The KIT Newsletter, an Activity of the KIT
Service, a Project of The Peregrine Foundation
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar,
Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : Susan Johnson Suleski, Ben Cavanna, Leonard
Pavitt, Joanie Pavitt Taylor, Brother Witless
(in an advisory capacity)
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and
encourages the expression of all views, both from within
outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the
publish are those of the correspondents and do not
reflects those of KIT editors or staff.
June 1995 Volume VII #6
-------------- "Keep In Touch" --------------
----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----
------ Contents ------
EuroKIT 1996 in Worpswede, Germany
Children of the Bruderhof fax
Nadine Moonje Pleil
Blair & Margot Purcell
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe - Birnbach visit
Hannah Goodwin Johnson
Emily Purcell - 'The Day Of The KITfolk'
Konstantin Mercouchev by Konrad Kluver
Joy Johnson MacDonald - Portfolio Excerpts
A BELATED HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY, HANS BOHLKEN! (May
Else Pleil, daughter of August and Nadine, has
graduated from nursing school. CONGRATULATIONS, ELSE! Nadine
said, "So now our last child graduates! Now we can celebrate!"
ITEM: Buddug Evans has been placed in a Residential
House in Bexhill. Her niece Sally and husband moved her in a few
weeks ago. Buddug, according to Belinda Manley, is disoriented and
did not remember seeing the room previously when she moved in.
She phones Belinda frequently to ask, "Where am I, Belinda?" "It is
very, very sad!" Belinda writes. "If Buddug survives, she may well
feel less stressed, although she doesn't know anyone else there."
ITEM: Lou Scheggia, Fayette County, PA, resident, has joined
the KIT readership. Welcome, Lou, and thanks for the pointer to the
New Meadow Run and Spring Valley's appeal of their property tax
assessments. Despite their claims to be taxpayers and their use of
county services and schools, they are claiming a total exemption as a
EuroKIT 1996 will be held in the beautiful village of
Worpswede with the only "mountain" (52 m high) in the flatlands of
the Teufelsmoor outside of Bremen in northern Germany.
Worpswede is an artist's town and an official 'fresh air spa' where
lots of people go on Sundays or holiday to enjoy the many galleries,
the fresh country air, the cafŽs, etc.
The EuroKIT venue will be a nice youth hostel on the edge
of the village in a rural setting. We can hire a boat on a nearby river,
or a horse-drawn cart. There also are bikes for rent and lovely walks
on the moor. The cost is only DM160 or £75 or $125 full room and
board for three days, a WONDERFUL price!
One thing is IMPORTANT. The hostel wants to know the
number of bookings by this October. We know this might be difficult
for some, but if you can book by then, please do so with a deposit of
DM50, £25 or $40. If you are not sure by then, for any reason, but
want or intend to come if possible, please let your country
representative know by October or sooner. We will then book some
extra places and accommodates as many as possible on a first-come,
We are reserving in the hostel from lunchtime July 26th
to about 10 A.M. on the 29th. That gives us three full days. The
nearest city with an airport is Bremen, and the nearest railway
station is Osterholz Scharmbeck, about 72 km away. So let's have
bookings in, folks! Watch KIT for reminders!
Worpswede has been a flourishing artists' colony for over
a century. The austere beauty of the surrounding moors and uplands
is just as fascinating today as it was to the first painters who
discovered the region for themselves in 1889. North of Bremen,
birch-lined roads converge on a solitary rise in the midst of the
meadowlands, the Weyerberg, Worpswede's landmark. The village is
as spacious and tranquil as the surrounding countryside. Nestled
among trees, its houses extend in a wide sweep around the heights
overlooking the broad Hamme River basin. Worpswede has
developed into an international art center in miniature, apart from
being a favorite recreation spot. Yet the intimate atmosphere
remains -- the old half-timber farmhouses with their thatched roofs
still line the canals, and the windmill, just renovated, will soon be in
American KITfolk, reserve with Margot Wegner Purcell,
U.K.ers with Joy Johnson MacDonald, and EuroKitters with Isolde
Brummerloh, Neubergdorfer Damm 6, 27726, Worpswede, GERMANY.
See you there! Don't miss this one!
------ ADVERTISEMENT ------
Children of the Bruderhof announces an Open House to be
held in Kingston, NY, on Thursday 27th July, 1995, for anyone
wishing to meet up, who shares our common heritage of having been
brought up in, or associated with the Bruderhof. Join us for fun, food,
and games. See the July KIT and/or local Press for details of venue
and time, or call us on: 800-742-3052 or e-mail email@example.com-
We look forward to meeting you!
ITEM: We received the following fax copy, marked "Also sent
to all American Bruderhof communities."
Children of the Bruderhof International Office 800-742-
Our group is composed of people who lived in the
Bruderhof at one time and who voluntarily left or were asked to
leave. Many of us were born and raised within the Bruderhof and
have chosen our name as a reflection of our common background -
even as we share that background with many of you.
As you may know, the Children of the Bruderhof has
recently established a "help" line for former Bruderhofers who may
need advice on how to cope with life in the outside world. Let us
stress the purpose of our line is to provide support only for those
who no longer live on the 'hofs and who voluntarily call us for the
guidance we may be able to furnish.
In no way do we advocate the departure of any person
from "the life". That is a matter of individual conscience and faith
with which we do not wish to interfere.
Our help line, however, has been flooded with harassing
calls -- many of which may originate from persons connected with
the Bruderhof. Under the laws of the states of New York, Connecticut
and Pennsylvania (states from which a majority of the harassing calls
have originated), each harassing call is an individual misdemeanor
offense under the penal codes of the states mentioned.
In addition to that, of course, interference with our help
line prevents its use for the purpose for which it was established.
Under the rules of ordinary decency with which civilised grown men
and women conduct their lives, such harassment is not only
incredibly childish but becomes a repugnant attempt to prevent
those calling for assistance from obtaining the advice they seek.
We respectfully request that readers of this faxed message
decline to participate in the harassment described. The 800 line is
not intended to be a threat to any of you but to provide help only to
those who seek it and have already departed. Calls made for any
other purpose will be considered harassment and brought to the
attention of appropriate state authorities and shared with local,
national, and international media. Further, all phone records will be
retained in regards to possible civil action to be undertaken against
those responsible for the harassing calls.
Dieter Zumpe, 5/20/95: Hello everybody! This is my first
input into KIT. I've been receiving it for over four years and after
every issue I write a mental letter that never gets put on paper. I'm
going to start with my childhood memories and take it from there.
I was born in 1967 when my parents, Ben and Marianne,
lived in Evergreen. My early childhood memories are happy ones.
From what I recall, before Evergreen had it's name changed to
Deerspring, life was full of fun and merriment. Of course I was
looking at the world through the eyes of a child, but it seems as if
people were free and genuinely joyful back in those days. My early
memories are of June festivals, and ponycart rides, etc., along with
very creative family meetings on Sunday. When the reuniting with
the Hutterites took place, I was in the first grade. I couldn't really
figure out what was going on, but apparently it was something to be
very happy about. Among the stipulations were these: no musical
instruments, no pictures of angels, no T-shirts, no candles, and my
mother would convert the record player into a little table by placing
a tablecloth over it and a flower pot over that.
Not long after that, Jerry Kadish and Dwight Blough died
in a plane crash. A few weeks after that, I noticed my parents no
longer ate in the dining-room but came home and ate by themselves.
Actually, I liked the concept because that meant that every night
was family supper. But I noticed that my mother wasn't her usual
happy self. Shortly after, the family was gathered together with Bob
Clement and we were told our family was to leave community and
live in Saugerties, NY. Most of us children cried and made a fuss, but
we also had a sense of adventure about the whole thing. My concept
of life outside the commune was based on what I'd seen in the pages
of "Life With Dick and Jane." So I presumed we would live in a nice
neighborhood out in the world of "Think and Do". Instead our family
whisked away in a two-door Dodge Dart -- nine kids and two adults
in a car designed for four people.
I had difficulty trying to fit in with a different culture;
the kids pushed and shoved on the bus, and nobody wanted to give
the "new kid" a seat. In school our lesson was stopped in mid-
morning for a bathroom break. Off I went to the bathroom and
encountered urinals for the first time. I was appalled by the idea of
going to the bathroom with other people watching, and I couldn't go.
Back in the classroom, my little bladder was full of Kool-Aid and I
couldn't concentrate on anything. But on the second bathroom break,
I still couldn't function in the presence of others. I had an
unfortunate little accident later in the day, but I shall spare you the
details. The point of writing all this is to illustrate the trauma a little
kid who moves "outside" can go through. At the time, my whole
world fell apart. My whole school year was one big nightmare, and I
couldn't wait for our family to move back to the safety of the
community. The summer holiday was a better time. I sent most of
my time riding bikes and going fishing with my older brothers Ebo
and Christoph. The highlight of the summer was catching a 21"
pickerel off a bridge with a drop-line.
One thing I recall about those times was that every once
in a while my parents would talk on the phone with someone from
the community; and my mom would always cry and cry. There is no
worse sound in the world! When we asked her what was the matter,
she would glumly tell us that she was crying for joy. The sad part is
that I believed her. Our family moved back to Deerspring in the Fall.
Our parents were not brought directly back into the Brotherhood,
and so we lived on the outskirts of the community in the Valleyview
house, which served basically as a halfway house. We lived next to
the Button family, who were in the same predicament. This roughly
covers the first nine years of my life. I plan to continue in future
Back to the Present! The issue containing John Stewart's
letter was most fascinating. He seems to be a pretty radical guy, and
his perspectives were interesting. I also went through a phase in the
Commune when the more I got into prayer and the Bible, the more I
isolated myself from everyone up there. Oh well, I guess I was better
off leaving the place. But it is kind of a bum deal with my family
living there, as my relationship with them has pretty much dwindled
to nothing. I enjoyed what Pedro Gneiting submitted in the May KIT
issue. I can relate to some of his experiences as well as his overall
view of the place. I would like to encourage him and all others who
are basically seeking what life is all about. Sending my love to all,
[Dieter & Susanna are grandchildren of Hans Zumpe - ed]
Susanna Zumpe, 5/21/95: Hi everybody! This is my first
letter to KIT. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for all the
help and support I have received in the year and eight months that I
have been out here. You are all very kind, and I appreciate
everything immensely. Leaving the Bruderhof was perhaps the most
difficult decision I have ever had to make. My life as a young child
was great; I really can't recall any major mishaps. When I was three,
our family was kicked out for about three and a half years, but I was
very young and I don't remember much of those years. We moved
back to the community when I was six or seven, and we were sent to
Darvell to "help with the German guests." I loved it there, and we
spent three years there.
In 1988, when I was ten, it was decided that the Zumpes
should move to Waldfrieden, the Bruderhofhaus that was starting in
Germany. The six months we lived there before Michaelshof was
bought were awesome! It was like one big family; not an organized
community. There were only two families besides us: Jorg and Renata
Barth, and a young western Hutterite couple with a baby. There was
also a small number of single young people--mostly from the West.
Around Christmas time that all changed: we all moved
out of Waldfrieden and into Michaelshof. Some more families came,
and it was a lot more organized. Two of my sisters got married the
following summer, but other than that, nothing major happened.
When I turned 12, things started turning sour: I was
kicked out of the school group three or four times for reasons that I
still don't know. I was never quite "in the right spirit". I guess my
biggest problem was that I'm a little absentminded, and therefore
I'm somewhat tactless. I also pretty much always speak my mind,
something that isn't done on the commune a great deal. Finally it was
decided that Susanna should move up to the highschool group (to get
some good influence from a few devout novices). That was a little
better, but every time there was a "need," I was still always the
cause of it for some reason or other.
At 13 (1991) I started really thinking about life, and I
decided that I wanted more than just to be a humble sister. I wasn't
too happy, especially because I was always in trouble. I hated the
inevitable clear-up meetings in which I was always the center. I also
hated the interrogations regarding very personal issues. I never
seemed to fit in, and I certainly never "felt a calling." My parents and
others would beg me to share what was on my heart, so I told them
that I really wanted to leave because I wasn't happy. They got mad
and told me not to talk in such a manner. I found it strange,
however, that it didn't seem to bother them when I told them that I
didn't believe in God. I concluded that the commune wasn't based on
religion at all, but rather on security or convenience.
