Bruderhof Communities

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Bruderhof Communities

Bruderhof members in outdoor gathering.
Photo courtesy Bruderhof Historical Archives
Bruderhof families at mealtime.
Photo courtesy Bruderhof Historical Archives

The Bruderhof Communities (Church Communities International, previously known as Society of Brothers or the Hutterian Society of Brothers) is an Anabaptist community founded by Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935) in the village of Sannerz in Germany in 1920.

The Bruderhof’s origins can be traced to 1907, when Arnold and his fiancée Emmy von Hollander decided to be baptized as adults, thus breaking away from the established church. Raised as a Lutheran, Arnold studied theology and philosophy. What he wrote in a letter to Emmy in September 1907 is an unwitting echo of the ideas of the first Anabaptists of 1525: “On Tuesday I’ll briefly inform our parents of my conviction, according to which I must a) be baptized as a believer, since infant baptism is in opposition to what is meant biblically and is therefore not baptism; b) withdraw from the established church, since I consider it dishonest through and through and contrary to the spirit of the Bible; c) embrace as my ideal church communities of believing, baptized Christians who use church discipline and celebrate the Lord’s Supper.” (Love letters, 145)

Arnold came to his conviction on pacifism through the horrors of World War I. He came to believe, too, that war was a direct result of selfishness, of the need to defend one’s property, and therefore that the private ownership of property was opposed to God’s will. In June 1920, he and his wife and children and Emmy’s sister, Else von Hollander, sold their home and moved into a villa in Sannerz. Here they formed a community with any who wished to join them. They ran a farm and a publishing house and took in foster children.

The community grew slowly, and in 1926 they purchased a nearby neglected farm at Neuhof, in the district of Fulda, which they named “Bruderhof,” a conscious imitation of the historic Hutterite term known to Arnold from his study of the 16th-century Hutterites. Inspired by their history (particularly their martyrs), and thrilled by the fact that this group was still living in community after 400 years, he established contact with the American Hutterites in 1928. He spent a year visiting them from 1930 to 1931 and in December 1930 was ordained a Hutterite minister at the Stand-Off Colony near Macleod, Alberta. He was commissioned to lead the new German Bruderhof group as a part of the ancient Hutterite brotherhood. Although the union between Bruderhof Communities and the Hutterian Brethren Church broke more than once, from 1930 on the Bruderhof Communities have shared the Hutterian tenets of faith – the same baptism and marriage vows, the same ordination of ministers, and the same practice of church discipline – which go back to Peter Riedemann in the 16th century.

The Almbruderhof was established in the principality of Liechtenstein in 1934 as a refuge for the school-age children when the Nazi government withdrew support of the Rhön Bruderhof’s private school. The following year, when a military draft was introduced in Germany, the young men too escaped to Liechtenstein. Eberhard Arnold died on 22 November 1935. The Rhön Bruderhof was dissolved by the National Socialist government in 1937. Two Hutterian elders, David Hofer from James Valley, Manitoba, and Michael Waldner from Bon Homme, South Dakota, were visiting at that time, and their presence probably saved the lives of Bruderhof members. The Bruderhof members expelled from Germany were welcomed by Mennonites in Holland until they were able to move to England.

The Cotswold Bruderhof, founded in England in 1936, became the home of the ongoing movement. There was great interest in an alternative way of life among pacifist circles in England before the outbreak of World War II, and the Bruderhof movement doubled in size during the four years there. However, with the outbreak of international hostilities, the high German population of this pacifist group became suspect. Rather than allowing their German members to be interned, the entire Bruderhof group migrated to Paraguay in South America, thanks to the help of Orie Miller and the Mennonite Central Committee. In Primavera, near the Mennonite colony of Friesland, about 80 miles northeast of Asunción, they established three communities, Isla Margarita, Loma Hoby, and Ibate. The group was incorporated under the name "Sociedad de Hermanos."

Meanwhile there was continued interest in the Bruderhof in England, and the representatives who had remained to close the Cotswold Bruderhof decided to start a new settlement at Wheathill in Shropshire.

