever and feeling totally abandoned. I felt just awful. However I was glad to be sick because then I could stay in bed and not worry about giving the wrong impression. If you are in bed all day and nobody sees you, you don't have to worry about it. I felt safe in bed. Annali would come and get me out of bed, run a bath for me, and while I was in the tub, she changed my sheets. She was very shocked at the state of my old and tattered nightgown and had the housemothers buy me a new one. I thought that was pretty nice: to get out of the tub and get into a nice clean fresh bed. That was Annali.
My life was very very lonely. And this went on and on. 1963 turned into 1964, and I had been excluded for a year. And there did not seem to be any way out! I was very lonely, and when I used to clean the Harvest House they had a wall phone which was connected to the regular line. There was a number for the time and the weather, and I used to call it all the time just to hear a friendly voice! I was starving for human closeness. I would tell the nurse that I had a toothache just so they would send me to the dentist in Uniontown. The dentist did not know I was excluded, and he treated me nicely just as he always had. I had seen that dentist for years because when we came from Paraguay our teeth were a horrible mess. We had this dentist down there who was not really a dentist. He took a 6-month apprenticeship with a dentist in Asuncion and then took care of our teeth. He made a horrible mess of them. He did a couple of root canals on my teeth without novocaine, mind you, and all those teeth had to be removed! I think I had nine teeth pulled when I came to this country. So I was very familiar with the Uniontown dentist and he was very familiar with me. He was always happy to see me and very friendly. So I would tell these people my teeth hurt and they sent me to the dentist and I could have some kind of human interaction. I always hated going to the dentist, I still do, but that was the only time in my life I volunteered to go. He was so much nicer to me than anyone on the bruderhof!
That again was not a conscious thing. I did not think, 'Gee, I'll ask to go to the dentist because he's nice to me.' I just did it and figured out later why. A very very lonely existence. Every once in a while they still sent me to Woodcrest to be with my parents. That next summer I went for a couple of weeks. I thought maybe if I visited Woodcrest for a while they would see that I was not so awful and take me back. But no, they didn't. I tried to tell my father how absolutely miserable I was, but I was afraid to communicate with people. I never knew what the consequences would be if I said "boo!" I listened a lot to records by Peter, Paul and Mary. They sang one song, "All my trials, Lord, will soon be over." I listened to that with my father and said, "Gee, that's just how I feel. All my trials, Lord, will soon be over." My father didn't think that was very nice. So I thought 'Gee, you can't say anything!' I could not say a frigging damn thing!
During that visit to Woodcrest, Heini excluded my grandmother Emmi for some reason. I had to baby-sit her during the brotherhood meetings. I don't think she knew why she was excluded. As a matter of fact, she apologized to me for something, saying she was so sorry she had been rude to me. And I didn't know what she was talking about. I found later she had been rude to Edith Arnold -- I was called 'Edith' too at that time -- but this was Heini's daughter. They excluded Emmi because she was rude to Heini's daughter! God forbid, one of Heini's holy children!
Talk about baby-sitting -- in Oak Lake I was on Watch every night. They did let me do that. Every single night when there was a brotherhood meeting or a Gemeindestunde, I was the Watch. There was a guest, and we would sit around and talk during meeting times. She asked me, "How come you're always the Watch? Why don't you guys take turns?" I did not have the nerve to tell her I was excluded.
I still managed to play the cello at least a half an hour every day. It was almost an addiction. If I missed a day, I felt awful. I needed my fix, playing the cello. It was the only real thing I had, the one thing over which I had control. The consequences of my actions on the cello were real, as opposed to the rest of my life which was out of control. Everything I did could be bad or good or I did not know what. But when I played the cello, I had a half an hour of control. Also I took refuge in the radio -- we still had radios in those days. I had this nice big AM-FM radio, and an FM station played classical music twenty-four hours a day. I listened to it every chance I had. I fell asleep listening to it. I listened to it when I had nothing to do during siesta when I could be at home. It was comforting to listen to music.
After a while I felt 'Gee, I really love this radio. Maybe if I give it up, they will see that I really mean business and I'm really repentant and I have the right spirit and they will let me come back into the brotherhood.' So I gave the radio to Merrill Mow, somebody in high standing, and he said, "Gee, why are you giving this to me? Is it broken?"
"No, I just feel that I like the music too much," I said. "I spend too much time listening to it and I really want to give my soul and everything to the church, so I'm giving up this radio."
"Okay, thank you," he said.
And that was the end of that. No miracle happened, except that I did not have my radio any more. God! How awful! So I was left with just a cello. I remember being extremely depressed in the morning. Getting out of bed was an awful, awful chore. The only time of day I felt halfway decent was at night the hour or so before bedtime when I could look forward to sleeping. The only time everything was okay, when I didn't feel any pain, was when I was asleep. And when I took a bath. I could lock the door to the bathroom and stay in the bathtub for an hour or so, provided nobody else was waiting in line. I felt safe there. Nobody could summon me to the office and give me a talking-to while I was naked in the bathtub. Also I had a few minutes' reprieve while getting dressed. And I did a lot of reading. I went down to the library and took out whatever books I found interesting. I read a lot of Martin Luther King in those days.
But the mornings were just awful. I had the whole damn day to live through before I could go to sleep again. I was really getting more and more depressed! Nobody gave a damn except those two people I mentioned, but they had to keep a low profile about being nice to me, so they almost had to be nice to me on the sly.
In the meantime, Dwight and Norann Blough moved to Oak Lake to take over the 'hof with Merrill and Kathy. I don't know where Art and Mary Wiser went. Frankly I didn't give a damn where they went. They were pretty mean to me, Art and Mary. So Dwight and Norann came and took over the 'hof. Now Dwight was some kind of 'wunderkind' as far as Heini was concerned. Everybody really admired Dwight. And he felt that the whole 'hof had to be redone. He knocked out the walls of the dining room and redid it, painting it bright orange. The Rhon Bruderhof's bright colors came in. Bright was right. They talked about pastel colors as if they were sort of evil. Bright blue and bright orange -- that was where it was at. If he painted the dining room bright orange, people would be in the right spirit. That was the kind of message that was sent out. Kathy Mow did a lot of mixing paints trying to get just the right color. Then they started talking about draining the lake, getting rid of the lake because it took up too much space. There wasn't enough space for the kids to play. Actually that was sort of true. Whenever I took a walk with the kids, I always was afraid they were either going to get run over or drown. I was always counting kids, constantly counting. So he set about draining the lake and making a meadow out of it. That was a big change which was painful, but change is always painful. They left a little pond at one end where people could swim, but the whole bruderhof was so enthusiastic about what Dwight was doing. He was bringing new life!
In the meantime I was just languishing, feeling more and more hopeless. I would never never get back on my feet again. That was how it was in November, 1964. One afternoon, one of the housemothers, Norann or Kathy, called me to the side and said that I should come to the brotherhood that night.
"Oh wow!" I said.
I can't remember what I thought. I was so numb. Maybe I had a tiny hope that perhaps something good would happen. So I was called into the brotherhood meeting that night. By that time, the it was a big-sized brotherhood, sixty people or so sitting around the circle. Dwight and Norann were in charge, and said they felt that it would be best if I left for a while to find myself. Go on the outside. That was what I had been afraid of, because to be sent away was the ultimate disgrace. Awful! 'My poor father,' was the first thing that popped into my head. 'Now he has to go through that humiliation of his daughter being sent away!'
"Now what do you think of that?" they said.
"Whatever the brotherhood feels is right is what I will do," I said.
And you know they had the nerve to yell at me for saying that! I remember Norann shouting, "Don't you have a mind of your own? Can't you think for yourself?"
"Whatever the brotherhood says," I said. You know, you couldn't win.
"Okay," they said. "Tomorrow you leave." And they sent me out of the room.
I stayed awake all night again with butterflies in my stomach. I just felt awful. 'The ultimate disgrace is about to happen to me,' I thought. 'I am being kicked out.' That was always the worst. People who were kicked out were talked about as if they were pieces of dirt. So this meant that I was the ultimate piece of dirt. I wasn't even good enough to clean the bruderhof's toilets! I wasn't even good enough for that! I had to leave! I was so traumatized! I can't remember if I cried or not, but I know I did not sleep all night. Butterflies in my stomach is what I had. It was just awful!
The next morning I was called to the housemother room and given a couple of suitcases, a couple of skirts and blouses, a coat which was too big, and some hand lotion and a toothbrush. I think I also got a bottle of shampoo. In any case, I had these two beat-up suitcases and was told to go up to my room and pack. I packed clothes, a few books, a few personal papers, all the while in a state of shock. To be confronted by a whole group like that was very very devastating experience. Just a really really scary experience! It does a trip on you. It really did me in for the time being. November 22, the same day JFK got shot one year earlier, the same day my grandfather died of a broken leg operation in Germany. It was very dreary, typically hopeless November weather.
So here I was with my 2 suitcases packed. I didn't even know where I was going! Nobody had the courtesy to tell me where I was going. Mike Brandes was to drive me. I put the two suitcases in the back seat. Nobody said goodbye to me. Not a soul. I got in and off we went. After we had travelled for a few minutes, Mike said to me, "I am taking you to McKeesport." He might as well have told me we were going to Timbuktu as far as I was concerned. I did not know anything about McKeesport. How and why they picked McKeesport I have no idea. I thought perhaps no other ex-members were living in McKeesport. There were quite a few people in Pittsburgh who had been thrown out, and the community was very vigilant about keeping us all apart. But I could have cared less about where we were going. Mike also said that he had called the YWCA in McKeesport the night before to get some addresses of people who were looking for boarders. He had a list of addresses.
We drove through the dreary Pennsylvania landscape. Western Pennsylvania is not a very pretty area, very worn out, with a lot of steel mills and strip-mining. Very little of the beauty one finds in Massachusetts or Eastern Pennsylvania. The counties around Pittsburgh were very dreary. It was a cloudy day, and I was just totally heart- broken. I sat there in my oversized coat with a blue scarf tied under my chin and I cried and cried. I cried all the way to McKeesport. Poor Mike. It must have been pretty uncomfortable for him. [to be continued]
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe: As a young man, my father Hans Zumpe asked my grandfather Eberhard Arnold, "What is the difference between a spiritually led group of people and a religious sect?" My grandfather replied: Die ersten haben den Geist (The first generation has the spirit). Die zweiten, das Vorbild (The second generation, the example). Die dritten, Die Erinnerung (The third generation, the memory) Und die vierten die Gesetze! (And the fourth generation, all the rules and regulations). That is a sect!