The rest of the year I did my best to stay out of trouble
(unsuccessfully, I might add). I got kicked out of the highschool
group because I wasn't "pulling my weight". In the Spring there was
a huge crisis because a young sister confessed to having had a sexual
affair with a guest. I was her friend, and therefore held partially
guilty for not discerning her spirit. I also was sort of flirting with her
brother, who was several years my senior and she felt it her duty to
share that with everyone. I was told to really seek repentance, and
spend some time alone to do so. Apparently it was not in vain,
because after writing numerous letters they felt close enough to me
to send me on a ten-day trip to the States with my parents. I hadn't
been in the States or seen my 3 brothers, who were living outside,
for 8 years.
Seeing them again was strange because I didn't know
them at all. My parents kept a close watch and didn't leave me alone
with them for a minute. We spent only about 3 hours with them.
Later, I got into trouble for saying that that had been the highlight of
the trip for me. A few weeks later, I got in trouble again. One of my
sisters discovered a razor in my drawer and told my parents that I
was shaving my legs. My mother started crying and my father told
me that I was a cheap whore. They told the other servants, and the
letter-writing began again. We had some clear-up meetings and all
the girls guilty of that sin (there were not very many) had to confess.
"Shaving your legs is a very serious sin," we were told. "It leads to
impurity and then fornication." Unfortunately that didn't stop me,
and I spent many a day in the servant's office.
By Christmas I was so sick of it all that I wanted to run
away, and I told my "boyfriend" who convinced me to stay. Two
months later we were caught making out, and then there followed
the worst weeks of my life. They had brotherhood-after-brotherhood
meeting about it. I was out of the highschool group and I wasn't
allowed to talk to anyone or go to meals or meetings. My boyfriend
had to quit his training and was sent to another 'hof within 5 days.
My father told me that none of the highschoolers would
find out, because he understood that it was embarrassing enough for
me. That same night I was told to go up to Jorg's house to talk with
him. The whole highschool group was there, and Jorg told them
everything. I have never been so humiliated! I was set up as the
worst possible example; I had committed the dirtiest, most deceitful
sin of all time. The highschool group was broken up, and it was all
my fault. Several weeks later, after millions of letters and clear-up
sessions (even a phone call from the holy Christoph himself) it was
decided that the highschool could be a group again.
Surprisingly, I was allowed to go to Spring Valley that
summer to visit my sister and get a change of scenery. I had no idea
that I was leaving Germany for good. My plan was to stay for one
year, and my parents thought it was a good idea. My last months in
Germany were good, although I never lived down what I had done.
The summer was fun; I liked Spring Valley a lot. I went to
Deerspring to visit my cousins and I asked if I could visit my
brothers who lived only an hour away, but my uncle said that my
brothers weren't in unity with the community and therefore were
leading sinful lives, and that there was no way I was going to see
them. Two weeks later I ran away, but I'll save that story for
Hilarion Braun, An Open Letter to the SOB Communities,
3/10/95: I am an SOB child and lived in the communities for 16
years and know you well. I've known KIT for several years now, and
know many of the KITfolk very well, and I knew most of the in
Primavera or Evergreen. You keep claiming that we, the KIT writers,
spread falsehood, and yet you never identify any of these falsehoods.
Strangely enough, you claim this while also claiming not to read KIT.
If you don't read KIT, how do you know it to be false? You claim to
be humble sinners and followers of Christ, and yet you are led by
Christoph Arnold while judging not only us but also the Hutterites.
You view yourselves as the only true Christians while claiming to be
humble and non-judgmental. Isn't there a credibility problem?? You
claim to love your enemy, and yet you forbid ex-members to visit
their relatives. You claim to be pacifists and yet you buy weapons for
self-protection. Why do you fail to see that these inconsistencies
create confusion and disrespect?
My suggestion to you regarding KIT is that you take time
to read it, just as many of us read your publications, and then point
out to us what you view as falsehood. I'm sure KIT will respond
conscientiously, and where necessary, publish errata.
No one I know in KIT wishes you any harm. I, for one,
wish you well and hope that some day you will realize that the
religious or other indoctrination of children is cruel at best, and
totally destructive of the child at worst.
I remember my childhood in Primavera fondly, and wish
I could have provided Cassie, my daughter, with as colorful a life as
that. Once I reached puberty and had to contend with Bruderhof
purity nonsense, life for me became utter hell, and I was fortunate to
have been expelled.
You who are in the communities need not fear KIT at all.
Many KITfolk are ardent Christians, while I am one of the few
agnostics. Just because we have widely varying beliefs we need not
be enemies, and if you ever attend a KIT get-together you will see
that Christians can get along with nonbelievers, and can even be very
You will also see that love is universal and that there is
no such thing as 'strict' or 'Christian' or 'human' love, but only one
love, namely the power to serve on another, no more, no less. You
would also find that this godless, evil world that you decry so much
is beautiful and ugly, dangerous and full of adventure, and that it is
up to each of us to make the best of it.
The joy that you experience when one of your children
returns from the outside world to join you and to devote his life to
your life-style is the same as that experienced by us when one of
you leaves you and we can enjoy his or her company. As long as you
view all of your activities as victory over evil and all of us as
wallowing in sin, you will never be able to communicate with us. Try
for a moment to view the rest of humanity as a big family, and
yourselves as a much smaller one instead of viewing the rest of the
world as evil. If you can do that just for a second, and maybe listen
to the music of great, ancient composers like Bach and Vivaldi, who
also tried to interpret Christianity, then maybe a new picture will
emerge that is colorful, exciting and full of promise instead of
darkness and sin.
Maybe if you realize that those of us who didn't fit in, in
the community, don't particularly fit in anywhere, but make our own
way without viewing all those who disagree with us as evil, you will
see how much we have in common rather than that which separates
us. Maybe you will see new hope, new possibilities, and a chance to
love each other in a real sense and to show that love, before death
makes showing love impossible.
As a start, maybe you could let Bette have a few days
with her aging mother. I'm sure that Monika Trumpi would make
herself available to join them so that all three could find peace and
conquer the past together. It might be a beginning of something new
-- something worthwhile. I know many of you, and know that your
love is bigger than your doubts. Do it, and you will see that it will
start a new era for all of us.
Hilarion Braun: 2/15/95: The Chip Wilson Story is a perfect
case study of the character type that fits the SOB ideal. Chip first
leans on KIT, clearly without any inner conviction, begging to be
advised and counseled by KITfolk who refuse to do so, warning him
to make his OWN decisions. And then he falls for the most simplistic
non sequiturs imaginable!
How utterly pathetic! Chip, I hope for your sake that
when your head stops spinning, your face will be towards the front! I
find no evidence that Christ loved stupidity, so why the insistence
that his followers must be stupid? Of course, this is my pride that
leads me to that question! Doesn't it all seem rather boring and
irrelevant by now? I'd rather go sailing, or else listen to Bach!
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 5/5/95: The end of World War II brings
back many memories of the years in Primavera. Mostly sad
memories, and in this connection I think of May Davis. After having
read May's chapter 3 of May, I have to say that I am appalled by the
treatment May received in Primavera. Should I be surprised?! No!
Not really, because it simply shows how the Servants conducted their
pressure meetings. I was a child when May Davis and Norah Caine
arrived in Primavera. I admired May for the work she did in
building up the brickworks. I used to go out and offer my help. I
don't know how much help I really was, but at least I thought I was
helping (I was only 10 or 11 years old). I always thought May was a
very neat lady. When Harry arrived, I thought he had come for the
sole purpose of taking May back to England. I did not realize that he
had the intention of joining.
May was a Novice and not a baptized member, and the
Servants and brotherhood shocked her. They tore her to pieces
because they wanted to make her remain faithful to her vows to the
brothers. It has always been said that the Bruderhof did not put
marriages apart. Well, you could fool me! August and I experienced
how the Servants tried to sow mistrust and division between us. It
was devastating, to say the least! It goes to show that this terrible
kind of pressure to leave one's spouse was very apparent in the
early Primavera years. Was it not already very much in evidence
before Primavera? If I am not mistaken, there was also pressure on
engaged couples who joined, to put them apart. And some were put
I do believe it is very good that we are able to read the
different testimonies about what happened to so many individuals. It
shocks me again and again to realize that the Bruderhof could be so
ruthless and coldhearted! Such happenings as described by May stay
with a person for their whole life. I speak from experience. Yes, we
can pick up the pieces and go on with our lives, but we can never
forget. The pain stays with us until the end of our life. On the other
hand, we are able to get on with living and do the things we perhaps
were always meant to do. May, in spite of her trauma, was able to go
on and lead a very fulfilled life. I would like to read May's whole
book. I hope we can keep in touch with May's daughter, Gwenny.
There is so much I would like to know about Harry and
May's life, but I suppose if I can read her book I will be able to find
out more about how they managed to survive after the Bruderhof.
There is life after the Commune!
Blair & Margot Purcell, 5/15/95: We read Art Rosenblum's
article about the German Community of ZEGG (May 1995 KIT) at first
with amusement and then with increasing discomfort that such a
story would be included in KIT. We don't really feel that this story
should have been included in the pages of a newsletter devoted to
the healing process of those who have left the Bruderhof (and their
families). While Art is as entitled as any to utilize the pages of KIT
for that healing purpose, outright prosetylization for the activities
described should be carried out at his personal expenditure rather
than at the expense of those whose donations make KIT possible. We
cannot honestly think of any KIT person who might find the ideas
offered worthy of consideration -- except, of course, Art himself --
who obviously does.
The suggestions to establish a "Woodstock Bruderhof"
near Rifton can only serve to alarm those at Woodcrest (unless they,
too, comprehend the absurdity of his proposal) and to alienate many,
if not most, of our other (KIT) readers. Use the old editorial pencil
next time -- please!
George Maendel, 5/31/95: Interesting call for the editor's
pen. All because of Art's visit to a place we know little about called
"Zegg", and his mention of the goal of free "love." That this term free
love should hold such power is remarkable, especially in a country
where 8 to 10 million teenagers will be infected with sexually
transmitted diseases in 1995, according to the Centers for Disease
Control. And where sexual images are used to sell everything
imaginable. Whatever sex is, at Zegg, maybe it's at least not shameful
and hidden like the sexual abuse and exploitation of children which
occurs in our society and which has occured in the Bruderhof and in
some Hutterite colonies. If Art had reported on a visit to a nudist
camp, and about the possibility of starting one, would that have been
edited out? I enjoyed hearing from Art, God Bless Him, even though I
have no desire to live in a "free love" commune.
Eb Zumpe, 5/6/95: I have a little tale for you tonight. I'm
going to give you the story and it may come out somewhat disjointed.
My folks Ben and Marianne Zumpe recently were ousted
along with Jorg Barth. I had a feeling that they probably were out,
and I was trying to figure out what was going on. A couple of weeks
had passed and I hadn't heard anything from them, and I figured
that if they were in the United States I probably would have heard
from them that they were here, that everything was going well. But I
didn't hear a word from them, so about three-four weeks ago I
phoned up Pleasant View -- that was the 'hof where they were
staying -- about 5:30 in the evening. I got their phone person on the
line and I asked if I could talk to my parents.
"Well," he said. "Your parents, they are not available right
now. But why don't you hang on for a couple of minutes, and I'll see
if I can get ahold of them."
That's what he told me first.
"Well, okay, no problem," I said. So I hung on a couple of
minutes until he got back on the line.
"Well," he said. "They're unavailable right now. Can I ask
So I told him who I was. "Here's my name and number," I
said. "Could you please have them give me a call."
"Okay, no problem," he said.
So I figured we were good to go. Now, my brother Dieter
phoned Pleasant View an hour later and gets the same story, that
they're in a meeting. Then my brother Chris calls Pleasant View and
the guy on the phone turns out to be Tim Clement. Chris asks him
straight out: "Are they on the property or are they off the property?"
"No, they're not," Tim replied.
So basically he had lied to me and my other brother. So I
phoned Chris, and Chris ends up phoning Chris Zimmerman in New
"Where are my parents?" he asked. "I want to know
where they are."
