Best of The 1993 KIT Newsletter
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,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald,
Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor,
Witless (in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
It encourages the expression of all views, both from
and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed
letters we publish are those of the correspondents and
necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
------------KIT Newsletter, January 1993 Vol.
Naomi Baer, 12/15/92: Happy New Year to all! A
wolf in sheep's clothing is still a wolf. The Bruderhof is
still the Bruderhof even if they dress in Hutterite garb.
My father's grave is not even half settled and the
Bruderhof, in the person of Dave Maendel (of all people)
contacts my mother for MONEY! (Dave's parents and
family and my parents and family share close history).
After taking my father's inheritance, savings and labor
for the years he was in the B'hof, they kicked him out
with 13 children, a pregnant wife, no medical insurance,
no job and of course no money, even for a month's rent.
The Bruderhof has no consideration for BASIC human
needs, that is, no HUMANITY when there are
The Hutterites, on the other hand, recognize
philosophical differences and yet helped us out with
food and shelter for a few months until my father found
a job. My sister Miriam then paid back the debt with
The Bruderhof treated us with the same inhumanity
when they chased us out into a very dangerous winter
blizzard late at night when we drove a long distance to
show our last respects for Dave's mother. A stray dog
would have been treated with more dignity for life than
we were. I am sorry for Dave that he is acting as the
Bruderhof vulture. To beg for money from the very
people they have kicked out and then kicked in the face
again. I am sorry for the lack of dignity Dave shows. I
am sorry for my mother's scars being scraped open once
again, and then so soon after my father's death, and then
by someone whom I want to respect.
I could talk about Bruderhof wealth. I could talk
about their Christian out-reach. But it doesn't make
sense. As family and friends, the caring contact to make
with my mother is to OFFER, not to BEG. The rest need
Carol Beels Beck, 1/15/92: ...This is part of a
covering letter sent to all my family brotherhood
members in the Pennsylvania communities. (With this
letter I sent a copy of the letter printed in the November
'92 KIT addressed to Ramon's son-in-law, John Rhodes.)
"The way people continue to be treated up to the
present (see the letter to John Rhodes) makes me just so
deeply grateful I am not beholden to the Brotherhood
anymore. I am FREE. I am allowed to be free just to
listen to my own conscience before God. I do not have to
blindly trust directions and decisions decided by a
leader at the top, however well-meaning and loving that
person may be. John Rhodes cannot be solely held
responsible for this deliberate, cruel repeat of history.
He is backed by the Brotherhood. What has this decision
got to do with Christ's teaching: 'If someone asks you to
go with them one mile, go with them two?" Wasn't Jesus
speaking about the enemy doing the asking?'
"About the last paragraph -- Mummy and Daddy,
please try and understand why I had to write that. You
always loved us. You were only doing what was expected
of you as loyal Brotherhood members. Since hearing
directly from ex-members in KIT and through reading
Roger Allain's book, I just have a growing compassion
and understanding for you both as my parents, for what
you went through all those years. So much suffering and
heartache could have been avoided if only...! When I was
still living in New Meadow Run in 1979 I remember
having a frightening recognition that I was so afraid of
being my true self that I had lost my own inner sense of
discrimination. I so much longed to be accepted back in
the brotherhood that I could not be my genuine self. (For
every little thing I had to run to an authority figure for
guidance.) I now feel a tremendous sense of relief not to
feel under any pressure to conform and feel united on
all 'important' matters.
"It is probably too much to hope that at least one or
two of you will have to question as loving what is being
done to Ramon, to put pressure on him to stop helping to
edit KIT. KIT has changed for the better, I believe, since
the two KIT conferences last summer. It is sad that as a
group you have decided to cut yourselves off again from
honest, open exchange, as individuals see and experience
their Bruderhof past. All I know is that by reading these
honest, heartfelt sharings, so much suppressed fear and
anxiety still locked inside me is strangely released.
Those five years when we lived near Woodcrest (1967-
1982) are making a lot more sense now. But I feel no ill
will or resentment towards any of those directly
responsible at that time or later.
"It is a real loss to me now that I never had the
opportunity to form a close bond as a child with any of
my four grandparents. (For KIT readers, the only thing I
knew about my grandparents as a child in Paraguay was
what presents they sent and what our parents told us
about them. I just got to know my grandmother for a
short time in 1961, and that meant a lot.) I seriously
question whether the B'hof is doing enough to allow
B'hof children to get to know closely and for its own
sake, their "outside" grandparents. I remember a
number of incidents where young families in New
Meadow Run discouraged outside grandparents the joy
and fulfillment for forming a close relationship with
their grandchildren. Please don't just dismiss as off the
track what I have said about the importance of the
extended family. This way Bruderhof children also are
helped to value and respect and LOVE people who think
and live completely differently."
------ Food For Thought ------
From The Art of Daily Activism by Judith L. Boice,
Wingbow Press, 7900 Edgewater Drive, Oakland, CA
94621; tel: 510 632-4700, 230 pps. $14.95 postpaid,
1992 (as quoted in "The Whole Earth Review" Winter
"Howl. Crack peanuts in movie theaters. Go barefoot
in the spring. Eat more ice cream. Live. Experience.
marrow of the world. Enjoy. These are the ten
1.Thou shall love the world.
2.Thou shall love thyself. Thou shall love. Period.
3.Thou shall enjoy.
4.Thou shall follow thy bliss.
5.Thou shall refuse to do anything else.
6.Thou shall make love with thy fellow human
7. Thou shall respect all of Creation.
8.Thou shall speak thy Truth.
9.10.Thou shall celebrate with gratitude 'til the end of
"So get on with it. Get holy and roll in the
grass and kiss a dog. This is serious business,
and you'd better get down to it (or up to it,
depending on whether you are facing up or
down in your somersault.) Saving the world
is heavy stuff. Chuck it. Get on with creating
the world you want to live in. Who wants to
repair the same old wreck? Recycle it. Build
a new model."
Reviewer Lara Owen comments: "Judith Boice's
book is not one of the guilt-provoking do's-and-don't's
breed of environmental literature. This is a guide for the
nineties, a sophisticated look at the realities of trying to
live with care for the planet and for ourselves. This
lively guide to being an earth warrior covers a lot of
territory... It's packed with information, useful advice,
and stories from the author's travels around the world...
Boice recommends that instead of thinking of "saving the
world" we work to create a world we want to live in.
This book brings the roaring, wild, holy life back into our
desire to make a world for our children in which clean
water and fresh air are a reality, not a distant memory."
Steven Sears (from a teleconferencing network
called 'The Well'):
"We hope that out of the emergence of the child,
those triumphant and those wounded, that a
reconciliation can take place. The triumphant child who
does not make an attempt to connect with those
wounded children becomes a self-centered egomaniac
concerned only with his own or her own personal
evolution, looking down on suffering humanity with
contempt and scorn, looking up to its Gods with an
adoration that fills the heart with the triumph of power.
And the wounded child who does not make the attempt
to connect with his brothers and sisters who have "made
it," picks fights in the underpass with Jerry Munson, and
blows smoke in the faces of those uppity girls, looks up
to its Gods with an adoration that fills the heart with
triumph of revenge. I think that before there can be a
reconciliation of fathers, sons and daughters, there must
be a reconciliation of brothers and sisters -- those
brothers and sisters who break out of the spell of
paternalism. Ultimately to become a human being, I
think, means to become reconciled with the rest of
humanity, and the fight is for that, and the love comes
out of that."
------------KIT Newsletter, February 1993 Vol.
KIT: The current status of the Jake Kleinsasser
Vetter's removal as Elder is as follows: Jake claims that
all the accusations against him are lies, the documents
backing the allegations are fabrications and forgeries,
and he continues to protest his innocence. Jan. 8, he held
a meeting with his "faithful" ministers and they decided
that they were the real Schmiedeleut branch of the
Hutterite church and the majority of the Schmiedeleut
colonies who voted against him were not. Somehow
about $47,000,000 dollars seem to be unaccounted for.
One source theorized that the reason Jake is holding
on so hard to his position is that there may well be a
great deal more in the way of financial mismanagement
and other shennanigans yet to be uncovered. In the
meanwhile, some of the individual Canadian colonies
allegedly have been milked dry because some years
earlier Jake Vetter was able to convince them to sign
papers giving him access to their bank accounts.
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 1/12/93: I never
considered myself a very religious person. However
since our family was sent away from the community in
1980, I have experienced that we needed -- or shall I
say I in particular needed -- God more than I ever did in
the commune. In the commune we had practically
everything we needed in order to live. Here in
Washington, PA, we had to more or less fight step by
step to gain ground. I have given a lot of thought to how
the people in the commune define the word "Love." I
have been very puzzled, and still am, how it is possible
that the commune says that things were "only done out
of love." So many hurts, so much pain has been inflicted
not only on us but also on so many others! And it was
only "done out of love?" I personally find that statement
very hard to cope with.
I am glad to say along with Carol Beels Beck that I
can now join the ranks of those who are not afraid any
more to say and write what they feel. Thank you, Carol,
for your honesty and for how you tackle the task of
writing to different ones in the commune. I too feel very
concerned about history repeating itself in regard to
Ramon's grandchildren. Again I ask, is it right to tell
people that if they take part in KIT that they may not
visit their loved ones? Is this again a case of "it is only
out of love?" This whole issue has puzzled and worried
me for years. We were once told that when one of our
children was put on anti-depressants and we were not
informed, "It was only done out of love to you, not to let
I lived forty years in the commune, and there are so
many questions that remain unanswered that I never
was able to work things out. I never received answers to
my anguished questions. Here at this point I would like
to say that in spite of everything, my childhood was a
blessing. I came from war-torn England and was a very
confused and frightened little girl, to say the least. Then
I was as good as adopted by Victor and Hilda Crawley.
They loved me and made my childhood a time about
which I have fond memories. I thank them for being
such good parents to me. I was a very lonely little waif
before they took me in. As I progressed from childhood
into adolescence into young adulthood, I experienced a
lot of turmoil and heartbreak. I was on the verge of -- or
actually experienced -- a nervous breakdown. Later I
always wished and hoped that things would improve,
but I am sorry to say it went from bad to worse.
Carol writes that she wanted so badly to be reunited
with the b'hood. I too went through a similar period. I
tried so hard! I repeatedly wrote confession letters. I did
everything I could think of to be reunited with the
brotherhood, all to no avail. I suffered a lot of heart's
We have been here in Washington for 12 years. I
have been able to experience some peace of mind and
heart. I have been able to be myself! I always had to be
something else in the commune, or rather, I could not be
the person I was and am meant to be. I would like to
respect those who live their life in the commune, if that
is truly what they feel they have to do. By the same
token, I hope that they, the Bruderhof, will respect my
decision to live a different way of life. I tried very hard
when living in the commune to fit in, to submit, but also
to be myself, to be my own person. But it simply was not
possible. I had to swallow a lot of my feelings, I could
not voice my opinion because we were not permitted to
have our own opinion. I wish that the members of the
brotherhood will respect us and not tell us, as I have
been told, that I am living in sin because I do not live in
community. I have come to the conclusion that their way
of life is not mine, and that in actual fact I am not called
to live in the community. I never really wanted to live in
community, but I really had no choice.
So I close in saying that I will respect the members
of the Bruderhof for living the way they do if that is
truly what they feel called to do. My decision is to live a
different life, and I wish in turn to be respected for my
Joseph Wipf Vetter, Dec. 21, 1992 [translated
from the German]:
Beloved Brethren: We feel obligated to inform you
what transpired at the meeting of 12/10/92, at the
Starlite Colony in Manitoba. After a lengthy discussion of
the circumstances without reaching a conclusion, many
of the older ministers pleaded and exhorted with Jake
Kleinsasser to give God the honor and respect due him
and admit what he has done, and to acknowledge also
that he can no longer be the Senior Elder (or Head of the
Colonies) because we already have much evidence
against him of his wrongdoing. Jacob Kleinsasser and all
his supporters brought up the request that all who do
not agree with the letter of December 9 & 10, 1992,
should stand to be counted for Jake Kleinsasser as Senior
He could not be persuaded from this course of
action, although many tried to dissuade him. In spite of
the fact that many were against this action, this was
voted on and his request was granted. Therefore 78
ministers stood up to be counted to retain Jacob
Kleinsasser as their Senior Elder. 95 remained seated,
their insight was that with the blemish already found
against him, he should no longer be Senior Elder. The
conclusion arrived at is that he is no longer Senior Elder
of the Schmiedleut colonies. In his own words, as he
himself said on November 7, 1992, "That all who agreed
with Joseph Vetter's writings of August 28, 1992, no
longer have a Senior Elder."
Therefore we will need to deal with this shortly
after the New Year. Thus ended the meeting of December
P.S. It was also our plea to Jacob Kleinsasser and Michael
Waldner of Millbrook that they admit and acknowledge
their wrongdoing that they might avert the great
tragedy of a dichotomy or fracturing (of the Church). "He
who coceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he
who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy" --
Proverbs 28 v. 13. It is our plea to all those who stand
with him in this trouble that they might sincerely take
to heart how wrong it is to stand on the side of this evil
that they might nor become partakers in another's sins.
Your humble co-worker,
------------KIT Newsletter, March 1993 Vol.
Teresa Hsu 1/29/93: Thank you for sending me
Roger's book, which I devoured overnight. As a result of
your printing my note, a few have written to me, but
their letters took quite a while to reach me because your
list of addresses gave my postal code number as 1934,
but it should be 1954. You also asked me for more
details regarding my ejection from Primavera. I don't
really know to this day the nature or extent of my sin. I
thought I was quietly and wholeheartedly doing my
duty in the hospital. And one day, out of the blue, I was
sent for to come to the office. When I went there, I saw
three men, two of whom I did not recognize. I sat down
and they told me I had to go away. I said, "Why? What
have I done?" greatly puzzled. And they said, "We really
do not have a reason, but we think you do not belong
Then I was told to get ready and I would be told
when transport was ready. Meanwhile, I was to stay in
my room. I cannot remember how my meals were
arranged -- maybe plates were left at my window. I
noticed that when one or the other passed by my
window, they looked the other way. So I tied up my
little pauper's bundle, a few changes of clothes and a
bible, got on a wagon, went to Rosario and was put on a
boat. That was the end of my contact with the
community to which I wholeheartedly gave my life.
I was puzzled but not bitter. I thought if I totally
gave my life to God and to His poor, He would show me
the way to serve Him. How I landed penniless with no
valid identity papers in a strange place, Asuncion, where
I did not know a soul, and how I took one year to work
my way back to my home in Malaysia, is another story.
But all this time I felt cared for and protected by a
Superior Power. Looking back, I feel grateful for that
loving guidance, call it "Divine" if you like. Again, my
loving greetings to you all, workers and readers.
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 2/18/93: First of all I
would like to thank Ramon for starting KIT and for more
or less bringing us all together. I personally enjoy having
been able to take up old friendships again after so many
years. We knew how many people had been sent away,
but did not know where they were. Now we know, and
can renew old friendship. The commune really did not
want us to contact each other. They hoped that we
individuals would be so loyal and reject any attempts
made by other ex-members to contact us. It all has
turned out differently! For instance, we were dumped
here in Washington, Pennsylvania. The commune forgot
that Albert and Connie D'hoedt, friends of ours of long
standing, lived here in Washington. They also forgot that
Clara Arnold Berman lived not far from Washington. So
what did we do? One of the first things we did was
contact Albert and Connie. Then we wrote to all of
Augusto's brothers and sisters to tell them the good
news -- that we had been kicked out. Good news travels
fast! Very soon we had a whole circle of ex-members in
contact with us and our house soon became a meeting
The plain brothers and sisters got together with
some of the not-so-plain brothers and sisters. However
we soon found out that in actual fact we were all just
plain brothers and sisters, very ordinary people, and we
all had in common the fact that we were all sent away
and had to make a new life for ourselves. I will never
forget the day when our relatives, one by one,
telephoned us and expressed how glad they were that
we had joined the ranks of those who had been sent
away. We heard about some others who had been sent
away after we were. So we tried to contact them, asking
if they needed help. We knew how hard it is to start
from scratch, especially if there were young children
involved. Our help offer was rejected. We were notified
by letters via the commune that we should seek our way
back on our own and not contact ex-members. We were
made to feel that contact with us would be as if we
would pass leprosy on to those who rejected our offers
of help. So that "put paid" to any help we would offer.
We did not tread where we were not wanted.
I rejoice in the fact that I can be my own person,
that I can offer and give help to others if I wish, and feel
compelled to do so. I have my space. I can make
decisions with my husband and feel that we can achieve
things together. I write to my relatives if and when I
want to. I am able to think for myself and do not need to
feel that I am not in concordance with the commune. In
the commune, I was known as "Nadine the Rebel!" Yes, I
was the rebel until I got squashed and felt that my spirit
was broken. As you can see, my spirit has revived and I
am on track again.
I spent most of my life in the commune -- 40 years
in and 21 out. For others it is reverse. Even though I
spent 40 years in, I still tried to think for myself, It was
not easy because I had to give in so many times.
Otherwise I would have been in quite some trouble.
Finally I learned to keep my mouth closed and take
things quietly, however fuming inwardly. It ate at me, to
say the least. Now that is all over! Phew! That was hard.
I also have had to realize that we cannot be friends with
the commune. It is either you repent and come back to
the fold or you are forever the dissenting ex-member.