------------KIT Newsletter, April 1991 Vol. III #4-----------

Miriam Arnold Holmes: Jan 12, 1991 Much enjoyed the last two issues of KIT. I am impressed with the quality of the letters. It seems like we are growing and maturing as a group. KIT is more valuable than we realize. Heidi and I had some visitors from Woodcrest a couple of weeks before Xmas (Doris Greaves, Burgel Zumpe and Martin Johnson). It does not really matter who it was because we could have had the same conversation with any one of them. They took us out to eat and we had a friendly, warm chat. Eventually the conversation became serious and the subject of my letter in KIT about gossip in Heini and Annemarie's family was raised. I was told by one of them that she was in that family for 18 years and never was there any gossip. I said that I firmly stand by what I said, but that I respect that her experience was different from mine. We discussed various concerns we have, and pains we have experienced such as long exclusions and child abuse. We all agreed that such things were intolerable and were assured that they no longer occur.
What was the most striking thing to me was their reaction when I brought up Heini's evil-doings. Their whole demeanor changed. They drew back, their spines stiffened and their expressions hardened. It was like hitting a brick wall. I seriously challenged them on the sinfulness of worshipping a human being like a deity, and that sooner or later they will have to recognize that. No response. They defended Heini all the way, claiming that a lot of things were done without his knowledge. I told them I knew for a fact that that was not true in my case, and my family in general. I believe that their response is very understandable. After more than 30 years of experiencing people being excluded and sent away if they so much as questioned Heini, it seems very natural to me that if they hear Heini criticized, they freeze. It is a conditioned response. B. F. Skinner would fully understand. It will take a long time before they get reconditioned. We have to persist. The only way we are going to get the message across is by repeating it over and over.
Feb 18, 1991: I was quite amused by the Feb KIT. What a kicker those Hutterites are! They are of course correct. Mixing the Bruderhof with the Hutterites is like mixing water and oil. It just created a mess. I'm glad Bette talked about that letter from E. Arnold to H. Zumpe in regards to the former's children. I believe the letter itself was probably destroyed a long time ago. Since Bette was told about Heini's illness (in '41) by Oma Emmi, it's very believable. Oma throughout the years had a more objective view of Heini than the others. She suffered for it too.
Feb 24, 1991 From a letter to a Bruderhof member: I very much appreciate your concern and desire that we come to an understanding and put to rest old hurts. You would like me to come to Woodcrest and speak with the people concerned. We would clear old matters up and forgive each other. If it only were so simple! The fundamental problem is much more profound than that. As I see it, the root of the problem lies with your authoritarian power structure, which has nothing to do with the love of Jesus. It has to do with the power of one man over others. As long as you and all the brotherhood are not willing to address this, old hurts will remain, and all attempt at resolving issues of the past will remain fruitless. I tried to address this problem when you and Martin and Burgel visited, but felt that you were not open to hearing it. The brotherhood did allow Heini to have absolute power, and the pain this has caused me and others was and is excruciating. I will have to say again, as I said when you visited, that this has to be recognized sooner or later if anything can be put to rest.
So if I came and talked to some individuals who might have hurt me, it would be like cutting the leaves off a plant of poison ivy; they will grow back. The only way you can prevent the leaves from growing back is by pulling the plant up by its roots. So far, none of you have been willing to do that. And therefore, there is no point in cutting off the leaves. My deep hope is that the brotherhood will find the courage to at least begin to think about this. I'm not saying this to you only, but you all. Thank you again for reaching out.
Loy McWhirter: 10/15/90: This may sound like rage to you not unlike the hate-mail I returned to KIT. But to me it is very different in that it is the Grounded + Grounding rage of the wounded child + it is very connected. It is not hate, it is anger and it is nothing but intense. The other has no base in truth and no ground in any reality except the pityable repression of human emotions that inappropriately dump/omit out on any innocent bystander rather than where it belongs. The real source of it. My rage is appropriate, specific and well- placed. I do know the difference because I've spent my time in the other kind and I had to learn the difference. . .
Sometimes I have mixed feelings about telling these things, because then the denyers and disbelievers will have room to say, " Oh yes, it is because of this relatively small, meaningless and inconsequential incident that she is so unreasonably upset." But in reality, there are many and constant such "incidents" and worse. These are most accessible to me probably BECAUSE they are RELATIVELY minor and so I have less walls and messages in my brain against remembering. This is a small piece in their terrifying and insidious edifice, and perhaps in beginning to find and name the pieces, we can dismantle the whole and let the wild aer in. It is like the story of the Giant in the garden where all life dies and Spring does not come because of his miserly desire to keep it all for himself. Come to think of it, there are many parallels to this story and the SOB - including the part of the children. I think maybe Oscar Wilde might have written it or adopted it from a folk tale. Do you know the story? I will try and find a copy of it That and "Hansel and Gretel" are my current most accessible metaphors of my lost or missing childhood.
I am reading again the narrow, close-minded hate letter in KIT where someone whose feeling-self has been stolen or repressed for so long that it comes gushing out from the great sickness it has made inside like so much vomit. Or, perhaps this person's connections between brain and heart have been severed, clogged or corroded by the sticky religion they practice. The letter made me wander around in a confused daze for 3 days before the fog of forgetfulness began to clear and I remembered what its inane and hateful tone and mindless fear-filled attack reminded me of. I was back again in a time that my mind had forgotten but my body remembers
It was in the time of Primavera in 1959 after my father had been turned on and scapegoated by the "Brotherhood." He and my mother were preparing to leave the next day, I think, to try to arrange passage for themselves and we four children to the U.S. I was the oldest and I was told to mind my brothers, Morgen and Pete and my sister Paula Kate (named after Tante Kate who died just before Paula was born). My mother had told me before bedtime that they had to leave but they would come back for us as soon as they could come get us and take us with them. They were packing in the eating room. I was supposed to be asleep. I was nine years old. I was falling asleep and woke again because a man was shouting at my father who was crying, cursing my father as a thief and devil-worshipper. He was accusing my father of stealing the paintings he had made from the community. My mother was trying to calm him and remind him that they were brothers and sisters and they only wanted to take a few for their children's future and to remember their lives here with these people they loved.
The man got more and more angry and spoke his increasingly mindless hatred, in the same tones and wording as that letter in KIT marked anonymous (KIT II #10 page 1 & 2). He wanted to cut up father's paintings rather than let him take any one. He said he spoke for all the righteous brothers and that my father and his spawn were all gone to the devil and he was no longer their brother and hated that he had ever thought he was. I was very still and frightened in my bed on the other side of the wall. I thought he would kill my father. My mother said he should leave before he said any more he might be sorry for the next day and that they would be gone soon so he needn't worry. I think my father left most of the paintings. The man's name was Carl Hundhammer, I think
When my parents were gone, Dorothy Maendel and another woman stayed with us children. No one at school spoke to me or looked at me. I wondered if they could see me at all or if I had vanished . At home the women didn't speak to us either much. One of them moved kindly though. But Dorothy Maendel was filled with hatred and revenge and vented it on me. She belittled me constantly and took things away. When I was trying to pack for all of us children, she attacked me and said I was stupid and selfish because I wanted to take my doll and some books. She said everything belonged to the community and I was trying to sneak the things away and steal them from all the other poor children. She said she and God had caught me and I would be punished justly. She said my parents had lied to me and they were never coming back to get us, that we belonged to the community now and I would be dealt with. Later that day she cut off all my baby brother Pete's curls. My mother had told me not to let his hair get cut while she was away because she wanted to show her mother in America how beautiful he looked. I tried to explain this to Dorothy Maendel while she was cutting off his curls. She said my mother was vain and selfish and anyway she would never know because she was not coming back for us. Our parents were gone for about two weeks, I think. My father did come to get us and took us to Asuncion. I was very surprised to see him and I didn't understand. In the passport photo of me at that time in Asuncion I look very angry and sullen and depressed. It is not because I wanted to stay in the Bruderhof without my evil parents but it was because I was so confused and I thought everyone was lying now.
After we had been in the U.S. (where people had given us money and things to live on and a place to stay) for about a year or so, I heard my parents talking to Margit Hirschenhauser. They were talking about how the Primavera Bruderhof was breaking up and everyone was very angry and suffering, that many people had been sent away with nothing and some were in mental institutions including some of my schoolmates in Isla. I listened very closely to all these conversations and of their concern about where the people they knew had gone. I had terrible nightmares for several years and during this time they became very specific. The dreams were always to do with this: there are many people screaming and cursing, like Carl Hundhammer, at many other people who had wagons and carts with only a few things. The people with the carts and wagons were in exodus from the community. They were being sent away with nothing but a few things. The wagons were piled very high because many families had to use only one wagon. Everyone was screaming and crying. The people leaving looked broken and tired, like the Auschwitz survivors, with bruderhof clothing hanging on their bodies. The others were screaming crazy hateful things and throwing stones at them. They were angry and cruel. I had this nightmare for many years and sometimes even now that I am 40 the feelings of it come back to me. It is a horrible thing and leaves me feeling small and terrified even now.
That "anonymouse" letter reminded me more directly of this, and that the source of that inhumanity is real and the human suffering it caused has not ended or changed, it has only gotten a more effective facade, perhaps. The people screaming and cursing at the others in the nightmare also look like the holocaust survivors, but they are filled with rage and are trying to separate themselves from those who are shunned and bruised and damned so it will not happen to them as well. I want to tell you about this too. The word "gemutlich" makes me feel sick and suffocating. To me it is a hideous word that evokes nothing but danger and terror. It is the sickly-sweet syrup that camouflages the "cuts like a knife" part of the "love" word (which has the same effect). It clogs my pores and my lungs so I can't breathe and want to die or go crazy. It also feels like the Candy House of the witch in "Hansel and Gretel" to lure the starving, lonely, desperate children so she can enslave them, fattening them up until she will eat them. It is the false promise of "belonging and family" when in reality you have to live with heavy judgment and isolation. It is the lure of welcome when the reality you have to live with is the shunning of what you are, being what they wish you to be. It is the shallow and out-of-reach ideology of 'love and warmth' in the place of human kindness and compassion. It is the professed and loudly touted agape love in place of any small gesture of human contact and connection. No hand reaching out to you because they are all too busy praising their out-of-your-reach lord and passing the mandioca. All empty filler and no nutrition for the starving child.
Gemutlich I always think of as a trance-state brought on by alchohol, drug-induced, or a fanatic, zealous utopian myopia that dissolves the connections in the brain in the same way The child's feeling-experience is that no one is there, no live, real person. When you have a normal need for human contact, reflection and response, you are told in a formal and distant way that you should not have needs or feelings because it draws shameful attention to yourself when others have real needs and suffering. But everyone is your brother and sister and mother and father, you are told. So where is everyone who should see and hear, teach and touch and respond to you as if you were there? Where and who are you if you do not have needs and feelings? I still, at 40 years old, am having to learn how to know when I have even the basic physical needs, having to pee, hunger, sleep etc. I do not trust kindness or "love" because I always think it is only the velvet glove covering the iron fist. I wait for the real motives. I have no life-experience of kindness or "love".
The SOB says that for the child it is shameful and selfish to have feelings and desires. But I say to you now on behalf of that child, it is nothing but shameful and criminal to deny a child's needs and feelings and try to punish any sign of them. It makes that child to disappear, to abandon herself to stop the pain and loneliness It is such a long way back to reclaim the abandoned body, heart, mind and spirit. The SOB should pay for what they have done. I am doing the work. They should pay for it. SOB hierarchy, do not send me your insipid, insidious, hideous sickly-sweet cards with stupid condolences for the life you have left me with. That only reminds me of the birthright you stole from me . Don't send me your visual and verbal reminders of your greatest celebration where you once again resurrect the child you have sacrificed, the innocence of childhood you have co-opted in your annual orgies of cloying, manufactured reverence for some fantasy of idealized child. You have literally and methodically sacrificed the real child and childhood in the name of your illiterate liturgies and regurgitated euphemisms. Send me the good and selfless (and needed) gift of money. Be generous and persevering, like the Magi, so that I may resurrect my own real selves and LIVE the life whose promise you stole and entombed.
KIT, if you want to, or feel compelled to print that anonymous stuff for whatever reason, I think you must counteract it with some quotes about how mind control works and how the cult system with any membership at all gets really adept at portraying a nice deceptive, seductive front for people like this person and anyone who wants to believe because they are too desperate to see or do anything else. It is a known fact, and I do not think that kind of senseless opinion should be left to stand by itself like that It is enraging and intimidating for those of us who have had to live with the reality