"Well, they got sent up to upstate New York, to a house
that we own up there in the town of Cherry Valley," Chris said.
So that information we had, and through the network, I
got the number for this house. I phoned my folks and asked them
how they were doing and if they needed anything.
"No, we're all taken care of," they said.
"Well, we'd like to come up and visit sometime," I said.
They were very gung-ho that we come up and visit, and
very happy that we called. Everything seemed to be -- you know --
Meanwhile, my brother Dieter keeps calling Pleasant
View to find out how long they're going to lie to him. And he gets
lied to by this guy Tim Clement until ten-thirty at night that my
parents are in a meeting. Finally at ten-thirty I called Dieter up.
"Have they changed their story yet?" I asked him.
"No," he said. "We keep getting the same thing. I just told
them right now that I was on my way up to find our where my
This was kind of a bluff, but he figured that maybe that
way he would get something out of them -- which he didn't. I guess
my sister Susie had phoned along with him, calling every hour on the
"I've had enough," Dieter finally said. "I can't deal with
these people any more."
"Well, let me call up," I said. "I'll find out what's going
So I phoned Pleasant View, and I get the same guy that I
had talked to at five-thirty.
"Who am I speaking with?" I asked.
"You're the same person I spoke to at five-thirty, right?"
"Yeah," he said.
"Well, it's ten-thirty now, and I haven't heard anything
back from my parents. Let me tell you straight up, Tim. I know my
parents aren't on the property, so why have you been bluffing me
and my brothers for the entire evening?"
"Well, I haven't talked to any of your brothers," he said.
"Tim, let's stop right now," I told him. "Don't compound
one lie with another lie, okay? You told my brother that my parents
were in a meeting, didn't you?"
"Well, I don't know where they are," he said.
"You told him they were in a meeting, though, right?"
"So, you knew that they weren't in a meeting, correct?"
"Well, they could be."
"Listen, they're in upstate New York in a house up there!
How could they be in a meeting?"
Okay, that was lie number one. Now he said, "I never
talked to any of your brothers and sisters tonight either. Just to let
you know that."
"Oh no?" I said. "I've been on the phone to both my
brothers and my sister night, and you've talked to all three of them!"
That was lie number two, and I told him that too.
"No, Tim, let me ask you another question," I said. "You're
a baptized member of the brotherhood, correct?"
"An elder and his wife get excommunicated from the
community, and you, as a baptized member, are telling me that you
don't know that they're excommunicated?"
"Well, I don't know where they are," he said.
"You know they aren't on the property."
"Well, unh -- " this that and the other, and then he started
to try to change the subject.
I just stopped him right there. "No-no-no-no-no, Tim,
you're not going to do that to me now. We're sticking with the topic
at hand, here. Sit down. Did you make a reasonable effort to get
ahold of my parents tonight?"
"Well, I didn't know where they were!"
"Tim, if you didn't know where they were, why didn't
you call up Christoph Arnold and find out where they were, get the
number to the house and call me back with the number?"
There was a dead silence on the other end of the line.
"Okay, that's lie number three, Tim," I said. "Now, you
have made no effort whatsoever to get ahold of my parents. What if
this had been an emergency and somebody was at death's door and
it was imperative that I get ahold of them?"
"Well, I talked to your whole family and obviously
nobody's at death's door, so I don't know what the big deal is. You
found your parents and that shouldn't be a problem."
"It's not like you gave us any help, Tim," I said. "What's
the deal here with you people?"
I got him on a fourth lie, but I can't remember what the
heck it was. But I got him on another deal too, where he was trying
to give me some crock, which I could read right through.
"Tim, this is the way that it is," I finally ended up telling
him. "You've got a public relations problems with people that leave
the community. You better figure out a way to get it straightened
out, because I'll tell you what. Just because I left the community
doesn't mean that I'm a piece of garbage. If I call for any of my
family, I expect them to get ahold of my family pronto! If I don't get
that kind of help from you people, then you're treating me like dirt."
There was a brief silence on the other end, before he said,
"Well, I'm really sorry about what I did tonight."
"Tim, you don't deliberately hurt or deceive somebody
and then just mutter an apology. You deliberately set out to give me
misinformation. Now you want me to forgive you to ease your
conscience? I'll tell you what, that ain't coming from me! That
apology is unaccepted, and it's inexcusable what you've been giving
me all night. Tim, you've got my number, you've got my name. You
give them to any servant who you deem it necessary to give it to.
You give them a call, and unlike you people, I will call them back if
they leave a message."
And with that I hung up.
Now, the story continues! My brother's in the Carpenters
Union and happened to be working in upstate New York, about forty
miles away from where my parents were staying. He had talked to
my father the previous night, and my father was gung-ho to see him,
and gave Chris directions on how to drive there. The night after I had
made that phone call to Pleasant View, Chris was supposed to go up,
so he phoned my father to let him know that he was leaving and
would visit for a few hours.
"Absolutely not!" my dad said. "You can't come up and see
"Why not?" Chris asked.
"Well, you're very bitter against the community," my
father said, and gave him the whole spiel about their trying to find
their way back and all of this nonsense.
Chris called me up all upset, and I told him, "Listen, just
go. Go up there and don't let Community dictate who you can and
can't see. Because this is obviously now not how my parents feel.
This is how Christoph has stepped in there to show his authority."
So Chris drove up there, and he had a fairly decent visit
with my folks. Two days later Dieter and I each received a letter
saying that they didn't want to see us and they weren't interested in
seeing us because they had to find their way back to Christ. But I
also heard from my brother Chris that "the Community was very
very upset about the phone call that they had gotten from me to Tim
Clement." They said that I had put Tim in a very bad position where
he didn't know what to do. So basically what they were saying was
that I called him up, I confronted him with the issues, I caught him
in four lies, but I'm the bad guy.
A Graduate, 5/30/95: [This account has been editde for a
general readership with the author's permission - ed] I have omitted
my name to avoid causing suffering to my brothers and sisters, my
parents, aunts & uncles, and my children. Those who need to know
who I am know already. I know that I am not alone in suffering such
horror, although the details may differ. I think everyone should
know what the reality of being raped is like, especially when you are
totally alone in a world that still is alien to you. The people who sent
us out into that world should know the reality.
I was sent out of the commune in my late teens with
nothing. I had no training or anything, but managed to get a place in
college, which included a room in the residence hall. I soon
discovered that there seemed to be some quite nice and friendly
people 'outside'. I started going down to the Students Union with a
group of them, where we played darts and things, and chatted
together over a drink. I learned as much as I could about what was
accepted as 'the norm' in this social set that was so new to me. In
particular I wanted to learn what was and was not 'done' when you
went out with a boy. I wanted so much to fit in, to be the same as the
others. Removed from the only 'society' I knew, I experienced a
feeling of total isolation and had lost all feeling of identity with other
human beings. The need to be accepted, to be a part of a group again
was paramount. The need to belong.
A group of us had been at the Students Union one
evening, having a quiet drink. I don't know quite how it happened,
but somehow everyone left, and I found myself alone with Larry
(name change), chatting about the course we were studying. It was a
lovely evening and Larry suggested going for a drive in his car, an
open-topped type that I hadn't been in before, and I thought it
would be fun. We drove out into the country to the far side of a
nearby lake. It was getting dark when he stopped the car at a quiet
spot and put his arm around me. He started to kiss me, gently at
first, so I just let it happen, but I was beginning to feel a bit unsure
of the situation. I liked Larry, but as a good friend to talk to. I didn't
really want to get into any kind of physical thing with him, although
I thought perhaps a friendly kiss was OK. Then he started to get
rougher, and his hands started moving around. I was getting out of
my depth. I didn't know how to handle the situation, so I pulled
away from him, and said I wanted to go home. At first he was
quietly persuasive, and said "Let's enjoy ourselves for a bit longer." I
didn't want to be unfriendly, but I had had enough, and tried to tell
But then he started shouting, and I could see his eyes in
the twilight, gleaming with a wild expression. I was really frightened
by now! I tried to get out of the car, but he grabbed hold of me,
ripped off my blouse and bra, and made deep scratches with his
nails. He started kissing and biting me, my neck, my mouth,
anywhere. I managed to get an arm free, and punched his face, then
got out of the car and ran. He caught up with me, and dragged me
down to the ground. He pulled me over and sat on top of me. I was
totally winded. Next thing I knew he was pushing himself into my
mouth. I couldn't breath. I began retching and wanted to be sick.
With a desperate effort I pushed him off and was sick. I must have
passed out. Next thing I remember he was on top of me again, his
fingers digging into my chest while he pulled off the rest of my
clothes. The more I struggled, the more he dug in his nails. His knees
pushed my legs apart. I spat in his face, and pulled his hair. He
laughed! Pinching harder, twisting, pushing, digging his knees into
my stomach -- so much pain, I felt so weak. I had no energy left, but
he seemed to be getting stronger. Then he raped me roughly and
violently, panting in my face -- on and on -- I thought my head was
going to burst. I must have passed out again. Next thing I knew the
car was there and he was kicking me in the groin and telling me, "Get
your clothes on! You're disgusting!" I sorted myself out as best I
could -- I couldn't find my bra. He pushed me back in the car, and
seemed to have calmed down a bit by the time we got back.
I felt horrible, dirty and sick. I took a shower but I
couldn't sleep, so I spent most of the night in the shower, using up all
the soaps I could find. I didn't go to classes for a week. How could I
have allowed that to happen to me? How could I face the rest of the
class? I felt so different, so dirty! Surely everyone would be able to
tell. What would he have told them? When I saw Larry again, he
leered at me and said: "If you want your bra back, you'll have to
come to my room and get it!" I hated him! I never wanted to see him
again, or be reminded of that night. I avoided him as much as I could
after that. I found it far more difficult to trust anyone again. I
withdrew from everyone for a long time. I don't think I will ever be
completely at ease with any man again until I have known him for a
When you begin to come out of the trauma of the
aftereffects, which can last many, many years, you first have to
accept that it was not your fault, that you really had no control over
what happened, and accept that unacceptable word: rape. This is only
the beginning. Next you have to work through the reality of what
happened to you. You have to relive it -- that is the worst part -- and
you will need lots of help. Then and only then can you begin to get
rid of the guilt that you "allowed this to happen." You may even
begin, just sometimes, to believe that it really wasn't your fault. The
next step is to begin to accept that you are really not 'evil,
contaminated, dirty, inferior,' etc., to begin to like yourself, begin to
build your self-confidence. Accept that you are a person of value.
You should be proud of yourself, that you are still here, fighting back.
Don't let it destroy you any longer! It is hard, and it takes a long
time. I am not there yet, but I think I know where I am going, and I
intend to get there!
I hope this will help others face up to their experiences,
talk them through with someone, and then put them where they
belong, in the past. It is a long, hard road, but it is worth it in the
end. DON'T LET THEM WIN!!!
Name Withheld, 4/24/95: Perhaps I have been successful in
some of the things I have done because of what I learned in my
years in the Bruderhof -- very difficult, sometimes joyous, but mostly
painful years. For 2 more years I struggled, with my only aim to
return to the Bruderhof and keep my vow. In reading The Imitation
of Christ, the words "Not my will but thine" suddenly took on a new
meaning. Was my commitment to Christ or to a human brotherhood?
I took a 180-degree turn.
We are needed in this world, not in a protective hidden
away cocoon making a tempest-in-a-teacup out of our sins and
failings. Remember Blumhardt quoting Luther's "sin boldly" -- that is
do something rather than fearfully examine and re-examine yourself.
A few years back, an 'outsider' complained that we do not respect all
the good the Bruderhof does. I believe he mentioned that there were
some young people in Nicaragua at the time. Currently it appears
Deerspring sends young people to the Catholic Worker to help them
fold the paper in preparation for the mailing.
I wanted to write then -- but feared it sounded too much
like bragging -- that most of us out in the world have done well -- not
only by ourselves but for others. At least for myself I can say,
perhaps through the experience of the Bruderhof, that I understand
what it means to die to oneself -- to realize that I am nothing, I'm not
important. -- but also that God only has us. And that it is very
important that I do the very best with what I am and what I have.