There was a time then I said that we would like to be
friends, but was told in no uncertain terms, "That is not
enough." However, now I know that if I want to go to
church, I will go. If I do not want to go, I stay away. In
short, I make my own decisions. Hooray!
One of Margaret Stern Hawkins' "Gifts"
Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into
the next room. I am I, and you are you ... whatever we
were to each other, that we are still. Call me by my old
familiar name, speak to me in the easy way which you
always used. Put no difference into your tone: wear no
forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always
laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together. Play,
smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever
the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken
without effort, without the ghost of a shadow on it. Life
means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever
was. There is absolutely unbroken continuity. What is
death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of
mind because I am out of sight? I am waiting for you for
an interval, somewhere very near, just around the
corner. ALL IS WELL.
Hannah Goodwin Johnson, 2/3/93: I'm not angry
about my upbringing: as a child I received all the
necessities of comfort and protection; except for the
religious palaver the communications were open and
affectionate. This made the shock of having
companionship withdrawn in early adulthood such a
lasting shock -- it made me defensive. Beyond the hurt
feelings, fear is my dominating emotion. I don't want the
anger to become my defense because my fear is more
difficult to explain. Legal action would defeat my
purpose entirely. I was worried in my childhood about
social breakdown, about the uncertainty of belonging. I
am often confounded by ongoing anxieties that this
worry is my searching. And then I worry that my search
is not progressing, but I am driven by the promise that
if I seek, I shall find.
Among KITfolk, I identify with the mystified child --
repeatedly: "Why was I being punished?" Any society
that purges itself by executing most of its judgments on
the naughtiness of children will come to naught, Parental
responsibilities are always combined with attachments
and affections. To sue for assistance from those I blame
for my confounded affections would be to play into their
hands -- and confound it all the more. I have no interest
in settling for cash restitution from the commune
enterprise. I only seek the truth. Current members
cannot be held for past mistakes as far as I'm concerned.
Blaming is a call for rescuing: is this what some KITfolk
want from the Hutterian Brethren -- to be rescued by
...I was born to parents that belonged to a group
where talking about another member without that
person present was a strict gossip prohibition rule called
'The First Law in Sannerz.' To agree quickly with your
adversary was enacted in the usual bureaucratic style: it
is always an existence of dependence: when a superior
advises you, comply quickly. As a child in the kingdom
where my parents attempted to follow The First Law in
Sannerz, I was taught not to talk behind another
person's back. This mostly meant complaining about
teachers was out; talking about other children could be
interrupted under this "law," but most of the time the
legality was slacked among the children -- I imagine it
created too great a demand on the adults. Anyway, I
thankfully had teachers that I looked up to. But I
became aware of the great complication for grown-ups
in implementing this 'law' when I would be told by my
parents that I had offended another grown-up. Then I
had a big problem apologizing for my behavior: I did my
utmost not to comply. I found it most disagreeable to
have been talked about by grown-ups. I was expected
simply to agree with what had been said about me. How
could I agree quickly with an adversary for whom I had
to rummage in my mind to find a sometimes very vague
memory of (in my awareness, grown-ups were at best
only relatives of my playmates).
....I have no interest in groups that demand a person
to answer to the group for having a personality. Being
disciplined to continue in the way of seeking, trying to
answer childhood's questions while admitting error is to
suffer the little children. To punish without explanation,
to cut off childish questions and to panic at the
possibility of error is to smother the little ones. "Why
was I being punished?" is a necessary question with the
instinctive need to avoid punishment, especially
punishment in the form of surprise attacks --
interrogation without a hearing.
Sending a child to her room by a parent is normal
enough punishment. Breaking up families, destroying the
parental responsibilities to punish and assist children in
social growing pains has nothing to do with what Jesus
said about self-denial. Putting a laborer in the
unemployment office after destroying normal family
social supports is cruel and unusual punishment
(unconstitutional in the U.S. -- Amendment VIII). And
for what but claiming a family regardless of religious
establishment? I realize that I have no case due to "no
law respecting an establishment of religion"
(Amendment I) and my petitions to whatever brother's
place get no redress for grievances.
Why and what for is this unusual punishment? How
can it be so cruel without an explanation? What crime to
refuse to agree with an adversary of such indirect
authority? This is what I hear in KIT: so many of these
stories are of children gasping for air, smothered by this
group punishment. Adult ex-members are ready to
admit personal involvement but don't know how things
got like that. Let me point out that before disobedience
there was choice, and after the original sin there is still
choice. No mortal choice can end the continual choice
process of the least "talen-o-reason". I will not bury my
freedom to reason; I will invest it in my search for truth.
I know of no other who has aught against me thinking
for myself, so I offer my reason to Justice....
------------KIT Newsletter, April 1993 Vol.
Jake Kleinsasser still
insists he is the Elder of the Hutterrian Church's
Schmiedeleut conference, and has forbidden any of the
opposing group to celebrate the Lord's Supper this
Easter. Joseph Wipf Vetter, leader of the opposition, is
trying to determine how best to handle the Schmiedeleut
split. At a recent meeting called by Wipf, all the
ministers declared their position before going home to
ask their colony members to vote for whom they wanted
to follow. Insofar far as the missing monies are
concerned, it sounds like the Wipf group probably is not
going to press the issue.
------------KIT Newsletter, May 1993 Vol.
Dear KITfolk: Well, the April Fool's page
obviously yanked someone's chain, since Ramon received
an anonymous message on his phone machine the same
day that the KIT issue arrived on the East Coast.
The message contained a suggestion both
anatomically impossible and socially incorrect. We are
currently circulating cassettes of the phone message and
running a "Name That Mystery Voice" contest, with
prizes yet to be announced. We might suggest any
potentially interested parties check their long distance
phone bill for an April 12th call to 415/ 821-2090.
Since this phone call is symbolic of the current state
of non-communication and mis-communication between
the B'hof leadership and KIT staff -- as well as many
contributors and readers, it might be helpful to review
the status of the relationship.
First and foremost, the Bruderhof must stop
pressuring KIT readers with family members in the
communities to choose between KIT and family visiting
privileges. Johann Christoph Arnold specifically
guaranteed that KIT contributors' visiting privileges
would not become a bargaining chip, and would not be
used as blackmail. The opposite has become true in
many instances. As long as this condition remains, we
must consider the Bruderhof Elder a shameless
The Bruderhof's rationalization that "these are
family matters and not Bruderhof matters" does not hold
any weight at all because, as everyone knows who ever
has lived in the Bruderhof communities, there is no
difference whatsoever between a "family matter" and a
"brotherhood matter." Therefore this answer must be
viewed merely as a manipulative dodge.
It would seem that the traditional B'hof practice of
just throwing people and families out the front gate to
'sink or swim' as best they can has been somewhat
ameliorated. Also it seems that the children are being
given a tad more freedom (to engage in competitive
sports, for example). But KIT has received reports that
Woodcrest has threatened "to take to court" young
people who have attended college on "Bruderhof student
loans" and not yet paid them back. This seems a bit
penny-pinching for an organization that flies its own
twin-engine jet and has $47 million missing, doesn't it?
And what happened to the Hutterite Church's
avoidance of world courts? We suppose that has long
since been abandoned by the Arnold Leut as 'old-
fashioned.' But it might be interesting to find out just
how much in federal college student loan monies the
HSOB has absorbed over the years, while saddling
departing young people with the loan payments. And
what about the postwar German repatriation and
education payments? How many people, in whose name
those payments were collected, ever saw a dime?
Just recently at Woodcrest, a son of one of the
Servants (in his early twenties -- let's call him "Aaron")
mentioned to a guest that he was thinking of leaving the
community. The guest asked publicly at the Love Meal
(to welcome Dave and Maria Maendel back from Palm
Grove, Nigeria) why Aaron was leaving. Johann Christoph
began to berate Aaron from behind the microphone.
When the dust settled, Aaron was offered $400 and a
ride to New Paltz if he would make a public statement
that he "loved Jesus." Luckily the local survivors'
network was in place, and Aaron was quickly scooped up
by friendly hands. Meanwhile, his older brother arrived
at Woodcrest, on a visit from college. "Where's Aaron?"
he asked. "We threw him out today." "Where is he?" "He
doesn't need your help."
When things simmered down, older brother found
younger brother and took him back to college with him.
Actually there is a whole lot more to this story than we
will print for the moment.
It is way past time for the Bruderhof to make a
public acknowledgment of its misdeeds, to retract the
self-serving falsehoods published in "Torches Rekindled,"
to put in writing (despite its attorneys' expensive
advice) what it can and will do now to set right the
wrongs of the past, and generally to start behaving like
the brotherly and sisterly, loving and compassionate
group that its founder envisioned. Is this asking too
Nadine Pleil, 3/10/93: November 22, 1980, was
the day on which we, my husband Augusto and I, were
asked to go to a room near the meeting room in New
Meadow Run. [At that time we were still members of the
Bruderhof.] After lunch there was a brotherhood
meeting in which it was decided who should be sent
away from the commune. We were ordered by phone to
go to this room and wait there until we would be called
into the meeting. Some people had been prepared before
this said meeting as to what their fate was to be. It was
not felt necessary to inform us, the Pleils, as to what was
about to happened to us, our children, and to my
husband's sister Juanita who, although a baptized
member, was not even asked to come to the meeting.
So we waited and waited for about an hour. It felt
like we were waiting to be called into a courtroom for a
hearing. However we were not even given a just hearing.
We were told that we were to take our family and leave
the premises of the commune. It was Saturday, and we
were given four days to pack up our things. Augusto was
taken by Jorg Barth to Washington, PA, to look at a
house. My poor husband came home and did not dare
tell me what the house looked like. It was a shack. The
commune sent some brothers to make a few absolutely
necessary repairs. They did fix it up, after a fashion, but
it was still in bad, bad shape.
We were not actually told why we had to leave. At
the dismissal meeting, we were told to educate and bring
up our children the way we wanted to. So we did receive
the commune's blessing in regard to the children.
Several months before our expulsion I had been
placed in the small exclusion for something I had not
done. I understand that the commune says that one is
placed in exclusion only if one asks for it. I did not ask
for it. I was told that in the meeting, a servant would
place me in the exclusion and that I would have to say,
"I ask for exclusion." Well, I did just that, but I never
voluntarily said of my own free will that I wanted to be
excluded. Furthermore I was told that in taking on this
exclusion, I was doing it for all the brotherhood. Well, I
thought, so I am apparently of some use, but why was I
chosen to redeem other people through being excluded?
So here I was in exclusion, and into the bargain being
expelled on top of it all! My husband was speechless, and
my children absolutely dumbfounded, not understanding
anything except that they really seemed to be genuinely
pleased to leave the commune.
One servant said, "The New Meadow Run B'hof is not
strong enough to carry the Pleils." That made it sound as
if we, the Pleils, were not carrying our weight. We also
were told that this expulsion would not last very long
and that we now had a good chance to gather our family
and make a new beginning. In short, we were to work
toward returning to the fold, and feel grateful for this
time of grace that had been bestowed upon us. But as
you see, it all turned out differently. We did pull
together, not toward the commune but away. We vowed
we would make it on our own, and we did! It was hard,
but it taught us to be grateful for every inch of ground
we were able to gain. And finally we found a foothold.
We were told that we were being expelled out of
love for us and our children. I believe that we have a
very different definition of what love is than the
commune. As soon as we were told to leave, nobody
looked at us -- they even turned the other way. We
adults were told not to come to any of the mealtimes in
the communal dining room. We were being shunned. One
of us had to go to the kitchen to collect our meals. Our
children were allowed to go to the dining room. Now this
was ironic. Augusto and I were constantly told to take
our children in hand: they should not be allowed to be
alone, but supervised at all times by us. Now all of a
sudden our very, very bad children were allowed to go
to the dining room without their parents -- in fact,
At this point I did not really care much about this
unholy mess. I was close to a nervous breakdown, and
had enough to think about without having to analyze the
whole situation. But I do have to say that the whole
business struck me as rather strange. As it turned out, it
was a blessing in disguise that we were expelled from
Julius Rubin's article The Society
Syndrome in the
March KIT has given me food for thought. I lived 40
years in the commune and during those years I went
through great depression. I saw many young people
struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts. As a
young person, I too struggled with the same. It has
disturbed me very much that so many young people
experienced such deep depression. I myself do not know
how I managed to snap our of it all. However I did snap
out of it, only for it to reoccur later on what I was
married and had 8 children. However at times, "Nadine
the Rebel" did reappear, only to be squashed again and
I had a thing about being depressed. Feelings of
depression, I was told, were sinful. I was afraid of being
in trouble if I confessed to being depressed. I had to
muddle through these awful feelings of depression on
my own. I was told not to be so self-centered -- that was
sinful. Only now do I realize, with some amount of shock,
how deeply depressed I was. It is a very heavy burden
to have to carry these feelings of depression around with
me. I think our neighbors here in Washington, PA,
helped me out of it all. They talked to me, they
appreciated my input. They accepted me for that I am.
Very soon I felt accepted and was able to contribute to
common ideas, take part in activities, in short to adjust
to a new way of living. A new life opened up for me.
Until that time, I had isolated myself. I felt I had nothing
to contribute. I realized that my feelings had been
cramped up. I had not been able to think for myself, and
I could not have an opinion. Soon I opened up and, much
to my own amazement, I was fitting in. Even though I
was adjusting, I often felt myself withdrawing, thinking
that I was not worthy enough to have an opinion of my
own. I was so used to letting others think for me, to
make decisions for me. However now I was in a situation
where I was confronted with having to make decisions.
It was a good feeling. I realized that for a long time I
had just accepted everything, whether I wanted to or
Now I do not feel depressed. Sometimes I am
thoughtful or feel sad. Out of all this, I have learned to
be compassionate, to understand what others have had
to endure. We all need understanding and compassion. I
will end on that note, and hope that each one of us can in
some way or other recuperate from all the pain. Many
greetings to you all,
Paul Allain, 3/25/93: It has taken me a very
long time to write again, but now that my mother asked
me to mail you another copy of the photo with my dad,
Roger Allain, for the new edition of "The Community that
Failed," I would like to make the following comments on
the last KIT newsletters, which I find very interesting
and stimulating: one of the positive sides of the KIT
letters is that they illustrate how most of the bruderhof
survivors have managed to rearrange their lives and
find new goals and interests to pursue. This also
happened with me, when I was a brotherhood member
studying in Brazil and was called to Primavera and
suddenly faced with the hard-to-understand question, in
July 1962, about the "new spirit" which was supposed to
have taken hold of the community and if I wanted to be
part of it. Stan Ehrlich had some talks with me, trying to
convey the "new spirit" and what it entailed, but I was
at a loss to understand what the real issue was. I just
felt that something did not smell healthy in this
situation. The main problem which I faced and which
took me some years to understand, was that as a
Primavera youngster I had been "spared" the vital
information concerning the decision-making process for
exclusions, the criteria for considering a member "in" or
"out" of the right spirit, the limits of authority and
responsibility of the "servant' (dictator) of the word, and
You see, we kids at Primavera did not have the
slightest idea of what is called basic human rights and
how the country and state laws related to them. We just
could not think of leaving the community, because there
was no background to step on, except that of the
community way of life. We did not have documents (kids
who had not traveled yet), decent clothes, social
manners, etc. Everything outside of the community was
strange to us. Above all, there was the adults' systematic
way of cutting any initiative related to anything that
could be considered different. So most kids ended up
losing that vital thrust towards self-fulfillment, which is
part of adolescence, and a youngster's stage in life.
What I want to stress is that the community leaders,
consciously or not, imposed a very narrow-minded
Weltanshauung on the group, so that self-
fulfillment for the children and young people was only
possible within very narrow religious limits.
Later in my life I came to realize that we youngsters
were sexually castrated, in a psychological sense,
because there were no "outlets" for sexuality before
marriage. This often pushed the youngsters, so to speak,
into masturbation and the like, which was considered a
very serious sin. I can only conceive of this whole
psychological system as having been very cunningly
designed by the founder (or some of the early members
involved in setting up the managing structure of the
community principles) in order to enable the "servants"
and/or "witness brothers" to impose their rule through
sin (as the catholic church has done for centuries).
That also explains why members who apparently
have a normal level of intelligence hold onto tradition
with such fervor. I ask myself: what is the usefulness of
tradition in a world that is constantly changing? Is it not
like the efforts of a swimmer to cling to a branch in a
strong current for hours on end, when he could let go
and swim to the riverbank? So I find it very stimulating
to read in KIT how many ex-members have managed to
let go of the branch and launch themselves into the flow
of life, and finally reach a safe place to continue their
Now, coming to the question of the "Hutterian
Brethren" curtailing visits of family members on the
ground of association with KIT, I feel this attitude has
come to such extremes that it is time for those who feel
they have been hindered to file a Class Action lawsuit
against the Hutterian Brethren. This could have
additional good results. For example, community
members who up until now have been unaware of this
"no visiting' policy would have to face this question. Also
such a lawsuit would call the attention of the federal
government to the issue of b'hof policy versus basic
human rights, which they should be ashamed to be
violating, especially in view of proclaiming themselves to
be followers of Christ, who did not even "exclude" the
woman accused of adultery.
Actually this attitude of the community leaders
shows how weak their leadership is, and on what a
fragile basis (that of blocking information) they imagine
to be able to continue leading. The thing is that
information can sneak into so many cracks and it is
nearly impossible to keep it out of reach of somebody,
all the time....