------------KIT Newsletter, May 1991 Vol. III #5------------

The Third Biannual Report on The State of KIT
Well here we are, up to our twenty-first issue. It never ceases to amaze us how KIT grew out of a few telephone calls back in August of 1989. Oddly enough, it is the Bruderhof whom we must thank, since if they had agreed to allow Ramon to interview members about Xavie's life story, he probably would not have needed to look up ex-members to learn about his daughter's life. But sometimes just a coincidence is all it takes to turn our lives around. And as Dr. Bernie Siegel says, "Perhaps coincidence is just God's way of remaining anonymous."
We are currently mailing to 259 addresses on the main list, not including our Europe/ England distribution by Leonard Pavitt, and South America by Roger Allain and Cyril Davis. KIT is also photocopied and 'round-robin'd' to many Hutterite colonies, so with multiple readers reading each issue, we estimate a total readership of approximately 700.
Numerous concerns brought up by KITfolk remain unanswered by the Bruderhof, especially those which the Friendly Crossways' Open Letter addressed. On the last page of this issue we have drawn up a list of questions which have been asked, and the responses to date. Hopefully this will act as a reminder to the HB that there still are many unanswered concerns.
Rachel Mason Burger: 3/26/91 I have held off writing to KIT for a long time, not seeing clearly how my story fit in until I read Susan Welham's letter. What she wrote resonates so strongly with my own experience that I found myself trembling. Susan asks for other accounts of what happened to the children at Wheathill in the winter and spring of '48-'49. A Jewish friend of mine also encouraged me to write. In her tradition, history needs to be retold so people can learn and remember and not repeat abuses of the past. To know who we are and where we are going, we need to know what happened. This story happened a long time ago. It needs telling because some of us who were children then are still affected by it, and some were too young to clearly remember. It also needs telling as an extreme example of how things can go wrong in the Bruderhof system where too much power is given to the Servant, and people who disagree run the risk of being punished.
Susan, you were five and I was eleven. I was just beginning to feel a little bit grown up. The year before I had even been allowed to go Easter-carolling at sunrise with Olive and Margo and Eileen. I had been through a long, hard time already. Two years before in '47, my parents had been excluded. They had had to leave us in the care of others. Later I was told they had lived at the edge of the land on the Fourth Bank in an old gypsy caravan. After a year, our father returned, then he was sent away again. He went to London where he did dishes at a Lyons Corner House. Then my mother returned. My little sister, who was two when my mother left, ran to me when she saw her, not recognizing her.
For me, the nightmare that followed started harmlessly enough. A group of us school kids were standing around our classroom stove drying our gloves after sledding. One of them mentioned that two kids were involved in sexual play. The next day, I was told to go to the mother of one of the children, who asked why I did not report the kids to anyone. I thought to myself, "I am not the originator of this story, and if I 'tell on them,' her son would probably get thrashed again, which I did not want to have happen. He had been hurt enough (in fact he got beaten so badly that he ran away). The next day, I was interrogated by a group of mothers in the black hut as to why I did not report on the two children. They ordered me to stand, and tried to force a confession out of me, surmising that a wrongdoing on my part was the reason I had not talked. Again and again I said I had done nothing. They were very hostile. I felt extremely cornered and afraid. They told me to take a walk while they deliberated. It was still winter in Wheathill. The snow lay deep on the ground and blew hard in my face. I started to cry a lot, walking hurriedly to the top of the hill past the huts. There was nowhere to go, so I returned. They repeated the interrogation and then gave up, telling me to go home, and accusing me of wasting their time. The next day my mother told me Llewellyn [the Servant] had said in the brotherhood that my situation was very serious and that he decided that I was to be excluded, not only from the children's community, but also from my family. The shame and pain of that moment is still with me. I asked my mother how long. I protested, "Not my family too!" By way of saying goodbye, I put a chocolate which I had saved for my siblings from my 11th birthday under each of their pillows.
The hardest was leaving Bridget who had been two when my parents were sent away, and now at the age of four, totally depended on me as if I was her mother. During the years my parents had been in the "great ban," my brothers and sisters were everything to me, and now as their big sister, I was being told I was too evil to live with them. I had to move upstairs to live with Ivy. She never smiled at me or said anything nice. I tried to talk with her about birds because I knew she loved them, but was told to remain silent and was only allowed to talk when necessary about work. Ivy, who had a very bad back, and I did all the laundry by hand for the whole community. Mrs. Broom and Mrs. Braithwaite came from Cleeton St. Mary and did all the ironing. Not understanding what was being done to me, they would smile at me. It was very hard work, and Ivy often criticized me. I ate alone in the drying room where I also did an hour of English grammar every day. When I saw Bridget's clothes coming through, I would cry and feel guilty. I once dared to look in my family's rooms downstairs, but they were now empty. My family was simply gone. I was allowed to take a short prescribed walk once a week. I'd think of running away, but had nowhere to go.
I was then told to work in the kitchen in Lower Bromden. This felt like some kind of promotion. I saw a few more people, but still was forbidden to talk to them. Once while I was peeling a bath full of potatoes (which I did every day) Llewellyn asked me if I would write an essay called "Why I want To Live In Community." Knowing he was both feared and revered, I complied. Besides I felt my safety and survival were at stake, and I also wanted to do what God wanted, but could only feel God in the wonderful flowers and bird songs around me.
Once, while off in the pantry, Buddig told me she was caring for Bridget in the kindergarten hut. This, Susan, is possibly where you also were. With many parents having been sent away, their children were either in isolation or in groups that also slept in the departments together. Buddig said that Bridget constantly would ask where is "Latel" (Rachel). I sometimes was allowed to carry the little children's supper trays down, but was told not to look around or talk to them. Bridget looked puzzled and sad, the more so because I did not dare go to her. Later, she told me that she was accused of lying about washing her hands and was taken to Llewellyn who spanked her. This still makes me incredibly angry. How dare he have done this! She had lost everyone, and was spanked! My other sister Janet who was eight and was also in exclusion for no reason, was looked after by Margo who she says "was nice to her." Last year, my mother told me that when my brother told her that Llewellyn was planning to send him and the other 12-year-old boys away, she protested and was locked up for a night and then allowed to leave but without her five children. She was given enough money to take the bus to her parents 30 miles away in Birmingham. Here she had a nervous breakdown. In spite of her health, she managed as a result of being one of the typists at the community to remember the address of Gwynn, Guy and Balz and to send them a letter saying that something was very wrong in Wheathill and pleading with them to return from their travels in Germany. Which they did, so ending the crisis. I was working in Lower Bromdon wash-up when Guy Johnson walked in and said, "How are you, Rachel?" After feeling like a piece of dirt for so long, his friendliness startled me. No one was supposed to be nice to me.
I now lived with Maggie in the "Grannery." A group of younger girls lived next door but I was not to speak to them. While in bed, I once heard Maggie crying bitterly. I think she had been forbidden to go to Easter breakfast. To have her break down like this was frightening; even the person taking care of me was being punished! This is the first time I realized for sure that there were more "bad" people than just me. I was even allowed to go to Easter breakfast. There were red tulips and rolls and eggs and everything the way it was supposed to be. At this time my father, who was still in London, sent me a book to read called "Children of the New Forest." It was a lifesaver. I knew he was out there somewhere and cared for me. At least I was good enough to be allowed to read a book. All in all, feeling I was one of the first victims of this period, I somehow felt my "evilness" started something very bad that had spread like a disease through the whole community and wrecked it.
My mother and Gwynn suddenly showed up and had a meeting with me in which they told me that something had gone very wrong and that I should not have been in exclusion for ten weeks. This was such a relief! Then they asked, "Did I still have anything on my conscience?" That question was such a blow. It implied that I had been bad, but had been overly punished. Still very burdened and confused, I was allowed to join my family in Cleeton Court. My mother tried hard to do activities with us to make up for our separation, but I was very mistrusting. After a few weeks, my father was allowed to join us. There was no discussion of what had happened. The kids figured out that the Harries were in exclusion and where they were. A year later, we were told that the brotherhood had reunited with Llewellyn and that he had been sick and forgotten everything. But what about us kids? It was as if the evil done to us were grown-up business. Even though we were children. we deserved a full explanation, a complete taking back of the things we were accused of, a full apology from everyone involved and a commitment that such a thing never would be allowed to happen again.
Recently I have talked with my parents about these events. They felt that demanding to take us with them and working together as a couple would have violated their vows and jeopardized their chances of being reunited with the brotherhood. They and we paid dearly for such "loyalty." Last year during my visits to Woodcrest, Llewellyn apologized to me, although he still says he cannot remember. Others who helped Llewellyn have not said anything to me. They are sweet people otherwise, who were just following orders. That is what is so very frustrating. In the name of keeping the children's community pure, many children have been abused. As a child, I was afraid when adults started talking about "the children's community." It meant that one of us was about to get hurt.
From my account, it becomes clear that parents having to choose between loyalty to the community or to their children can at times make the community an unsafe place for children. To make it safe, adults need to be committed never to shame, isolate or physically harm children. To make working in unity safe for children, the right for anyone to say NO, I PROTEST!! - including the children -- is essential. For children to grow up as strong, healthy people, we need to respect their curiosity, anger, honesty, genuineness and survival tactics in unsafe situations as well as their joy, creativity, mischievousness and spontaneity. All the abuse done to us was done in the name of God, goodness, purity and unity. If God made children. why can't we just accept them? Children learn about evil through the evil done to them, not the evil in them.
All that I have written happened in the weeks just before Easter. I am still trying in my own way to have Easter. Remnants of the abuse done to me are still with me. For much of my life, I had no idea why any time I am accused of something, true or false, I feel there is no point in trying to defend myself. I start to tremble and sink into a pit of despair, feeling there is nothing left to do but move on alone as a terrible person being cast out again. An incredible feeling of shame overcomes me so I cannot look anyone in the eye. I feel bad, hopeless, untrusting and unsafe.
As with you, Susan, only repeated reassurance from people I love and trust brings me back to feeling I'm a valuable human being. I envy the resilience of people born in a less totalitarian environment. I tell this story in honor of the feisty little child who, in spite of fear, is still trying to reclaim her childhood by loudly protesting what was done to her and all the other children -- also for the sake of present and future Bruderhof children.
Ramon to Jakob Gneiting, Servant at Catskill Bruderhof on MCO computer mail: April 4, 1991: Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I would like to comment on your sentence, "Any act which violates the holiness of the body, and this also includes quite common and everyday activities such as excessive eating and drinking as well as sex and sex life, has to be considered as out of harmony with the purpose of God's creation, and therefore wrong." "Excessive sex and sex life" I assume is what you are speaking to. Now, who is to judge what is excessive sex in another person's life as long as that individual is not doing any harm to others or to himself? Personally, I do not believe that someone who pleasures themselves physically is violating the holiness of their body, but quite the opposite. They are expressing their joy and happiness in what being made in the image of the creator allows them to feel. Society at large has, for at least the past 50 years to my count, accepted that labeling masturbation "sinful" creates terrible guilt in young people and causes them deep emotional distress. Most experts I have read agree that it's much better to accept masturbation as a natural -- and very time-tested -- method of relieving tension and that parents should not make a big issue about it. And if a little child is exploring him or herself in public, just gently tell them that playing with oneself is something to be done in the privacy of one's own room or bed.
What bothers me the most is that if the Bruderhof regards these totally natural acts as sinful, of course then they need to be punished. What sort of punishment does the Bruderhof utilize for a three-year-old girl? Is she isolated in her room? Are her hands bandaged at night (this was a traditional punishment in some circles of yore)? What about teenage boys? Are they isolated from their group? If so, I believe you are instilling in these children self-hatred, low self-esteem, and a propensity for viewing natural sexual acts as "dirty" rather than the goal to which you aspire, that of viewing sex as "holy."
Of course this opens up the 'whole can of worms' since this is part of the "worm theology" that darkened Christianity even from Paul, and more so with the self- hatred of Augustine -- that man is guilt-ridden and sinful from the day he is born and cannot through any act of his own, achieve unity with God.
...I also agree that our society is full of mixed signals and mixed-up morality, and that in LOVE we will find the answers. But I think our differences stem from the other areas I previously mentioned. It is true that the generalities have been exhausted -- which is why I sought to focus on specific cases. I would suggest that, rather than have me ask "what if thus and so occurs," you give me specific details of how specific cases have been resolved in the recent past, not mentioning any names, naturally.
Here is hoping that we can find a deeper understanding and agreement,
Dick Thomson: I don't know if Jakob plans a further reply to your last letter. I understand his reluctance to go into specifics in the sense of, "this is the Bruderhof's approach," since we have learned things from the past and need to go on learning. That we and you have different opinions about the "wrongness" of certain acts is perhaps something that we just have to accept for now. But I want to assure you that we appreciate and share your concerns to avoid harsh, long, or humiliating punishments for ANYONE, child or adult; that we want to avoid damaging a young person's self-esteem; and that we very much want to avoid the injustice of attributing to a young child motives or feelings which might be more expected in an adolescent or adult. We acknowledge and regret very much the harm that these errors have done to young people in the community in the past. I can only hope that this will encourage you to trust that in these respects something has changed.
Ramon replies: Dear Dick: I appreciate your words regarding how the communities' attitude towards certain overly severe and overly suspicious punishment has changed. So much damage has been done to so many people over the years that, frankly, when I try to weigh up the "good" versus the "bad," I wonder if those who have "given up the world" to witness to another way of life might not have served others better if they had stayed out here and helped leaven the loaf a bit. I'm not saying that I don't believe in a communal way of life -- that I do believe in. What I have a problem with is the authoritarian, hierarchical power structure of the Bruderhof, the belief system that takes a very guilt- ridden view of the human being and some aspects of the doctrine of "evil spirits" which can lead to severe abuse of individuals.
Personally, even if there are such things as "malignant spirits" and "demons," which I do not believe there are, it seems to me that it's a much healthier paradigm not to give them credence and to take a more humanistic, psychological approach to these areas. Otherwise you run the risk of giving a great deal of power to the "shadow" side of the human psyche. This remains true, of course, as I am sure you are aware, with sexual issues also. And the more these sexual elements are repressed and bottled up, the more they will "pop up" in disturbing and occasionally destructive ways.
Dick Thomson replies: April 17, 1991 I understand your feelings. I also respond to what you express in your third paragraph beginning "...even if there are such things as 'malignant spirits'..." I do feel that you represent a healthy attitude here, and I respect it. I look forward to seeing you in August.
KIT: A few responses after this, the dialogue broke down completely.
Miriam Arnold Holmes: [Continuing her story from previous issues, Miriam has been kicked out of the Oak Lake Bruderhof as a twenty-four-year-old.]
Mike Brandes and I finally arrived in McKeesport. I had a Green Card, but nevertheless I was an alien which in those days meant that I could not go on welfare. The Bruderhof certainly had no intention of supporting me, so the first stop was the employment office where I filled out some forms. I said I would be interested in working in a hospital as a nurse's aid, as a teacher in daycare. Mike helped me fill out the forms. Then we went to downtown and the surrounding residential neighborhoods. I must have been a pitiful sight in my oversized coat and my scarf around my head, my eyes swollen from crying. I cried all the way. I felt totally abandoned by the whole world. I felt this was the end. Totally devastated. Mike pulled up in front of different houses and we knocked at the door. People would take one look at us and wouldn't even unlatch the screen door! The first one was an older lady and she shook her head.
"No, I don't have a room any more!"
The second person shook her head. "No, don't have a room any more. That was a long time ago."
Back in the car we went and continued driving.
"Will you please stop crying?" Mike said to me finally. "People think I'm beating you up or something!"
It never occurred to me that people would think something like that. But I guess Mike realized that I must have been a pitiful sight. This female and male looking for a place for the female must have turned a lot of people off, especially after they took one look at me. But I did not think that way. I did not think at all. I did not know or care why people did not want to rent a room to me. We pretty much spent the whole afternoon looking for a place to live without any luck.
Finally Mike said, "Gee, I have to get back home! I have to get to a Witness Brother's meeting!" So he drove me to the YWCA and asked the lady behind the desk if they had residential rooms.
"No, sorry we don't," she said, a tall woman with black hair and a stern face.
"Well, where can we put this woman here for a night?" he asked.
The lady scratched her head. "We have 2 hotels in town. The McKeesporter and -- " Some other hotel. "The McKeesporter is all right, but a little expensive. The other one I wouldn't recommend. It's rather a sleazy place."
So Mike didn't know what to do. Probably he thought it was going to cost money to put me in a hotel, and the bruderhof was not particularly generous. So we just stood there for a minute or so. And I looked all pitiful, my eyes swollen. Finally the lady said, "Tell you what. She can spend the night with me and my sister. We live right across the street. You can just take her suitcases right across the street to that white house there."
Mike took my suitcases, walked across the street and rang the doorbell. The lady at the YWCA had phoned the lady at the house and she let us in. Mike put the suitcases down and asked me to come outside for a minute.
Ę"You'd better be careful," he said. "Be careful! You never know." He gave me fifty dollars and left.
So here I was in this house with a rather plump, middle-aged lady in a housecoat with reddish, short hair and freckles. Her name was Mary, and she seemed nice enough. She put my suitcases into the dining room, made me sit down on the living room couch and offered me a cup of coffee. The house was set up strangely. The two ladies had the whole first floor. The front room was the living room, the next room the bedroom where the two women slept in twin beds -- by the way, they were not sisters. Next to their room was a formal dining room which had a double bed besides the table, and adjacent to the kitchen was the bathroom. Now all these rooms were connected, so if you wanted to go from the living room to the kitchen you had to walk through their bedroom and the dining room. Mary told me that I could sleep in the dining room in the double bed. I took my suitcases in there, but did not unpack them because I assumed I would be leaving the next day to find a place. Mary was seated in the living room, her feet up on the ottoman, watching television. At four o'clock an Andy Griffith rerun came on. Little Opie and Andy were going fishing, and I sat there and watched. The cup of coffee she gave me was so weak! Boy, was it gross! I never got used to that weak coffee people drank. But at least it was warm. She did not ask me any questions. She was not inquisitive. I might have told her where I was from, from this commune.
Of course at that time I was convinced I was a bad guy. I was wrong. There was something wrong with me, and the Bruderhof was right. They did the right thing. They did what they had to do. After all, I must be evil. I must be a terrible person. A couple of hours later Mary got up and said she had to fix supper. Of course I offered to help her, and I can't remember what she cooked -- some goulash or something. About five-thirty or six o'clock, the lady from the YWCA, Betty, came home from work and it was time to eat. So the three of us sat at the kitchen table and ate supper.
They kept staring at me and saying, "Isn't she beautiful! Look at those eyes! Doesn't she have pretty eyes?"
Then and there they decided that the name 'Miriam' did not suit me at all, and they would call me 'Inge.' They took it upon themselves to rename me, right then and there, at the supper table. They sat and gossiped and I just sat and ate. After supper, they watched television. That was all they ever did. At 9 o'clock "The Million Dollar Movie" came on, and Mary went into the kitchen to make sandwiches. Everybody got a sandwich while they watched the movie.
The next day I intended to look for a place to live, but Betty said, "Um, why don't you postpone that for one day? We need a baby-sitter at the 'Y' today."
They had this arrangement at the Y whereby mothers could leave their children one day a week for an hour or two or three while they went shopping. At ten o'clock that morning I went across the street. Children started to arrive at the little daycare center with, of course, Community Playthings toys in it along with other equipment. And I busied myself with those children. It was okay. Pretty good kids between the ages of 3 and 5 or something. It astounded me that these children were no different from the bruderhof children. That really surprised me. I had assumed they would be badly behaved. At the end of the 3 hours, Betty gave me 12 bucks. That's what I earned, my first day in the world. Twelve dollars. So I was a proud owner of sixty-two dollars the second day I was out. I wanted to go to a store to get aspirin -- I had a headache from all that crying. I asked Mary where I could go find a drugstore, and she told me how to get to Walnut Street where there was a drugstore. So I walked three or four blocks and looked around McKeesport a little bit. It looked pretty dreary. As I said, it was a steel mill town. Walnut Street looked pretty sad.
That day at suppertime, the two ladies suggested that I stay with them for the time being. I would pay them twelve dollars a week for room and board. I agreed to stay with them. I did not really have much of a choice. I did not know how to go about looking for a room. So all I needed now was a job. [to be continued ]
A List of Questions put to the Bruderhof in KIT and a Checklist of Responses to Date
Questions asked and the Responses
Did the servants tamper with the mail? No
Have you stopped mail tampering? --
Have you stopped breaking up families? Yes
Stopped overly judgmental severity? Yes
Did the servants censor mail? --
Have they stopped censoring mail? --
Inflicted corporal punishment on children? Yes
Stopped corporal punishment? Yes
Inflicted psychological abuse on children? --
Stopped psychological abuse of children? --
Stopped psychological abuse of adults? --
Admit Heini's responsibility for even
one destructive action? No
Stopped expelling people with nothing? --
Addressed "fear of expulsion" problem? --
Children told not to fear outside world? --
Children -- their choice to leave respected? Yes
Respect graduates' freedom to read KIT? Yes
Pressure graduates to 'take a stand' on KIT? --
Revise view of Hans Zumpe in 'Torches?' --
Delete or correct Gwynn's letter in "
Torches Rekindled? --
Dave Ostrom Jr. wrongly accused? Yes
Dave Ostrom Jr. mistreated? Yes
Ramon's 30-yr banishment from his
daughter Xavie wrong? Yes
Annual cash grant to expelled families -
Cease challenging grads to repentance Yes
Share your grads list with KIT? --
Photocopies of grads' files? --
Paid Social Security for residents? No
B'hof pay Social Security now? --
Acknowledge cold and unloving past
behavior? Yes
Stopped adult 'dirty mind' interpretation
of children's acts? Yes
Do you still believe in 'evil spirits' and
'demonic possession?' Yes
No Responses: 16 Denials: 3 Admissions: 12
approximately 50% response rate