Many times He has given me strength and power beyond myself. So
here's my listing of some of my accomplishments.
Active in the Civil Rights movement, along with others,
we at least postponed the Detroit riots by a year -- and even then
'our' side did not explode. Offered to take in Fanny Lou Hamer's
youngest daughter to finish high school in a safer environment than
Mississippi -- she needed the comfort and security of her family
more. Was dismissed from teaching because of my support of Uhuru
(like Black Panther) students. Carried on by adopting a couple of 5-
year-olds. (This would not have happened if I had not had the
experience of caring for the Cavanna children, or the Winter boys, or
The first visit to my home occurred right after Martin
Luther King Jr.'s assassination. It was planned that she return to the
foster home. The child cried. She wanted to keep the tea-set she had
played with. We thought it best I keep it so there is something to
look forward to when the move finally takes place. I also had
planned a last fling, to attend a professional meeting in Washington,
D.C. As I boarded the plane in Chicago, I sat down next to a large
black man. He was very absorbed in his thoughts, I in mine. I'm no
good at small talk. When this man, Whitney Young, ordered a
cocktail, I asked for the empty bottle so I could add it to the tea-set
as a "soda bottle." I was embarrassed, I had to explain why I wanted
it. The easiest way was to show him the picture of the child. That
threw us into conversation that lasted way beyond the plane ride. He
had been called to Washington by President Johnson who had called
all the black leaders to Washington for consultation after King's
assassination. As we parted, Whitney Young said -- "I now go to this
meeting with a very different attitude -- yesterday I feared for this
nation -- now I have hope again". We cannot replay history -- but I'm
left with a sense that some further riots were avoided because at
least one participant could envision a future for this country.
I teach people who move from welfare into paid jobs
starting at $20,000 -- or more. At least half our students are the very
first members of their extended families to have entered college. For
many years I kept our graduating seniors majoring in our field from
dropping out of school. Usually it was financial reasons. Several times
I even offered housing to such students and influenced a colleague to
do the same. Each one has repaid me gladly from their new earnings.
The college now has a more lenient policy -- discovering that
throwing students out in the middle of their senior year only
prevents graduation and a possible payment of unpaid tuition.
I sponsored five Vietnamese refugees who each started
off by living in my home. In one annual Christmas letter, I recounted
that I had housed for days, weeks, and three of them even for
months, eleven homeless people that year. When a group of people
sponsored a Sanctuary Family, the family first moved into my
duplex. That was a marvelous gathering of Catholics, Episcopalians,
Presbyterians, Quakers, and others. Yes, August Pleil, now we are
truly free to follow the teachings of Jesus and act out our convictions
Considering the number of people on the Bruderhof, have they
done as much? And I know I'm not the only one. One couple adopted
12 so-called 'unadoptable' children, as they were older, etc. etc., and
then cared for a number of mentally retarded people, as their own
children were grown and left home.
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe, 5/19/95: I love to receive the
Hummingbird Express postings and be in on all the little joys and
troubles! I think we are a pretty close "commune" and understand
each other, sometimes without many words and just little pointers
that make us understand each other's ideas and questions. I want to
write a little report about our recent days while they are still fresh
in my mind.
We left for Birnbach early Tuesday morning. Germany is
beautiful in the springtime, lots of flowers along the wayside and all
the trees and bushes in their best and newest green. The Westerwald
is lovely, and as the roads get smaller and smaller, it really is a very
wonderful trip through the hills and valleys. We arrived in Birnbach
a little late, a little after 1 P.M. The Schwalms' house is right opposite
the Michaelshof, but as they had removed their house number and
name (due to the harassments of the Press and media) we drove past
their home and then saw them both waving to us, and turned
Ursula and Gerhard Schwalm are both past 65 years of
age, and immediately impressed us as a very warm and friendly
couple. Ursula had prepared a lovely meal, which we had in their
open kitchen looking out on a most beautiful garden with sloping
hills, lots of flowers, trees and bushes in bloom. They told us that a
wild deer had just given birth to its little ones in the back of their
garden and would come out of the bushes to proudly present the
newborns when it was quiet and peaceful in the mornings and
evenings. I write all this so that you can get an impression of the
difficult times that they had with their new neighbors for the past
After dinner, they took us for a drive around Birnbach
and all around the Bruderhof area, which made us sing the song,
"...und dann fŠhrt es mit gebrumm um den Bruderhof herum..." ("Now
we drive with lots of noise around the Bruderhof place") and we
laughed a lot. Later that evening Hans and I went up to the
Michaelshof. All the entryways have iron chains to prevent people
from walking in, but we just stepped over them. It surely is a lovely
place. The main house is a big mansion from the 1920s, big fir trees
and the surrounding park give the place a feeling of peace and
serenity. One really could not imagine what had gone on there during
the past month.
Then we saw Benito Rutherford coming out to meet us
(still chewing his interrupted supper!). He look at me and said, "You
are Heidi's sister!" I really thought he had seen a family likeness
until Hans made me wiser later, saying that they had seen us long
before we had come up. The Dutch car... me and Hans... a telephone
call to JCA... some more watching... Anyhow, it was clear that he was
interested in what we were doing at the Schwalms. We kept the
discussion light. He is married to a girl "from the outside," has four
children... told me his Aunt May had died... his mother Olive was at
Darvell... Stella his sister doing much better... and his brother Nicki
away from the Community. He himself wants to go back as soon as
possible. Then up the drive came Don Alexander in a van, and
somehow I did not feel like having a chit-chat with him, so we said
good-bye and left.
That evening we had a long talk with Gerhard and Ursula,
and started to understand much more about the difficult times they
have had since January 25th when Jorg Barth made his open
statement to the media, that the Bruderhof was being forced to leave
Birnbach because of the Right Wing Nazi neighbors. Gerhard had a
four-hour video cassette of all the TV reports on the SOB that he
kindly copied for me and which we have here in Holland. Also he had
made a booklet of all the newspaper articles on the SOB since
The next morning we spent comparing our newspaper
clippings and making copies of what the one or the other was
missing. We talked a lot, and heard about the terrible harassments
the Schwalms have experienced. Little by little, the impact of what
the SOB has done to this little village and its people made us feel
more and more burdened. At 6 P.M. Andrea Perterer arrived, whom
we had met earlier this year at our house. Gerhard and Ursula had
invited some of their neighbors for the evening. If we had held the
meeting in the village, more would have come, but as they could not
house the whole village, we had a nice discussion with some 30
people from Birnbach. I told them that we had come to support them
and hear from them what really had happened there. The people
were very friendly, but one could feel the hurt because of the
previous weeks' events. Birnbach only has some 500 inhabitants.
They had lived in peace with a lot of family contacts and support for
each other until the SOB came along. Now the villagers are split into
two camps: those that are for and those that are against the
Community. The splits and the hurts are so deep that the neighbor
opposite the Schwalms is not allowed to see her newborn grandchild
because the son-in-law wants nothing to do with people who were
called Nazis by the press.
We heard a lot and I tried to tell them a little about the
beginnings of the Bruderhof, and why and how it could turn into a
sect -- a cult! It was a good exchange and sharing of heart -- mind
and soul. All these people are far from being Nazis! But now that the
fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II is being celebrated
and the TV shows once again what the Nazis did at Auschwitz,
Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and Treblinka, everyone wants to prove to
the world that they were not and are not Nazis. So at this very
moment the press and the TV will just jump at any opportunity to
make it clear that they will fight for democracy and against any
Right Wing exposure. But the truth of the matter is that what these
Birnbach villagers were fighting for was that their village should
remain a little village and that the SOB should keep to their word and
their promises, which they originally gave when they bought the
place. These were:
1. We will not build nor expand.
2. We do not wish to build a fully equipped Bruderhof, but
only want a "Bruderhof house" so that people interested in our life
will be able to visit us in their own country.
3. Our children will go to the village school (this gave the
school the chance to expand).
The Michaelshof had been a Catholic school for
youngsters with difficulties. The school had not been allowed to build
because it would have meant an alternation in the "Greenbelt Area"
plan that restricts any building in the forests and parklands
surrounding the large cities. These restrictions are necessary in
Europe to prevent all the land from being turned into industrial and
However the first thing that the Community did was to
bypass the local authorities and turn to the State government instead
to apply for a building exemption and an alteration of the restrictions
on the land they had bought. They explained that they were victims
of Nazism and, having encountered aggression in the local villagers,
they needed the government to help them resettle in their homeland
after having been forced to leave in 1937. This was their first
attempt to make a new start in their Heimat. Journalists came at once
-- this was in 1989 -- to interview the neighbors. The neighbors did
not know at that time that the SOB had turned to the State
government, and answered the reporters openly and freely about
their misgivings about the Bruderhof having a big workshop, and all
the delivery and lumber trucks coming down the narrow village
roads. But in the newspaper, everything was twisted into a very
aggressive attitude on the part of the villagers, which in the
beginning it was not.
The Mayor asked the "Citizens Union" to help him find
ways and means to fight for their civil rights so as not to change the
character of the village (500 villagers to some 250 SOBers). So
together with the County Council, they protested against any changes
to the area plan, saying, "Why should the Community receive extra
treatment and extra help that was not given to the Catholic school,
who also wanted to build?" Then the Community came with their
first accusations: "These people must all be Nazis and not wanting the
"foreign or different persons" to settle in their area. This accusation
really hurt the villagers. They told us in Birnbach that there only
lives one ex-Nazi, but he kept to himself all these months fearing
exposure and publicity.
From then on, Gerhard Schwalm, the chairman of the civil
rights union, refused to talk to the Press, and also to talk with Jorg
Barth unless Jorg apologized for the false statements and insinuations
he had made. Meanwhile Jorg went to the Mayor and said, "If you
will take our side and point of view, I promise you that you will
never regret it!" What he meant by this is not clear, but Mayor
Manfred Walterchen made a 180-degree change in his thinking, has
been a Bruderhof friend ever since, and the word around the village
is that ever since he has been driving a nice new car!
That evening we heard many different stories about how
the Bruderhof never kept any promises made to the people of
Birnbach. Gerhard Schwalm is a civil engineer with 40 years of
experience working for one of the largest firms in Germany. He
knows the law like the fingers of his hand, and he wanted the
Bruderhof to abide by the law just as other citizens have to, and not
try and get special treatment and special exemptions because of the
"Nazi-victim" excuse. As a member of the local County Council, he
made it difficult for the Bruderhof to go around to the back door to change
the rules. This the SOB most certainly did not like at all, and they
tried to make life difficult for the Schwalms in little ways as well as
through false testimonies about them to their guests, the Press and
their fellow villagers. But the Schwalms kept firmly to their intention
not to let any document pass that was not according to the law and
the regulations governing the specific item.
Somewhere around November, 1994, the Bruderhof decided to
give up the Michaelshof, but they continued fighting for the building
exemption for that area. They had to pay D.M. 30,000 in order to get
the process started for changing the building codes in that area. Now
that they wanted to sell the place, these new exemptions would give
them the right to ask for a much higher price than they had paid. But
all this information was not known then, although as early as
November some Rosenkreuzlers, a splinter organization of the
Evangelical Church, had come to see the place which they thought
would make a nice training center on weekends for 100-200 people.
(Now in fact it is these people who will most probably buy the place
with the given building permits, and Birnbach will have to deal
exactly with what they were trying to prevent with the Bruderhof!).
According to the people of Birnbach, the Bruderhof gave many
different reasons for leaving:
1. Too many young people were leaving the Community, as
the temptations of the world were too close, Birnbach being just
around the corner.
2. Too many people were coming just to find shelter, for
example from former East Germany and Yugoslavia.
3. Community Playthings were not selling well, as the
German market was absolutely saturated.
4. The unwillingness of the neighbors to accept them as
We talked until about 11:30 P.M. and agreed that now
was the time to write an answer to the Press. We made a list of all
the people who had written in the newspapers and those who had
openly turned against the Citizens Union of Birnbach. The article
should be short, easy to read and understand, and should come from
outside Birnbach. I was asked to write that. Andrea Perterer would
write a more scientific article of some 30 pages during the next week
or two that should go to church leaders, universities or the Press.