Bette Bohlken Zumpe, 4/21/93: We in Holland
are pretty shook up about the happenings in Waco, and
that once again an American sect ended in suicide in
such a horrible way. People who know me and my
community background have phoned me and the
question arises, "If such a thing would be possible with
our Bruderhof people." I myself believe "NO," at least at
I think in the 1960s and early 70s under my uncle
Heini, such a mass hysteria could have been provoked if,
say, Heini had said, "I had the message from above, that
we as a group should meet our savior tonight in
Paradise..." Many people would have been willing to
"follow that call" and believe that this would have been
the right thing to do, with the choir singing right up to
the very end. Now I believe that the communities are
much more material-minded and much less prone to
such extreme behavior. But still, the danger is there. I
just followed a discussion on TV about religious sects
and cults. The question was asked, "When does a religion
become a cult?" and the answer given was, "When they
start proclaiming that joining them will save your souls!"
In other words, when a group feels that they have
captured the truth for themselves and reserved a place
in Paradise for themselves! This made me think how
close to the excess of religion we have all been, and how
far away from the simple, childlike faith in a guidance
We, the children of the B'hof, were trusting and
believing, but failed to understand such things as
"exclusions" that would break up the "safety" of our
homes and make us ashamed of our parents when they
were victims! I feel so happy, that we have found a
place to share these feelings and know that "our friends"
will understand because they have been there also! This
"understanding" helps us a great deal to come into
balance and to go on with our lives and leave the past
behind us, at long last!
Also I was touched by Teresa Hsu just not
understanding "WHY" she had to leave Primavera. The
question remains: "Why did we let this happen?" If we
had brought this into the news media at the time, it most
certainly would have had the effect of slowing down the
process of "Just getting rid of loyal members" or
doubting their true calling. Luckily, the world is so much
larger than the premises of this small sect. The need for
positive-thinking men and women will be valued more
in the places where the need is great. So, maybe Teresa
was just "led out" of this sect to a greater calling, to
serve mankind the way she does!...
Br. Witless: The following poem was sent in by
one of our new readers, Zoote Kayse from Waalwijk in
the Netherlands. An ex-member of The Positive People's
Party, he is at present recuperating in hospital, where he
wrote this poem after he had carried out an electrical
alteration at home using only positive wires (after which
he was also carried out.)
Are You Positive?
They said "You must try Positive Thinking.
Nevermore in sadness sinking.
Forget those negative thoughts and fears
that dogged your footsteps through the years.
"Even if you fall off a cliff
you'll minimize the damage if
you remember as you're going down
to give a smile and not a frown."
(such a positive reaction
could save me from a year in traction)
They said they thought it would be best
I put my new faith to the test.
The cliff test seemed a trifle drastic.
(they wouldn't let me use elastic)
I told them that I never could
walk a wall of brick or wood
without falling, come what might,
either to the left or right.
"Try it! think Positive! think Wide!
and you'll not fall to either side."
True, neither right nor left I fell,
if I had -- all had been well,
but fall I did with high-pitched squeak,
and couldn't sit down for a week.
(despite the frequent application
of Transcendental Medication)
They told me I would surely find
that pain was only in the mind.
I tried in vain my thoughts to bend,
but still felt pain the other end.
But it is true just as they said,
my former feelings all have fled.
Of Negative Thoughts no longer a headful,
I feel Positive, yes --
---- Book Review ----
Women in Spiritual and Communitaran
Societies in the United States,
edited by Wendy E. Chmielewski, Louis J. Kern
and Marlyn Klee-Hartzell
Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press,
1993, 275 pps., $12.95 paperback.
Reviewed by Julius Rubin.
The editors have commissioned fifteen essays from
scholars in American social history, economics, political
science, and English to explore dimensions of women's
participation nineteenth and twentieth-century
communes. Marlyn Klee-Hartzell introduces this work
and presents central questions and feminist perspectives
that include: how to recover the experience and
expression of women in American spiritual and
communitarian societies? What attracted women to
intentional communities? What was the texture and
diversity of women's spirituality in community? How
can we understand and recover the experiences of
apostates who abandoned their utopian pursuits? How
can we understand the dimensions of sexuality within
diverse communities that include celibacy, complex
marriage, and religiously motivated pro-natalism?
Finally, the authors raise questions about the fate by
many groups who attempted to forge social orders
dedicated to equality in departure from traditional sex
roles and family patterns.
The book divides into five parts: women's search for
community, women's creativity in community, women
and structures of leadership in community, women's
status and male power in community, and women's
voices and personal experiences of community.
This final section presents Ruth Baer Lambach's
"Colony Girl, A Hutterite Childhood," a person well-
known to KIT readers. An essay on female education
among Lubavitcher Hassidics, a remembrance of Twin
Oaks and an account of Gaskin's Farm comprise the only
other exhibits of twentieth-century communes.
The essays are largely devoted to nineteenth-
century case studies of women's participation among the
Shakers, Owenites, Mormons, Catholic female religious
orders, Oneida Perfectionists, and Transcendentalist
experiments like Brook Farm. Chmielewski has written
an important essay on the Women's Commonwealth,
begun by evangelical middle class women on the Texas
frontier near Waco who embraced the spiritual equality
of Methodism. Emboldened by a charismatic woman,
Martha MacWhirter, who preached before "Sanctified
Sisters" in private prayer gatherings, MacWhirter's
group evolved into a celibate community of goods.
Academics and scholars in American history will
find much of interest in the lively and well-researched
topical essays exploring feminist dimensions of selected
nineteenth century communes. Kit readers, however, will
find themselves drawn to Ruth Baer Lambach's Colony
Girl, the latest installment of her remembrances of
childhood. She first published A Hutterite Girl Tells
Her Story in 1965 as an appendix to Victor Peters'
All Things Common, The Hutterian Way of Life .
Writing at age 20 as a student at Moorhead State College
in Minnesota, Ruth created a sentimentalized depiction
The narrative opens one morning when Ruth, as a
girl, overslept the first bell. We share her memory of
rushing to join children's prayers, braving the rigors of
German school and the strap as punishment for
seemingly minor offenses, frolicking among schoolmates,
playing house, and enjoying the enchantment and
boredom of Sunday celebrations. Ruth writes of her
longing to leave childhood and at age fifteen, enter the
Hutterite life stage of Dieen -- a young woman in
transition to adulthood and marriage.
"For us to become 15 meant freedom, no more
German school, and no more supervision by the
Schullehrer." (Peters, p. 205)
Colony Girl revisits the themes of Ruth's
Hutterite girlhood but with the narrative voice of a
mature, seasoned woman. The Baer family pursued a
remarkable religious pilgrimage from their beginnings as
Mennonites in Bright, Ontario, to experiments with
congregate Mennonite living, a trial at a Hungarian
farming cooperative, the Kubasek Colony, arrival at the
New Rosedale Hutterite Colony in 1949, transfer to the
Forest River Colony, and finally experiments with
Koinonia in Georgia and the New Meadow Run Bruderhof.
Ruth's early life was punctuated by a series of
uprootings, readjustments, and subsequent
deracinations. The themes of physical punishment, hard
work, submission and self-renunciation
(Gelassenheit), however, lose the sentimental
quality of the 1965 memoir. She recasts her girlhood as
bittersweet encounters where she learned the cost and
travail of forging a Godly life as a Hutterite woman.
Ruth recalls a whipping by her father, administered
because she called her kindergarten teacher 'a fat pig.'
This would prove a formative moment, solidifying her
aversion to corpulence where fat symbolized the
antimonies of Hutterite womanhood: submission to
partriarchy and self-surrender to endless childbearing.
"Fat women were all over the place in my Hutterite
ife. They exerted their influence and authority by
virtue of their position as married women -- fat,
complacent, long-skirted, and usually pregnant. Once
they gave birth to their child, which happened about
every nine months, they stayed home for nine
weeks, pampered with extra-rich food cooked by a
special cook in the kitchen. . . . After nine weeks of
vacation they entered the general work force; by that
time some of them were already pregnant again."
Ruth, as the firstborn child, shouldered much of
the responsibility for caring for her younger siblings.
Like many children and single women in the colony, she
was made to bear the burden of large families and
pronatalism while the fat mothers escaped this
drudgery. Added to the care of her brothers, Ruth
cleaned house, devoting herself to this work with a
ceaseless energy bordering upon compulsion. She
"I was like a neurotic housewife who badgered
everyone when I spotted the least splash in the
sink, a smudge on the windowpane, or a mark on
the floor that I painstakingly scrubbed and waxed....
By the age of twelve, I was given the name 'Kristel
Kristina;' she was a colony woman rumored to be so
fastidious she insisted on having her sheets changed
hourly on her death bed. When I hung out the clothes
I'd line them up so as to have a perfectly graduated
look on the washline. The sheets came first, followed
by the square diapers, the rectangular diapers, then
slips, underpants, and socks. If by chance I missed
one of the diapers I would go back and redo the
'whole line to make it look orderly." (pp. 248-249)
Ruth's memoir chronicles her efforts to succeed
as a dutiful child, student and peer among her age
mates. She formed a special friendship with Joshua
Maendel and anticipated the rite of passage as a Dieen,
savoring thoughts of a seven-year courtship leading to
marriage and Hutterite womanhood. But Ruth's hopes
were never realized. She writes:
"By the summer of 1955 I was a thoroughly
socialized Hutterite girl. My future stretched out
before me, predictable and secure. But by the
winter of 1955 all hopes of announcing my
fifteenth birthday and becoming a Dieen and
then marrying Joshua were dashed. The Bruderhof
arrived at our colony and changed things forever.
My teenage years were filled with tumultuous
cultural and geographical shifts." (p. 254)
Colony Girl closes abruptly, leaving the story
untold. She wrote this Bruderhof part of her story in The
Spirit or the Letter (KIT Vol. II, No 7, July 1990, p. 138).
Thus, Colony Girl needs to be read as a chapter of a
remembrance in process that sheds the idealized images
of earlier writings to confront the complexities of
community and individual identity. Hopefully, Ruth Baer
Lambach will continue to revise and expand upon the
mature vision evidenced in this essay.
------------KIT Newsletter, June 1993 Vol.
Editorial: From the beginning of the
Bruderhof in Germany until the inception of KIT four
years ago, the Brothers and Sisters were able to operate
in obscurity, allowing only positive information about
the Bruderhof to be circulated around the world. KIT has
evolved from letters sent and phone calls made by
Ramon to people both in and out of the Bruderhof,
with the knowledge of the community, requesting
information about the life of his daughter, Xavie, which
the Bruderhof initially had denied him.
The volume and content of the letters responding to
Ramon's request for information evolved into KIT. KIT
for 'Keep In Touch,' which was and is the main theme of
the letters printed. Another theme that became evident
as the letters poured in was that the Bruderhof had
systematically, by use of coercion and blackmail,
separated families, thwarted association of friends
outside the communities and controlled the
dissemination of factual information about the
The Bruderhof's reaction to KIT, in the form of
veiled threats and covert attempts at coercion of ex-
members, relatives and friends, continues today in spite
of disavowals of such action by the leadership of the HBE
('Hutterian Brethren East,' as the Bruderhof now refers
to itself). Within the past month, at least four Bruderhof
families have told their children living outside not to
visit them. No explanation given except that of "bringing
wrong atmospheres," and how "until you feel how KIT
and gossip tear down and do not build up, it seems
better not to visit."
When individual Brothers have been queried about
the reason for the negative HBE reaction to people
outside reading KIT and associating with people who
write to KIT, the bottom-line response has been that
outsiders are trying to interfere with the internal
functioning of the Brotherhood. Anyone caring to read
KIT will discover that this is not the main purpose of the
letters, but the letters sent to KIT do indeed contradict
much of the public information releases by the HBE.
What is at issue is not outside interference in internal
HBE affairs, but power. Information is power, power of
the individual to make intelligent decisions, power to
influence public opinion for personal agendas.
The control of this information has been a policy of
the Bruderhof for more than thirty years and is now
challenged by letters to KIT. Now there is a means for
people to make and maintain contact, bypassing the HBE,
and the HBE no longer has total control over their public
One has a choice, when faced with coercion and
blackmail, to submit or resist. Borrowing from a
British author, "To be successful against coercion and
extortion, the knack is to resist within the area where
retaliation becomes progressively less profitable, and to
widen that area at every opportunity."
KIT policy has been and will continue to be to print
what is sent to KIT for publication. Public exposure is the
best way to widen the area where their attempts at
retaliation will become less and less rewarding to them.
Item: Word has come from various reliable
sources that the Schmiedeleut is splitting into two
factions. The schism is having a severe effect on many
Hutterite colonies. Families are moving away, either
'outside' or else to join the 'Oilers,' (the nickname for the
Jake Kleinsasser and Christoph Arnold group because of
the oil well investment fiasco) or with the 'Gibbies'
(because of I. Donald Gibb, the banker who documented
Jake Vetter's business acumen), the Jacob P. Wipf group.
Some husbands and wives have split up over the
decision. Other people are sneaking off the colony at
Woodcrest is sending members to
oversee and/or staff some of the Manitoba colonies. The
Oiler Boss and Minister of Poinsett Colony, South Dakota,
voted out by their pro-Wipf congregation, sued in the
Third Judicial Circuit Court to regain possession, claiming
that Jake Vetter's church was the real church, and the
people who sided with J. Wipf Vetter were no longer
church members. But the judge dismissed the case
without even hearing arguments.
The Jake K. and Christoph A. faction is appealing to
the state supreme court. Obviously this is considered an
important 'trial balloon' by the Oilers to see if they can
retain control over the physical assets of the splintering
Judy Tsukroff, 5/2/93: Today Arny and I had
a weird experience. We were scheduled to give a talk on
the B'hof to the Connecticut branch of the Cult
Awareness Network (CAN). As the small group gathered
in the meeting room of a church in a distant town, one
member called my attention to a woman in a kerchief
furtively peeking at us from the hall. "Unh-oh," I
thought. "Bruderhofers." And as I turned to look, whom
to my wondering eyes should appear but a tall, dark
man in black clothes: Klaus Barth. I greeted him by
A quick discussion ensued among CAN members to
the effect that present members of cult organizations do
NOT belong in CAN meetings. Meanwhile, Arny was
willing to have Klaus stay and hear the presentation he
had so carefully prepared, but I was not! Would you
believe that I was angry at this uninvited intrusion?
Then our group became aware that there were FIVE
carloads of Bruderhofers outside organizing themselves
to join Klaus and the lurking lady inside. They
outnumbered CAN members already there.
The coordinator explained to Klaus that he was not
welcome and would have to leave. Klaus said he had
come to explain that the Bruderhof was not a cult
because he had seen a poster about the meeting and
assumed that the public was welcome. That was strange,
since CAN notifies its members only by mail. In this case,
a flyer had been sent out ten days earlier with our
names mentioned above 'The Bruderhof' in large letters
as the subject of the meeting. The coordinator escorted
Klaus to the outside door. Next, he got on the phone to
the local police, asking for their help in keeping our CAN
meeting free from undesirable elements.
Just then a strange man in modern dress appeared,
saying that he was a member of a local Friends Meeting
and had been sent to CAN by someone who belonged to
'a national organization.' Since he could not identify the
organiztion and we had just been lied to by the
Bruderhof, we suspected him of being in a Bruderhof
spirit and made him leave too. (Heady stuff, this
exclusion business!) So the Bruderhof drove off, smiling
and waving, the Friendly man in their wake, just before
the police arrived to clear the air.
Arny and I gave our talk to an attentive CAN
audience. Late arrivals unfortunately missed the
Bruderhof demonstration of attempted cult control by
intimidation. We are grateful to the group for providing
us with a SAFE place to discuss cult issues freely. As
Arny pointed out, "If it walks like a duck, quacks like a
duck and looks like a duck, it's going to be called a duck."
So, if the Bruderhof doesn't like being included in
the list of dangerous cult organizations, they will have to
stop acting like one. For example, if they had not
THROWN US OUT twice, in 1961 and 1964, along with
hundreds of others, and if they would stop lying about
what really went on and still goes on, we would have
had nothing to share at a CAN meeting.
Later, when a few of us CAN people put our heads
together about the Friendly Man, some thought that he
really had come on his own. He said he had phoned the
CAN help line, and since the telephone was being
switched over to a new location, it is possible that we
didn't get his message. This may be a case of an innocent
man being washed out with the Bruderhof. The moral of
this story is that people really must be careful of the
company they keep; or perhaps in this case, walk in the
door with. However when we talked it over at home, I
mentioned how the Friendly Man tried so hard to shake
my hand as soon as he walked in, although I backed well
out of his reach. "Quack, quack," Arny commented.
What felt good to us was to have our own emotions,
decide what we wanted, say that out loud, and be able to
do what we felt was right without worrying about
approval from the Bruderhof. That kind of independence
from them has taken us a long time to develop. I wonder
what the consequences will be: will we be love-bombed?
Will no one visit us at all? Gee whiz! Or will Deer Spring
Bruderhof, who refuses to be on KIT's mailing list,
answer this letter in a future edition of KIT? Gosh! I'm
all a-tremble... Warm wishes to all KIT people,
Norah Allain, 4/27/93: I've been thinking
from time to time, for instance, about the Heini
phenomenon, and clearly you are right and it has a
demonic aspect such as many people saw in Hitler. But
having said that, you are admitting that there are
spiritual powers or beings existing on an invisible plane
which can use a human being in whom to manifest. This
puts the whole of human life into quite a different
context and, to my mind, practically removes, or at least
lifts, the veil which hides the other dimensions of life
from us. So what is the difference between the Christ
Spirit and the demonic? I think it is the use of power. I
often wonder how long the Bruderhofe will continue
under the influence of Heini. What sort of a person is
Christoph? Does he just carry on totally under his
father's influence, I wonder?...