------------KIT Newsletter, June1991 Vol. III #6- -----------

Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 4/28/91 to Johann Christoph Arnold : I read and reread your letter of March 26th in search of some of the spirit our grandfather Eberhard Arnold gave his life for. This is the spirit of love, humbleness, acceptance of our faults and sins, and the wish that these sins might be forgiven by those that were hurt by them! I have not found that spirit in your letter at all and therefore find this correspondence rather fruitless...
Where you write (concerning my report in KIT) about our Oma, there is NO untruth in what I said! Remember, I am writing about my OWN memories from the 1930s and 1940s. I would not dare to write about the 1960s - 1980s. As you said correctly, I was not there but sent away to reconsider my calling. You say, "...even if it had been true [Oma Emmy's longing for her sons to be in leadership roles] if you really loved your grandmother, you COMMITTED A SIN by having it published, in the open. You only hurt yourself..." You know, Christoph, that is absolute nonsense! First of all, what is sin in your eyes? I think sin is to give false witness, to do something against God's will and commandments. That is sin! The covering up of failures that all of us have was only given to the aristocracy and patriarchy in the last century and we should NOT do that! If you read what I wrote, you will see that I loved my grandmother very much indeed because "she was so transparent in her wishes." We, the Zumpe children, had a special bond with her because we were her first grandchildren. No one can take that from us, ever!
But maybe I should remind you that our grandfather was very unhappy at times because of "the sort of organizing for her boys" our Oma was capable of. They had very heated discussions about that. At one point, Opa must have called out, "Emmychen, wenn du so weiter machst, machst du alles kaputt, was wir zusammen aufgebaut haben! (Emmychen, if you continue in that way, you'll destroy everything we have built up together!) After such arguments, Oma would go to a Konditorei in Fulda with Moni or Tata and have a cup of "real" coffee and a cream tart, which always made her feel better.
I do not say this to hurt Oma's memory. On the contrary, we love a person more and more for being human, just like you and I. It is trying to make a memory "perfect" that makes you feel very uneasy and very doubtful! Our Oma was the most loveable person I knew as a child and as an adult because she always remained honest in all her wishes and beliefs. My mother was ill most of my childhood years, so my Oma meant a lot to all of us Zumpe children.
In the last month I have been in close contact with the writers of the KIT letters. I think it is SIN to label these honestly searching "former" members of the community as "hateful, mean, divisive and dishonest!!!" Many of them (just to name a few, Roger Allain, Bruce Sumner, Balz Trumpi, Ursel Lacy, Bertel Sorgius, Wolfgang Lowenthal, Migg Fischli, but also Belinda, Margret Hawkins, the Holland family, and many more) gave their strength in the heat and poverty of Primavera to a cause and a faith they believed in! They gave all they had, only to stand alone and outcast years later! Many of them knew our Opa and say that "What is presented now is not what we gave our lives to when we were called to follow Jesus by Eberhard Arnold." If you feel so sure that you are doing the right thing, I want to ask you to really listen to your most inner voice. If we, and that is ALL MANKIND, really listen quietly and humbly to the voice of our heart, we will always find a way of love to approach our neighbor and most certainly those who had committed themselves for life to "go the way" together.
Dear Christoph, you do not take the voice of the "ex- members" seriously at all. Your contribution in the KIT April issue is a proof of that when you write: "Just to let you know that since you have started KIT, it has really boosted sales of Torches Rekindled. In fact so much " etc. etc. I must say I find this a most hurtful and immature answer to the cries of inner need voiced in KIT!! This coming from the "Elder" is very disappointing! It sounds like a sort of "spiritual competition" and that is far, far from what Opa wanted!!!
Living in community does not give you the right to stand yourself on a high spiritual place. The Hutterites have lived in community for 400 years. Do you think that they have always been a joy in God's eyes? Do not many people choose the way because it is easier and they were brought up that way? I think we should never forget that the son of God, Jesus, came for the poor, the lonely, the forsaken, the sinners, the humble at heart. That is what all of us should seek, I think! Opa once said, "We are going God's way as long as we are (suchende) seekers. If we sit down contentedly because we have found it, at that very moment we have lost it again!"
Our Oma, Christoph, was a very special and very outspoken person! That is why I loved her with all my heart. Often she was afraid in Woodcrest at the time of the big crisis. I talked a lot with her. She warned your father several times about the loveless manner in which old members were asked to leave. Sure she wanted her sons to represent Opa's word. That is a very natural wish of a mother, also taking into account that it was their own father who started the Bruderhof. But her voice was silenced in the later 1960s. She was excluded by your father and unable to attend your wedding with Vreneli. Does that not show a hard and cruel spirit? I think, with silencing Oma's voice, the Bruderhof lost a very important voice because Oma was very sensitive to the spirit of love. That she had aristocratic manners can never be held against her. Her courage to start again, in England, in Primavera, in Wheathill, in Woodcrest, gives witness to her faith and trust in God's leading! No, if I sketch my Oma as the person she really was, Christoph, I am not sinning. I bring back to memory who she really was, and the failures of a person make her all the more lovable! You say that the last years Oma worked in the laundry, the sewing room and the archives. I believe you, but was she really happy and fulfilled? I hope so. I will always be sad that I never saw my Oma again, and only heard about her death in May of 1980 when she had passed away in January. All the other death notices of sometimes total strangers I did receive.
Hans Bohlken to Johann Christoph Arnold 4/28/91: After having waited for weeks and months for a reply to my letters addressed to you personally as well as to the brotherhood on all the different bruderhofs, I think I will have to stop this fruitless correspondence. To me it seems quite incredible that simple questions put before you are just not answered. To me it seems like spiritual haughtiness that prevents you from taking any human being seriously who is not connected with your community. Do you think this is a Christian spirit or attitude? In the times of Eberhard Arnold, things were different indeed. People were invited to give their opinion and a serious correspondence was encouraged! Shall we say that times are just changing, or is it such a settled spirit in the communities that every differently thinking person is not taken seriously? So, for the time being, this will have to be my last letter to you. All my concerns and all my questions to you have been ignored:
1: My questions about the book, Torches Rekindled ."
2: The censorship as regards letters written by my father-in-law to my mother-in-law.
3: All the financial and legal aspects of my letters to you are not answered, or just mentioned on the phone as the way the Hutterite Church handles these matters. You wanted to know what our expenses are due to Elizabeth's illness, which suggested that you would want to help us in this matter. But you didn't even acknowledge receiving my letter to you. My questions about the wieder gut machungs moneys are not answered, or in such a way that they leave me with a very unsatisfactory feeling. You do not pay money back to novices that never were full members and gave all they had into the communal purse (e.g. Teika Schoonbroodt). After 30 years you tell me on the phone that this is the Hutterite law, but in those times you were not Hutterite at all (you reunited in 1974). Holding on to money that does not belong to you is, in my eyes, stealing. I will write a letter to the real Hutterite communities in the near future to see how they feel about these matters. I turned to you in trust and hope, but have come to the conclusion that further correspondence is a waste of time, hope and energy, as all my letters are unanswered. Therefore I must conclude [they are not considered] important enough to be answered. So with this I will have to put an end to our correspondence.
Agnes "Bennie" Arnold Foster 5/3/91: Thanks so much for the newsletter. I am learning a lot, since I have not had any contact with ex-SOB (Shortness of Breath? -- ha-ha!) people in 30+ years, except for my family. I did not realize there are so many severely hurting SOB people out there (anyone in Oregon?). I went through most of these problems, trials, hurts, etc. in the 16 years in Paraguay and about two years here. I was sexually, physically, emotionally and spiritually abused so often I could write volumes. Those who abused me probably already paid for it in remorse, guilt and exclusion, except for Heini who was above reproach and only felt hate. I agree Heini was a sadist and evil. Much like Hitler, he had control over SOB people through fear. He had the ultimate power and control. People were afraid, and still are, of his cruelty, rejection of Christ and hatred, yes, hatred -- not love -- towards all mankind. He was incapable of loving, and by following him without question, all in the SOB are guilty. They still follow the "Arnolds." Christoph is not leadership material. I went to school with him. He was the ultimate 'klutz' and did not have much smarts. He would be working in the shop if he was not Heini's only son. I do not know what his attitude is. I have been gone for over 30 years (want to bet one of his sons will follow in his footsteps?).
I believe Eberhard was a Christian and tried to live a Christian communal life, but that went to the grave with him when he died. For at least the past 49 years, the SOB has been and is a CULT who worships man (Arnolds) and not God. Heini's books are terrible, the ones he wrote to replace the bible. God is a good God who loves us all unconditionally, no matter who we are in or out of the Bruderhof. God is NOT the mean, white-bearded person who sits in heaven ready to judge anyone, especially children and teens, through the adults with severe, cruel, punishments. There were and are still some good people in the commune. I like to give some benefit of the doubt, as they were not in the same commune as Heini and may not have known all that went on. The ones that knew what Heini was doing were either too afraid or were excluded if they spoke up. Now Heini is dead, they still worship him with a big stone and bible verse in every community cemetery. And he did not even believe in the bible. I wonder if Christoph has ever read the entire bible.
I accepted Christ as my personal savior at age 34, and when Heini and his cohorts found out, I was officially excommunicated and could no longer visit my parents. I was now a threat because I knew the REAL GOD & JESUS. I can now look at my past and see where God watched over me when I was dumped in Albany, N.Y. in the middle of winter with nothing. I didn't even want God then. I never knew why Heini kicked me out, but I now thank God he did. What still hurts is the abuse my mother had to go through. After 60 years of working for those people, doing everything from cleaning toilets to caring for their children. Since she was mostly paralyzed, she was a good target for the nurses and the rest. I can't even mention what they did to her. They ended up killing her -- I thank God she is at peace now, as she too had accepted Christ before her death, even if they did not let her have a bible.
Most, if not all, in the Bruderhof do not know what love, unconditional love, is. Not even parents are allowed to show love and pride to their children or encourage them. The only positive remark I can remember in the 18 years in the SOB was from Stan & Hela Ehrlich in Paraguay. Everything else is negative. I do know that my mother loved us, but even there she was excluded every time she tried to speak up for her own or other children. The negative is emphasized and blown up so that everyone is evil except "the Arnolds" (one family). Yes, we are all sinners, but we also all have good in us and are very valuable and loved in God's eyes. Everyone needs compliments and encouragement to have self-esteem and be a whole person. The bible says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." So all the love the SOB preach about is not there. If you do not love yourself (which in their eyes is a sin) you cannot love others. So their entire life is unbiblical.
One year ago we all went to my dad's funeral and buried both my parents (Mom died 12 years before, but we were not allowed to go to the commune). So we said goodbye to our parents at the SOB.
I pray that some day they will come to grips with what they are doing to their children and teens and others -- just because of Heini worship. They cannot hide behind their stupid clothes. Love and Christianity is in the heart, not the clothes you wear. As for simplicity, that is stupid. They stand out more than other people and draw attention to themselves. Again, there are some good people who have been sucked into that life and now have too many children and no income, so cannot leave. They try in their own small way to be kind to others.
So, ex-SOB folk, look to the real God and see how Jesus died for each of us, in or out of the Community, no matter who we are. All of you who are searching and hurting, read and reread the Bible and find a Bible-teaching church. If necessary, find someone who will listen to you so you can leave your burdens behind and go on with your life. You are ALL special people loved by God. I love you all in Christ's love, not in SOB love. . . .