The villagers thanked us for wanting to hear their story
and grievances. We thanked them for being so brave as to keep to
and defend their point of view. I spoke of my deep grief that the
Community had actually turned into exactly the same thing they had
rejected in 1937. After that, we talked for a long while, and Andrea
left around midnight. The Schwalms told us about the unbelievable
persecution by the Press. The cameras were on their house all the
time, and reporters were trying to catch a glimpse of them inside the
house so they had to keep the shutters closed day and night. Gerhard
had to go in for a serious operation and it was impossible for Ursula
to leave the house by the front door during visiting hours. Finally
they parked the car somewhere in the village and she crept through
the garden hiding behind the trees whenever she wanted to drive to
the hospital. They told us that they would not have believed it
possible to live in such fear of persecution in a Germany of today,
and their nerves still are absolutely wrecked. I felt so ashamed that
my family could be the source of so much mental trauma.
Our visit to Birnbach was very worthwhile, and I was
really shocked to see how it was possible that people who call
themselves Christians and peacemakers could bring so much hurt, so
much division and so much hatred to their fellowmen. They left
Birnbach in a heap of broken glass, which will never mend again. The
villagers said, "Birnbach will never be what it was ever again, as the
trust towards each other has been completely broken." My husband
Hans said to me, "Maybe it will not be the same, but it can and will
be different from what it is now, and this is what we will work for!"
Norah Allain, 2/9/95: I'm suddenly realising that I ought not
to keep my poems in the dark any more. When I have copies, I will
send KIT one, although I don't quite know what you will do with it,
as it certainly does not fit into your community life series. When I
finish the poems, I plan to make a better copy of the account of my
Bruderhof years. They were both written about the same time, about
25 years ago. As I type the poems, I get back into that period again
and observe with interest how much one seems to change and yet
basically remains the same. The other night, for the first time since
'79, I wrote another little poem. It seems as though the intervening
years were so taken up with the struggle to create "Innisfree" that I
had no energy left for that aspect of my life. I was passionately
interested in planting things and improving the soil, so that my
original plan of working outside mornings and having afternoons for
reading, writing, etc., never came off. The work on the land
swallowed me as effectively as the years in the Bruderhof.
Now two days have gone by without my touching the
typewriter again. Just before this, we had eleven days of almost
continuous rain, with floods in Sao Paulo and many other places
wherever there are rivers. I only lost a good deal of my little bean
harvest and had to keep going out in the rain to look after Jacque's
ducks, geese and turkeys, as the couple who work for him had gone
away for a week then! They now are back, and the sun shone today.
Thousands of mostly poor people lost their houses though, often with
everything in them, and quite a lot lost their lives too. Now I've just
heard that not only are there floods in Holland and Belgium and
some other parts of Europe, but also there have been terrific snow
storms in the south of England. My daughter Isabel actually was
caught in a snow storm with her son Mario, I don't know exactly
where. The battery conked out, they were stuck and beginning to
freeze in the car, so they decided to get out and walk to the nearest
place. They were almost frozen when someone finally picked them
up and brought them to a hotel where they spent the night. But in
that same area, four people who were in the same plight and got out
of their cars actually froze to death. This is almost unheard of in that
part of England.
I'm looking forward to having pretty well every single
one of my children here in July for my 80th birthday. So I shall stay
put this year. I received the KIT a few days ago, and some pages of
your computer mail, which gave me an idea of what keeps you so
busy! I have the feeling that Paulo would enjoy being up there and
in on the fun. Also, I was reflecting on the fact that I, for one, had
expected the scandal of the guns to have more obvious effect on the
members, but evidently the power elite is stronger even than I
imagined, and even the more innocent members have an awful lot
invested in the status quo, to say nothing of being influenced by fear.
They'll just have to carry on till they've had enough, because even
those who appear to be victims are responsible for remaining there.
It's wonderful if KIT can help the few who do get out. If that's what
they call "destroying the Bruderhof," then we sure do want to do it.
Regarding my interest in the Seth books, although I don't
pretend to understand fully all that I've read so far, it does give me a
viewpoint from which a far deeper understanding of Christianity, for
instance, is possible. There's a lot which Jane Roberts started bringing
out about her "sinful-self' towards the end of her life which is very
revealing to me. She was actually brought up Catholic. As for me, of
course I got bitten by the guilt bug also while at the Bruderhof, on
occasions where we were having a real old confession binge. But by
nature I had a pretty strong resistance to it, and after being induced
to confess to something absolutely foolish some time, I came to my
senses and asked myself, "How dumb can you really get? Are there
no limits?" However, what Jane talks about is, of course, nothing that
4/5/95: My eldest daughter Betty came to visit me... As it
was we spent quite a lot of time rescuing my maize harvest, which
was just brought in two days before the weather broke again and
then I had forgotten it was outside drying, and there was a terrific
downpour that night and two more nights afterwards! By the time
she went, we had got it under control, and she had the good idea of
suspending it from the rafters in bunches. We also went to see the
film Little Women, which I read as a child, and got back home at 2
A.M. At 3 A.M. the phone rang and it was Danny announcing the
birth of their second little daughter, born at home and only took two
hours, and everything fine. Love and Best Wishes,
Konrad Kluver, 2/7/95: Greetings to all! Early last Saturday a
friend called and asked if I would like to visit the Bruderhof in Birnbach,
near Bonn, Germany, with him. Surprised, I asked him what was
happening. He told me about an article in the weekly Stern magazine.
In this article, Jorg Barth claimed that "they, the Bruderhof, are being
driven out a second time in their history here in Germany. The first
time by the Nazis, the second time by Fremdenhass (hatred of
He, my friend, was raving mad: "I would tell them off!"
He knew quite a lot about the Bruderhof and similar groups, and said,
"First these people take full advantage of all the benefits of the
Socialist State, Germany, and then they have the audacity to call it
"foreigner-hating!" Well, I had no time nor interest in going.
When he came back the next day, he was somewhat
mellowed. He had hoped that the Bruderhof would invite him for the
night, but instead he was asked to go to a nearby hotel. So much for
hospitality. He talked to a number of people, but the one or two
names that stuck in his mind were Elias and Lydia (Meier) Boller,
and Priszilla (Meier). When tackled on Primavera, Elias said, "Yes,
things there were wrong because we were too democratic, and this
escalated into a crisis with the results final breakdown of the place
"Now the Hutterites want their money back that they
have invested [in the Michaelshof] and they say, 'We have the chance
of a lifetime to buy a complete college in England, with all the
inventory, for peanuts'."
Apparently the Bruderhof really activated the news media on
all levels, including TV broadcasts over the various stations. This
friend of mine was quite impressed by those people on the Bruderhof,
their utter poverty, their open-mindedness, they even admit to
having erred in the past. Then he bought a book from them... wants
to make up his mind about them after reading the book. That's the
problem I find with a lot of Germans: they like to believe what they
read! This chap does not believe much of my Bruderhof experiences...
To come back to the Plain Brothers issue: from early
childhood a great number of us Bruderhof kids experienced that "some
were more equal than others," even without reading Animal Farm.
We actually experienced Animal Farm!! The difference in the
experience of the same thing by different people lies in their
respective levels of viewing. Some experience it from the 'frog
perspective,' while others from the 'stork perspective.' Most of us
Bruderhof kids experienced it from the 'frog perspective' except of course
the few privileged of the Arnold clique and their close circle, who
experienced Bruderhof life from the 'stork perspective.'
Who knows what happened to Johnny Robinson and his
Hannah Goodwin Johnson, 4/27/95: The apple, cherry and
pear are all in bloom together this year. There was a 'tree'-mendous
pear against the wall of our Bulstrode apartment. Part of the living
room was partitioned off, so I had one of the windows for my room.
There was also a pipe on the wall outside below my window. Even
though I was afraid of falling, I climbed out.
My family's bathroom was on the other side of my wall
and I could hear and usually identify anyone using the facilities. One
day I heard children bathing and, not being able to recognize the
voices, I climbed out my window and looked in the bathroom
window. I didn't know the faces either, so I gave up my mission to
identify only to be taken as 'identified' in an accusation of being a
Peeping Tom ('Tomboy' should have been Bad enough). I'm BADD!
------ Poetry ------
CALLING ALL KITFOLK! CALLING ALL KITFOLK!
It's me, the fifth grade poet (okay, call me Emily). Now if
you've got a sense of humor about your vocal abilities, I suggest you
THE DAY OF THE KITFOLK
by Emily Purcell
Once there was a forest
Sweet, serene and still
At night there was a chitter-chatter
It was the whippoorwill.
Someone made it into a park
With campsites, swimming and fun
There were picnics and hikers
It attracted everyone.
There were beehives over each campsite
All the trees leaked sap
You'd get lost trying to find the lake
They called it Rocky Gap.
One day, despite the Ranger's protests
(it was really quite weird)
Some people camped, they came from a place
Where each man had a beard.
They greeted each other with screechy hellos
Said they were very glad
To meet each other; but to their kids
This was ALL very sad.
They talked and talked and talked and talked
You could hear them from Hong Kong
And when they weren't talking
They sang 'most every song.
Although the kids all screamed and fainted
And the birds fell dead from their limb
They talked and looked at albums
Saying "I remember him!"
They sang both night and day
They gabbled on like geese
When all the deer were scared away
The Park Ranger called the police.
The other campers were annoyed
It was really all they could take
"If they sing just ONE more song
We'll throw them in the lake!"
There were two annoyed campers
Their names were Kim and Austin
When they complained to the gossipers
They said "You ought to hear us in Boston!"
They talked and gossiped and talked a little bit more
They sang and gossiped still!
At night there was a chitter-chatter
It was NOT the whippoorwill.
------ In Remembrance ------
by Konrad Kluver
Epilogue to the "Lift-off" of Primavera's "Nerve-Killer"
Greetings, all Primaveranians! "Dr." Konstantin
Merkoucheff passed away the 6th of May, 1995, "sitting down", as I
was informed, just as he had promised some years back. "I would
never die in bed, lying down!"-- he had stated once. For the last
decade he had been suffering from the consequences of a partially
collapsed lung and the resulting cardiac complications, and had been
on the brink of death many a time. But always he came out with the
famous remark: "Unkraut vergeht nicht!" -- "A weed doesn't wither."
ALL Primaveranians will remember Konstantin! He was
the guy who got on our most sensitive nerves! When he fumbled in
our mouths with his big fingers, and the stinking smoke and the
vibration of his foot-driven dentist drill would make us almost vomit
or faint, his ever-so-dry question would be: "Tuts weh?" "Does it
hurt?" And when we jumped to the roof after the squirt of cold
water on the nerve, he remarked, just as dryly: "Es ist gleich vorbei!"
"It'll be right over! "Someone once asked him, if he'd ever sterilized
those dentist drills? Konstantin's dry reply: "Not necessary! The
bacteria gets killed during the drilling of the tooth through the heat!
Or haven't you ever heard that: "Where's smoke, there's fire too!"
Konstantin had filled my first caries when I was about 12
years of age and pulled (extracted) the same tooth some 25 years
later, back in Paraguay.
Most people knew him as "Dr. Konstantino", although he
hadn't even the title of "dental technician" With his somewhat
primitive equipment he performed some quite extraordinary,
fantastic dental operations, which even dentists in Asuncion, Buenos
Aires and Brazil had declined to do.
He did not need X-ray equipment either! By knocking and
probing at a specific tooth from various angles and the resulting
distinctive reactions of the person treated, he could diagnose the
problem of the tooth better than most specialists with sophisticated
My first glimpse of the remarkably dry humor and
diverse artistic talents of this unfathomable and modest genius was
at the unforgettable performance of Midsummer's Night Dream in
Loma Hoby, where Konstantin acted as 'The wall.' "This is the wall"
he said, pointing at a couple of bricks. "And this is the hole in the
wall", he continued while peeping through an imaginary hole formed
by the index and middle fingers of both hands.
Even as I write this, I have to smile, as the clear picture
of his dry humor represented in this performance, some 40 odd
years ago, crosses my mind.