Nadine Moonje Pleil, April 1993: ... Every year
when Easter came around and the Lord's Supper
preparations started, I panicked and started to get knots
in my stomach. I knew that I would have to confess
about my children. Also we would be subjected to
endless office visits to the dreaded Servants of the Word.
How much of this was I able to take? I had to go to the
Lord's Supper, or otherwise I would be excluded.
The office visits took place without fail, not only
before the Lord's Supper but every now and then we
would be called to the office. When the Servants wanted
a person to come to the office, they would page you. So
my poor husband, who worked in the shop, would be
paged. He was told over the PA system to dial 210,
which was the Head Servant's phone. Everyone would
know that Augusto was on his way to the office, and it
was a foregone conclusion that he was summoned to be
admonished about his badly behaved offspring. He had
to leave work, be it the middle of the morning or
afternoon. The Servants called, and Augusto had to go on
the run. I will never forget when I saw him coming
down the hallway all out of breath and with such a
worried expression on his face. It always bothered me
immensely to see my poor husband looking so harassed.
There were several years when it was felt that we
were not worthy -- the whole commune, that is -- to
have Lord's Supper. What a relief! It was like balm to
my heart! I was able to feel a certain amount of peace in
my heart, although no complete peace. I never
experienced complete peace of heart in the commune.
That simply was not possible. Too much had taken place
in my early years ever to experience a heart free of
turmoil as long as I had to live in the Bruderhof.
It has been twelve and a half years since I have had
to be subjected to visits to the Servants' office. At last I
have been able to experience some peace! Of course
some times we would have visits from the commune,
and those who visit us have tried to make light of that
peace of heart we have experienced here in Washington.
Apparently it is felt by commune members that true
peace of heart can only be obtained by living in
community as they do. We were actually told that we
were living in sin because we were not living in
community! I thought, "Well, we are in good company as
the majority of people do not live in community of
goods!" We not only surrendered our so-called goods, we
gave our hearts, souls, marriage and children. And now I
ask, "For what?" Why were we treated with such
disrespect? Was it solely because we were Pleils? There
must have been more than that. We never had a chance!
And as I have mentioned before, it was a blessing in
disguise that we were sent away. Otherwise we might
still be struggling and agonizing our life away! I could
not subject my children to that kind of treatment any
One day a teacher wrote a letter to the school
principal (instead of coming to us personally) about our
boys. Instead of talking to us, the principal sent the
letter to the Head Servant. The latter sent the letter to
us, and wrote "Take this very serious, Augusto and
Nadine," on the outside of the envelope. The letter had
changed hands three times before it reached us, and the
so-called concern was a very minor point all blown out
We, poor devils, of course ran to the teacher and
apologized about our bad children. We promised that we
and the children would do better, etc. In short, we
humbled ourselves and then we were humiliated. Then
we realized that our children's upbringing was being
taken out of our hands. We were told how to punish
them and what punishment should be meted out. We
really had no say in the matter. As you can imagine, our
children resented this. I became more and more fearful
of what might happen to my children and what might
happen to us. Had we not been living under the constant
fear of being sent away? I thanked God that I had been
allowed to work in the office for a few years and knew
about insurance, buying and selling, and many other
practical things. But still, the thought of being sent away
with a large family and left to sink or swim felt horrible!
When the ax finally fell and we were kicked out and
Augusto could not find a job, we were told, "Go on
Welfare." Just like that, and that hurt our feelings very
much. After all, we had given the best years of our lives
to the community, and now this was our reward: "Go on
Welfare." So we had to go on Welfare. We had six of our
eight children with us, so we had no choice but to accept
Welfare help. Our other two had been kicked out earlier.
Welfare asked, "Why did you leave a place where
you had everything you needed?" When we told this to
one of the brothers, he said, "You must say, 'We need to
gather our family and find a new day with the children.
Then we will go back to the commune.'" I for one was
infuriated. I told this brother that I would not lie to
Welfare, but would tell them the truth, nothing but the
truth, which is what I did. The Welfare worker was
shocked, to say the least. The Bruderhof always told us
what to say to the public.
Once I had to write a letter to a teacher to say that I
wanted my child excluded from high school Biology. I
was told exactly what to write, although as far as I was
concerned, the child could have stayed in class. Our child
was not to take part in the 'reproduction' part of Biology.
The pages of the biology book were stapled together, or
a paper band was put around those pages and the
children were not to read them. I wonder how many
children left those pages untouched. I know mine read
those pages. So we always had a spokesman, whether we
wanted one or not.
I often have wondered what went through the
children's minds in regard to the biology pages. I love to
read, and if as a child I had seen some pages taped or
bound together, those I definitely would have opened up
and read every forbidden word! "Curiosity killed the cat"
(but "Satisfaction brought him back!") So the children
made sure that no adult found out. I finally realized that
there was another way. The straight and narrow -- and
honest -- approach is the very best for parent and child.
We were not called to the Bruderhof kind of life.
Many are chosen, but few are called. I now realize that I
was not called, but I had no choice. So much played into
the fact that I HAD to become a member, yet I never felt
that the commune was my home....
Jacob Kleinsasser Vetter, [excerpted with
Woodcrest's permission from Johann Christoph Arnold's
"Palm Grove Diary"]
Darvell Bruderhof, 4/4/93: You all know that there is a big
struggle going on in the communities in Manitoba. It is
more of a rebellion than anything else. We can hardly
find such a bold uprising in the history of the Old and
New Testament -- or in The Chronicle -- as there is
now among the Manitoba and South Dakota communities.
It is turning out to be quite tragic, as it involves
breaking up colonies where there are some families who
want to stay with the church and others who say they
want to go with the opposition. The leader of the
opposition is getting all his reasons and arguments from
a Connecticut banker. He is out to victimize the colonies.
He thinks he is succeeding. He states (in the report you
may have read): "We've got to get Jake Vetter out of the
way first if we want to be successful." He had even set a
certain time. In sixty days they should have wound it up
and been successful in doing away with me, not by
committing a murder, but doing away with me as the
elder or leader. Another man thought they might even
be able to do it in thirty days!
They seem to be working very, very hard. They are
accusing me of lies and deception and even of stealing
millions of dollars. The southern and dissident colonies
have hired two people to investigate the whole church's
affairs and are trying to come up with millions of dollars
which they say have been stashed away or given away
or stolen. These two men made quite an investigation. It
was terrible to have them digging around in all the
church affairs. It was unbearable, waiting and waiting
while they were manipulating figures to deceive the rest
of the brothers. They said in their report that the
brothers are very easily victimized. They are working
very hard at it. And they are charging our unfaithful
brothers a tremendous sum of money.
They held their last meeting at Delta Colony and
invited everybody, every colony. They invited all the
stewards and secretaries. They had predicted that by
that time they would have everything put together, a
second book of lies and distortions. It would be laid on
the table, and that would finish me. But the
communities, that is, the ones that still stand together
with me and the church, were standing firm, and no one
accepted the invitation. There were four or five who
went out of curiosity to see what was going on at these
meetings. They phoned me beforehand to ask if they
could go. To some I said, "Okay, go and find out, and tell
me what is going on." They came back and told me about
it. It is unbelievable what these people will listen to.
Their hired investigators couldn't bring any proof, but
they kept on talking for hours and hours. Most of the
brothers don't understand what they are talking about,
but as soon as large sums of money are mentioned, their
eyes open wide. These investigators know how to make
an impression. They fool the poor brothers, who are so
blinded that they believe anything.
The split seems to be firming up more and more. I
don't see any way of reconciling anymore. The unfaithful
brothers are forming their own group. What hurts me so
much is that there are many brothers and sisters who
are not in agreement with what goes on in their colonies
but who are still living there. They would like to move
out; they would like to go to some other place. "When
can you deliver us, free us from the mockery and the
slander?" The evil statements being made in their
communities are unbearable.
As far as I am concerned, records have been kept as
straight as possible. I'm not afraid of that. I have never
been. I am only afraid of the great harm and damage
this attack will do to the church and to the many
brothers and sisters who want to remain faithful and not
go along with the accusations. It is hard to bear,
brothers. If you open your eyes, you can see how
discipline in the church is breaking down. I don't see
how it will ever recover. The unfaithful brothers are out
campaigning, trying to mislead the people in devious
ways, telling them, "Peace, peace," as Jesus said, "And
there is no peace." It reminds me of many passages in
the Bible and in our own teachings.
Today I received news that since Sunday they have
been going around to different colonies. They want to
confirm servants at Concord, James Valley, Hillside, and
Sturgeon Creek. It is beyond me to understand what is
happening. Why are they doing it? Maybe they are
trying to appease those people who were not capable of
being confirmed in their services before the church was
split. They think that now they can just go ahead and do
it, that tiffs is what will win people. It is like the Apostle
said: there are ravening wolves rising up among us who
do not spare the flock in trying to claim disciples. It is so
hard to bear, brothers! I hope you bear it with me. I
hope you can bear it yourselves. You know that it is a
ruinous attack, a hate-filled attack, on the whole church.
There is no sign of brotherly love or even reason.
The unfaithful brothers are trampling down respect
and discipline. At Aspenheim they cursed and swore at
me and were so rowdy at a church meeting that we had
to close the meeting. There was no point in continuing.
Then we had another large meeting of South Dakota and
Manitoba brothers, and we called them there. I thought
that maybe there would be better manners even if there
wasn't respect, but they were worse than they had been
in the smaller meeting. At the end they shouted, "We are
through with you. While you are living we will not be of
this church. We want to be our own." They kept
shouting, "We want to be our own. We don't want to
have anything to do with you." When we finally
managed to calm them down, I could only say quietly,
"Brothers, they've said what they want to be. They've
spelled out their statement and the verdict. I think we
should close." There was no use going any further. Now
they [the unfaithful brothers] have sent three brothers,
Johann Vetter from Riverside, Mike from Sommerfeld,
and Levi from West Rock, and Aspenheim has apologized
to them, and they are reconciled.
You know what discipline and repentance in the
church means: it means being broken. There is no
renewal without repentance. And there has to be order.
There has to be order in a church or among any people.
We have to have something to go by in order to be in
unity and harmony. But they are just breaking it down
left and right. They accept as brothers people who have
been renegades for many years in other communities.
You can see what the devil is aiming at. Once he can
break down the leadership, he will have the whole flock;
the sheep will run loose and scatter. The devil seems to
be quite successful. According to Scripture and all advice
and instruction, there must be respect for leadership.
Pray to God for God-fearing leadership. It must be. It has
to be -- like the heads on our own bodies. It is a great
gift when one has sound leadership and eldership in a
church. It brought us all this way from the apostolic time
on. At one point the record is lost, and then it starts
again with Jakob Hutter and all the elders up to the
Look how the church was able to suffer and still
stand firm and hold on to the faith, because it was an
ordered, established body of Christ on this earth. Now
the devil sees a way of destroying it and works faster
than one would ever have predicted, breaking it down.
You begin to feel that you want to escape, like Elijah
-- "There is nobody left." Yet I will never say that
nobody is left. There are many faithful brothers left.
Roughly sixty or seventy communities seem to be
standing firmly together. But the dissidents, also about
that same number, are standing together and setting up
their own leadership. If this is a pruning intended by
God, and if it is a judgment upon the church for
whatever reasons, it is painful. It is being done by your
own brothers, even by your own children, maybe.
Yet something encouraging is also happening. At the
same time that the devil is working to break down in
one corner, God is building up in another corner, in
Nigeria. Many brothers in the West are totally opposed
to it, let me tell you. The statement was made to me, "We
don't need black people among us," and some said, "What
do you want there with those heathen?" Total opponents
of the commandment of God! Opposed to the only reason
Jesus came, to the commission Jesus gave to his
followers: to go out into the whole world. So thinking of
Nigeria one gets a little courage and believes that the
hand of God is still over us, protecting his church and not
letting it break down, because it is growing in another
Brothers, maybe this is happening because we live
too well. We're living in prosperity, and our whole aim
and effort is to prosper more. And it disengages us from
the responsibility upon us as followers of Christ. We
have become so cold; our only desire is for more money.
Jesus said that before he comes "unrighteousness will
increase, love will grow cold, and faith will die." So
maybe God is showing us that too many of us are living
in our communities because we were born there, without
sufficient inner conviction. I think we all need to
examine ourselves and see why it is that way.
In the churches there are those who admire us
because we are still holding on for so long when they
have fallen from their origins. They have fallen away
and we are still here. We may call it a miracle. And it is
a miracle. It is a miracle that God has kept us together
up to this time. But maybe God is tiring now. We know
that before the Flood, God the Lord said, "My Spirit will
not keep on fighting with man, because man is flesh. He
does not want to be ruled by my Spirit any longer." And
it even says that God repented of having created man.
Isn't it terrible how we can take things so much for
granted that we do not even realize why we are living in
brotherhood? We are here in brotherhood not for our
own individual benefits -- and they are plenty, we must
admit -- but to shed love and warmth to others.
Brothers, we are lacking. For that reason I am so
thankful for what is happening in Nigeria. It makes us
more and more alive. And maybe God will not forsake us
completely. We know that in the Beatitudes Jesus says
clearly that salt which loses its flavor is no good
anymore, not worth more than to be shaken out and
trampled underfoot. It could be the same with us.
When my grandfather was the elder, he often said,
"A church that has no mission is dying." I heard that
often; he was always concerned about it. And it can
happen to us if we are like the elder son in the story of
the prodigal son; he became so selfish that he wasn't
even happy when his own little brother, who was lost,
returned and was found. That's how we can get. There
are many illustrations, but it is serious. Let us keep our
minds lifted to God in longing and prayer. He might still
have something left for the many who need the message
of salvation. We know the message, but we should share
it with others too, even though we are doing it very
poorly and weakly. I know something of what it costs to
go out and bring that message.
When I was in Nigeria, it didn't take long before the
hunger for something different was visible. Now others
want to trample in into the mire. Sometimes these things
oppress the mind, and it is quite unbearable. So here I
am in Darvell. I wanted a little release, and I wanted to
be removed from pressure. That is why I am here.
------------KIT Newsletter, July 1993 Vol.
ITEM: The Mennonite Reporter,
Hutterites Takes Steps To Divide
by Aiden Schlichting Enns
Portage La Prairie, Manitoba -- The Hutterite Church
appears to be heading for a historic split. Since December
each side has taken steps to strengthen its position, and
each considers itself the real Hutterite Church.
A December meeting of all ministers in the
Schmiedeleut Hutterite group (about 130 colonies in
Manitoba, the Dakotas and Minnesota) presented 12
long-standing grievances with Jacob Kleinsasser's
leadership. That meeting at Starlight Colony is now
taking on historic dimensions as a watershed point in the
current conflict. The group that is opposing Kleinsasser's
leadership, often called the Joseph Wipf group, met on
February 8-9 at the Delta Colony in Manitoba to consult
with lawyers and chart a course of action. Leaders asked
each colony to give $5,000 to pay for legal and
On March 8, Wipf, a minister from South Dakota,
circulated a letter in German calling for the election of
ministers in nine colonies, adding that more will follow.
This action undermines Kleinsasser's authority and has
been perceived by some ministers as a step toward
making the split official. The Kleinsasser group met on
March 24 at Crystal Spring Colony near St. Agathe,
Manitoba, where Kleinsasser is a minister. He told his
ministers that they could no longer preach or marry
people at colonies that do not recognize his leadership.
With the approval of ministers at this meeting,
Kleinsasser also decided not to renew the credentials to
marry for those who do not recognize his status as elder.
Every two years the licenses expire, and Kleinsasser as
elder is the only one authorized to renew them.
Wipf, when reached by telephone, refused to
comment for the record, and directed further inquiries
to lawyers. A minister from Manitoba who supports
Wipf also did not want to speak.
"What we have against... our leadership, we are
going to address to him. It is no use addressing it in the
papers. That is just going to get more feelings mixed up."
He also said, "I don't believe it will be a permanent split.
It is not a split as far as I am concerned. It is just some
difficulties that we have to work out."
Another Manitoba minister who supports Wipf said
support for their concerns is far-reaching. Other
conservative Hutterite groups further west, the
Lehrerleut and Dariusleut, have indicated support in
joint meetings, he said. "We are also unhappy that we
remain divorced from the Lehrer and Dariusleut," said
Wipf in one of the 12 points he made at the Starlite
meeting. These western groups separated themselves
from Kleinsasser's Schmiedeleut in December, 1990, over
differences with the Bruderhof colonies in the U.S. who
are part of the Schmiedeleut.
Mennonite Reporter met with four Kleinsasser
supporters at the Fairholme Colony here: Peter Maendel,
Fairholme minister; Dora Maendel, Fairholme teacher;
Ben Maendel, nearby Baker Colony minister; and
Jonathan Maendel, Baker teacher. The group candidly
defended Kleinsasser's actions. The admitted that not all
of their elder's business moves were wise, but
maintained that Kleinsasser has a good heart and is
honest. They flatly denied the many allegations against
Kleinsasser, saying that much of the so-called evidence
could be fraudulent. They pointed to the Manitoba court
case of 1989 that scrutinized Kleinsasser's business
ventures and found "nothing was or is amiss with any of
the subsidiary corporations of the Hutterian
brotherhood, or their financial affairs."