------------KIT Newsletter, July 1991 Vol. III #7- -----------

KIT has learned that the Bruderhof phoned Bette Bohlken-Zumpe on a 3-hof, half-hour conference call to berate her for the "lies" she told in KIT. They are refusing to allow her to visit her mother Emi-Ma during Bette's upcoming August visit to the USA, or to meet "outside" with her sisters because of her plans to attend the Second Annual KIT Conference. "This would have been your last time to see your mother," they told her. The Bruderhof's actions are in direct contradiction to Christoph Arnold's written guarantee that no one's visiting privileges would be revoked if they published in KIT.; Why is this happening? Because Bette has copies of the many letters her father Hans Zumpe wrote to her mother -- and to the brotherhood -- begging forgiveness? The existence of Hans' letters directly disproves the assertion in Torches Rekindled (p. 151, 2nd Edition) that Hans "was asked to seek repentance, but he never did, and his life was tragically ended in 1973 in a plane crash." It must have been that Heini Arnold in his role as Head Servant intercepted all of Hans' correspondence. It is Heini who must bear the personal responsibility for this deliberate cutting off of all of Hans' attempts to express his repentance to his wife and to the brotherhood. It remains to be seen whether the Bruderhof intends to let Emi-Ma die without knowledge of her husband's letters of repentance and sorrow. It remains to be seen whether the Bruderhof intends to prevent Bette Bohklen-Zumpe from seeing her mother again.
Miriam Arnold Holmes in reply to Jakob Gneiting 5/11/911: I appreciate your effort to "open the road to further understanding and respect." Unfortunately I feel your letter failed to do that. It merely reenforced my impression of the B'hof's shaming and self-righteous attitude. Of course we all have good and bad memories of our childhood and I have, like most of us, learned and grown through both experiences. Your opinions about my experiences, however, are totally invalid because they are about my experiences, not yours. You have never been in my shoes, therefore you have no right to judge my feelings. Nobody has that right. Besides, it is important for everyone's wellbeing to have the opportunity to talk about painful memories. It's good for the soul. Maybe you people should try it sometime.
I thought for a while about your letter, trying to figure out what exactly you are saying. I finally came to the conclusion, and please correct me if I'm wrong, that this is what you are saying: "You did not have it THAT bad. Stop complaining, and besides, whatever you got, you deserved anyway because you were spoiled and willful (and the same goes for your brother Eberhard Klaus!)" I fail to understand why you are telling me this, because it is contrary to the stated intent of your letter. Also: I know that Julia did the best she could when she took care of us, and I have written her on various occasions thanking her for what she did, and the love she tried to give us. Out of respect to her I do not wish to elaborate on this further at this time.
I am very happy for you that Heini was a good brother to you. To me he was neither a good brother nor a good uncle. How he treated you has nothing to do with how he treated me. I feel bad that I cannot respond more positively to your letter, especially since I have absolutely nothing against you personally, and always felt especially close to Juliana as well as your children, whom I loved taking care of when they were little. But these are my honest thoughts.
Jack & Janetta (Shonaid) Elston to the Brotherhoods, 5/30/91: This is, to us, an important letter and we hope that you all get a chance to hear it. Recently we received invitations to join you for special services. This sounds good on the surface, but have you asked yourselves the purpose of these meetings? We live 50 miles from the PACIFIC Ocean and it would cost us hundreds of dollars to accept these invitations. We don't have these dollars. Besides, I [Janetta] am so sick at this moment that I cannot even attend our church in McMinnville. But even if we were in good health and comfortable financially, how could we come and worship with you in unity? We haven't received any reply to a letter written to Tom Potts about a year ago asking the following question: We know that the Bruderhof bylaws state that if a member leaves of his own free will he takes nothing with him. But what do the bylaws state about people who are pushed out AGAINST their will? That was our question and we still would like to have the answer.
On page 184 of Torches Rekindled it is written: "The sale (of Primavera) covered travel and many other expenses and HELPED US SEND AS MUCH AS WE COULD to our people who were away." In our case, this is simply NOT TRUE. We received a loan (graciously offered WITHOUT interest. I hope you have asked the Lord's forgiveness for such hypocrisy) and we repaid it. But the longer I live, the more I realize how much you cheated us in 1961. Jack and I -- with many others -- suffered greatly -- spiritually, emotionally and financially. I was very tempted to become bitter, but I reasoned, "You're only twisting your own soul. Repent of your own very weak and ineffective role as a "Christian" sister, forgive those who did some really rotten things to you and concentrate on the present and the future."
This we did, and managed to help a few others on the way. I hope. We have 13 legally adopted children and two others, of all races from ivory to ebony, and apart from family and friends, we've opened our home to 60+ people, plus a series of juvenile delinquents and mentally retarded. In fact, the last young MR man left just two months ago. You don't get rich in this kind of work, but this is what we were called to do. Having made this choice, we now find ourselves living on Social Security -- no other assets, but no regrets.
On page 59 of "TR," Merrill states, "We certainly have much in the way of creature comforts." We have also noticed from The Plough that you are doing a lot of travelling and charity work. I have a question: do those of you who still remember 1961 have no feelings of guilt? Years ago we received some letters (WORDS) indicating this, but nothing has been DONE (action) to atone. I [Janetta] think this is a question you must all face. Wasn't it suggested by KIT that you do something about finances that would be equitable to all of us? I'm not just writing this for Jack and me, although we will soon be in need. At present I lie in bed with leukemia, anemia, stomatosis (have to have all my teeth removed) and a few other unpleasant things including pneumonia. The medications I have been taking for 15 years are no longer effective. My bone marrow is 67% leukemia and 33% normal. The doctor says that the only hope is a new treatment that runs into thousands of dollars. So I lie here waiting for a miracle from the Lord. Maybe this is why I can speak so openly to you. I believe I have a warning for you: The Bruderhof may thrive for a time. You may do many good works and receive the admiration of the public. But in the end everything will COLLAPSE, because at the heart of it all there is a WORM -- unfinished business of 1961. I suppose I can say, "We greet you in love" because Jesus commands us to love even our enemies. I don't feel that you are our enemies; in fact, I feel quite warmly to some of you as individuals. But to the group as a whole I say, "Please take care that you do not walk in delusion."

------------KIT Newsletter, August 1991 Vol. III #8---------

Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 6/24/91: Friday at 5 pm there was a phone call from Martin Johnson, my brother-in-law from Woodcrest. I was away shopping (we were expecting our children to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary) and Hans was busy treating patients, so we asked him to phone back later. At 7 pm there was another phone call. Martin said this was an "intercontinental conference call" combined with Ben & Marianne Zumpe in the Michaelshof. He referred to a letter I had written to my sister Heidi telling her that I was planning to come to the States in August to take part in the KIT Conference and that I also wanted to meet my family on the Bruderhof, especially my mother. Martin and Burgel, Ben and Marianne were the main speakers, but I could hear more voices in the background. They told me that after what I had written in KIT, it was absolutely impossible to see Mama or other members of my family.
They were especially upset about what I had written about my grandmother Emmy Arnold. Marianne shouted that these were a wicked, loveless bunch of lies. Martin said that it was out of love for my mother that they felt they had to protect her from me and all that I represent. The hurt for her would be unbearable. They would not tell her that I write in KIT, nor that I was coming to the States. They said that Mama had been through so much hurt in the past that they would see to it that she would not be hurt any more. They expressed their disgust at my last letter to my nephew Johann Christoph, which seemed to be their main concern. My brothers and sisers got themselves very upset and angry, so Martin tried to calm us all by trying to prevent more conversation about KIT and what I had written in my memories, but rather to keep the issue focused on Mama. He said, "She is old, weak, frail but very peaceful and happy as a loyal member of the Gemeinde. She has been through a lot of turmoil, and is at last at peace and with her 80 years of age, ready to meet our Maker." So why disturb this inner tranquillity and upset her with a visit from me and Hanna?
The conversation lasted three-quarters of an hour, so much was said. I tried to say that I also love Mama and would not do or say anything to hurt her or make her feel unhappy. I told them that my health was also not altogether wonderful and that this might well be my last trip to the States. Martin answered, "If you can make the trip for KIT, you can most certainly do it again some time for your mother." I reminded him that Christoph had met with KIT staff last year and promised that KIT writers would not get punished by not seeing their families. I asked them why Bruderhof people can visit the KIT staff and attend the last day of the conference whereas I get punished for doing so. Martin kept representing that it was merely a family matter which concerned mainly my mother's state of mind and health. Until the end I represented that it was their choice, not mine, to make it impossible to see my mother and Hanna her grandmother on our visit in August. They have to carry the responsibility for such an act. I also asked them to read KIT with an open mind and see how many former members were hurt deeply so that it affects the rest of their lives. I told them that all we want is to set the past right which was willfully twisted in Torches Rekindled." So Burgel asked me to read "T.R." once more and try and see it in the spirit in which it was written. Martin broke off the conversation, repeating that a visit to Mama or meeting any of my family was out of the question.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 6/23/91 to Heidi, Ben, Burgel, Charius and Emmy: Friday night, on our 28th wedding anniversary, I had a phone call from you. The more I think about it, the less I can understand and comprehend your motives for such a phone call. Yes, I am going to the KIT conference with the inner conviction that this is the only way to try and find a united way to clear up the hurt of the past, so that crushed souls and broken lives can find healing so that they can get on with their lives. Yes, I do write for KIT because I feel that each one of us has a part of the big jigsaw puzzle and we need all parts to make a picture. We need to know the past so that we can understand the present and the future. I want to ask you to read KIT with an open mind and not with prejudice and biased feelings. Sure, I too cannot accept all the feelings aired in the letters, but think of what the community as a group made themselves guilty of! Read Rachel's story and also Miriam Arnold's account of her last years in the communities! I am not accusing, but these people -- children of the community -- baptized members who had given all their trust, faith and hope for a "life of Christian love and unity" were brain-washed, hurt and trampled on. I myself know what it means to lose everything, to stand all alone in a vacuum without foundation and without ceiling, to be in utter despair and godforsaken loneliness. The KIT letters are NOT, I REPEAT NOT, an attack on the brothers and sisters in the community, but rather on a system that prevents people from developing into mature men and women who are capable of fighting their own battles. We all, whether we live in community or outside, will have to answer one day not only for what we did with our lives but also for those things we left undone or were too weak to take an individual stand for, or make our own decision for! This I believe strongly!
I do not believe that living in community will give us a ticket to heaven, but I believe that we have to use all the "pounds" [talents] that God has given us to the full, not bury them, not hide them, but use them all and make more of them if we can. I have been away from the community for 30 years. Never in all those years have I written a letter to our Mama that would hurt her in any way whatsoever. I know that she too has been through hell (in the community) and as the oldest daughter of Eberhard Arnold and wife of Hans Zumpe, has suffered more than her share! I will not, I REPEAT NOT EVER, add to this suffering. I do love our Mama and I have always respected her courage in facing all her illnesses and separations from Papa. I love her because she is our mother, and to my mind, a very special mother. She has taught me to be honest in everything I do. She was my example of what a wife and mother should be -- I would never do anything to hurt her.
Now you say that I can NOT combine taking part in the KIT conference and visiting Mama. THE DECISION WAS MADE BY YOU -- for her. You say that you live with her and therefore know whether she can handle a visit from me or not. I myself feel that this is discriminatory towards a senior citizen. My father-in-law is 87 years old and he makes all his own decisions and we -- his children -- have to accept and respect them whether we agree to them or not. Mama should be able to make up her mind herself. That would be respectful, I would think! I will contact you while in the States or maybe just talk to your representatives at the KIT Conference. You say Mama is old, weak, frail and ailing. Well, so am I. It might just be our last chance to meet. If you make this chance impossible, remember, THE DECISION WAS YOURS AND NOT MINE. I have to live my life so that I am able to answer for everything I have done and left undone. I want to take my own decisions and feel responsible for them. I have to - otherwise, my life would not be worth living. You say that I write lies about my Oma. That is not so. What I write is the truth, to my vision and memory. Remember, I WRITE MY OWN MEMORIES. Oma and Moni played a great part in my -- our -- childhood. To write down weaknesses of a loved person makes them all the more lovable. Oma was VERY TRANSPARENT in her wishes and beliefs, and that made me love and respect her. Oma was HUMAN -- not holy -- and that gives the closeness of heart and mind. Oma was HONEST, so that you always knew where you stood. I love and respect the memory of our Oma.
In Torches Rekindled, our father is described as the Anti-God, the dictator who deliberately worked against the spirit of God and the spirit Opa proclaimed. Do you find it in your hearts to really believe that? Our father was HUMAN and fell into HUMAN SIN, but he did give all his life and strength for the vision he believed in. He truly loved us children and he loved all the brothers and sisters in the community. He felt true compassion when a brother fell into sin, and gave him a hand to get up from out of the mud he had gotten himself into. For him there was no helping hand, and that is a guilt that cannot be put right again in this earthly life.
I will bring the letters he wrote with me to the States as they give an insight into his heart and feelings after he was put on that plane to Germany in 1960. With this I want to greet you with love and also with compassion. Believe me, if we are honest to God and the innermost feeling in our hearts -- if we do what this inner voice tells us to do, without fear from men, then we will always find the way to each others' hearts and this must lead to a better understanding in all matters. Fear has always been Enemy #1 in man's history. Fear is not from God, but always from man. Whatever happens, remember that I love you all and that it was your decision that I cannot see my mother and Hanne Marie will not meet her Grandmother if I meet with former members of the community whom I also love and respect.
KIT: Once again, KIT wants to point out that this matter with Bette Bohlken-Zumpe contradicts the assurance that Christoph gave 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."
And from Christoph's letter of 11/5/90 to KIT staff: No one is forbidden to read or write to KIT, or to meet with others in whatever way they wish.
KIT also has promised that if anyone is penalized or criticized for their involvement in KIT, whether for listing an address or writing a letter, we would bring their case directly to Christoph and the brotherhoods and demand an apology. This we have done..
Once again, we also would like to suggest that the real reason the Bruderhof is taking this attitude is that they simply cannot face the possibility that Heini was implicated in preventing Hans Zumpe's letter of repentance and apology from reaching the brotherhood and his wife.
Madeleine Jones Hutchison 6/15/91: I have been receiving KIT for the past seven months or so. My first reaction was of shock and relief. Since my expulsion from the community at the age of 16, I have carried this enormous pain alone, thinking I had been singled out. I also had this burden of guilt, as the decision of my being kicked out was based on some terrible sin I had committed. For the life of me I have never figured out what I did. So, KIT is now giving me hope and comfort, and will hopefully enable me to find healing and growth. I was moved by every letter, especially Rachel Mason Burger's. I remember you well, Rachel, as a kind person. During a short stint in Sinntal we worked in the workshop making dolls and straw stars. Sinntal was extremely confining and we were forbidden to walk off the small acreage. It was like a prison for the children, and so, naturally, some of us used to go off into the woods. This was a beautiful and exciting place and gave many of us a little freedom. One day, one of my pals and I were walking back from a long hike through the woods. This time we walked near Bad Bruckenau and were stopped by two young boys who gave each of us a Pepsi. What a treat! Off we went back home, and two days later, we were in for it. I was accused of sinning, was interrogated and told to leave. This I did the following day. Rachel and another person drove me to Frankfort where I was to get on a plane for London.
One of the women at Sinntal gave me a brown paper bag stuffed with goodies that I was to deliver to someone in Wheathill. When I stepped off the plane in London and was making my way to the terminal, I dropped the bag, picked it up and realized a jar of pickles had smashed, The whole world saw my shame and fear, my clothes soaked in pickle juice. Before meeting my father at Customs, I dropped the bag into a garbage container, feeling like a piece of you-know-what. I was relieved to see my Dad and felt secure again. I was going home, or so I thought.
"No, no, you can't come back," he told me.
"Can't I see my three brothers and three sisters before I am sent away?"
""No, no, you can't come back. You are going to live with your uncle and aunt (strangers) in Somerset."
Finally the train stopped in Ludlow and I was taken to a small hotel where I was greeted by my mother. She and I spent two days there, and my only memory is of constant crying and confusion. My mother had been told to interrogate me and get a confession of wrongdoing from me. Naturally this was not forthcoming as I had no bloody idea what I was supposed to have done. The questions were all about boys and had I done anything with them? What did one do with boys but climb trees, have fun and talk? Sex. what the heck was all that about?! Oh, but I felt guilty as anything and nearly went crazy. Then I climbed on the train, said goodbye to my mother and spent 3 hours on the train with all those evil people. My uncle and aunt were nice, but we didn't talk about anything except birds and flowers. I learned to make bread. Every day was hellish, lonely and dark. Time meant nothing to me then, only grief, endless fear and more grief.
A letter from Wheathill arrived one day: "Get a job. We can't send any more money for your room and board." More fear. I would wake up in the night and think I was dying. All was black. No one here for me, alone. I got a job as a mother's helper. One little girl was now my only contact with reality. She and her parents lived on a farm way out in the country. Again, only memories of fear linger on. Every night the wooden chair in my small bedroom acted as a lock to the outside world. The farmer and his wife were aliens, and their eyes pierced me. I was scared to death of them. They had a gun at the top of the stairs and I was convinced they were going to kill me with it. Why else would they have a gun? I told my dad on the phone that the farmer looked at me in such a queer way and that he had a gun.
"Please, please come and get me away from here. Yes, yes, I have sinned. I'll be good. I will follow God and do better."
Gladys Mason came down 2 days later to take me home. Again, interrogations, accusations and questions.
"Yes, I will make a new beginning and be good."
I remember the daffodils beside the road. so it must have been springtime. All was going to be okay. I was going home. Little did I know, as I arrived back in Wheathill, that this was just the start of a string of abuse. Why do I write this to you? It is not done out of hatred. My whole life has been very much affected by my life in Primavera and Wheathill. Sure, there were good times, but I can handle those. It is the cruelty, the psychological twisting of my spirit that has left me crippled to some extent. I want to have healing. I want the community to take ownership for what they have done. They are my family of origin and I need their acceptance. There are other events which I will write about another time. This is just something I have to do. It won't all be bad, I promise. To all my family I send love. My home is open. My address: P.O. Box 167, Pritchard, British Columbia, Canada. Tel: 604 577-3282
Roger Allain to Ramon, Charlie and John Hostetler 6/27/91: You are all three to quite an extent united in my mind through your thoughtful contributions about the subject of the B'hof and community living, which largely concur with mine and very largely contribute to complement my knowledge of and stimulate my reflections about them. The June KIT was as interesting as the previous numbers. Miriam's autobiography is a terrible indictment of a group or society which doesn't find ways of solving its conflicts and in its blindness has to resort to sending a sane individual to the horrendous conditions of an insane asylum -- indeed a move not different in its essence from the Nazi regime sending its dissidents to a concentration camp 50- 60 years ago (I am not so much thinking here of its anti- semitic craze, but of its rejection of Communist opponents).
Amos Baer: "I hate the Bruderhof. I've hated them ever since Mark Kurtz took me aside and felt me up when I was in Ausschluss. I was 5 years old."
Ruth Baer: "How did you get in Ausschluss at that age?
Amos: "Ruth, you put me in. You were the Kindergarten teacher and you put me in."
Ruth: "I can't believe it! I have no memory of doing that. Why did I do it?"
Amos: "The Kindergarten was in the corner room right next to the highway. We were not supposed to watch the cars go by out there, even though there was a big picture window and you could see them clearly. I had not said anything yet because I was shy. Finally I got the courage to yell out, 'Look at that big red truck!' You had told us that the next person to speak would get punished, and so you came to me and yanked me by the arm and took me upstairs to the Ausschluss Room. I tried to reason with you, but you wouldn't give in."
Ruth: "What did you do in that room?"
Amos: "You had to sit quietly and they would question you. Maybe they'd ask you why you had two snot rags in one pocket. They were trying to force some kind of a confession from you. First I thought they were trying to trick me into talking, so I didn't say anything. Mark Kurtz was in the room. He let everyone go out and kept me there, and then lay down next to me and cuddled me, telling me about good and bad. I was scared."
Amon Baer: (In the same Ausschluss Room) "Mark Kurtz had a watch. He said that it ticked loudly and that if we listened to it carefully, we could hear it. We all sat quietly and listened. He said we should raise our hands when we heard the ticking. After a while when you sit and think about a watch ticking, it almost seems like your imagination takes over and you do hear it ticking. One after another we all raised our hands. Then he told us that the watch didn't work and didn't make a sound. We were all branded as liars."
Pedro Gneiting 7/2/91: First I want to apologize for all the judgmental and on the whole rather odd letters that my father (Jakob Gneiting) has been writing in the last few editions of KIT. They in no way reflect the views of any of his four children (yes, FOUR of his kids have seen the light!) that are out here. Actually, he writes more letters containing more substance to KIT than he does to me, and since he doesn't answer my questions regarding the same issues that many KIT readers have raised, I've decided to try and communicate with him through KIT.
Papa, the tone of your last letter was extremely rude - how you write about Eberhard Klaus and Miriam. You also continuously refer to yourself as "poor, sinful, etc. human being." If we were all such wretched people by nature, how come Heini and Christoph are exempt? Many times as we were growing up you told us what audacity the Catholic Church has to declare the Pope infallible. Yet you have done and continue to do the same with selected individuals. It is a known fact that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." It happens out here at many different levels, from our bosses at work to the leaders of the government. Why should the community be immune from this flaw of human nature? Christoph says 'jump' and everyone asks 'how high?' It's pathetic to see it. You also stress the need for forgiveness, but as soon as someone is down (and you know from first-hand experience) everyone comes out of the woodwork bringing up little tiny incidents from years ago in which you "failed" somehow. What about the First Law of Sannerz that adorns every wall in every home? If someone had a problem with someone else 5 years ago, they should have brought it up then and NOT wait until the person has been excluded to suddenly dredge up ancient history. You condemn the KIT readers for bringing up the past and being unforgiving, yet your system of mind control (church discipline) thrives on it!
As far as getting any response from Christoph -- forget it. I wrote my heart out in several 8-and-more- page letters several years ago, and the only answer I received was a 10-line typed note filled with generalities. "Love more." "I love you." "I look forward to seeing you," etc. Not a SINGLE answer to any of my questions. But while he did not respond, others did. He took my letters and passed them to other servants who them felt very free to contact and chastise me. That's extremely cowardly on his part. Papa, you want to talk about "spoilt and willful" --let's talk about the Arnolds and their twice transatlantic trips with the whole family, never mind the hundreds of other "special" jaunts to the other hofs, hunting, fishing, etc. Tell me -- who else gets to do all that? Certainly not many families out here. To borrow one of your favorite phrases, "You don't know how good you have it!"
Everyone must think by now that I don't get along with my parents, but that is not the case. Like many of the "little people" up there, they are loving, funny, smart, talented individuals when they are themselves. It's when they take on the roles of brotherhood members that they become judgmental, cold and hurtful. It is in this spirit that I feel my father's letters were written. No, I do not have anything against the community itself, just with a few of the people up there. And no one person or family is the community. They are just a small part of the whole! P.S. I'm halfway through my Nurse's training in Hartford!!

