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, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Joy Johnson MacDonald, Ben Cavanna, Leonard Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.

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

------------KIT Newsletter, January 1993 Vol. IV #1------------

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 philosophical differences.
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 additional labor.
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 not apply.
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 1992 issue):
"Howl. Crack peanuts in movie theaters. Go barefoot earlier
in the spring. Eat more ice cream. Live. Experience. Suck the
marrow of the world. Enjoy. These are the ten commandments:
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 beings.
7. Thou shall respect all of Creation.
8.Thou shall speak thy Truth.
9.10.Thou shall celebrate with gratitude 'til the end of thy days.
"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. IV #2------------

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 you know."
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 anguish.
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 decision.
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 Elder.
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 19, 1992 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. IV #3------------

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 here."
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 place.
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 them?
...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. IV #3------------

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. IV #5------------

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 hypocrite.
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 much?
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, without anybody!
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 the commune.
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 again.
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 not.
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 many others.
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 lives.
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 the moment.
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 from above....
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 of girlhood.
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. She writes:
"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."
(p 242)
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 reveals:
"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. IV #6------------

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 Bruderhof.
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 image.
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 night.
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 communities.
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 name.
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 more.
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 of proportion.
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 present.
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 corner.
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. IV #7------------

ITEM: The Mennonite Reporter, 4/19/93:
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 professional fees.
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 income tax."
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 different."
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 them."
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 not educated?"
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 Forum" 5/31/93:
Manitoba Hutterites respond to "points of contention"
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
disturbing experience."
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 be wrong.
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 conference?...
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 Judy.
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 purpose?
Advertisement by the Deerspring Bruderhof transcribed from The Winsted-Norfolk Register-Citizen 5/6/93:
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 violent fanaticism.
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 followed.
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. IV #8------------

(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 absolutely clear:
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 ahead.
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 the rules):
1. Adults are the masters, not the servants, of the dependent child.
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 ingratitude.
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 trauma....
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 finding out!)"
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. IV #8------------

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, Sam....")
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. yesterday."
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 ground.'"
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 the atmosphere."
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 your feet."
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 KIT."
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 Heini!"
Ian: "You know Heini like I do. You should think of your commitment."
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 mother."
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 unchristian."
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 simply outrageous!"
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 BRUDERHOF!!!
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 members.
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 charm.
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 letter that 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 know it.
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 beings.
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 sleeping.
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 would strike.
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 our 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 disagree.
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. IV #11 ------------

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 parental discipline.
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 closest child.
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. IV #12 ------------

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 punishment."
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 age 11.
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 Pilgrim's Progress. 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 sent away.
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 listened to 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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