Part of the solution, according to this group, lies in
broader education for the Hutterites. This would help
members understand written documents and discern the
truth within disputes.
Points of Contention among Hutterites
by Aiden Schlichting Enns
Portage La Prairie, Manitoba -- What are the issues
dividing the Hutterites? Some of them are outlined in
Joseph Wipf's letter of August 29, 1992, which identifies
twelve points of grievance against the Hutterite elder,
Jacob Kleinsasser. Speaking for the other side are
Kleinsasser supporters from the Fairholme and Baker
colonies in Manitoba.
Point 3: "The horrible corruption, where one
colony after another is taken before worldly courts...
This is completely contrary to the Holy Word."
Reponse: Kleinsasser has not taken anyone to
court. He has appeared in court only when dragged in by
someone else, which is respecting the laws of the land,
and speaking the truth.
Point 6: "We are unhappy when a people taxes
itself, as is happening here [on each pig, on oil and gas,
on savings]...and no account is given at the end of the
year -- until this very day."
Response: These levies go to a central fund
which helps the poorest colonies. Some of the richer
colonies do not want to share with the poorer ones.
"And every cent is accounted for. It has to be, for
A major point of contention is Kleinsasser's financial
management of the colonies. He has created several
programs that allow Hutterites in his area to take
advantage of their huge corporate presence to obtain
cheaper rates on fuel, banking and insurance. Some of
his financial ventures have been successful, others not.
Point 10: "The Elder also incurs much anger
with unnecessary travel around the whole world, under
the guise of witnessing. From our perspective, it looks
Response: Hutterites are great at following the
words in Acts 2 about communal living, but are terrible
at following Jesus' words in Matthew 28 about Christian
outreach. "We are very lazy in that respect." Hutterite
activities in Nigeria, England and Japan are part of the
Hutterian mission. They are difficult, yet essential to the
mission of the church.
Point 11: "Likewise, the people at
Woodcrest...they forcibly meddle in our affairs.... It is our
desire and request to have nothing further to do with
Response: Accepting the brothers and sisters in
Woodcrest (Bruderhof colonies which joined the
Hutterites in 1974) is also part of the Matthew 28's great
commission to expand the church. Furthermore, not to
pursue higher education is irresponsible.
"Otherwise people are taking advantage of us... [And]
how are you going to talk to people in mission, if you are
Kleinsasser has promoted higher education. He built
a new multi-room school in his Crystal Springs colony.
Fairholme Colony uses modern methods such as
teleconferencing to train its high school students. Two
members, Dora Maendel and Ann Maendel, have
teaching degrees from the University of Manitoba. These
innovations, along with others, are questioned by the
more traditional Hutterite groups, many of whom align
themselves with the Joseph Wipf group.
The Mennonite Reporter, "Reader
Manitoba Hutterites respond to "points of
Two Manitoba Hutterites sent objections to the April
19 articles on the Hutterite conflict, particularly the
"points of contention" article on page 2. The writers
aimed their criticism at Jacob Kleinsasser's supporters,
challenging their response to the 12 points of contention
over Kleinsasser's leadership.
"I was very saddened to read the false responses
you received from the Maendels at Fairholme and Baker
Colony," wrote Jake H. Maendel from Oak Bluff Colony.
He sent several documents to dispute their
interpretations of the issues. Maendel disagreed with the
view that Kleinsasser "had not taken anyone to court"
and reiterated the desire of many Hutterites to
dissociate themselves from the Bruderhof or Society of
Brothers colonies in the eastern United States.
Kleinsasser no longer an elder
He [Maendel] sent minutes of the December, 1992
meeting at Starlight Colony in Manitoba which record
that a majority of Hutterite leaders agreed that "Jacob
Kleinsasser no longer be an Elder of the Hutterian
Brethren Church, and Schmiedeleut Congregation, and
therefore, must step down from that position."
"Hutterites are not against mission," said Maendel in
connection with the complaint against Kleinsasser's
unnecessary travel, "but at the present time we have to
get our own house or church in order first."
"As far as I'm concerned, there should not be a split,
but when there is so much evidence against someone,
why can a person not admit he did wrong and confess
it?" wrote another Hutterite who asked that his name
not be used. He reiterated the point that Kleinsasser has
taken people to court and that his management has been
unaccountable. The annual meetings of the Hutterite
leaders have in recent years focused more on business
than on the Bible or the church, noted this writer. "Sure,
Kleinsasser helped one or two poor colonies, but if he
had put the money towards poor colonies and gone over
to help them spiritually and financially, then one colony
after another wouldn't go bankrupt," he argued.
He agreed that the Hutterites should have nothing
more to do with the Bruderhof colonies. As long as
Kleinsasser remains in leadership, nothing will change
except that the colonies will get ripped apart more and
more, according to this writer. "What would Jesus say if
he came to this earth today and saw the mess we're in?"
he asked. He expressed hope that "we see the end of this
soon." He urged people to "pray to God to help us with
what to say against each other, because the things you
hear are not good."
He added that The Mennonite Reporter should
"think a lot more and say a lot less, especially from the
Kleinsasser side." He concluded, "I hope God in heaven
will direct us in the right ways and get us back together,
because if he won't, pity the poor colonies." -- MR staff
Madeleine Hutchison-Jones, 6/16/93: The
more I got into Nadine's letter, the madder I got! This is
a breakthrough for me -- to actually feel anger. I just
can't believe how a few people got away with playing
God, or rather, the devil, and created such misery for so
many. It was bad enough for the adults, but to those of
us who were children, the whole scene was a nightmare.
It infuriates me now that there was not ONE adult who
stood up for me during times of physical and emotional
abuse. Every abused child suffered alone, and this in
itself is such a horrendous crime. The abusers, it seemed,
were all rewarded, were elevated to 'higher' positions
and never ever held accountable. While we who were
abused, year in and year out, have had to struggle to
survive while those who created hell for us, have never,
ever had to worry about a damn thing. They have lived
comfortable in their homes, always secure, surrounded
by 'love.' Instead of running all over the world, it might
be a good idea if the elite Bruderhofs offered to help
those whose whole lives were given and who now find
themselves in need.
They say they are living in poverty. Poverty, my
eye!! What a bloody lie! I'm sick to death of hearing
about their poverty-stricken ways of traveling all over
the world. Am I angry! You bet! It's taken 30 years to
feel angry, to feel anything, Well, cheers, everyone. Have
a great summer. Pauline, I want to write you.
Carol Beels Beck, 6/21/93: A big 'thank
you' to all who have shared in KIT recently. I found the
last three issues particularly thought-provoking. I do
find it so helpful to understand my own difficulties
when in the B'hof by what other people are sharing of
their experiences and feelings. THANK YOU so much, Joel
Clement, for your account in the April KIT. It is so
important to get the full B'hof history. Only
through KIT have I been made aware that the B'hof
has fallen into the exact same trap as most history books
of a given country. I learned in the B'hof that most
countries are scarce with certain truths when writing
their history. Sadly only through KIT have I realized that
the Bruderhof is doing the same thing....
My whole heart goes out to your parents, Joel. I
wanted to write to them immediately, but as I don't
know how they feel about your entry, I refrained! We
lived near Woodcrest for 5 years, being invited to
Lovemeals and being "allowed" to work in Woodcrest --
i.e. my parents. It was one of the most painful periods of
my B'hof life, about 1967-73. I was 21 years old at the
time, so bound by fear of what people in the B'hof
thought of me that it took considerable courage to go
onto the 'hof. I was very withdrawn, self-conscious at
the time. I never have understood why I became so
fearful and unfree. Something snapped inside me when I
read Joel's account. I always had been deeply ashamed
of how I was at that time, and whenever I was stuck in
that frozen fear and self-torment later on. Joel puts it in
a nutshell (p. 7, April '93):
"There existed an underlying element of fear
that overshadowed all the good aspects of communal
life... The fear was systemic rather than acute...
You learned to live with it because you had no
choice, but it could come back later in life to haunt
you. Systemic fear turns into systemic anger, and
you didn't get over that kind of anger so easily. I
think that most of the children who left the
community were those who had this kind of
It sums up most of my root problems in the B'hof,
and since then adjusting "outside." ANGER is and was the
most frightening emotion, especially when I was angry
at a Servant. It seemed to be classified as the worst sin
imaginable. What are KIT readers thoughts and
experiences about anger? WHY has it been viewed in the
B'hof for years as having an evil spirit when one of the
flock becomes very angry or outspoken with a Servant
or Housemother? Why was the spirit so evil and
dangerous that the person had to be removed
immediately from the Church until they were contrite
and broken and submissive? Why was it considered only
RIGHTEOUS, Christ-like anger when the Servant became
very sharp and angry with one of his flock?
Job in the Old Testament was allowed to be totally
open about his anger towards God. From the several
times I became angry or upset with a Servant, it seemed
a worse sin than if I had become angry at God. But I may
The times I experienced this personally or to
another person was very disturbing and frightening. It
really made me very afraid of stepping out of line. Much
of my thinking and energy went into trying to gain
reacceptance and love from those in authority.
It is only in the past year that I've really recognized
how much my whole life has been motivated by fear and
anxiety. Things are a lot more relaxed since I became
aware of this and can recognize when I'm falling into old
patterns! I really would appreciate reading in KIT what
others have experienced and what they feel abut ANGER
and ways that people have worked through their anger.
The problem of course is not just confined to the
B'hof. Most children in various cultures seem quickly
learn ways not to anger adults, and as adults we don't
know how to handle anger. I've found that one of the
most difficult emotions to cope with is anger,
particularly in outside job situations since leaving the
B'hof in 1978. One would try and push it down, but at
some point one got so frustrated that one exploded,
which in turn often created resentment or estrangement,
but often cleared the air! I have found learning
assertiveness from Mike very helpful when dealing with
my anger towards another person, especially at work. I
keep meaning to study assertiveness in more dept. How
about a bit of Assertiveness Training at a future
I found it very sad, Ramon, that you likened the
motives of the Nazis to those of the B'hof. "Every Nazi
perceived the value of communal singing..." Why, Ramon,
do you doubt the B'hof motives rather than questioning
the Nazi motives? From what I know of the Nazis' tactics,
they are the ones who misused everything for their own
destructive ends. Some of my most meaningful, group-
centered experiences in the B'hof were brought about
through singing. I feel that the motive was to build up
community, rather than the opposite which the Nazis
created. I haven't got time to compare more of the
examples given, but I hope it's clear how I feel. In life,
the choice is ours whether we use it for our own self-
glorification or power, or for the good of ourselves and
all other life.
I believe that the B'hof's motives were, to start with
and still want to be, to build a better, fairer world. I
know they have stood and continue to stand in the way
of that motivation with their rigid, narrow views and
fear of exposing the image they have built up of Heini
having saved them from total dissolution. But let's not
fall into doing in KIT what the B'hof has done to Hans
Zumpe for years! Is the constant aim of the editors to
give a balanced view of observations concerning the
B'hof, to give a true picture, or is it the editors'
motivation secretly to get their own back for the
continued injustice done to some of you? Ramon, you
know how strongly I feel about the injustice to you and
I never heard from anyone except my parents
concerning the protest letters written to the B'hof about
visiting rights of the Senders with their grandchildren).
But your article seems to suggest to me a total
fundamental distrust of all they are living for. Or have I
simply missed the point? Lots of comparisons can be
made, but isn't the essential difference the motive and
Advertisement by the Deerspring Bruderhof
transcribed from The Winsted-Norfolk
In the past weeks we have all been aware of the
strange and terrible events at Waco, Texas, and
questions may have arisen from those who are
unfamiliar with our way of life, wondering who we are
at the Hutterian Brethren, and how do we differ from
the group at Waco which just destroyed itself through
Before drawing any conclusions we must first
understand what a cult is. A cult is a distortion or
perversion of biblical Christianity and a rejection of the
historical teachings of the Christian Church. The leader of
a cult characteristically claims to be Christ and/or
preaches that God has revealed something unique and
special to him. The Jesus of the cult is not the Jesus of
the Bible who died for our sins, because in a cult there is
no sin: anything the self-proclaimed leader preaches is
In Waco the life-style which David Koresh and his
followers led shows clearly what a corrupt and
unbiblical life was lived there. Claiming to be the
messiah, he called every woman he went to bed with his
wife and fathered twenty or more children, not to
mention the stockpile of weapons which were used for
self defense, which ended in total annihilation. The
happenings in Waco have nothing to do with a Christian
way if life. Christ teaches us to live an upright, pure and
peaceful life, following only Him and his teachings, not a
self-proclaimed leader with his false prophecy. The
Hutterian Brethren Church has a history of 450 years,
and the members simply try to follow Christ's teachings
in a practical way of life, living and working together
and using as our guide the commandments of Christ to
love our neighbor as ourself, sharing all property among
the members and working for the common good of all,
where violence and hate have no part. The family is an
important unit and we strive to maintain it in its purity.
In marriage we hold to Christ's teachings of lifetime
faithfulness until death. We don't feel we have or are
anything special, except that we as members (who are as
human as anyone else) have felt a call to live and work
together in a Christian community.
Living in Norfolk over the past thirty years, we have
greatly appreciated each contact with our friends and
neighbors in the area and value each encounter. We
welcome our neighbors to visit our community, to get to
know us better, and to share with us any thoughts or
idea you may have. We look forward to an increase in
working together in our neighborhood. We have really
enjoyed being involved in the Volleyball Fundraiser for
the playground at Botelle and other activities around
town and are looking forward to seeing you at the town
clean-up day on May 8 at 9:00 a.m.
------------KIT Newsletter, August 1993 Vol.
(Special Issue Published By The U.K. KIT Staff)
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, July 11, '93: Today a
week ago, we were all sitting together in the dining hall
at Ridgeway, for our last KIT meeting of the Euro-KIT
Conference 1993! It was the so-called "Mini-Conference",
with the "Maxi" to be held at Friendly Crossways this
year, so our group was smaller than last year, with just a
few members from the States: Anneliese Kluver-Trumpi,
Lee Kleiss and Tim Johnson, and two from the Continent:
Anthony Lord from Germany and me from Holland! The
smallness of the group gave us more chance for personal
talks, which I also found very valuable! I think at the
meetings we were something like 30 to 40 participants
and with all the children at the barbecue something like
60 or 70 (but I did not count them!!)
...Saturday, July 3rd: Soon after breakfast more and
more people arrived to be greeted by all of us in the
bright morning sunshine on the lawn between the
houses! It was absolutely wonderful to meet so many
friends again. Evidently many had met in Wheathill for
the Easter weekend and the friendship and
understanding had grown and deepened during this past
year. Rosie called us into the dining hall for a small
gathering about the usage of the hostel facilities, and we
also planned of our future meetings and what we felt
needed talk and discussion. At the top of our list, was
the Future of KIT, the KIT newsletters and our contact
with the Bruderhof communities.
The first meeting at about 11 a.m. was chaired by
Joanie Pavitt Taylor, a lively discussion about how we
thought to proceed in the future, making some points
1. The meetings and Conferences are really fulfilling a
need for many of us, to try and live with our past and
use the experiences for building a positive future.
2. By no means are we, or any of us, out to destroy the
Bruderhof communities, but having been raised there,
we have the obligation to point out to them what it is
that we have experienced as "wrong" and what it is
and was that has been damaging to so many lives,
that often the lives of Ex-Bruderhof children seem to
fall apart, with little hope and trust for the future
3. The KIT letters are very important to all of us, and
we would like to see them monthly as it has been in
the past. We do realize, that for the team in San
Francisco this is a lot of work and we feel that from
our side, we should give more "feedback" and more
input. The April Fool's page was also discussed at
some length and it was felt by all of us, that laughing
about our own mistakes and our own way of lives, is
really funny, but making fun "of others" (in this case
the B'hof or the Hutterites) is only hurtful and will
only result in greater division and misunderstanding
with our families there.
4. Rather than tackle the Bruderhof "officially" about
certain issues, for the time being we feel that this
would not be our way, but we should keep on writing
to them (or in KIT, which they read) about things that
really disturb us about the past. At the beginning of
the afternoon meeting, Joanie read to us some points
concerning the historical aspects of child-rearing
attitudes prevalent in Europe at the time when the
Bruderhof communities were started, from a book by
Gloria Steinem, called: "Revolution from Within."
I think all of us could relate to what was read, as
the Bruderhof education most certainly was
structured along those lines. For example: (some of
1. Adults are the masters, not the servants, of the
2. They determine in Godlike fashion what is right and
what is wrong.
3. The child is held responsible for its own anger.
The child's will must be broken as soon as possible.
All this must happen at a very early age, so that the
child won't notice and expose the adult.
A feeling of duty produces love.
Hatred can be done away with, by forbidding it.
A high degree of self-esteem (in the child) is harmful.
Obedience makes the child strong.
Tenderness and doting is harmful.
Responding to a child's need is wrong.
Neither parent nor God would survive being offended.
The body is something that is dirty and disgusting.
Strong feelings are harmful.
Parents are always right.
The pretense of gratitude is better than honest
All this gave us food for thought and initiated a very
lively discussion. It became quite clear that the
Bruderhof also had worked along these lines and the
fear of "dirty sin" amongst the smallest children
(Kindergarten age) resulted in severe punishments --
e.g. 4 and 5 year olds that were found urinating in the
grass behind the Kindergarten were excluded from the
children's community and sometimes large groups of
small children were actually sent to another Bruderhof
under the care of a single brother or sister, away from
their parents and families, to repent for such an evil sin.