Dr.-Dr. Walter Braun, the bee-keeper of Primavera, also
called "Yate'irua" (Guarani for: "Bee-father") by the natives, was like
a father to Konstantin during all of the time they knew each other,
and many a time got him out of some mess or other Konstantin got
involved in on account of his brother Jorge.
Once I asked Dr.-Dr. Braun, if he could define the
character of Konstantin. His sniggering reply: "He is like the Russian
How's that? I insisted. "Well", he continued, "as extensive
and desolate." During my 20 years stay in Paraguay, from 1972
through 1992, I got to know and appreciate Konstantin as my only
friend and reliable and dependable associate, either by
philosophizing, discussing hot topics or just sipping quietly --
sometimes for hours on end -- our hot early morning mate, or ice-
cooled terere during the hot hours of day. Of course we were also
loosely related by way of our wives (his second), who are sisters.
In my experience, Konstantin proved to be much more
than the somewhat superficial character-statement of Dr.-Dr. Braun.
The Celtic "Tree-Horoscope" describes his character more
in line, with the "Weeping-Willow":
This tree is full of melancholy.
It is especially suited to tune into his fellow men's'
It has an artistic disposition
and loves beauty in all its expressions.
Two souls live in its breast:
the one is sentimental and dreamy,
the other restless and changeable.
Otherwise it is conscientious, upright and if required, chooses
the more difficult Path.
But the "Weeping-Willow" also has the capacity
to foresee future happenings,
through its gift of intuition
and power of empathy.
Konstantin was going against odds from early childhood.
As the son of a White Russian General's widow he, together with his
younger brother Jorge, lived in the house of his stepfather who was a
White Russian General too, but now working as taxi-driver in Paris,
France. At approximately eleven years of age, the two youngsters
were selected by the Bruderhof for their "children's-care-program"
in the Principality of Liechtenstein's Almbruderhof.
There, under the rigid and "old-school" type supervision
of Balz Trumpi, the two brothers were forced to learn German
fluently at a predesignated timetable. Apart from that, Konstantin
was put to chores like carrying hard-fuel from the lower houses to
the "upper houses", which was quite a steep climb. Another task was
to carry the babies from the Baby-house below, to their respective
homes, in the evenings, (one of the babies was little "me"). And all
this during winter through deep snow, labours normally performed
by grown men. Of course, Konstantin remembered boys' adventures
like skiing, sledging, "rodein", etc., as well.
Later, at the Cotswold Bruderhof in England, he was put
to slaving in the cowstall. There he had to milk umpteen cows at the
rate of a grown man, apart from "mucking-out" and the rest of
"minor chores" of the outfit.
He remembered one winter, freezing half to death in his
ramshackle sleeping place. In the same winter, he near lost his toes
which froze during the performance of his tasks "without boots!" This
was NOT caused by "poverty", but through "sheer, premeditated
maltreatment" by the person or persons in charge!! Of course, here
too, like any boy in his right mind, he was over his ears in pranks
and adventures, the source of which were mainly the brainstorms of
Jorge, his younger brother, like swiping my father's tandembike and
taking off for a blitz-tour...
In Paraguay, naturally, Konstantin was put to task again
in the cowstall under the most primitive conditions. The cattle had to
be rounded up at the corral on horseback. There they were roped
and tied to a post. Then the hind legs had to be tied together, which
was quite an art taking in account the lightning-fast sidekicks of
those buffalo-type animals. It was not uncommon, to milk a cow
lying in the mud... Peter Mathis, the specialist from Switzerland, once
showed how to treat a wild cow attacking you: just stand there and
grab her by both horns, then with a quick "sling", throw her to the
Well, Peter was a sturdy fellow! When Konstantin tried
that trick on one occasion, he found himself on the other side of the
corral fence at the wink of an eye! And all this in sometimes gushing
rain, in mud knee-deep and winter temperatures of subzero!
Well, people who themselves never had to do hazardous
and degrading work like that, day in, day out, year in, year out, just
are incapable of imagining the physical and emotional stress and
suffering of a boy in his teens, with no family ties and connections.
After work there were different chores (Dienste) awaiting him, so he
like some others, wouldn't have time to get funny ideas: just to
collapse on their bedsteads after finishing all their extra chores...
One day it was decided, out of the blue, to send him to
Buenos Aires to learn the art of dentistry at one of the most famous
dental laboratories of Argentina. Before Konstantin really had the
chance to complete half of his apprenticeship, he was called back to
Primavera urgently, without knowing the cause for this (up to his
Throughout his life in Primavera, like most inmates, he
would change jobs at a moment's notice. While extracting the tooth of
a patient, he was informed that within half-an-hour he had to take
over the sawmill, or the steam engine, or such like...
For years he got up early to milk the cows. Then, still
with the odor of fresh cow-droppings under his skin, to extract teeth
in the Primavera hospital's "dentist-room", only to be informed at a
later 'tariff-break', that he had sawmill-duty during siesta, in the
afternoon kitchen duty, then supper-austeiler. After supper there
was the gemeindestunde to attend till approximately 10 P.M., and
the next morning he had to get up as early as 3:30 A.M. for
fruhstucksdienst (breakfast duty). This routine changed somewhat
after having married and the kids came, one after the other...
Konstantin had many hobbies: leatherwork, carpentry,
woodcarving, painting, fine mechanics and last but not least
photography. He was probably the only inmate who knew' how to
camouflage his hobbies as "official tasks." He was an ardent reader,
and all his accumulated knowledge he had acquired through self-
tuition. This also covered his continuous improvements in dental
techniques and medicinal treatments. Of course, he too had his "ins
and outs", like most inmates, but seemingly nothing could perturb his
At the "big exodus" of Primavera inmates in 1960-61,
Konstantin's family was "elected" for Woodcrest. At the airport in
Asuncion, an eye witness reported, the Po-guazu head guy) insisted
that first the women and children board the plane. As Konstantin
prepared to board, he was held back and told that he had to stay in
Paraguay! Just like that! He was shocked and bewildered. He just
couldn't believe it!
He tried to call back his wife, Anna, but she would not
even look at him, lest he convince her... That was the beginning of a
slow death for Konstantin. He was heartbroken, and even though he
married again some 15 years later -- his first marriage was legally
"annulled" -- he was a broken man! Now a difficult time started for
him. English-teaching went fine for a while. Then Konstantin
contacted Fritz Freiburghaus, ex-teacher at Primavera, who was
managing the "U.S. Point 4" canteen.
So he found a new job. Later when Fritz fell seriously ill,
Konstantin looked after him. As soon as he was OK again, Fritz
married an elderly Swiss, and Konstantin, with the
recommendation of Hermann Juilffs, got a dentist's consultation room
in the Mennonite colony of Philadelfia in the central Paraguayan
Chaco. Hermann, a Mennonite dentist, incidentally had worked off
and on in Primavera-hospital as dentist, in the past and knew
After a decade or so, Konstantin moved again, this time to
Friesland Mennonite colony, which had swallowed Primavera, where
he held out for a couple of years.
After that episode, the next best bet seemed to be Villa
Rosario, near Puerto Rosario which most inmates knew fairly well.
Konstantin hoped for good companionship and a definite settlement
there with Dr. Jury Poppoff (the White Russian medical Dr. who had
worked in Primavera Hospital for various years) as head of the I.P.S.
hospital there and Dr. Fertsch, a German, as head of the hospital in
Villa Rosario, both of whom he knew very well. Fortunately, he also
met his second wife there, a beautiful Argentinean girl of
Just after they moved together, a few of the SOB showed
up, Hardi Arnold and Hans Meier among them. They stepped hard on
the crushed lifeline of Konstantin, but he stayed outwardly composed
and cool, though inwardly he was burning up. This visit gave food for
conversation for many years to come.
"Crawling back like a worm, just to get stepped on again at
the slightest reason," was the starting point of many palavers.
By 1977, Michel Gneiting called "Dr. Konstantino" to
Carmen del Parana in southeast Paraguay, near Encarnacion. While
living there, his wife Florinda Espinola de Mercoucheff bore him a
daughter, Claudia, and a son, Jimmy. Before the birth of his second
child Konstantin received an urgent telegram from the SOB in the US.
It just stated, that if he, Konstantin, was in agreement, the SOB would
ship Ivan Mercoucheff, his youngest son of the Bruderhof-marriage, down
to Paraguay. Otherwise Ivan, still in his teens, would stay in prison...
No explanation, just that. Of course Konstantin cabled back his
agreement, and shortly Ivan arrived in Carmen del Parana. At the
time, Konstantin had just started a new family and dental practice
and was new in the village. His income barely balanced his overhead
and with Ivan thrown on him, he often didn't know how to make
ends meet. The SOB didn't think of helping financially when tackled
on the subject. On the contrary, they threw back at him that, "For so
many years he, Konstantin, hadn't paid for the upkeep of his family,
and now was his turn to do something."
During that period, Konstantin received the news of the
passing-away of his brother Jorge, who had died of a heart failure
while driving a pickup in the jungles of Ca'a-Guazu. This was another
terrible blow for him. Throughout his life, he had fathered Jorge and
"kept him in cotton wool" (as the British so aptly state). For a great
number of Jorge's pranks and misdeeds, Konstantin "had held his
head to answer for the consequences" to the Bruderschaft.
Fortunately Dr. Cyril and Margot Davies had moved to Carmen del
Parana from England, and so were able to stand by him in his deep
For a few years, the practice in Carmen worked out O.K.
Many Russian emigrants and their descendants thrived in the
surrounding colonies and were happy to visit a Russian-speaking
dentist. But woe: dentists began mushrooming in and around Carmen.
Konstantin began loosing clients and when it got unbearable, he
moved to the mainly German-populated "wine" colony of
Independencia, near Villa Rica. Florinda, his wife, had taken a job
cooking for the German boarding school of Independencia, so there
was some cash income to cover the costs of moving and the new start
in a new place. Because Konstantin spoke German fluently and was a
"colonist type", again he was accepted and appreciated in the shortest
time. There also his third child, Nadia, was born.
In the meantime Dr. Cyril and Margot Davies had moved
to "Kilometro 16" near "Puerto Presidente Stroessner," now "Ciudad
del Este," where also Wilhelm (Kuller) Fischer was established, with
Hans-Jorg Meier and Lucretia (Fischer). Erwin Weis with family lived
a little further out in the sticks.
As clients dwindled to a minimum after a period of eight
years in Independencia (again due to an influx of new dentists and
lack of cash-flow by the populace), Konstantin had to decide whether
to move again. This time his destination was to be Kilometer 16.
There things might perk up economically and he would find old-time
friends and, hopefully, "fellowship". So, taking the "lesser evil", he
decided to move again and solemnly stated, "This will be my last
Things turned out better than anticipated in Kilometro
16, but every winter Konstantin collapsed due to pneumonia and the
resulting heart difficulties. Later he had to undergo an urgent
prostate operation in nearby Foz do Iguazu. Dr. Davies pleaded with
the SOB for financial help and that time the necessary help was not
refused. Somewhere around 1989 or 1990, Jakob Gneiting with his
wife Juliana and Sergei Mercoucheff, Konstantin's oldest son from the
Bruderhof marriage, were visiting ex-inmates in Paraguay. There again
opinions clashed and although Konstantin was extremely ill, any
further help was refused on the grounds of 'flagrant adultery'. "How
can we possibly help an unfaithful adulterer?...!!!!???????"
Fortunately, Konstantin had good friends around for the
last -- and health-wise the most difficult -- years, like Dr. Cyril and
Margot Davies and Wilhelm Fischer, his wife Joan and family. Their
constant physical, medical, spiritual and economic help kept
Konstantin and his family afloat. They really lived up to what Christ
taught: "do unto your neighbour," expecting no compensation,
because there was nothing to expect! Konstantin hadn't saved a
penny during all those years of dentistry, to the utter
incomprehension of most. Versed as he was in this state-of-the-art,
he was "blind in the eye for economy." His main slogan was, "You live
only once, so live it to the fullest while you may, and don't worry
about the future!" He always felt that he was there mainly to help
others in need, not to cash in. He was exaggeratedly "social-minded"
to a point where he couldn't distinguish between his real poverty
and the imagined poverty of his client.