------------KIT Newsletter, September 1991 Vol. III #9----

Ramon Sender (reporting on the Second KIT Conference at Friendly Crossways). . . . The Sunday circle continued with personal stories. I found John Greenwood's tale of endless interrogations as a child and his painful exclusion especially moving. Later, Bette continued her story of her terrible treatment as a young woman, and also described how her father Hans' numerous attempts to express his remorse to the brotherhood were ignored. Both brought tears to many listeners' eyes. After she finished, we sang a number of songs, a spontaneous memorial service to a man who had given his life to build up Eber-hard Arnold's dream only to be tossed away and forgotten. A description I found especially tragic was of those families shipped back to Germany penniless from Paraguay after the Sixties crisis, especially the story of one large family who had to live in a refugee camp for 10 years under very crowded and difficult circumstances.
Balz spoke of his desire to build a model business in which everyone is a co-owner. "But I am finished with communal pro-perty," he added. A few expressed their feeling that the April Fool's page in the April issue was hurtful to the B'hof. My own feeling is that the page poked fun at Bruderhof and KIT people alike, and that if we cannot laugh at ourselves, life is not worth living. There was also some discus-sion of KIT editorial policies, a few people feeling their letters had been over-edited and their need to have feedback from KIT regarding this, at the very least a quick note back when someone shares their pain. Some wondered if KIT could not use a larger type face, and the suggestion was made that if anyone truly needs larger type, they could request it from KIT but also make a larger financial contribution. Also many photocopy machines can en-large a copy easily. Also someone express-ed the need to record the stories of the older members 'out,' many of whom are now in their eighties. Their experiences should not be lost forever.
I noticed that this year there was less ner-vousness about having one's photo taken or one's name included on an attendance list. Also, many people were interviewed on a person-to-person basis and their sto-ries recorded for the archives. Many sad stories of sexual and physical child abuse were told, even of suicides of abandoned young people. The most frequently heard story was of being yanked out of the family as a child, isolated and endlessly question-ed about a 'sin' which was never described, with exclusions which sometimes went on for months or even years.
Monday morning brought bruderhof member Marjorie Hindley from Deer Spring with her son Jeremy, his wife Annie and sister Amy. They joined us in the circle, and the theme suggested for ev-eryone to speak to was "What has the KIT conference meant to you?" Everyone who wished spoke without comment from the others. [For an edited transcript, see The Monday Morning F Xways Meeting 8/12/91 on the Peregrine Foundation Archives page. - ed]
Other Statements: "The healing process started in the 1st and 2nd conferences hopefully will bring about more." "None of us knew where each of us were." "We don't exist for vengeance." "Suddenly people I never thought to see again are part of my new life." "KIT has been a chance for me to be heard. I was never heard in the Bruderhof." "KIT is a new extended family all over the world which I can trust and communicate to." "I'm so grateful for the chance to hear others' experiences, but most important has been the facilitating of the healing process." "My parents asked me not to participate, but I asked them to try not to be offended and instead search for what can be done to prevent these hurts." "We can talk with-out fear, and reach out with an open hand, and not close out those people who want to touch you." "This has been for me as the spouse of a Bruderhof person my first opportunity to understand my loved one's background when she was in the commu-nity." "This is like an emergency room in a hospital." "My father was torn away from our family. The sanctity of the mari-tal bond is eroded in the community." "We are claiming the right for ourselves to know the people with whom we grew up. Why should we have to face life alone? The best thing to have happened to the Bruderhof is KIT." "For 32 years, in es-sence, my whole identity was torn away, but within 60 days after the first confer-ence, things began to change." "The Bru-derhof has become an oppressive system. The early spirit of a free flow of sharing and a spontaneous exchange led to the exact opposite, a very controlled environ-ment." "I'm so glad to meet so many here. Why can't we be brothers and sisters in this world?" "KIT is Xavie Sender." "KIT has created a family of unconditional love and respect. If only the whole world could experience this!" "I was told that there would be poison here. I went back to the B 'hof to get an answer about why my family was separated, but didn't get one. When I got here, I realized many other people had far worse experiences. Now we are able to be a family." "My mother was abandoned by the Bruderhof. I too have felt so aban-doned for years with an abusive husband. Now I don't feel alone any more." "I have gained so many brothers and sisters."
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe 8/16/91: Coming home, I received the above letter from my mother. She had heard indirectly that I had found letters FROM HER TO MY DAD, and that I was making them public. Never have I spoken of letters from my mother. But I did want my father's letters to her to be known. My points have al-ways been:
1: A man is ready to commit suicide after confessing to a sin. He is not helped by his brothers, but is kicked even deeper into the mud so that he almost drowns.
2: He wants to speak with the person clos-est to his heart. That is forbidden. He is put on a plane to another country.
3: He writes to his wife and the Servant of the Word. His letters never reach his wife.
4: His wife writes to him, but her letters are never sent off but find their way to the dustbin or the archives.
5: He asks about his children 8 and 11 years old. He never receives a reply, even though he sends a monthly payment for their upkeep.
6: She writes a short letter from the boat to England to him to let him know that they are moving to England. From this he real-izes that all his letters have never reached her, as she does not know his address which he had written on every letter. But she sent her letter to a mutual communal friend.
7: He answers her letter and she gets ex-cluded for that, away from the community to some nuns in Gloustershire. She almost went mad with grief and pain and total loneliness amonst strangers. She fights her way back to the brotherhood in the hope that he will come also, and promises under pressure never to write him again of her own accord.
The brotherhood wants to move her back to the States, but needs consent from the father to give the children passports. He writes the German embassy to give his children European passports ONLY so that there is a little chance he might get to see his children in the future. The brother-hood gets them Paraguayan passports without his consent so that they leave Europe and he never sees them again.
The time period I am talking about is the first two years, from 1960 to 1963, when Hans and I were married. Heini wrote his first letter to my father in 1971, ten years later. In 1960, my father wrote to Georg in Sinntal Bruderhof and asked him for a talk in order to find his way back to the com-munity. Georg wrote back that he should first find a deeper repentance and put this on paper for the brotherhood so that a decision could be made about a visit to him. He was never visited in the 12 years in Germany.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe comments on a letter from Hans Meier: What Hans Meier writes in his letter is also not true. He writes on page 4 [see previous column - Ed.] ..."The fact that he [Hans Zumpe, Bette's father] had not confessed his personal sin, but only owned up to it after the sister concerned had brought it to light; that he never asked the community for forgiveness..." That is non-sense. He wrote a farewell letter to my mother before wanting to commit suicide, but was found by the brothers in time. The sister involved was on Sinntalhof with me, very disturbed and shocked that Papa had confessed. She left the communities, never wanting to return again. It is the little and big lies and discrepancies that get me, and I will follow the thin thread of truth in this matter as long as I live.
Ramon Sender: I cannot allow Hans Meier's missive to go by without my personal reply. First of all, Hans, in my opinion, God is not anywhere near as inflexible and set in His ways as you imply. Once God called me to live in the Bruderhof, but then He called me out. Or at the very least He totally understands why I had to say "I quit!" to such an authoritarian, unloving, mind-controlling, manipulative system. You imply that only the Bruderhof communal lifestyle can witness to God's coming kingdom. I find that extremely egotistical. I also take exception to the fallacy that private ownership is the root of all evil. We only have to look at the way the Soviet Union is disbanding communal ownership to understand its basic flaws. Some brothers will always be 'more equal' and privileged than others. Branding 'comparing' a sin as you do will not erase this.
Actually, the Bruderhof is basically a capitalistic, property-owning enterprise which takes advantage of the constitutional protections democracy affords (freedom of worship, tax exemptions, welfare, social security, public schools, a consumer base who pays well for its products) while returning very little to the system itself. When Jesus said, "Sell what thou hast and give it to the poor," I believe he meant just that. Again in my opinion, as a multi-million-dollar corporation, the Bruderhof has moved very far away from that teaching. And it has contributed far more to the injustice in the world than all the graduates and survivors combined! You mention a "brotherly community in peace and justice," but frankly it seems to me that the community is always 'fighting' this and 'fighting' that. And as far as justice goes, all I see is a long history of usurping individuals' properties and capital with the easy excuse that you are relieving them of their evil burdens. What an amazing scam!
Madeleine Jones Hutchison 7/29/91: I have to say again how grateful I am for KIT. It is hard to believe but true, that I have kept bottled up inside all the pain, hurt and rejection until now. While I am very thankful for my beautiful childhood in Paraguay, and I do have happy memories, the not-so-good things must be brought out. I never knew who or what I was and am only now discovering. It is very exciting, I can tell you! My first marriage ended in 1986 and we have two very wonderful sons, Daniel, 22, and James, 19. I have a great relationship with both and they LOVE me. In 1988 I met Gerry and we were married in Nov. 1989. We live out in the country 45 km east of Kamloops (pop. 60,000). As a hobby, we farm part of our 16 acres and grow organic herbs, vegies and flowers which we sell in Kamloops at the farmer's market every Sat. With KIT and Gerry, I am finally coming to grips with my past, slowly and painfully.
When I read KIT, I am overcome with grief and can finally cry, not only for myself but for the many other victims of the Bruderhof. When I was 5 years old, my parents had gone to Bruderschaft and all the little ones were asleep in their beds. It was a hot night, and in my sleep my nightgown had moved up my little body exposing my bottom. I woke up in terror, and this woman (I know her name well) said to me, "You filthy, dirty girl!" I guess my bare bottom offended her so much!! Since this incident, I have this horrible dream of this woman standing by my bed with her arm held above her head ready to strike me. Her eyes pierce me and I wake up in a cold sweat. Since I have started to talk about all the you-know-what with Gerry, the dream has not come again. In Kindergarten in Isla, there was one woman who for some strange reason was allowed to work with children (she would be behind bars in our society). She often locked the children up in a small room. I spent many hours in this room.
On one particular occasion, and I remember it very well, I was trying to teach my little brother Ken how to climb this lovely tree. Halfway up he got stuck and started to cry, then scream his head off. So here comes this woman, and she too starts screaming. She lifted Ken out of the tree and yanked me by the arm, marched me off and locked me up in the dark hut. I don't know how long I was left there, but it seemed like eternity. I was given no lunch and was so hungry that I spat onto the dirt floor and made enough mud to eat. No water. On another occasion, all the children had finished their supper and only D. and I were left. It was goulash that night, full of Wabbel (gristle). There was just no way we could eat any more, but she kept saying, "If you don't eat up, I will give you another ladleful." And she did!!! We sat there crying and gagging with every attempt to eat. Finally she could see that we were not able to eat any more, and said we were going to spend the night in the dark room. I relive the terror of that night. We both screamed and screamed, pushed and pushed the door, so she finally gave up and we got away and ran like hell.
We were powerless little children, terrorized and abused. To this day I have a terrible fear of being alone in a dark house and, as you can imagine, this has caused some problems. Some children are more resilient than others, and I think that even a strong child will eventually break and be crippled inside for a long time. There was always this fear of doing something wrong, always this feeling of guilt which still haunts me to this day. When someone says to me, "I want to talk to you about something," I break out in a cold sweat and my stomach feels as if it were twisted into knots. Now my husband always tells me what he needs to talk about ahead of time so that I don't have this horrible reaction. Paraguay was like the garden of Eden, but we all know who invaded that garden too!