Natural curiosity was always punished severely. Often
also "suspected" sin was punished so that the child
learned to admit to something that he or she did not do,
in order to avoid such severe punishment. Belinda (who
was a Kindergarten teacher in Paraguay) and Annie
Ellison (mother of a large family and a Babyroom sister
in Wheathill) told us of their difficulties in accepting
these "standard" rules of the community.
I think that we thought that the Christian basis of
our community life somehow should have broken all
these rules through simple LOVE. But this was not the
case. The Bruderhof held onto the educational ideas of its
time, maybe even clamped rigidly onto them in fear that
"evil might penetrate the children's community." This
most certainly has caused much difficulty amongst
children as well as their parents and I must believe this
is still so in the Bruderhof. This fear amongst children is
something we have all experienced at one time or
another, and it was good to talk about this as a
communal experience rather than an individual
Pauline Ellison-Davies, 15/7/93) ...I would like to
share an interesting discussion I had with a small group
at Ridgeway as it is relevant to the things discussed at
the 'Ridgeway Support Group'. It concerned the reasons
why it appears to be so difficult for the commune to go
to the injured parties, i.e. the ex-B'hof members, and
acknowledge the fact that they have deeply hurt them,
and endeavour to put things right which, in fact, we all
know to be an important Christian principle. The
conversation went something like this:
A: "One of the fundamental beliefs in the B'hof is based
on the scripture which says, 'If you are bringing your
gift to the altar and you there remember that you've got
something against your brother, leave your gift there in
front of the altar and go away; first make your peace
with your brother and then when you have, come back,
offer up your gift.' (Matthew 5:23,24)."
B: "Yes, you're right, but the problem is they've
misquoted that scripture, it does not actually say that."
A: "That principle of going to your brother every time he
offends you dominated their whole way of life because
no one could avoid making mistakes. In fact that is why
they were constantly having clear-ups and crises, even
to the point of not being able to celebrate the Lord's
Supper at times because of this continual fault-finding
and striving for perfection. And, of course, because their
children were not prey to 'outside world' influences,
they expected them to be even more perfect, and it
seems they just couldn't cope with any child that
deviated in any way from their perfect set of standards
even though the children were rarely actually told what
these standards were. They were just expected to know
and punished if they didn't (I guess that's one way of
B: "That's right, if we were capable of reaching those
perfect standards, we wouldn't have needed Christ's
ransom sacrifice. The problem is that we always notice
other people's faults more readily than our own, it's that
principle of not judging your brother. Rather than
looking for the straw in his eye, first remove the rafter
in your own eye so that you can see more clearly. But
going back to the idea of going to your brother 'if you
have anything against him', the reason why it doesn't
work is because it is not a Bible requirement, they have
actually misquoted the scripture. It's a subtle difference
but it is extremely important."
C: (With mischievous gleam in his eye) "Ah well, this just
proves that the Bible can be interpreted however you
want to interpret it, you both think you are right, but
you can't both be right."
B: "That's true and unfortunately, as we haven't got a
Bible handy, we can't establish the correct wording, as it
is not interpretation that's in question here, it's the
actual wording which isn't open to any interpretation, as
you would see if you were to check for yourself."
A: "That is actually the point I am trying to make. The
B'hof don't study or check the Bible, they merely commit
scripture to memory (Eberhard Arnold's memory to be
precise) and then, even if he got it wrong, they quote it
as Gospel, basing their whole way of life on an
inaccuracy. This in fact is just one example of many
where they have done this."
C: "Well, what does the Bible say then?"
A: "It says: 'If you remember that your brother has
something against you...' not: 'If you have something
against your brother'."
B: "Exactly, by misquoting that Bible passage it
completely changes how you are meant to go about
clearing up any problems with your brothers. It's not the
injured or hurt brother that has to go to the one that's
hurt him, it's the one who has hurt his brother that has
to go to him and put things right."
A: "Right, the scripture doesn't imply that every time
your brother upsets you or does something wrong, it is
your duty or responsibility to go and put him right by
pointing out his wrong-doing. No, this is such a negative,
destructive, pulling-down, discouraging thing to do.
Rather we are being instructed to be loving and sensitive
to our brother's feelings and shortcomings, 'putting up
with our brother in love!' (Ephesians 4:2) If we have
upset our brother and become aware of it, we should go
to him, NOT wait for him to come to us, humbly
acknowledging our hurtful act (whether deliberate or
not), apologising, endeavouring to put things right. By
doing this you are building up, promoting peace with
your brother as instructed in Hebrews 10.24,25: 'Let us
consider one another to incite to love and fine works, not
forsaking the gathering of ourselves together, but
encouraging one another..'"
B: "Yes, that's the point of meeting together, it's to
encourage one another, Not to put-down or criticise.
Applying this to the B'hof it helps me to understand why
they have such an odd and seemingly unloving,
unforgiving, unmerciful attitude to us on the outside."
Instead of, as it should be, their coming to us and
saying: "We have obviously hurt you, how can we put
things right?" They say "If some of you are burdened by
the past, we'd be happy for you to come and talk to
someone, and we'd be glad to ask for your forgiveness."
They still can't see that the issue isn't with individuals in
the B'hof, and individuals can't put it right, only the
Society as a 'body' can take responsibility for all the
damage done, and only they, as a 'body', can put things
right. They can't claim ignorance, they know they have
hurt us. We've told them enough times. KIT letters are
full of hurt, anger, rejection, but also love and reaching
out for reconciliation, but what do they do? They just
dismiss it all as "hate mail". They stop reading it (as if
that will change anything) they just close their eyes and
ears to the facts. They don't want to know, they don't
want to take responsibility for anything they have done,
they don't care, they are too busy living their safe, self-
righteous lives to care about any of their lost sheep
outside. They daren't go out into the dangerous
wilderness to search for their wounded sheep and bind
their wounds, as the 'good Samaritan' did. No, that would
expose them to too much danger, they might get lost or,
even worse, they might find out that what we are saying
is the truth! Whoops! Is this getting too close to the truth
for comfort? Sorry if anyone takes offense....
------------KIT Newsletter, September1993 Vol.
Dear KITfolk: Whew! Here we are again! Such an
adventuresome summer, with both the Ridgeway II
mini-conference and Friendly Crossways IV. This year's
Friendly Crossways gathering was more comfortable and
low-key than previous ones were, with not quite so
many new stories to hear and tell, many distant
memories having once again become familiar faces.
Sadly, we must report that this year many of the
personal horror stories we heard have shifted from the
distant to the more recent past. Having failed to halt the
"KIT process" through an initial thaw and some facile
promises, the Bruderhof seems to be in a shutdown
mode. As has been mentioned before, "Plus ca change,
plus la mÉme tra-la-la." ("Please don't play it again,
Anne Button 8/14/93: So great to meet so many new
people who became instant close friends! Thru all the
fun, laughter, serious and ridiculous conversations, I felt
a renewal of spirit, confirmation of the genuine
goodness, compassion in all of us. Thanks for all the
work and the great books which will enlighten out so-
far-one-sided view of B'hof history. My new address is
[see above --╩ed]. Steve can be reached here as well.
Anyone welcome anytime, one hour north of Charlotte,
NC on interstate 77. Love to all,
Nadine M. Pleil, 8/3/93: The day that my mother Hilda
passed away I felt uneasy about her (the preceding
weekend I had dreamt about her dying) and later I
received a call from ex-member friends informing me
about her death. She died at 1:30 p.m. and by 9 p.m. that
evening I still had not been notified. If our friends had
not called, I would not have known at all. I telephoned
my children to inform them, and Helga's husband Ted,
who is a minister, phoned Woodcrest on my behalf to
find out why they had not phoned to tell me. He was put
on 'hold' for 15 minutes after which he realized that
they were not going to talk to him so he hung up. At
10:30 p.m. I called and also was given the run-around.
Nobody wanted to talk to me. The next day I still had
not received a phone call, so I called Woodcrest again.
Once again I was put on hold and again received the
strong impression that they did not want to talk with
me. I spoke back and forth with the switchboard person,
and finally she realized that I was not going to give up
and got one of the servants, Ian Winter, to talk to me.
Ian is 15 years younger than I am, and I was taken
aback that he had the nerve to speak to me in a very
disrespectful way. I then had the following extremely
harassing phone call with him:
Nadine: "Ian, I heard that my mother passed away."
Ian: "Yes, that is right. She passed away at 1:30 p.m.
Nadine: "Is it right that you did not inform me?
Anywhere in the world, common decency demands that
you let someone know when a loved one passes away."
Ian: "Nadine, think of your commitment, your vows."
Nadine: "No, Ian, it has nothing to do with commitments
whether you tell me about my mother's passing or not. I
will tell you why you did not want me to know. You did
not want me to come and contaminate your 'holy
Ian: "Don't you sling that stuff at me!"
Nadine: "Ian, just think for a minute about your reason
for not phoning me, and you will see that you did not
want me to come to the funeral."
Ian: "Yes, you are right. We do not want you to disturb
Nadine: "You are cold, loveless and unchristian. Your
attitude is very cold. Just very loveless. Just that."
[I repeated his being loveless, cold and unchristian about
six times. He finally agreed.]
Ian: "I am sorry, forgive me."
[I did not answer, because I felt the words came too
quickly out of his mouth.]
Ian: "Do you want to hear about your mother?"
Nadine: "Yes, I would Iike to hear. That is the purpose of
this phone call."
Ian: "Your mother had a mini-stroke on Sunday. On
Monday we had a Nigeria Fest and asked her if she
wanted to go. She consented to go for 5 minutes. She
stayed much longer. We noticed that she was getting
weaker, so she was taken home and the community
went to sing to her. She waved to all and said good-bye
and then she went to lie down. She passed away
peacefully in her sleep."
Nadine: "Thank you. I dreamed on Sunday that my
mother was dying. That dream probably took place
when Mother had the stroke. On Monday, the day of her
passing, I felt very uneasy about my mother."
Ian: "Nadine, you must know what a dilemma we are in
with unfaithful members wanting to take part in
funerals. Your mother was so much a part of the
community, and the funeral is a community experience."
Nadine: "Ian, that still does not warrant not telling me
about my mother's passing. That does not give you the
right not to inform me and to be so cold and unchristian.
If you had phoned me, I would have thanked you for all
the loving care you have given her and my father over
the years, and then I would have told you that although
I would like to come to the funeral, I had made the
decision on my own not to go because I felt that
Woodcrest would not want me there, and in any case,
visits to the community are too stressful for me, and
apart from that, I did not feel physically able to attend."
Ian: "The funeral is Wednesday, July 28th."
Nadine: "Yes, I still feel it is very cold and unchristian of
you not to tell me that Mother passed away."
Ian: "In the Bible, it says that if you go to a home and you
are not accepted, then leave and shake the dust from
Nadine: "That has absolutely nothing to do with not
telling me that my mother passed away. You severed the
relationship. Not I."
Ian: "Also, KIT is so evil. It is terrible what one reads in
Nadine: "Once again, Ian, regardless of KIT, you were very
wrong in not letting me know of my mother's passing."
Ian: "A funeral is a community experience and I know
that your mother would not have wanted you or any
relatives to come to her funeral."
Nadine: "No, Ian, that is not so!
Ian: "And there was a Mennonite conference in Lancaster,
and we sent people from here and they came back and
told us that there was so much slanderous talk about
Heini. Nadine, where does all that come from?"
Nadine: "Ian, I know nothing about any conference, and
now you make me pay for what other people say about
Ian: "You know Heini like I do. You should think of your
Nadine: "I am not talking about commitments. I had to
make a commitment under duress against my will. I had
no choice. I am not going into that now. It does not
pertain to my mother's passing."
Ian: "You did not need to make a commitment against
your will. Nobody can force you to do that."
Nadine: "Oh yes they could, and they did! However I am
not talking about that now. It has nothing to do with my
Ian: "I said I was sorry. Forgive me."
Nadine: "We had to make three phone calls. You were
very rude to my son-in-law Ted who had to hang up
because he was put on hold for 15 minutes. I called at
10:30 p.m. and asked that my call be returned. You did
not return my call, even though I said it was urgent. You
did not want to talk to us. You were rude and
Ian: "Well, when one gets a call at 10:30 p.m., it is too
late. I get so many calls....."
Nadine: "No, Ian, do not give me that it is too late to call a
daughter about the passing of her mother! No, I do not
accept that at all!"
Ian: "Caleb had mentioned something about letting you
know. He said he would look into it. Of course you have
to understand that Caleb is so busy."
Nadine: "No, Ian, I do not accept that at all. Too busy to
phone me about the passing of my mother? That is
Ian: "I am sorry. Forgive me."
Nadine: "You were simply not going to tell me until after
the funeral so that I would not have the chance to say
that I would like to come to the funeral. You simply did
not want me to come."
Ian: "Yes, that is so. You are an unfaithful member."
Nadine: "Ian, I will now never have to phone you again
nor will I have to visit you anymore. That's it. We have
no ties anymore."
Ian: "Greet August, and we wish you strength in this loss."
Nadine: "So now a long and painful chapter of my life has
come to a close. The book is closed."
[That was the end of the phone call.]
I am very hurt, very hurt because last year when I
visited my mother, she said, "I want you to know when I
pass away." My mother never indicated that she did not
want me or other relatives to come to the funeral. No,
she never even challenged us to some back, to repent, to
hold to our vows and commitments. She and my father
always said, "We are happy that you are happy, and that
you can enjoy your children." Never once in almost 13
years did they put us under pressure like the other
Bruderhof people have done.
My mother did not even want to live in community.
In 1939, my father heard about the Bruderhof. He was
impressed and felt that it was what he was looking for
after having fought in World War I. The way of life
appealed to him very much and he decided to join the
Cotswold Bruderhof. Mother did not join in this wish to
live in community. Father lived for a whole year in the
community and went home to Mother in St. Albans for
the weekends. Finally mother made a decision and
joined the Bruderhof for Father's sake. She did this
because she felt that their marriage would fall apart if
she did not join. Now Mother is gone. She lived a long
and fulfilled life. She and my father showed me much
love and gave me a loving home. I now thank them for
all the love they bestowed upon me.
Now I have no connection with the Bruderhof anymore.
We can go on with our lives. As mentioned, a very long,
painful chapter of my life has come to an end.
ITEM: Schmiedeleut Update: At the July
meeting of the
Hutterian Church (a meeting required every other year
by the Act of Parliament that brought the H.C. into
existence in Canada) all the colonies were called upon to
reconfirm their faith. 301 reconfirmed.
The 60 of the Kleinsasser faction did not, so
technically speaking, these 60 are no longer members of
the Hutterian Church and have formed an entity titled
something like "The Schmiedeleut Conference Ltd."
According to one well-placed source, it seems obvious
that Kleinsasser and his followers will reform their
group of colonties into something similar to the "Society
of Brothers," or "the Bruderhof."
Amongst the cluster of pending lawsuits, one
brought by the Rhine Pure Air Co. in Texas (another
Kleinsasser 'subsidiary'?) against I. Donald Gibb, stated
that Gibb's 'books,' (his many hundreds of pages of
evidence documenting Kleinsasser's business practices)
"were disruptive to RPA's business." This suit was
dropped last week. Poinsett and White Rock colonies'
complaint against Jeff Sveen (attorney for the Wipf
group) his law firm and Gibb should be heard soon in
Sioux Falls. According to the same source, both the FBI
and the IRS are investigating various allegations.
Ramon Sender, 8/16/93: ...Since I hear constantly
from various sources that Bruderhofers tell people that I
said to Christoph that I was 'out to destroy the
Bruderhof,' I feel that I should state here, once and for
all, that RAMON IS NOT OUT TO DESTROY THE
If Christoph truly has told people that I said that to
him, then he is, unfortunately, lying through his teeth. If
it is just scuttlebutt, then whoever started the rumor is
out to spread distrust and dissension. The truth is quite
the opposite: instead of wanting "to destroy the
Bruderhof," my deepest hope is that the feedback KIT
provides can act as a mirror to help Bruderhofers
improve the way they do things for both themselves and
others. Anyone with an eye to see and an ear to hear
knows that there are aspects of the B'hof system that
ultimately must change, for the good of all involved, the
members, the children and even the ex-members,
whether the latter see themselves as graduates,
survivors or victims.
Personally, I hope that one day soon the Bruderhof
will come to realize that they are not so 'special' that
they have to shut themselves away out of fear of
'contamination' by others and by their outside family
If their excuse is their 'witness,' then I would reply
that the people who are really witnessing are out in the
world helping others and pitching in to make this world
a better place. These people are not living in isolated,
prudish communities, worrying about the purity of their
'atmosphere' and carefully filtering their contacts with
humanity-at-large as if the rest of us all carry some sort
of contamination. They are out here with their feet in
the mud, living shoulder-to-shoulder with a multi-
cultural cross-section of people from all backgrounds.
Heck, it's easy to live with two hundred people who all
think and act and even breathe the same way! That's not
brotherhood. Brother-sisterhood is when you reach out
to help someone who is totally different from you.
'Dropping out' of the wider society is not the way to help
change the world for the better, as many of us found out
in the 'Sixties.
At the same time, I can accept the fact that
sanctuaries of various types must exist in our culture to
serve the needs of those people who find freedom
terrifying and who prefer to live in highly structured
environments under strict disciplines. Monasteries have
filled this role for centuries in all the world religions.