Claudia, Konstantin's older daughter by his second
marriage, called me from Belgium where she is staying and told us
some details of his passing. The last couple of months, Konstantin had
been interned, again due to his rock-bottom poor health situation, at
a clinic in Ciudad del Este. Then one day he felt so well that he
decided to go home. There he arrived to the surprise of his wife. He
sat down at his work table and started to read something, then asked
Florinda to get him a Coke. When she came back from the shop,
Konstantin seemingly was asleep at the table, his head resting on his
arms, a common happening lately. When he did not awaken after a
while, Florinda tried to shake him awake only to find that Konstantin
had "lifted-off" into another dimension -- hopefully a better and
more enjoyable one than his time here on planet Earth! Although he
often enough had stated and stressed the point that during his life on
the Bruderhof there had been many enjoyable experiences and
highlights, the stale aftertaste of unjust suffering in the name of God
and Jesus Christ was fading out those "good-time memories"!
I'm sure that Konstantin only evokes good memories
(other than the dental treatments) in most who had to do with him. I
am planning to write more details about Konstantin's life, and would
like to ask everybody who remember some experience or episode to
write me. Thanks in advance!
------ Article ------
Excerpts from 'A Portfolio for the Advanced Certificate in
Counselling', University of Surrey, U.K.
by Joy Johnson MacDonald (1/26/95)
Freeing The Bonds of Religious Abuse
"A cult might be defined as an authoritarian group who
exhibit excessive devotional allegiance to a person or dogma, and
who employ unethical, manipulative and coercive techniques of
persuasion and control, including promoting the fear of leaving the group."
Cult Awareness Network definition,
quoted in Captive Hearts, Captive
< Minds, Tobias & Lalich 1994 p 12
. . .
This project focuses on a particular totalitarian religious
society called The Society of Brothers, or the Bruderhof. It cannot be
a truly objective study as I was born and spent the first 20 years of
my life in this community and believe that the Bruderhof's attempt
to control and programme their children to follow "The only true
path of God's Kingdom" has been a very traumatic and destructive
experience for many children who grew up in this community."
[Bruderhof history and general description deleted - ed]
Children are cared for in their own age group from 8 a.m.
to 5.50 p.m., also eating their midday and evening meals together.
The relationship to their peer group is an important factor in the life
of a bruderhof child and it is here that the very earliest subtle forms
of control are exerted. The routine schedule of each age group is
geared to the developmental needs of the whole group so that
physical activities, group games, walks, meals, rest periods, toilet
training, singing etc. are undertaken by the whole group in unison
without the flexibility or tolerance to allow individual children space
to grow and develop at their own pace. There is obviously a practical
element to structured group activities, but children absorb the
underlying message that the collective group is good, the individual
self is disruptive and bad.
The following was written by the editor of a German
Christian magazine who spent several weeks with his family on one
of the 'hofs. He wrote a very sympathetic book, Community for Life,
which is distributed by the Bruderhof's Plough publishing company:
Does the bruderhof system produce only uniform, boring,
and unoriginal little bruderhof people, a grey sameness? My
observations seem to run in the opposite direction. They are real
children, nothing false, no grown-up affectedness has yet crept in.
They are attractively innocent, as children should be, in contrast to
those in many small families on the outside. I cannot argue with the
result of the bruderhof education. But the rather stiff, regimented,
and strict way they go about it continues to perplex me. The narrow,
regulated, ordered pattern is somewhat distasteful to me, but the
naturalness and open purity of the children themselves is very
attractive. (Eggers 1988 p 55)
In reality this "natural and open purity of the children" is
the superficial and outward appearance of a more complex and less
benign reality. There is a narrow, moralistic attitude towards the
education and care of children in the community.
An ex-bruderhof member who held the position of
Servant of the Word for many years writes of his misgivings
concerning several absolute values:
Another absolute principle fraught with danger is that of
the Hutterite's belief that one should not spare the rod so as
not to spoil the child, but also reflected in the puritanical
upbringing of the founder members of the Bruderhof. The
traumas and mental agony inflicted on children for minor or
imaginary faults are related to this notion of children's discipline.
The Community That Failed
Roger Allain 1992 p 323
Julius H Rubin writes in Religious Melancholy & The
Protestant Experience in America (1994 p 54):
Rigid rules, corporal punishment and withdrawal of
parental love was purposely designed to crush their wills
and emerging autonomies. Autonomy -- the power of the
self to be capable of independent and purposeful conduct
and the exercise of will -- was impaired by the pervasive
authoritarian discipline of the community. The result was a
propensity for anfechtung (death of self) and feeling
guilty, sinful and vile when they acted with autonomy. Only
with proper discipline; methodically administered to eradicate
the natural child, could the emerging identity be suppressed
and replaced with one more pleasing to God.
The Bruderhof founder, Arnold believed that each child
was "a thought in the mind of God, born innocent and without sin,
but that as soon as the child has consciously and willfully done Evil,
he has ceased to be a child. Children must learn to fight for purity,
truthfulness and love and unquestioning obedience as the attitude
which will most help them in this fight." (Children's Education In
Community, 1976 p 309)
In their effort to create a "pure" community and succeed
in the "struggle against the Devil", several disciplinary measures
were required. Social isolation, where a child is punished by being
excluded from their family and the children's community and put
into the care of a single woman or man was one of the commonest
punishments, which together with harsh interrogations and
accusations by adults from the top hierarchy (Elder, Servants of the
Word, Witness Brothers) has caused immense and lasting damage.
Children, as young as ten could be sent to another community
hundreds of miles away where they knew no one and were cared for
completely isolated from contact with other children for weeks or
even months until it was believed they had repented of their
wrongdoings. Even very young children could be isolated for several
hours on their own.
Physical punishments were usually meted out to a child
privately, but occasionally a child was ceremoniously thrashed
in front of their group or the whole school. (See Kluver, KIT 1993
Annual p 28) There are adults who to this day suffer emotional
impairment and have been unable to overcome the psychological
trauma this humiliating abuse has left them. Parents are not
necessarily consulted, but may be told they should beat or otherwise
discipline their children, thus subordinating their belief in child-
rearing and education to the Bruderhof authority.
Carl Rogers writes in On Becoming A Person (1967 p 575)
on the process of "brainwashing":
What is required is a rather horrifying reversal of the
conditions of psychotherapy. The individual under suspicion is
rejected and isolated for a long time, then his need for human
relationships is greatly intensified. The interrogator does all he
can to arouse guilt, conflict and anxiety, and is completely
rejecting of the individual's internal frame of reference, or
personal perception of the events .... The "prisoner" is much
demoralised and disintegrated as a person, and largely the
puppet of the interrogator.
The Bruderhof's belief in the necessity for their children
to remain sexually pure and innocent until they get married meant
the "avoidance, indeed abhorrence of anything ever so remotely
related to sex. Some Servants (of the Word) were so sex-obsessed
that they smelled the slightest whiff of sex, impurity and sin in the
most natural or harmless situation". (Allain 1992 p 33~)
The severest punishments children suffered was in
connection with their wish to explore and understand themselves
and others as sexual beings. An extremely harmful abuse suffered by
some children was sexual abuse by an adult member. The repressive,
prudish atmosphere of the Bruderhof did not eliminate sexual
desires. Unmarried people had no outlet for their sexual needs.
Sexual fantasies and masturbation were forbidden and had to be
confessed and punished by temporary expulsion. This so-called
"impurity" was a taboo, morbid area, driven underground and
creating a breeding ground for furtive sexual abuse of children. To
other adults, it seemed unthinkable that another member, who had
gone through the therapeutic healing of the sinful, fallen creature
and emerged as a healthy pure Christian, could be capable of violent
crimes against children. But children "belong" to the united
brotherhood (membership) so every adult has free and equal access
to disciplining and guiding children and adolescents. Children were
taught to be good and obey the person caring for them and could
then find themselves involved in a sexual assault from the very
people who were supposed to be utterly trustworthy. When this
aberration was discovered, the perpetrator was usually excluded and
sent to another 'hof or even expelled, but the children too were
punished by isolation and interrogation. (KIT 1991 Annual p 300 &
KIT 1992 Annual p 314). The only "innocence" a child was permitted
was total ignorance of procreation and sex.
The Bruderhof now recognise the injustice done to
children by these excessive punishments, but they still believe that
all children "know there are parts of the body they must not touch or
let others touch" and that children who have been part of "sexual
misconduct, have to be brought back on to the right path", thereby
still blaming the victims. Also that "if we were overzealous" it was
rationalized and justified as "action in the service of love to our
children". The basic beliefs and attitudes concerning discipline and
sexuality seem little changed in the intervening years and since they
do not acknowledge the inherent likelihood for sexual abuse on the
Bruderhof, there would seem to be considerable cause for concern for
the children growing up in this community.
So a child reaches adolescence programmed with a set of
beliefs and values which will steer them towards a commitment to
lifelong membership. At this stage a major change occurs as all
fourteen year olds attend their local State School to prepare them for
the qualification required in the State or Country. This is the first
contact children have with the outside world and can be of great
significance. Their dress, speech, beliefs and attitudes set them apart
from the other High Schoolers, but they do have a chance to observe
ordinary youngsters and experience a range of educational
opportunities. This is one of the ways the Bruderhof pays lip service
to the notion that all adolescents have to make a positive choice for
the "Way of Life". In reality, the vast majority of children born in the
Bruderhof do join, and the steady increase in membership is almost
entirely as a result of a very high birth rate, with most parents
having 8 to 14 children. Very few people from outside join the
Bruderhof and there is little attempt at recruitment, although they
are pleased to be invited to speak to "socially concerned, seeking
Church groups". This is a change from the period in which my
parents joined and I grew up, when there was a constant stream of
visitors. But over the years they have become more inward-looking,
isolated and Hutterian in their outlook and desire to remain, "God's
pure beacon of light on this Earth".
During the High School period, the pressure to make the
first commitment (Novitiate) to a lifelong dedication to the Bruderhof
becomes increasingly difficult to resist. Having grown up
programmed to accept the overriding need for unity, the range of
ideas and independent thought has narrowed and the ability to make
a truly independent choice has been submerged.
When a bruderhof child decides to join, they have to go
through the intense, emotionally wrenching inner struggle which is
the symbolic death and resurrection which all members undergo
before baptism. Benjamin Zablocki describes it as follows in his
classic study of Bruderhof life, The Joyful Community:
This stripping process goes through several stages. Firstly
an assault on the person's identity as they are isolated from
their past, then the establishment of guilt and shame, which
finally culminates in the breaking point where the individual
is brought to the point of total conflict, estranged from the self
which they had known. Only then, through confession and
redemption can they be brought to rebirth in Baptism.
Zablocki, 1971 p 248
The Elder's intimate knowledge of the innermost shame
of each person becomes a powerful weapon which can be used to
violate the integrity of an individual. The threat of disclosure and
humiliation if they question or disagree with the authority of the
Elder is tantamount to blackmail. The baptism promise to unite in
submission to the Holy Spirit in practice comes to mean unity in
submission to the Elder (i.e.. spokesman of the Spirit). Deciding
against joining the Bruderhof, or wavering in uncertainty, can be
even more difficult, and if a young person does not leave of their
own accord there may come a time when they are told to leave and
find their own way in life.
LEAVING -- The momentous experience of leaving the
Bruderhof is etched into the memory, never to be forgotten, of
anyone brought up in this closed and sheltered society. For most it
will be the culmination of an extremely unpleasant period and
whether leaving by choice or sent away, the overwhelming feeling is
that of utter failure and despair; it is the ultimate disgrace, a
devastating experience. For a bruderhof child, leaving the 'hof means
losing everything: family, friends, home, and the only way of life
they have ever known. Launching out into the life of the "outside
world" is often extremely traumatic.
"A person can leave a cult, but the cult never leaves the
person." These were the opening words of Ian Howarth Director of
the Cult Information Exchange, speaking at a conference entitled
"Cults and Counselling" held at the University of Hull, in April 1994.
"This is a constant theme that runs through the lives of
Ex-bruderhofers -- the inability ever to completely break
away. A segment of the Bruderhof always remains, shaping
end judging the person's actions, long after the person has
left -- perhaps for the rest of his life".