In 1957, my family was moved to Wheathill and we arrived in November. My feet were riddled with zebui, and when the first snow fell, my father made me walk about outside barefoot. That got rid of the critters once and for all. Settling into Wheathill school was difficult, as it was all in English. I made friends with Roger Rimes and we played a lot of Ping-Pong at the school. Some nosy troublemaker finally reported this, and so one day, during class time, I was asked to step out. My first reaction was of fear and guilt. I was taken to B's office where I saw a group of servants of the word sitting in a semicircle. I had to stand in front of my judges, and they proceeded to accuse me of sinning against God. I was a dirty girl, a disgrace to all. Lots of questions were asked, but I could not talk because I was so terrified and felt so humiliated. I was 15, and my breasts were showing through my blouse, and these men sat there and accused me of sinning. They kept this up for almost an hour. All I did was cry constantly and I peed my pants. Then I was told I was not to return to school, to have no contact with anyone. For 3 weeks I had to peel spuds and sprouts in the little hut across from the kitchen. This is where I also had my meals. I was branded UNCLEAN and the whole community knew this. But I was innocent! Roger was sent away the same day to live in Bulstrode, away from his father and sister. His mother was never in the community. I felt completely abandoned by everyone, even God. Only one person showed the slightest bit of understanding, and than person was Marianne Zumpe. If it had not been for her, I would not have lived through this time of utter hell. This incident has affected my whole life severely. When I was finally sent away for good, I was broken in spirit and mind. I was totally unprepared for the life on the outside. I was uneducated and unable to cope or look after myself. I was only 16 years old. I did not know the facts of life. I was terrified of everyone. I thought I was dying, and I might have, had it not been for the prayers of my father's cousin in whose home I was forced to live. I requested many times to come back to Wheathill but was told I was not wanted. A year or so later, my family was sent away and I then joined them. My parents were given 50 pounds. We were seven in our family. An old school friend of Dad's let us live in a cottage on his farm. We lived in poverty for a very long time. Often there was not enough food to go around, so my parents went without so that the children had some food. I feel such anger at the way my parents were treated after having given all to the Bruderhof. They suffered terribly, and there are no words to describe the isolation we all felt. All my brothers and my little sister have suffered a lot. One of my brothers won't even talk about the Bruderhof. When he was 9 years old, he was accused of a terrible thing, and later, after my parents insisted on an investigation, the truth came out but the damage was done. During my isolation in Wheathill, I was very disturbed and occasionally walked in my sleep. One morning I woke up in my bed and saw that I was covered in coal dust. Instead of being reassured and loved, I was once again accused of going out at night to meet a boy -- in the coal pile! If it wasn't so serious, I could laugh my head off!! I do not understand why I was always under suspicion. There was never any person who stood up for me -- my parents couldn't either. I will now stop writing, as I have to get out into my garden and think about all this and more, I am so very thankful I have finally found a person who believes in me, LOVES ME FOR WHO I AM. I greet you all and wish you a great reunion.
Susan Welham Reflecting On The KIT Conference 8/22/91: I am visiting Loy at her peaceful oasis in the woods, a safe and comforting place for me to process the whirlwind of impressions and feelings from the conference. For a brief moment my childhood friends came back, so many of them, and now there is this emptiness that is so full and all the tears I could not shed as I wrenched myself away from home and friends in 1952 and 1960, 1960 came flooding in and the trees outside my window drip tears of morning mist in sympathy with me. I think about the stories told by the survivors at the conference. Why could I not share my story? Then I know.
It is the 6-week-old baby Susi who arrived at Wheathill in the boot of a car and has suffered from allergies to petrochemicals all her life, who needs to speak. But she can only wail. It is the two-year-old Susi, head bowed, pants wet, shamed in a corner; and the three, four, five-year-old who lay awake in agony, not allowed to disturb others to relieve herself, whose nervous system still echoes this pain. It is this child left alone at night in the company of weird men, with nightmares of wolves that devour., She is scared to speak. It is the five-year- old who lost her parents and was locked up in a room by herself for days. The cold is still in her bones, her voice frozen. It is the seven-year-old punished for sexual precociousness foisted on her by self-serving men, who needs to speak. But there were no words about it then, only things that happened in the dark of night. And now the darkness is of closed minds and unbelieving hearts and frantic words thrown out to ward off the awful truth. It is a terrible truth. You don't want to hear it. I don't want to live it. I don't want to be trapped in this body that betrays me. My mind is clear, my heart is pure, but my body has a life of its own. It goes into panic in enclosed spaces. It cannot digest whole meal bread. It lies gripped by iron bonds that paralyze. I cannot move. I cannot speak. I cannot call for help. Worst of all is the betrayal I feel in my most intimate relationships. It makes a mockery of me. In this most intense moment that could be the blossoming of all the creative urge of me, I hear a hollow, mocking laugh and feel the puppet strings pulling me this way and that. I fall apart. My head goes one way, my heart another while my body writhes in an ecstasy that is not there for me, but satisfies the male need to feel strong. All his disconnected insecurity must ground itself through me. Through this body of mine that throbs to the song of the bird, that unfolds in the warm sun, that lifts itself to fly high on stormy winds, that smiles and dimples with a buttercup beneath its chin and is in heaven with its nose in a rose.
I do not merely want to be a survivor. I want to reclaim this body as my own. Susi can only speak her story to those who resonate with the soft singing of the stars and the gentlest breeze that kisses tear-stained cheeks, to those who know the language of pain, shame, disgust and betrayal, who know about the cover-ups and the ways of coping. She can listen to the broken shadow parts of self and others as they cry and rage in their loneliness and fear and pain.
We stay close to the warm glow of the fire, watching the flames twist and leap, waiting for these shadows to join us. The firelight shines in the eyes of the howling wolves as they retreat.
Greetings to all KIT staff. It was so good to get to know you.
P.S. I had a dream last night in which I bumped into a close friend still in the Bruderhof. She emerged from a lift in a medical center as I was about to enter. She held out a limp hand to me in greeting. I embraced her, she broke down and said, "I now know why we need to contact our childhood pain. If we don't, it manifests as illness in our body. I have just been told I have cancer." We sat in the lobby of the medical center like the lost children in the woods, rocking and sobbing as she poured out her story and told me what happened to her in 1948 -- the Wheathill crisis. Please write to me. I will answer you. Confidentiality respected. I particularly want to hear from others who also experienced sexual abuse in the Bruderhof.

------------KIT Newsletter, October 1991 Vol. III #10--------

Staughton & Alice Lynd 7/20/91: In connection with the recent articles about Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, the following are: a letter from Alice and Staughton Lynd to Johann Christoph Arnold and his reply. We telephoned Christoph on July 20 and asked whether Bette Bohlken-Zumpe would be welcome to visit her mother at Darvell on the way to the USA or on the way home. He answered: "Absolutely yes." We also asked Christoph for permission to reprint the correspondence in KIT. He gave us permission.
7/6/91: Dear Christoph Arnold, we were very troubled by a report in the July issue of KIT saying that Bette Bohlken-Zumpe will not be permitted to visit her mother nor meet with her sisters when she comes to the USA in August. If this is true, we believe that it will be a new source of pain of the kind that the Bruderhof has been striving to overcome in recent years. And if it is true that Bette has letters written by her father to her mother which her mother has not seen, and which beg her for forgiveness, we believe that it would be terrible for Emi-Ma to die without knowledge of her husband's letters of repentance and sorrow.
If the report is true, we hope it is not too late for you to reconsider. It is human beings who are making these decisions and none of us have infallible access to the source of all wisdom... Please let us know your response.
Johann Christoph Arnold 7/17/91: Dear Staughton and Alice, thanks for your letter. Bette Bohlken is welcome to visit us to meet with her brothers and sisters. Emi-Margaret is in Darvell to help celebrate the 20th anniversary of Darvell and also to see Ben and Marianne who will be there from the Michaelshof and also to see Killian. To my knowledge, we have never withheld any letters from Emi-Ma.

------KIT Newsletter, November 1991 Vol. III #11------

The Fourth Biannual Report on The State of KIT
Well, it's been an eventful six months! We held our Second Annual Conference and experienced amazing moments of heartfelt togetherness, of sharing each other's pain and laughter, while acknowledging our individual differences. The variety of viewpoints expressed run the gamut, that's for sure! Pity your faithful KIT staff who try to serve the needs of all without treading on anyone's pet peeve. ("Was that YOUR pet peeve? {Wiping shoe on the grass} Oh, I'm so SORRY!") But please understand, KIT cannot speak editorially to the Bruderhof for the readership. Aside from our shared 'gestalt' of community experiences, we are as varied as a meadowful of wildflowers and weeds. And isn't that what life is all about, to allow each his or her unique voice? After all, isn't that basic respect for one another's uniqueness what was lacking in the Bruderhof? Of course there are some basic issues upon which we do all agree: the need to help one another adjust to life on the 'outside,' and to keep asking the Bruderhof to assist the elderly and the youthful, as well as those experiencing emotional or medical difficulties. Here KIT can speak for the readership by asking the Bruderhof to contribute to a 'no strings attached' fund that would disburse grants or loans as needed, which we are calling 'The XRoads Fund.'
One important question: is the Bruderhof a destructive cult or merely a sect with some unfortunate failings? If they are the former, is it naive to expect them to change? If the latter, have the past wrongs described in KIT been recognized by them and changed long ago? Are those who take a positive view of their Bruderhof years just suppressing and denying their own abuse? Beyond the role that KIT tries to fill as a sounding board for all, there still exists a higher need to get at the truth of things. Part of the maturity of living outside in the real world is recognizing the necessity to assess any and all information that comes your way. Many who come from the Bruderhof still live under the spell of believing that nothing should appear in print that isn't correct, helpful or respectful according to some particular orthodoxy. But this is impossible. KIT readers must be willing to put themselves in the position of judging the KIT material for themselves. As editors, we cheerfully undertake not to print anything that we perceive to be untrue sans context, but sometimes the publication of lies or falsehoods is highly evidentiary, not that KIT is full of lies and falsehoods.
Should we stop printing Bruderhof letters and mailing KIT to the communities, as has been suggested? KIT staff thinks not. Although we have heard that the Brotherhoods no longer view the '30 Points' as a group statement, we still await a letter to KIT retracting their mistaken interpretation. When the opening disclaimer included with the "30 Points" was read recently to a Bruderhof couple, they seemed unsure about whether it had been read at the combined brotherhood meeting or not. Considering that the Bruderhof mailed their original stiff response to everyone who attended the final KIT circle, a follow-up correction to KIT might clear the air.
Agnes 'Bennie' Foster 9/26/91: It's good to hear from some people of the past. After 32 years, it seems incredible! To be honest, there are very few people I can picture and only a few whose names I recognize in the newsletter. I was so afraid of adults as a child and teen, and here I am almost 50. I was dumped in Albany, N.Y. in the middle of winter with $50, no warm clothes, no idea of what life was all about -- it was very scary. If I hadn't been such a stubborn German, I probably would not have made it. When I look back, I can only say that God (not the Community one) was looking out for me. I eventually moved to Baltimore, met some very nice people, worked and went to night school to get my high school diploma. I lived at the Wolman's and babysat for their 4 children for my room and board. When I was 22, I went to nursing school. I will never forget the look on my mom's face when they came to my graduation and she saw Elaine and me hug. My mom was sooo hurt. After that, I made a point of hugging her whenever I saw her. In the S.O.B. that was taboo, as you know. When I was 26, I married a man who turned out to be an abuser and a manic-depressive. We lived in California where I put him thru San Jose State. Then he went to Corvallis, Oregon, pharmacy school. During his last year, Kirk was born. I kept working and in '76 Mark was born. I worked on the PM shift so that the boys would not have to be with a sitter so much. But my husband abused them many years before I found out. Now he's been gone for four years and life is much easier except for finances. He never wanted the boys. I love them and try to protect them from their dad. Being an enabler is learned in the S.O.B. I 'm now disabled from numerous back injuries (lifting too many patients) and two bouts with cancer, which seems to be under control at this time. I do a lot of volunteer work and enjoy it except I have a hard time to say 'No.'. . .
Being totally disconnected form the S.O.B., I never knew that all the rest were gone. There must be many more who do not know about KIT. I pray that those lost and hurting people who were and are abused by the S.O.B. and their cultic lifestyle will find hope and love from us and ultimately the only real healer, Jesus Christ. If you know someone who needs a place, I have a large house for only Mark and me. I love the Oregon coast. It's a lot like San Francisco except a little warmer. Take care,
Excerpts from FOCUS newsletter from a forthcoming book by Madeline Tobias, tentatively titled Spiritual Rape: Emerging anger is one of the first signs of recovery from the cult experience. Anger is a normal and healthy reaction to numerous harms and assaults perpetrated upon us. Anger is the most appropriate response to the abuse and manipulations of the cult and is also the hardest for some ex-members to get in touch with and deal with. ANGER MEANS THAT YOU ARE NOW READY TO ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU WERE VICTIMIZED.