The military services would be another example, and
prison functions in a similar manner for others -- 'boot
camp' for juvenile offenders being the latest concept
along these lines. However not all of us find making
personal choices and relying on our own 'inner voice' so
terrifying that we must surrender our inalienable
freedoms to a system that decides everything for us.
So, B'hof folks, I would suggest that instead of
labeling ex-members as 'unfaithful,' you should see us as
your Bruderhof graduates, people who have 'served
their time.' We learned some valuable skills, and now
are strong enough to test ourselves outside the
communities, strong enough to rely on our own feelings
and our own consciences, no longer needing the
Bruderhof support system to know right from wrong. We
peregrines no longer sit captive and hooded in a gilded
cage. We have unfurled our wings in the wider, more
adventurous skies of the outside society. Hey, guys,
we're your successes, not your failures! C'mon out and
join the crowd! It's not as bad -- we're not as bad -- as
you've been told.
------------KIT Newsletter, October 1993 Vol.
IV #10 ------------
Charlie Lamar: On Wednesday, Sept. 15th, Vince,
Ramon, Judy, Chrisi and I went to see the movie "Road
Scholar." Chrisi arranged the occasion for us because she
had heard that the movie had a segment about the B'hof
community, Woodcrest. The movie is a filmed version of
a book by the same name by Andrei Codrescu, a
Roumanian immigrant poet who appears as an occasional
commentator on National Public Radio.
"Road Scholar" is about his adventures on a trip
across the United States and his exploration of such
issues as objective and subjective personal liberty, self-
expression, growth and healing, as well as individuality
and community. The movie is very funny. Ex-
Bruderhofers will be delighted to hear that he "got" the
Bruderhof, both by quoting right out of their own
mouths and by his own take on their own way of life,
arranged marriages, and hard-boiled, anti-intellectual
religiosity in general.
Codrescu's affectionate and tender regard for the
bizarre and the outrageous as well as the charming
byproducts of the political and religious liberty we enjoy
in the United States as he contrasted them with the
political oppression of his Roumanian homeland is
always conveyed with deft understatement and total
Charlie says, " Check it out!" A few quotes:
KLAUS (Meier): "In this community we all want to be
like the members of one organism; the eye does its
work and the mouth does its work, but they are part of
a body, they don't consider themselves higher or
lower, in fact they don't think at all.. . . ."
ANDRE Codrescu: "I also asked them [two teenage girls]
about dating and attractions to the opposite sex."
TEEN 1: "I don't know of any boy that's ever felt
attracted to me, but when I feel attracted to a boy I
just try and not show it because there's nothing... I
won't... it won't... there's nothing I can do about it."
Late-Breaking News: According to a
Christoph Arnold wrote to Jake Kleinsasser on (9/9/93),
30 B'hof members recently were placed in the Great
Exclusion, including (Witness Brother) Chris and Else
Winter, (Servant) Jake Maendel, (Ex-Servants?) David
Maendel and David Mason. 15 were placed in the Small
Exclusion, while others 'will have to go through Church
Discipline.' None of them ever will be allowed to take up
their services again. Since three of these are Christoph's
brothers-in-law, something about this sounds all too
familiar? A haunting refrain from times gone by?
Dieter Arnold to Lucas Arnold [brother in the Bruderhof],
6/27/93: Dear Lucas:
Perhaps it's better that you could not come to visit last
week. My frame of mind is really not open to a chat
right now. Passing time since Mama's funeral has not
lessened my annoyance with the Bruderhof for trying to
keep us away from the funeral. I believe it is a
fundamental violation of human rights to deny family
that last service to one's mother. Even common criminals
are given that right.
I believe someone made a mistake, and in the world
I live in, mistakes like that usually result in lawsuits. I
think an apology from whomever in authority made that
decision would be in order. I mean an apology, not only
to myself, but to the whole family. The stress and
tension this caused us all, yourself included, was not
necessary at such a time. I don't know who made the
decision, but somehow I don't believe it was our cousin
Christoph. In fact, I have to wonder if he even knew of
it. Even though I was told that "The Brothers felt it best
that we don't attend the church function," later at the
meeting Christoph said, "How nice you could come."
Either he did not know, or he was being very insincere. I
think it terrible that a Servant would choose a time
when the family should be together encouraging and
supporting each other to introduce such a stress factor to
punish and humiliate us for not conforming to their way
of thinking. Servants are human just like the rest of us.
They are not perfect or infallible, and should be held
accountable for their mistakes.
KIT was brought up as a reason for the decision to
keep us from the funeral, because "KIT is attacking us."
First, let me say about that, none of us [Hans-Hermann
and Gertrud's sons] have to date contributed to KIT.
Furthermore, I have seen Christoph quoted as saying
that there would be no retaliation against people
participating in KIT. But more importantly, I really don't
see KIT as being an attacker. You people have every
right to live as you choose, but you have to be
accountable to others when you violate their rights. This
is where KIT could be helpful if you could only see it as
a tool and not a weapon. Let KIT show you where
healing is needed, and then take the appropriate action.
I agree that it may sometimes be better if people try to
resolve issues on a more personal level, in a letter as I
am trying to do, but many feel they will only be rejected
and chastised, and also people may not know to whom to
address their problems.
Since I don't know to whom to address my
complaint, I hope you will be strong enough to pass this
on to the appropriate people. I sincerely hope that this
will not cause you difficulty or retribution. Fear of
retribution in the B'hof must be a strong factor in
keeping people from speaking out when they feel
something is wrong. Our father knew this well, and
suffered much because of his willingness to speak out
when things were wrong. I am very grateful to him for
teaching us the importance of truth.
It is my impression that the Bruderhof is turning a
very cold shoulder to KIT people in need. Is this only
because there are other more pressing problems and KIT
has become a nuisance to your collective conscience, or
have you forgotten your Christian responsibility to all
people in need? Not least of all, people you know.
Lucas, I don't know what you have in mind to talk
about when you visit, but for the time being, I'm really
not prepared for discussion. Perhaps if an apology is
forthcoming I will feel differently. Believe me, I'm not
trying to make things difficult for you, and I hope this
letter will not. Please greet the whole family, especially
Annaliese. She must really feel Mama's loss, having been
so close to her in her illness. I really appreciate what
you all have done to make Mama's last years
comfortable and secure as possible. Your Brother,
KIT: Lucas answered Dieter's letter recently, taking him
to task for "pointing down on the Church and on the
services." (Permission to publish denied)
Miriam Arnold Holmes, 9/11/93: We had such a
wonderful time at Friendly Crossways this year! I want
to thank everyone who came, especially those who
ventured out for the first time. According to my count,
there were twelve newcomers. Some of them were able
to share their stories, which were shocking and sad.
It appears that when the Bruderhof assures people
that they have changed, they are telling the truth. They
have changed -- for the worse! It was very heartening to
be able to share openly and be supportive of each other.
We also had great fun laughing and singing and dancing.
Schuttel-die-Bux and other dances brought back fond
and funny memories. We had to interrupt the dancing
because we laughed so hard. It was great having Wendy
and David's and Margot and Blair's children dancing with
such enthusiasm and gusto! I was amazed we
remembered those dances after all these years.
Many of us were sad the weekend went by so
quickly. We would have liked to stay together longer, so
we are looking forward to next year. Anyone want to
start a co-op?
The September KIT was most interesting. I would
like to address one issue for now. Bette keeps wondering
why adultery is viewed as a bigger sin than other sins,
and why her father was not forgiven by Heini and the
Brotherhood. Let me assure you, Bette, that this whole
sad story has nothing to do with adultery and
forgiveness. Hans Zumpe was not the first or the last
Bruderhof member to commit adultery. We all know
this. The others were forgiven after a while spent in the
WŐldchen or in the world. I'm sure Heini was consciously
or subconsciously glad that Hans had "sinned" so
grievously, because it gave him the perfect excuse to
keep him away, and no matter how deeply Hans
regretted his transgression, it was never "deep" enough
for Heini, because Heini felt threatened by Hans'
leadership talents and charisma. Don't you see? Heini
brought up the Lotte Henze lie when Hans died simple to
stem any groundswell of guilt and remorse toward Hans
which might have arisen in the Brotherhood because of
how Hans was treated. Heini had a big stake in keeping
Hans the villain. This way he could stay in power. Heini
was corrupted by power. He loved power, and would
stop at nothing to keep and increase his power.
The B'hof will not change its ways until they
recognize this. Even if Hans had been a perfect angel,
Heini would have found some reason to get rid of him.
He did it with many others. So, Bette, stop agonizing over
your father's "sin." Your father was a wonderful human
being. You can be grateful for his life. If anyone needs
forgiveness, it's the Bruderhof. Unfortunately, they don't
Evi Pleil, 9/22/3: In 1959 Adolf Pleil and I were
married. On the eve of our wedding Polterabend,
everything had to be temporarily called off. A sister had
disappeared and all the brothers had to go looking for
her. The search took quite a long time, but she was
found hiding in the bushes of the Ibate woods, and the
wedding was on again.
About one year after our marriage, the American
brothers and Heini decided that Loma should be given
up since it was the least valuable 'hof, and the hospital
took up too much inner strength. Oh, that was a hard
blow! The hospital provided a good service to our
neighbors, but the American brothers felt that it was not
the Community's mission to provide charitable work.
(Isn't it ironic that now Kleinsasser writes, 'there is no
church without mission.') It really hurt to see the
hospital dismantled. I know that Dr. Cyril Davies and his
wife Margot took this very hard. It had taken a long
time to build up the trust the natives had in us, and now
that trust was broken.
The natives looked on in disbelief. They couldn't
understand, and neither could we, but we did not dare
speak up. We knew that if we protested, or even as
much as had a question, out we would go!
After the hospital, where I had worked, was taken
apart, Adolf and I moved to Isla. AdoIf worked there
anyhow and now he didn't have to walk back and forth.
I was asked to teach the 1st grade Spanish, and help in
the toddlers' house. In October, 1960, our first son was
born. We called him Felix, after my brother who died.
Our first Christmas in Isla we were given the honor of
being Joseph and Mary at the Stille Krippe. It was
terribly hot, and our young son was a very
uncomfortable baby Jesus. I fanned him with one of our
native straw fans, and Walter Braun was quite disgusted
about it. After it was over, thousands of black wandering
ants, Wanderarneisen, invaded us and a big
thunderstorm came upon us. Everybody scrambled to
get home as fast as possible. I guess all the holy thoughts
vanished in an instant.
It was around this time that Primavera was
encouraged to be more self-sufficient, and began to grow
rice in response. Even though the rice project was going
well, and we had come quite close to being self-
sufficient, we were told that the inner life was suffering
because brothers stayed out night and day in the rice
fields. Before long we were in a crisis again. The
wood/gas plant, which provided the Isla 'hof with
electricity, was laughed at by the American brothers.
They put grapefruits in the exhaust and though it was a
big joke. Brothers worked hard to build the plant, but
were mocked for their efforts. There were also jokes
made about how many times the bell rang; it was the
only way we knew what time it was. Even though all this
cruelty came from the American brothers, I felt some
grown-ups looked up to them as if they were divine
During one of Heini's frequent and short visits with
the American brothers, he decided to show them where
the burial grounds were. Lo and behold, he got himself
and the American brothers lost in the high grass behind
the school! My husband was walking home from work,
and heard a terrible commotion in the woods. He
followed the noise and found the bunch of them
bushwhacking in an attempt to find the road. Adolf
showed them the right way, which by the way was a
beautifully kept path with a lindenalley leading to the
grounds. In the next meeting he attended, the
brotherhood was accused of being cold and uncaring in
neglecting the road to the cemetery and letting it
become so overgrown.
It seemed that whenever Heini came from the States
with his "body guards," he just dug around for trouble.
He always managed to stir up something, and this time
he decided that we had all become cold and loveless. He
called communal brotherhood meetings, but the chaos
grew bigger. Art Wiser and Doug Moody were called to
Primavera, and lived right next to us with Heini. While
they lived next to us during this crisis, we recall them
having some jolly nights after the meetings. They
laughed and joked until the early morning hours, and
then slept until noon the next day.
We wondered how all this happiness could be
possible with so much need around. We have brought
this up several times since we have been out. The
answer we receive is always something lukewarm like,
"They had to relax from the strenuous talks." Well, it was
really unbelievable that amidst such need and suffering,
these brothers could still have such happy nights
together. How about all those so-called undecided and
lukewarm members who had been sent to Ibate -- how
did they relax?? These poor people were sent on a place
built as a commune, but was not a commune anymore.
The need in Ibate was indescribable, and here these
brothers appeared to be having the time of their lives
night after night!
We heard that Heini, Doug and Art were upset
because no one invited them to tea. We all thought, 'How
can we, when they are catching up on lost sleep during
tea time.?' However after hearing this. Adolf and I did
invite them for tea and they were surprised that we had
a baby because they never heard a noise next door. They
probably never heard the baby because we didn't dare
make a noise and wake them up while they were
At the first communal meeting Merrill Mow
attended during the crisis, members attempted to
politely introduce themselves, and he announced he
wasn't interested in our names, just how the coldness of
heart set in amongst us at Primavera. I especially
remember Art Wiser's piercing eyes in the meetings. It
was like he wanted to look right through you. It was
during one of these meetings that Heini Arnold called
our sister-in-law 'a vampire bat.' Doug Moody did not
know what a vampire was, so Heini explained: an animal
which lives off the blood of horses. In later years, Doug
denied this, but apologized for Heini, taking the blame
himself that he might have said it, saying he couldn't
imagine Heini ever making such a comparison. But we
heard Heini himself saying this --╩brothers and sisters
being called 'vampires'??
Finally, after sending away most of the servants,
Heini and the American brothers were able to dissolve
the brotherhood in Primavera, and start anew with
seven members. As new members were drawn into the
brotherhood, they were told the secret of giving up
Primavera. Members were never asked, but rather told
about the dissolution of Primavera, and informed not to
speak about it outside the circle of new members. I don't
think the group as a whole would have ever let this
happen, but we were not given the opportunity to decide
as a group. It still shocks us how Heini and his men could
uproot us all in such a short time, and start a crisis that
expelled 600 people. Heini only stayed a very short
while on his visits, and when he came we sensed a
strange atmosphere. I guess we never knew where he
Ramon Sender, 9/20/93: Since there has been no
response to the following, we are publishing it in KIT:
Judith Sender, July 2, 1993, to John and Margareta
Rhodes, Woodcrest Bruderhof: It was with a great deal of
pain and sadness that I read your recent letter in which
you did not okay our right to visit our grandchildren,
Dorie and Gareth. My sadness is deepened by the fact
that Ramon and I have in the last several months gone
through the shock of my mother Miriam's sudden death
from cancer, and Ramon's foster mother Julia's sudden
death a month earlier. Both Miriam and Julia were very
family-oriented, and expressed their delight in our
building a connection with the grandchildren.
I have read with great interest the Deer Spring
Bruderhof's ad in The Register-Citizen differentiating
itself from a cult, as well as the article in The Plough
in which you define a cult. I have shared with friends
among them members of the clergy, teachers, writers
and psychologists, [the articles and also the fact] that you
are denying us our God-given right to see the
grandchildren. They found the articles interesting, but
they also find it a puzzle that you deny visitation rights.
When I tell them that we cannot see the grandchildren
any more, the reactions is, "Oh, I didn't know your
grandchildren were in a cult!"
We and you are adults, rational people sharing this
planet, talking about our respect for peace, multi-
cultural, brotherly and sisterly love, but we disagree in
lifestyles. How in the world can Dorie and Gareth grow
up normally if it isn't explained to them that they should
respect lifestyle differences?
The fact that individuals are vituperative in KIT in
their expression of dislike for the Bruderhof should
strengthen you as a group. It should hearten you that
such a vehicle of self-expression exists. As a teacher, I
have students express their evaluations of me pro and
con, and it is healthy for any institution or individual to
receive criticism. Of course sometimes it hurts, but don't
take it out on Ramon and me. That hurts you as well as
the grandchildren and us.
In counseling and teaching, I have learned to
separate the actions of certain members from the group.
This is what democracy is about, hearing others,
tolerating differences. This is what peaceful coexistence
is about. There are times when people have to agree to
In my heart, I believe you are open in heart and
spirit, and that you hear and accept differences. Please,
in your own self-respect as a group, consider that you,
Ramon and I, as reasonable people, respect the
democracy in which we live, and our legal and ethical
rights and responsibilities as grandparents to visit.
------------KIT Newsletter, November 1993 Vol.
Hannah Goodwin Johnson, 9/29/93: Dear KIT:
Without you I am alone, a poor person with no
communal or team purpose other than family
responsibilities that are in bits and pieces. What can I do
but be thankful that I can participate and devote myself
to the team effort. Many thanks again to the editors and
those who fund the printing and mailing.
"Go to your room and think about what you did --
think it over!" Or, "Stop and think about what you said.
You must learn to think before you speak." This is sage
The contrary in me always found that what I did
and said had been misunderstood, but there wasn't time
for untangling interpretations -- only time for me to
think. While thinking, I sometimes knew what was
expected of me. Mostly it was acceptable parental
discipline. Under the Bruderhof "Of One Mind" front,
when such discipline was used to humiliate parents, the
parental authority was taken out of the parents' hands.
When a teacher sent a child home and no questions
could be asked without disrupting the "Unity," it was an
abuse of unity -- and the United Front became abusive.
Parents give teachers parental authority to a great
extent; this is limited because most parents feel they
understand their child more than anyone else could.
