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

P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 /
telephone: (415) 821-2090 / (415) 282-2369
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramon Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom;
U.K. : 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 opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from within and from outside the Bruderhof. The opinions expressed in the letters we publish are those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflects those of KIT editors or staff.

June 1995 Volume VII #6

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

----- The Whole Kit And Caboodle -----

------ Contents ------
EuroKIT 1996 in Worpswede, Germany
Children of the Bruderhof fax
Dieter Zumpe
Susanna Zumpe
Hilarion Braun
Hilarion Braun2
Nadine Moonje Pleil
Blair & Margot Purcell
George Maendel
Eb Zumpe
A Graduate
Name Withheld
Bette Bohlken-Zumpe - Birnbach visit
Norah Allain
Konrad Kluver
Hannah Goodwin Johnson
Emily Purcell - 'The Day Of The KITfolk'
Konstantin Mercouchev by Konrad Kluver
Joy Johnson MacDonald - Portfolio Excerpts
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 charitable organization.


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 cafs, 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, first-serve basis.
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 operation again.
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
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- 3052, 5/26/1995:
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 issues.
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 another letter.
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 close friends.
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 apart!
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 who's calling?"
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 Meadow Run.
"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 -- pretty good.
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 parents were."
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 hour.
"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 on."
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.
"Tim Clement."
"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 us!"
"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 him.
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 long time.
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 Marsdens.)
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 and leadings.
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 around.
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 eight years.
After dinner, they took us for a drive around Birnbach and all around the Bruderhof area, which made us sing the song, "...und dann fhrt 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 January.
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 urban areas.
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 fellow-citizens.
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 obvious.
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 foreigners).
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 there."
"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 famous BOOK?
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 ------
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 read this:
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 ------

Konstantin Merkoucheff
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 equipment.
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 steppe....
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' wavelengths.
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 ground!
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 death).
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 stoic composure...
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 Konstantin well.
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 Paraguayan parentage.
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 sorrow.
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 move!"
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 Bruderhof.
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 others".
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 1920.
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 Bruderhof.
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