A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
Eberhard Arnold was a well-known German scholar and in 1920 began with a group of friends to live a communal life – the Bruderhof. The community was moved by the teaching of Jesus and they had a longing for an entirely new way of life, utterly different in spirit from that which led to the Great War. Their numbers quickly grew to 200 people of many nationalities, chiefly German, British and Swiss. Arnold died on 22nd November 1935, aged fifty-two-years, and his pacifist religious group was expelled from Nazi Germany in 1936. For over four years in Nazi Germany they had offered an uncompromising witness for peace and brotherhood. The community then bought the 200-acre Ashton Fields farm at Ashton Keynes, near Cirencester, in 1936. This commune, known as the Cotswold Bruderhof, at its peak housed more than 350 people. By 1938 the dilapidated farm had been transformed into a model of progressive agriculture. In 1940, pressured by anti-German feeling in England during the war that threatened to intern its German members, the Bruderhof sold up and moved to Paraguay, and eventually to the United States.
I have a copy of a brief history of ‘The Cotswold Bruderhof’ dated June 1938 and volumes of their magazine, ‘The Plough’ for 1938 and spring 1939.
It seems sad that the U.S.A., the earthly paradise that they sought, is now preparing to turn away ‘non-Americans’ and to embrace many of the attitudes and values which led to the Bruderhof being expelled from Germany eighty years ago.