-------KIT Newsletter, December 1991 Vol. III #12-------

Mike Caine, Winnipeg 11/8/91: As you see, I am here and still have not managed to reach California. Everywhere I go I get somewhat delayed. My longest stay so far with Ernst and Jean in New Brunswick on account of the most peculiar habit Ernst has got of getting on and off a horse. So you see, I will get to California around about Xmas, as I am learning a lot of new and interesting things here in Winnipeg, especially all about this fantastic UNITY that exists between the Hutterites and the Holy Ones. When all is said and done, Mammon is a hell of a lot more powerful than God - Jesus and the Holy Spirit put together!
One fact I want, or rather must write about, is on a very strong parallel of THE Xmas Story, about people getting kicked out in the cold. And the people who did the kicking out were really good Jasum boys, His Holy Highness Tehdel Vetter HIMself, with the strong support of Jake Kleinsasser from Crystal Springs. The night in question there was a severe blizzard, visibility zero, temperature 40 degrees below zero Wind Chill. Never, at any time, was the weather in Bethlehem in such extremes, and an ordinary Palestinian offers Mary and Joseph their stable or grotto, the kind still to be seen in Palestine even today. A grotto is a cave dug out of a hillside and is shielded from three directions. But the Holy Ones, all full of the Spirit of Christ, are capable of committing such a crime as to demand that good, honest people go out in such weather. For all of us who knew Tehdel as a child, he could never play any game like Quartett, Verbannt or Volkerball without cheating, and that now he is behind such crime does not really surprise me.
So what happened, as I understand it from very reliable sources is: Sarah and Johnny Maendel visited Oak Bluff Colony, and while on this visit, Sarah had suddenly died. Allan and Edna Baer, who for many years had been very good friends with Johnny and Sarah, ever since Allan and Edna joined the Hutterites in New Rosedale and then Forest River, they took it for granted that when Sarah died so suddenly they MUST go and stand by Johnny Maendel at these hard times. So it was only the very strong compassion the Baers felt for Johnny that drove them up to Oak Bluff Colony in such appalling weather, as nobody is more aware of the dangers of such weather conditions as Allan Baer. The Hutterites should also have known better! To send somebody, or anybody, out in such conditions is a crime, tempting murder!
What really amazed me is that shortly before this incident, the Baer poultry ranch spent well in excess of $50,000 at Crystal Springs Colony on pig equipment for their barns, and Jake Kleinsasser did not send them away then. It just shows that for Crystal Spring, Mammon is a lot stronger than God. Jake Kleinsasser should read Matthew I: 1-3, and also Chapter 6.
In the Sept edition of KIT somebody wrote: "You might find it surprising that I'm writing." In fact, I'm still in a state of shock, as this person is 'Po,' or rather Paul Gerhard Kaiser. Most of our school years we were in the same class, and from a very early age we knew each other very well. And how he can write such crap about Heini Vetter is far beyond my imagination! The fact of the matter is that Po too hated and feared Heini like myself, and so from many years ago we always exchanged our experiences. Po also never had anybody to turn to, like myself, especially in those Ibate years. Later, in Loma Hoby, life was a lot more relaxed and we had a lot of fun together.
One incident - another Christmas story, so hopefully you can print these in the Christmas edition, as this story as well has a very inner meaning:
In school at Christmastime our class produced a Christmas play to be performed before the whole community, but I personally never got any parts in these dramatics. My job was always backstage, for I was never worthy of the 'onstage' parts. But nevertheless Po, 'Happ' and myself were determined to have 'some fun!' So the last scene was about Mary, the donkey, Jesus and Joseph's flight to Egypt. So the part of the donkey was played by Kanusch (a donkey mare). So before all this started, in the afternoon we went to Isla Margarita to get the 'teacher' in charge of sex education, Manso, a donkey stallion who was a strong believer in practical demonstrations. And if some fool was riding Kanusch at the time, it did not matter, because there was always a place for him as well. And then Kanusch would kick up her back legs in a frenzied state of hop-hop-ho! That, Po and I believed, would present a great challenge to the whole community. So just before this scene, we let Manso sniff Kanusch so that he would be all excited. But then when the crucial second came to let Manso go, when Joseph and Mary and Kanusch were heading away from where we were, to our great shock Jere Bruner and Klaus Barth appeared. They realized what was about to happen, and held onto the cabestro [halter] that was attached to Manso, and so spoiled everybody's fun, most of all Manso's.
Anyhow, this letter is getting too long again. But I thought, or rather believe, by this little story people can really feel how Heini influenced Po in such a meaningful way, And if Po should write again, perhaps he can write about the very challenging time when he sat in a cupboard and Constancia knocked the #@$ out of him with a broom.
Well, I shall have to finish now. I have just come from the Museum of People and Nature. Anybody coming to Winnipeg, I highly recommend it. The Hutterites and Mennonites are also represented there. I still intend to visit everyone who invited me, like Trumpi's and Michael Boller. My next stop is Forest River. So all the best to everyone, and thanks for all the letters I got in Windsor. A friend sent them all to me here. So all the Best, Your Compa–ero,
Miriam Arnold Holmes 11/13/91: I want to thank Balz and Bette very much for their historical accounts which shed new light on past traumatic events. Telling the truth about things that happened in the past is important for all of us. Recounting negative experiences does not mean that we hate. The words "hate" and "anger" crop up periodically in various letters, and often in the context that they are unhealthy or harmful. I myself can't find "hate" in the KIT letters, "hate" meaning "to bear malice." Whereas anger is indeed expressed in KIT, and so it should be. I guess people get the words "hate" and "anger" confused. Anger is a feeling, just as sadness, happiness or fear are feelings. Feelings are always legitimate and should not be denied. Nobody will stop being angry (or happy or afraid or sad) just because someone tells them to do so. It does not work that way. The worst things we can do with anger is to deny and suppress it, or to carry it around with us and let it fester. Sooner or later, the anger will erupt in a destructive way if it does not kill the bearer first.
Anger will get resolved if we allow ourselves to feel it, identify its source, then talk or write about it. During the verbalization of anger, it is important to have another person acknowledge the legitimacy of that anger in a non- judgmental way. A group of people who do that is even better. So even when the person or group who caused the hurt that produced the anger in the first place does not admit to it or express their true regret (even though that would help), anger will be resolved eventually. It will happen on its own. It can't be forced. Trust me. I know. I help people with those issues every day. I do it for a living. I see it happen again and again.
To Eileen and Hannah Goodwin, a memory of your father Fred: When we lived in Oak Lake together, Fred would ask me to make music with him. We would go to the ballroom-gym in the school where there was a piano. You dad would bring J. S. Bach's Toccatas and Fugues for the organ. I would play the foot pedal part on the cello, and your dad would play the rest on the piano. It was beautiful and fun. It meant all the more to me because I was excluded at the time and Fred made me feel like a fellow human being as we played. A rare feeling for me at the time. I liked both your parents very much.
To Hans Jurg Meier: Lighten up! Most of the children I grew up with in Primavera, at least the ones who had some spunk, stole fruit from the "forbidden" trees. This fruit was meant for the old, infirm and pregnant and nursing mothers. The boys used to help themselves to an occasional chicken. They would take it into the jungle, pluck it and roast it over a fire. They feasted on it and returned home with a mischievous grin on their face. The food we were served (or forced to eat) in those early years was terrible, so we relished the "stolen" tidbits. Happy Holidays! With love,
Charlie Lamar 11/17/91: As a child in Woodcrest I had a garden. A small childish garden bounded by three footpaths leading to the Sinntal, Primavera and Carriage House buildings. Among other flowers, I had a daffodil, just one daffodil, that grew at the center of this rudimentary childish garden. One spring when the daffodil was in full bloom, I came by the garden expressly to enjoy the flowers and to my horror saw that the daffodil was gone. It had been very neatly clipped off. I was fairly certain what had happened. When I asked, the woman whose family I was in at the time said that a certain Housemother had asked her if she could pick the daffodil and she had told her that she could. I said nothing. I knew that these two people had simply acted according to the accepted moral philosophy of the Bruderhof.
The daffodil was in a bouquet with other flowers in the room of a sister visiting from Oaklake. Doubtless there was a card beside the bouquet purporting to convey the greetings of "All at Woodcrest." I believe I held back from actually placing a curse on the daffodil. But the Cherubim who took notes on that unfortunate occasion well know that I rendered that daffodil in spiritual fact unfit to convey the greetings of anyone.
According to the mores of the Bruderhof, the daffodil was mine to give but not to withhold. According to those mores, I was free to demonstrate my so called altruism by showing poise in the face of such assaults on my will as the Servants, Housemothers or other brothers and sisters might devise. But I could not determine the fate of the daffodil; I could not decide whom to give the daffodil or how it should be enjoyed. On the occasion of the removal of that daffodil from my garden, I began to hope for a way of life wherein "altruism" would be less artificial. I began to realize why altruism cannot be made a moral issue; why altruism can neither be taught nor forced; why it is not altruism if the individual is subjected to even the slightest pressure; why the individual must be freely allowed to say no.
As a child I listened very carefully to all I heard read aloud in the dining room at Woodcrest. I listened to what Eberhard Arnold had to say about private property and waited for the clinching arguments against it, but they never came. The closest he ever got was to point out that the word "private" comes from the Latin, "privare," which means to steal. But even then I realized that linguistic derivation is worthless as philosophic argument. And although I still thought of the Bruderhof as some sort of heaven and the outside world as some sort of hell, step by step, I found myself preparing a foundation to reject the Bruderhof way of life philosophically. The Bruderhof leads children who aren't even allowed to cultivate their own tiny gardens to grow up to be adults who dare not not cultivate their God-given minds for integrity and consistency of thought. Nor is this accidental.
The Bruderhof represents the tragic spectacle of a group of generally sincere and otherwise intelligent Christian believers clinging to a dead branch that still hangs from a great and living limb of the tree of human religious evolution. The limb of protest against state- identified Roman Catholicism from which the Anabaptists sprang later sprouted more fruitful branches of religious belief and practice. The Anabaptists were among the first to insist that real religious dedication can result only from informed, intelligent, ADULT choice, and that physical coercion has no place in the promulgation of religious faith. But they left it for other groups to push on further. Today, the more enlightened religious groups realize that since personal spiritual experience always generates its own theology, while in and of itself even the most advanced theology generates nothing, religionists have no business trying to establish a uni-formity of theologic opinion among believers.
It may not have been Eberhard Arnold's fully thought-out intention, but not only has his movement sought to enforce a uniformity of theologic opinion, but the Bruderhof religious system has often tried to force spiritual growth, not only in adults but even in children. Apparently Eberhard Arnold did believe in using force on children to achieve certain supposedly spiritual ends, and that may be the way the various kinds of physical, emotional and psychological coercion entered the Bruderhof picture. Except in those cases where a willing adult is legitimately unintelligent or naive (as are many) and sincerely collaborates with the coercive process, any "spiritual growth" thus secured is, of course, illusory. But even though sincere adults sometimes do grow spiritually under the most oppressive circumstances, not so with children.
In the current "Plough" there is evidence, although the passages are not clearly attributed, that Eberhard Arnold thought the quality of the children's community in the Bruderhof would constitute the proof of the spiritual validity of the adult Bruderhof community.
"The children's community is the place where
it will be evident if we are a church. It is so
entirely alive that one could almost say that it
is the one area that will show if our faith and
our life are what they should be." "The Plough"
Number 29 November/December 1991, pg 7.
Abundant material has appeared in KIT showing how the supposed spiritual (usually sexual) failings of children were used as levers in the power struggles among the adults, and showing the barbarous methods adults used supposedly to "purify" the children. As far as I am concerned this represents the betrayal, even defies any connection with, all that is good in the Anabaptist, let alone the Protestant, heritage.
But when you point out to Bruderhofers that their spiritual houses stand on foundations of sand, even when you prove it with the most ineluctable of logic, they just ignore you. They ignore Joshua when he so tellingly explicates the Bible. They ignore Ramon when he asks them questions for which they have no answer. They ignored me when I replied to Andreas Meier's letter of response to the Open Letter of the 1990 KIT Conference Workshop. They ignore what Balz Trumpi and Bette Bohlken-Zumpe have to tell about their history. They ignore Loy McWhirter and others who testify to the more extreme psychological consequences of a childhood lived in their communities. They say they really want to hear what former members have to say to them, but then admit (sometimes actually boast) that they don't read KIT. Like Mafia wives who don't really want to know what their husbands do for a living, instinctively they insulate themselves from the knowledge of the more troublesome aspects of their way of life. It's dangerous for them to realize or to know too much. Basically they are trapped in a warm gemutlich cage.
The door to the Bruderhof cage has two springs to the trap. One is the fact that members have no material resources to sustain them individually if they take up a minority position against the brotherhood. The other is their belief that God validates the sometimes mistaken, sometimes faltering brotherhood, but not the sometimes mistaken, sometimes faltering individual brother or sister.
Apart from the further evolution of planetary religion as a whole, the only hope of the Bruderhof is that the ORDINARY brothers and sisters should find enough courage and basic intellectual integrity to inform themselves intelligently and responsibly about their actual situation by reading ALL SIDES of all relevant controversies including such materials as appear in KIT, honestly admit to all they realize to be true, then actually allow themselves to think about what they perceive, and finally, find the still greater courage to live up to the superior loyalties legitimately engendered by such thinking. They talk a lot about martyrdom. They have set themselves up in a situation that provides them with a perfect opportunity if not for martyrdom for something close to it. They have an opportunity to witness to a greater truth than their own socio-economic group power structure will admit, and to do so against all the considerable intellectual, emotional and material pressure, if not retaliation, their society can muster. But I don't think it likely. Apart from the eventual evolution of planetary religion in general, I see very little hope for the Bruderhof....
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