Bruderhof Communities

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Society of Brothers (Hutterian Society of Brothers, Bruderhof Communities, Arnoldleut, since about 2007 Church Communities International), was the official name (after 1939) of the new Anabaptists founded by Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935) in 1922 at Sannerz, Hesse-Nassau, Germany, holding all goods in common like the early Hutterites, though at that time without knowledge of the existence of the continuing Hutterian brotherhood in North America. The term "Bruderhof," first applied to the group when it established the Rhönbruderhof at Neuhof near Fulda, Germany, in 1926, was a conscious imitation of the historic Hutterite term known to Arnold from his study of the 16th-century Hutterites. Contact was established with the North American Hutterites in 1928, and in 1930-1931 Arnold visited their Bruderhofs. In December 1930 he was ordained a Hutterite elder at the Stand-Off Colony near Macleod, Alberta, and commissioned to lead the new German Bruderhof group as a part of the ancient Hutterite brotherhood. In 1955 there was a complete break between the old Hutterites and the new Hutterites, then named Society of Brothers, due largely to the differences in cultural practices as well as in general outlook, the "Brothers" being committed to aggressive outreach in the modern world. The Society of Brothers and old Hutterites were reconciled in the 1970s, but in the 1990s a rupture again took place with significant bitterness on both sides, again over cultural and theological differences.

The Rhönbruderhof was closed in 1937 by eviction and expulsion from Germany by the National Socialist government who would not tolerate this "communistic" movement. A temporary Bruderhof (Almbruderhof) was established in the principality of Liechtenstein, at Silum, Post Triesenberg, in 1933-1938. The Cotswold Bruderhof, established in 1936 at Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire, England, became the home of the ongoing movement, which had 250 souls by 1938, when a second Bruderhof was established (1939) at Oaksey nearby. The further growth of the brotherhood was interrupted by World War II, and the entire group, except several persons left behind to liquidate the property, migrated to Paraguay with the help of the Mennonite Central Committee in 1940-1941 under heavy pressure from the British government, who feared they would aid the Germans in a possible invasion. Attempts to secure permission to settle in the United States and Canada near the Hutterite colonies there failed. Meanwhile, the representatives who remained in England were able in 1942 to start a new Bruderhof at Wheathill in Shropshire, address Bromdon, Bridgnorth, which in 1959 had a population of 110. A second Bruderhof was founded in Bulstrode, Gerrards Cross, Bucks, in 1958, which had a population of about 100 in 1959.

In Paraguay meanwhile the Bruderhof settlement called Primavera, established in 1941, about 80 miles northeast of Asunción, had grown by 1959 to three village communities with a population of over 650, and a "Bruderhof House" in Asunción. The group was incorporated under the name "Sociedad de Hermanos." In 1954 a small Bruderhof was established at El Arado, Montevideo, Uruguay, which had a population of 60 in 1959.

In 1954 a Bruderhof was established at Woodcrest, Rifton, New York state, about 50 miles (80 km) north of New York City, which had grown to 230 (70 members, 115 children, the rest guests) by 1959. A second American Bruderhof, Oak Lake, was established in 1957 at Farmington, near Uniontown, Pennsylvania, which had a population of 150 in 1959 (50 members, 75 children). In 1958 a third American Bruderhof was established at Evergreen, Norfolk, Connecticut, which had a population of 60 in 1959 (20 members, 30 children). The Forest River Bruderhof, near Fordville, North Dakota, which had separated from the old Hutterites to join the Society of Brothers in 1955, was discontinued in 1957. The newest European Bruderhof was Sinntal, established in 1955 at Bad Brückenau, northeast of Frankfurt, near the East Zone border. In 1959 it had a population of some 60. In 1959 the Society had a total population of some 1,500 in all its communities, of whom some 600 were regular or novice members. The name "community" supplanted "Bruderhof" everywhere except in Germany. However, all the communities were completely communal in organization and pattern of life. After the 1955 break, it became necessary to close the Bruderhofs in South American and Europe, and to consolidate in the Eastern United States.

Daughter communities founded in England and North America were known as Society of Brothers until the time of reuniting with the Hutterians in 1974. From then on the name Hutterian Society of Brothers was used until 1985, when it was decided to be identified simply as Hutterian Brethren, reflecting their unity with the older Hutterian Bruderhofs in the western United States, Canada, and Japan. After the second rupture with the old Hutterites the group was known as Bruderhof Communities until about 2007.

The publishing agency of the group was the Plough Publishing House (originally at Bromdon, England [Wheathill Bruderhof], established in 1938, later located at Rifton, New York). The group organ was a quarterly journal, The Plough, first number March 1938, discontinued with volume III, no.1 (spring of 1940), resumed in the spring of 1953, with New Series volume I, no.1. It discontinued in 1999. It had parallel editions in the German (Der Pflug), Spanish (El Arado), and Esperanto (La Pugilo). Prior to 1938 three Bruderhof Letters were issued (September 1936, Christmas 1936, and August 1937). Pamphlets were also issued annually. Plough Publishing House no longer printed books in 2005, though electronic publications remained available from the Plough website.

The Society of Brothers was a Christian brotherhood which held all property in common, regarded all work as of equal worth, upheld a radical peace testimony with complete nonparticipation in war and military service, rejected all swearing of oaths, litigation, and office-holding, practiced simplicity of life, was governed by unanimous consent of the members in each community, and based membership on unity of faith in Christ regardless of race, class, or nationality. Candidates for membership were received on probation for a variable period, after which they were received through baptism by vote of the group on profession of adherence to the principles of the brotherhood. All property was surrendered to the group upon reception into membership. 

In the late 1980s and 1990s disaffected former members of the Bruderhof Communities began a newsletter (KIT [Keep in Touch]), which in conjunction with the disruption in relationship with the old Hutterites, generated considerable negative publicity for the Bruderhof Communities. During this period the Bruderhof Communities did undertake litigation against opponents, a departure from earlier teachings.

See also Hutterian Brethren


Arnold, Eberhard. The Hutterian Brothers. Four Centuries of Common Life and Work. Ashton Keynes, 1940. 

Arnold, Eberhard. From His Life and Writings, A Witness to Community. Bromdon, 1953.

Arnold, Emmy. Torches Together: The Beginning and Early Years of the Bruderhof Communities, 2nd. ed. Rifton, NY: Plough, 1971.

Living Together (an illustrated account of the history, life, and work of the Society of Brothers in three continents) Farmington, 1958.

Meier, Hans. "The Dissolution of the Rhön Bruderhof in Germany." Mennonite Historical Bulletin 41 (July 1980): 1-6.

Rubin, Julius H. "Contested Narratives: A Case Study of the Conflict between a New Religious Movement and its Critics." Peregrine Foundation. 1998. (accessed 18 February 2009).

Ten Years of Community Living. The Wheathill Bruderhof, 1942-52. Bromdon, 1953.

True Surrender and Christian Community of Goods, From the Great Article Book by Peter Walpot 1577. Bromdon, 1957, reprint from Mennonite Quarterly Review 31 (1957)

Additional Information


Christian Communities International

Plough Publishing

Peregrine Foundation (includes archives of KIT newsletter).

Author(s) Harold S., Eberhard C. H. Arnold Bender
Sam Steiner
Date Published February 2009

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S., Eberhard C. H. Arnold and Sam Steiner. "Bruderhof Communities." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. February 2009. Web. 24 Apr 2018.

APA style

Bender, Harold S., Eberhard C. H. Arnold and Sam Steiner. (February 2009). Bruderhof Communities. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 24 April 2018, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1126-1127. All rights reserved.

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