Zablocki 1971 p 282
The first difficulties encountered by an ex-bruderhofer
are usually of a practical nature. Up to the point of leaving a young
bruderhofer's life has been totally structured, minute-by-minute,
day-by-day, and their total physical needs catered for. This
institutional care means they have little experience of independent
decision-making and may have problems even recognising that
choices have to be made. The young person may have no
recognisable academic qualifications or marketable skill or trade as
they are often moved to a different country from the one where they
received their education. There are many basic life necessities and
challenges to meet and overcome. These include finding employment
and a place to live. There is no financial support or help offered by
The psychological and emotional consequences of leaving
the Bruderhof are more severe and long-lasting than the practical
difficulties. The ex-bruderhofer is plunged into an alien environment
and finds himself in a state of "anomie", meaning that their old
culture, the shared heritage, ethics, rituals, learned behaviour and
belief system, no longer belong to them. They have to find a different
value system for their situation and integrate and reconcile
somewhat conflicting sets of values.
They may have "cognitive inefficiencies" causing
difficulty concentrating, planning ahead, reasoning sequentially and
an inability to reflect and contemplate as this was not required,
indeed greatly discouraged in the Bruderhof. The bruderhof system
produced a continuous cycle of guilt, shame and a sense of failure
and their self-esteem has been shattered. The ex-bruderhofer may
feel an intense sense of abandonment and isolation which can
produce deep depression and despair. It is not enough to just leave a
religious cult, a new life must be put in place. Leaving the Bruderhof
is only the beginning of the recovery process.
RECOVERY -- takes mental discipline, courage and time and it
cannot be hurried. When people suffer an injury, they accept that
recovery will follow a likely course and they will hopefully be
involved in designing a recovery plan. Someone leaving the
Bruderhof is, in varying degrees, damaged in body, emotions, mind
and spirit. They too need to build a plan and may need assistance by
talking with other ex-bruderhofers or exit counsellors, or to read
about recovery from cults and trauma:
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
(DSM-IV), an expanded category of Post-traumatic tress Disorder
(PTSD) for a person who has been subjected to totalitarian
control over a prolonged period, is Prolonged Distress Stress
Disorder (PDSD), which includes Religious Thought Reform.
Tobias & Lalich 1994 p 273 & Graham Baldwin at the
Cults and Counselling Conference
University of Hull April 1994.
There are certain types of psychotherapy and counselling
which should probably be avoided. Dr. Elisabeth Tylden is a retired
consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has spent many
years working with people traumatised by regimes which use
sophisticated methods of torture, brain washing and psychological
abuse and she has more recently assisted the Home Office into the
Cleveland Child Abuse Enquiry. At the University of Hull conference
on Cults and Counselling she spoke of the severe damage any form of
relaxation therapy or hypnotic regression therapy can have on
people who are sensitised to group singing, meditation or other group
thought-reform patterns of behaviour as this may put them back
into the mental state they were in when in the cult. Dr. Tylden went
on to say that people who have dissociative problems react very
badly to interpretive psychotherapeutic analysis.
Also that the focus of counselling should be on
understanding traumatic experiences in the context of mind-control
programming, not searching for early childhood experiences to
explain the behaviour and feelings the ex-cultist is presenting.
Many ex-cultists have "dissociative problems" which
means they learn to split off their emotional connectedness
with their own ideas, with the emotional connectedness to the
people around them. Splitting off emotions from mental content
is sometimes called 'floating.'
Dr. Margaret Singer
(Cult Awareness Network Conference, Oklahoma City, 1991
Talking to others who have gone through a similar
experience can be helpful, not only because other ex-members will
have shared experiences and understandings, but also because the
relationship can be one of mutuality, rather than one in which it is
assumed that it is the ex-member who is "the one needing help".
Barker (1992 p l3O)
The ex-bruderhof support group is called KIT (Keep in
Touch ). It produces a monthly newsletter to maintain contact among
the approximate 1,000 ex-members of the Bruderhofs. It also
organises an annual conference in England and the United States and
publishes book-length memoirs through it's Carrier Pigeon Press.
In a chapter on the Self-help movement, S. Bloch in What
Is Psychiatry looks at seven characteristics common to self-help
groups and analyses how they benefit people. Quotations are taken
from Bloch (1982 p 137 -140):
1. Commonality of experience and a shared problem. This
is what binds the members together.
2. Mutual support. "At first sight it would appear unlikely
that a person carrying a burden of some kind would be equipped to
offer any form of help to another person," but in reality "the most
benefit stems from the process whereby group members give and
receive support and feedback to one another".
3. Altruism. "It is a common experience that when we
attempt to help our fellows, we may derive as much from the
experience as does the recipient. Altruism serves to reduce a
person's undue self-absorption and to enhance his sensitivity to
4. Reinforcement of normality. Group members can see
that others with identical problems to himself "can function normally
in conventional spheres like work, marriage, family life and leisure".
5. Collective will power. Where someone who has lost
heart and the motivation to change derives courage to overcome his
difficulties by the encouragement of others.
6. Exchange of information. "Members can exchange a
greater understanding of the nature of the condition or problem they
have through the provision of specific information".
7. Constructive action towards shared goals. "Each
member works in order to enhance both his personal welfare and
that of the group. Passivity is discouraged and the responsibility for
oneself promoted". This may include gathering and publicizing
information with a view to possibly participating in the process of
setting things right.
I would wish to add two more benefits identified in the
KIT support group which may be specific to people who are trying to
recover from the mind-control and spiritual abuse of a religious cult.
Firstly, the bruderhof programming makes the victim
responsible for all the problems they encounter and leads them to
believe that they are full of sin, or possessed by evil spirits. At the
same time the leader who instills this message is elevated to near
God-like status and adoration by all the other members. Ex-
bruderhofers sometimes have great difficulty being clear that it was
this leader who was wrong. Their bruderhof programming keeps
reinforcing the message that the leader knows everything and does
everything for the ultimate good of the victim and the unity of the
group. Facing reality by putting the blame where it belongs and
being able to express appropriate anger towards the perpetrator is
fraught with problems. The old fears, nightmares and flashbacks
(pervasive memories and feelings) can be both frightening and
disorientating. Yet hearing another 'ex-member's experience of cruel
and abusive treatment at the hands of the same leader can become a
powerful unlocking, even unhinging, force whereby the domination
and sheer evilness of the perpetrator can be seen for what it really
is. The individual may then be able to connect this emotion to their
own unjust treatment, thus breaking the spell of mind-control.
Secondly, the KIT conferences encourage a process which could be
likened to annealing, which is a process of heating and cooling a piece
of metal or glass to ease internal stresses. The bruderhof experience
shaped our lives, as metal or glass is shaped, leaving stresses of
various irregular forces. Sharing memories and experiences, allows a
heating-up process to occur which eases or even removes some of
the distorted structures, bringing continuity back to the individual
who can then rearrange the structure, thus "setting things right".
Some activities of self-help support groups can
exacerbate a person's distress. The KIT conference often recreates
bruderhof celebrations, using traditional bruderhof songs, food and
drink and this can have a powerfully moving but also destabilising
effect on some people. One person's shared memory may also trigger
disturbing memories in others. Another danger is where an
individual uses other members' over-sympathetic acceptance, or
even pity, to allow themselves to wallow passively in blaming others
for all the problems in their life.
So recovery is a process -- one that never really stops. But
it can be rewarding and fulfilling.
CONCLUSION -- Studying the process of mind-control and
psychological abuse of individuals growing up in a totalitarian
religious society has been a very challenging project. I could not do
justice, in the limited number of words, to the enormous amount of
information I had available.
The acceptance of the reality of mind control can
challenge the very foundation of why people believe what they
believe about anything. The primary way people relate to each other
is by persuading and manipulating others to match their own
internal frame of reference. Is mind control merely a more extreme
form of this interaction? If people are to some extent influenced by
everything they hear, see or experience, where does normal human
interaction and influence end and mind control, or coercive
manipulation, take over?
Gaining an in-depth understanding concerning the way their
mind and thinking works may help ex-bruderhofers and others
exiting from thought reform cults become aware of the way they
learned to adapt, to stifle critical thinking, stop questioning and just
focus on collective collaboration.
Investigating the information on counselling and self-
help support groups and my own observation and experience, lead
me to conclude that the KIT ex-bruderhof support group is
particularly valuable in helping people to understand what
happened; to grieve, laugh and then find fulfillment in moving on in
their journey of life.
------ Book Review ------
(The Mennonite Quarterly Review)
Torches Extinguished: Memories of a Communal Bruderhof
Childhood in Paraguay, Europe and the USA, by Elizabeth Bohlken-
Zumpe. San Francisco, CA., Carrier Pigeon Press, 1993, Pp. 320. $17.
by Donald F. Durnbaugh
This memoir is a cri de coeur of a former member of the
Eberhard Arnold wing of the Hutterian Society of Brothers, or
Bruderhof. Its catalyst was the publication of a history of the
Bruderhof since World War II, based on talks given by the late
Merrill Mow (1928-1987). The title of his book, Torches Rekindled
(1989), alluded to the theme enunciated by Emmy Arnold in her
history of the group's beginnings, Torches Together (1964). Along
with her charismatic husband Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935), Emmy
Arnold (1884-1980) was one of the founders of the Bruderhof in
The title Torches Extinguished signals the author's
conviction that the path chosen by the Bruderhof to resolve its crises
of the 1950s and 1960s was mistaken because it turned the
movement into a cult with all of the thought control and harsh
discipline that this term commonly conjures. The title also signals the
rejection by the author of her personal pilgrimage as a child and
youth in the community, her baptism into membership, her repeated
discipline and reinstatement, and her final exclusion. Emotional and
mental maturity came for her only slowly and painfully in the
outside world, through growth of her own spiritual independence.
The story revolves around the role of the author's father
Hans Zumpe (1907-1973) in the life of the community. In 1931
Zumpe married the oldest daughter of Eberhard and Emmy Arnold,
Emmy-Margaret (b. 1911). When Eberhard Arnold died in 1935
following an operation on his fractured leg, son-in-law Zumpe was
Arnold's choice to lead the community. The author indicates that
Eberhard Carl ("Hardy") Arnold (1912-1987) and Johann Heinrich
(Heini") Arnold (1913-1982), both of whom later became Servants of
the Word of the Bruderhof, never forgave Hans Zumpe for displacing
them in leadership, although they had been quite young at the time.
Whereas the tendency of the Mow narrative is to place responsibility
for later internal crises on Zumpe and to see Heini Arnold as the
long-suffering savior of the communities as Elder, the slant of
Bohlken-Zumpe's book is exactly the reverse.
Another long-standing issue was the relationship of the
Bruderhof to the Hutterian Brethren. Eberhard Arnold had
established unity with the Hutterites of North American in 1931.
Zumpe, who stood for unity with diversity, said that the Bruderhof
should be allowed to follow some of its own practices that differed
from those of the Hutterites. The Arnolds pressed for complete
identity in belief and practice. In 1960 Zumpe was revealed to be an
adulterer and was banned from the community. According to his
daughter, who admits the immorality, he begged the leadership and
his wife for forgiveness and repeatedly repented of his sin before his
death by airplane accident in 1973. The author claims with evident
cause that letters to his wife, the author's mother, were suppressed,
as were her letters to him. Mow's book says that Zumpe refused to
repent. This assertion occasions the most bitter words, often
repeated, in the present book. Emmy-Margaret Zumpe, who still lives
in the Bruderhof, and her daughter are estranged.
While not a pleasant book to read, Torches Extinguished
does provide additional information, from one point of view, about
the stresses brought about by those seeking to live out radical
Christianity in complete unity of spirit. The publisher, The Peregrine
Foundation, also issues the KIT (Keep In Touch) Newsletter by and
for ex-Bruderhof members. The Bruderhof believes that the KIT
group is dedicated to the destruction of the Bruderhof. KIT sees itself
as a support group for Bruderhof "alumni" who need interaction to
find wholeness and equilibrium. One may hope that the charges and
countercharges will eventually lead to greater peace of mind for the
ex-members and greater generosity toward them from the
here to get back to The KIT Newsletters