Unlike suspension from public school where parents are
contacted and then left to themselves, the 'hof
disciplines were part of a home supervision. It was
extended as a direct judgment on parents whose every
duty was charted. Responsible parenting accepts limited
human capacities: loving parents know that all questions
cannot be answered -- not completely. Even the most
loving parents don't know all that is in the mind of their
Far from considering complete unity ("of one mind
in peace") a possibility, I was sent away to find my own
answers -- my place to think. That may have seemed OK,
except that it was an insult to the old form of
punishment. What the parents try to work out before a
child is grown then becomes a socially climactic testing
of parental authority. I felt like I was a disgrace to my
parents, and that implied that their parenting lacked
discipline. Was I expected to think of myself as the only
one who erred -- to have to be alone? I thought about
how my mom had been sent away at the same time as I
was being requested to attend more meetings. Could I
space out on parental failure? If I had joined more
meetings, I wouldn't have had to go at age nineteen. How
could I apologize for shaming my parents without their
parenting going on trial again? To say I sometimes (and
what 'teen hasn't) felt ashamed of my parents would
legitimize their failures -- shaming them even more. But
I wasn't honestly that ashamed of my parents. While
returning might answer their apologies (asking to return
to the good favor of the group's leadership to be in the
good graces of my parents), what should I ask
forgiveness for? Doubting? Dear reader, I ask you what
do you think: can a community leader usurp parental
authority without impunity? I am not going to forget
what I thought about when I was cut off socially --
when I was banished from the commune. ...
------------KIT Newsletter, December 1993 Vol.
Late-Breaking News: A story coming from several
reliable sources states that the Woodcrest leadership is
unhappy with Jake Kleinsasser. Johann Christoph
Arnold's followers have been finding out things about
Jake K. that they never believed were true. This
November Woodcrest allegedly sent a delegation to
Crystal Spring with some questions for Jake and also
with the suggestion that he place himself in "a state of
He refused and sent the Woodcresters back home,
telling them that it was none of Woodcrest's business
and the issues they had brought up only concerned the
Hutterites in his colony. Since then, a meeting was held
on 11/18 at the Millbrook Colony in South Dakota (Mike
Waldner's) with about thirty Woodcresters present
including Christoph, as well as Jake K. The sheriff heard
that Jake K. was visiting the USA, and took the
opportunity to serve him with legal papers (probably a
notice to appear in court).
Christoph and the Woodcrest delegation seemed
unhappy with these developments. Christoph said that
he was returning to Woodcrest to discuss everything
with the brotherhood. Nothing was really concluded at
the Millbrook meeting. "Things just sort of fell apart,"
someone said. "But it does seem that the East is losing
confidence in Jake at the same time that Jake can no
longer fork over dollars for the East."
There are at least 4 court cases pending, with Jake K.
requesting over a million dollars apiece from two
colonies over alleged patent infringements of the hog
feeder. The Poinsett, S.D. Colony ex-minister and ex-boss
(who lost their suit to retain ownership of the colony for
the Kleinsasser faction) are now waiting for the court to
decide on Nov. 26th what "their share" of the colony's
assets will be. That may set a legal precedent for other
members leaving the various communities. Oakwood
colony, which switched from pro-Wipf to pro-
Kleinsasser, had all its members placed under church
discipline and had to sign statements stating that they
were willing to "move East" if requested (to Bruderhof
communities). Hutterite women who move to B'hof
communities are said to have an especially hard time
making the adjustment.
The 'clearances' at Oakwood were reported to be
especially hard, with everyone forced to dig way back
into their pasts to uncover all their sins, even from
before their baptisms. Their confessions were printed up
in booklets and made public, at least within the
Hutterian Church, something that has outraged many
Hutterite brethren who find this breach of
confidentiality unacceptable behavior.
Linda Lord Jackson, 11/8/93: At last I think I am
ready to make a start and write down some of my
thoughts about my life, and especially my childhood at
the SOB. My first connection with KIT was when my
mum asked me what I remembered about Wheathill,
and whether I thought there had been ill treatment of
the children at that time, because someone had written
something in KIT, and she wanted to find out whether all
the children went through the same things. I did not
really want to go into it at all. I felt I had quite
successfully put the SOB experience behind me, and
buried it deeply. I did not want to think about it, but
things are not that simple. I lay awake and did think
about it. It would not be pushed away again. I thought
about the other children I had grown up with in
Wheathill, and thought they cannot have had the same
feelings I did, and been in trouble like I was. I was the
one who was bad. What was it that they had gone
through that they could not forget and buried even now
after so many years? I've buried it and forgotten about
the unpleasant things.
The thoughts would not leave me. I needed to know
what the other children had experienced at the time. I
borrowed all the KITs I could and spent about two
weeks reading at every spare moment. I could not take
it in at first, that so many others had been punished and
excluded as I had, had been interrogated and not
believed etc. Still I did not really want to start digging
through it all again. I spoke to Mum and Dad, but said I
could not see the point in all this post-mortem stuff.
Then I got a letter from one of the other Wheathill girls.
She was obviously trying to put together her past
traumas, understand what had happened and why, and
so be able finally lay the ghosts. (I must apologise to her
as I still have not written back, I will do so soon). After
her letter, I began to come to terms with the fact that
my past was not going to withdraw again. It occupied
much of my thoughts.
I started to get KIT, and read about so many others,
and many memories, good as well as bad, came back. I
could see that I needed to think through the past, to
understand. Now that it had been opened up, it was not
going to simply go away again and be forgotten. Then I
attended the Ridgeway meeting last year, after much
hesitation. Even when I got there, I sat in the car
outside, thinking about turning round and going away
again. I did get out, and no one much was around.
Someone told me where everyone was meeting, and said
it might be a good time to go in, as everyone was
introducing themselves. OK, I thought, I'll just pop in at
the back, and see who else is there. As I went in right at
the back, a few people turned, and a murmur went
'round, "It's Linda Lord!" A few waved and smiled. I was
surprised that many seemed to remember me, but above
all that they sounded pleased that I was there. Everyone
was so friendly, it was so easy to relate to them all, even
if we never met before.
A group of Wheathill girls got together at the
request of one or two, to talk through our experiences as
children there, because they needed to sort things out. I
was reluctantly persuaded that it might be helpful if I
joined in. I was unsure, but went. I was not prepared for
this, but am glad I went. We were able to share our
feelings and experiences. One of the main things that
came out was that many of us had experienced the same
sexual abuse (as far as I remember this abuse consisted
of rubbing, poking and tickling in sexually sensitive
areas) from one man on many occasions over a long
period of time. For me it went on for several years,
whenever the opportunity arose for this person, who
often had care of the children, until I left for Paraguay at
The reasons that some of us did not report these
events were various. Firstly, the man was fun to be with,
on the whole. The children were often put in his care,
and we liked him. We had been taught adults were
always right, that they all agreed on everything. (I
accept that many adults say this was not an intentional
teaching, but nevertheless, this is what many of the SOB
children, who had no other childhood background,
strongly believed to be the adults' attitude, in particular
where it came to the children's behaviour and
punishment!) Then, when Mom and Dad went to supper
and meetings, the last thing they said was "Be good for
the watch, do as he tells you!"
He was great, he was fun, he let us stay up late. I
felt guilty because I didn't like the way he kissed me
'Good Night.' Because he was standing in for my parents,
I felt I should be pleased that: he did this. Then there
was the 'tickling' (in sexually sensitive areas, although I
did not realise this at the time) which sometimes got
quite rough. I hated it, but again I had seen lots of adults
tickle babies and young children to make them laugh. I
just thought it was something adults had to do, and that
they thought children liked. It was my problem that I
didn't like it.
I didn't tell anyone. What could I have said? There
was very little time for children to just be with and talk
to parents so that things could be aired casually without
making a big thing. If you said the wrong thing, or even
asked questions about the wrong thing, you or they got
into trouble for having wrong thoughts, or so it seemed,
you quickly learned not to discuss anything much,
however you felt about it. I had always thought it was
only me, and that it was my evil thoughts that were at
fault. After all, adults were good, I was bad.
I think the worst part was the realisation of how it
had been handled by the adults. Some of the girls had
reported incidents. Those of us who had not reported
were then interrogated, and told to admit what we had
done. We did not know. It was only at Ridgeway that we
pieced it all together from what we knew between us,
and what some parents had eventually been able to tell
their children, and realised that these exclusions and
interrogations were related to the abuse. Excluded from
family and school and friends. (I found out since that my
parents were told that it would be good for me to live
with someone else for a while, and did not know that I
was also excluded from school at these times. I assumed
they knew, so I never talked about it.) Eventually we
would admit that we had "done it" (still not knowing
what) and were then left in exclusion for a further
period to repent for our telling lies. This approach was
consistent for several of us. We then had to stand up in
the full school assembly, and say, "I am sorry for what I
have done, and I will never do it again." Impossible,
because we did not know what [we had done].
I personally was excluded at least three times up to
the age of 11 for periods of between 3 and 6 weeks, I
think. The exclusion usually consisted of time spent
living and working with Ivy. Some of the others found
Ivy a difficult person to relate to, but I must say that I
usually found her fairly easy to get on with, but she
couldn't stand you moving at night. She would shout
'keep still!' and wake you up. You then lay there rigid,
hardly daring to breathe, and it took ages getting to
sleep again. She taught me to use the sewing machine,
even the electric one, which most children were not
allowed to touch. At bedtime she read
I found the story rather confusing, and only recently
have realised it has a kind of religious teaching hidden
away. When I was excluded at Cleeton Court, where the
German children were living at the time, she let me play
with them, so I also picked up quite a bit of German.
During the day I had to help her with cleaning the single
men's quarters. ...
On one occasion I was locked in a dark room, I must
have been 5 or 6. I didn't mind the dark, but I hated not
being able to get out....I could hear an owl hooting. I
liked that, and I didn't feel so alone. Eventually Mum
came and took me home. Recently I found out that it was
all because I had supposedly "shown my knickers" to
three boys. I don't know what sort of a big deal that was.
Anyway, we (boys and girls) used to have to line up
together in underpants and knickers for medical checks,
etc., anyway. On one such inspection they discovered
that many of us had flat feet, so we had to do daily
exercises picking up marbles with our toes and things
like that. It was fun, especially as you often missed some
of the midday rest, when you had to pretend to be
asleep in order to get a sweet put under your pillow. One
year -- 1947 -- the snow was so bad that the
kindergarten/pre-school was snowed up. We had to stay
there all night until they dug a passageway through to
get us out. ...
Once we had to sit in silence for a whole morning
copying a steam engine while a 'cleaning the evil from
the children's community' exercise went on. We had to
go into the teacher's room one by one and confess any
wrongs. Those who confessed were promised that would
be forgiven, others would be punished. They gave the
impression that they knew ALL anyway. Most of us had
been involved in some form of childish misdemeanours
whilst safely out of sight in the hay field next to the
school playground. As we had to sit in silence copying
the steam engine, it was not possible to find out what
other children had or had not admitted, so I went and
told all. In the event no on else did -- but I only just
found that out. (Sorry folks, but I hope you understand
the pressures!). Anyway, we were all punished, and had
to help prepare vegetables for a few days, with a Dutch
lady who had just joined. I don't remember her name,
but she could tell wonderful stories about Holland and
her life. ..
In Wheathill I think we had a very good and
progressive basic education. Derek, Alice and the others
must have been exceptionally good teachers! Mostly I
believe we were happy as children and had some good
times together. I never want to lose those happy
memories. We left Wheathill for Paraguay in August
1952, just before some sad experiences for the children's
community: the aftereffects of polio on people we knew
and loved, particularly Elizabeth Johnson and Derek
Wardle; the death in a sledging accident of James Paul
and the death of Peter Boning. Even in Paraguay, these
events touched me deeply....
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 5/22/93: I often have thought
about the class distinctions on the Bruderhof. It has
bothered me a great deal. I think I was about ten years
old when it dawned on me that the Servants of the
Word's children were privileged in some way or another.
I remember speaking about my conclusions to another
child who went and told the Servants' children about it.
This was all brought to the attention of the Servants and
I, the non-bruderhof child, was taken to task for
spreading untruths about the Servants and their
children. I was told to apologize both to the children and
the Servants. I thought about it and decided I would
have to apologize even though I felt I had a point there
and had only spoken the truth.
From that time on, I simply watched how the
Servants received more and more privileges and their
children as well. I resigned myself to the fact that I
could not do anything about it. It would just have to run
its course. As time went on, I began to realize that not
only did they receive privileges, but that the Servants
had power over us and their children likewise had
power over us so-called 'commoners.'
However the time in Primavera was not as bad as it
became later in the U.S. The sixteen years that we lived
in the commune, from 1964-1980, were absolute agony.
Not only did the Servants and their families receive
certain privileges, they also started to have more and
more power over our family and to make us feel very
fearful. Not only did they threaten our ten-year-old son
with being sent away if he did not shape up, but they
started threatening us parents with having to send
children away -- and then later, that we all would be
We lived for 16 years in constant fear of being sent
away. At any time the ax could fall and we would be out
on the street. We were afraid of what would happen to
us with such a large family. How would we manage?
Where would we live? Would we be able to get jobs in
the computerized world? So many things were
frightening, because we only knew commune life. We
had been brain-washed and did not know any better.
That was why we never dared leave on our own
accord, because fear of the unknown was the bottom
line. We did not want our children to suffer, and yet we
felt it would be better to leave and have done with the
commune. All these things kept going around in our
minds, and often kept us awake at night. We knew no
way out, so therefore we complied, tried our best to fit
in and make our children fit in. It was very, very
difficult because we were being watched by the Servants
and their helpers. As I mentioned before, we even had
to move to another house so that two families, a Servant
and a Witness Brother family, could keep an eye on us,
be policemen for our family. We never felt at peace, we
always were on tenterhooks. It was as if we constantly
had to tread on eggs -- or else!
Once we suggested that we go and live on the edge
of the commune if our children were so bad. But we
were told firmly, "No, you cannot decide that. That is a
brotherhood decision." I thought, 'The heck with
brotherhood decisions,' but of course we had to bow
down to what the Servants said. When I was in
exclusion, I was given tapes to listen to of meetings,
Gemeindetstunde meetings, etc. Well, I never
them because I couldn't have cared less. The Servants
were upset with me because I would just hand the tapes
back without making any remark about 'how extremely
moved' I had been when I listened to the meetings. I
suppose I should have said that 'I felt challenged.' The
Servants wanted to discuss these tapes with me, but I
always sidestepped them.
A few other people were excluded at the same time
I was. When it came time to talk in the brotherhood
about whether it was time to take me back, too many
people found fault with me. Three times my name came
up, I was talked about and turned down. Now at the
same time, Andreas (Servant of the Word) and Lida, Dan
(Witness Brother) and Hannie were in exclusion and it
was decided that they and some others would be taken
back into the brotherhood. Both couples were re-
accepted and a love meal was held to welcome them
back from the blessed Ausschluss, but not so Nadine
Pleil. After the love meal, Don Alexander came and
proudly told me that the aforementioned people had
been reunited in the brotherhood and that I had been
turned down again yet a third time.
So much more equal treatment. 'Bully for them!" I
thought. I was not so privileged. I was one of the 'plain
sisters.' I told Augusto before I was excluded that I
would never be reaccepted into the brotherhood because
then the children would come between me and the
brotherhood. Good thinking on my part! Lo and behold,
that is what came to pass! I never went back to the
brotherhood because it was felt by that same
brotherhood that Nadine was too rebellious and had to
go. I was the black sheep and standing in my husband's
and children's way. So as you can see, I was responsible
for my family's plight.
Once a week I was told to report to the Servants'
office. Once there, I was tackled as to what I had done. I
would try to say something, but was tongue-lashed by
one of the Servants or their wives and told to be more
specific. All this, mind you, was to help me and 'done out
of love.' Every time I was called to the office I would
start throwing up. I had said everything I could think of
and still they were not satisfied. So I started to make up
things. By doing so I thought I would have some peace
and they would leave me alone. It was all to no avail.
They wanted more, more and more information until I
almost went crazy. That is when I felt the breakdown
coming on. The final freeing came when they decided
that our whole family was to be kicked out. However
even then, after we were away from the commune,
whenever the phone rang, I would start trembling and
break out in a cold sweat because I thought the
commune were calling to harass me.
It got so bad that Augusto said I should just let him
answer the phone. That worked for a while. It took me
quite some time to settle down and realize that I was
free and did not need to account to the commune for any
of my actions. It really takes time to unload the
commune. Actually it takes years! However the time
came and we all feel so much better. We do not take any
notice of the fact that the commune tells us that we are
living in sin because we do not live in the commune. I
told them that we are in good company if we do not live
in the commune, because the majority of the population
of this earth does not live in community of goods.
We cannot let our souls be trampled on and
murdered. We cannot condone abuse against children.
We gave our heart, soul, marriage, children, our
personalities, everything to them, and what did we
receive in return? Nothing. Nothing except grief. That is
no way to live, and no way to bring up children.
Now at last I can be myself, my children can be
themselves, my husband can be himself, and we are
better off this way. We were just not cut out for
community living. It did not work for us and never will.
So many others have gone through all this that I have
written about, and have, I believe, found a meaning in
life. We have been able to succeed. I know that the
commune did not want us to succeed. They wanted us to
come crawling back. They thought we would not make it.
They thought we would let our children go down the
drain. Oh now, we had more stamina than that! We
pulled together as a family. We vowed that we would
make it, and -- we have made it!
Good luck and congratulations to all of you who have
indeed 'made it!'
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