In 1954 the first American Bruderhof was begun: Woodcrest in Rifton, New York, about 90 miles (80 km) north of New York City. Oak Lake (later called New Meadow Run) was established in 1957 in Farmington, Pennsylvania, and in 1958 a third American Bruderhof was founded: Evergreen (later called Deer Spring) in Norfolk, Connecticut. In the late 1950s, the Bruderhof returned to Germany at the Sinntal Bruderhof.

In 1959-1961, the Bruderhof movement experienced a spiritual crisis. For many, community had become a goal in itself, and each member had to refound his or her life on Christ. This led to the closing of all centers in South America, Germany, and England (except for Bulstrode, begun in 1958, which closed in 1966). Darvell, in Robertsbridge, England, was begun in 1971, and several additional Bruderhofs have been established since that time. In 1999 Danthonia was begun in Australia. Starting in December 2003, the Bruderhof set up small urban communities in various cities, some closing after a few months or years and others lasting longer. In 2002 they returned to the original villa in Sannerz, and in 2010 a small center was re-established in Paraguay, in Asunción.

In 1962, Johann Heinrich Arnold was appointed bishop for the whole Bruderhof movement. After his death in 1982, Johann Christoph Arnold became bishop. J. C. Arnold retired in 2001, and the brotherhood members appointed Richard Scott in his place; Arnold continued serving in an advisory capacity until his death in 2017. Richard Scott died in 2011, and Paul Winter continued as the current (2017) bishop.

Relationship with the Hutterites

When Eberhard Arnold was incorporated into the Hutterian Church in December 1930 he said that he wanted to join the original Hutterian Church of Jacob Hutter’s time rather than what it had become by 1930: “I am of the opinion that our turning to Hutterianism means that we should become like the early Hutterites. We don’t want to become Hutterites in the sense of 1692; we don’t want to become Hutterites in the sense of 1930–1931; but we do want to become Hutterian in the sense of 1529–1589, in the sense of these first fifty years. With this the Hutterites are in agreement.” (Brothers Unite, 249) Unfortunately, over the decades the relationship between the two groups has gone through times of tension and conflict.

In 1955 members of the Forest River Hutterian colony in North Dakota wished for a closer association with the Bruderhof. Due largely to differences in general outlook – the Hutterites depending on tradition while the Bruderhof Communities were more spontaneous and outward-looking – this led to a complete break. In January 1974 J. Heinrich Arnold with several other Bruderhof ministers, working with Hutterite elder Jacob Kleinsasser, was able to reestablish unity.

For the next 20 years the two groups worked together on various projects, such as helping one another build communities and mission trips to various parts of the world. There were joint baptisms and several marriages between the “western” and “eastern” Hutterites (named thus because the Bruderhof was situated on the US east coast). But in 1994 a rupture again took place with significant bitterness on both sides, again over cultural and theological differences.


Publishing books and a magazine has been part of the Bruderhof’s mission since its beginning. Eberhard Arnold was editor of a periodical Das neue Werk and the Eberhard Arnold Verlag published, among other things, a series of books (Quellen) of Christian witnesses through the centuries. The Plough Publishing House was established at the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1938, with a quarterly The Plough. It was re-established by the Woodcrest Service Committee in the 1960s; during the years of a military draft in the United States, the Plough Publishing House was part of an alternative service program recognized by Selective Service.

Plough has translated into English and published several Hutterian doctrinal writings. Peter Riedemann’s Rechenschaft was published at the Cotswold Bruderhof in 1938 and in English by the Wheathill Bruderhof in 1950 as Account of our Religion, Doctrine, and Faith. In 2011 Plough published The Christian and the Sword: An Anabaptist Manifesto of 1577, one section of the Great Article Book attributed to Peter Walpot. The translation and English publication of The Chronicle of the Hutterian Brethren in 1987 was a significant contribution to Anabaptist study. In 2014 Plough was set up at the Fox Hill Bruderhof in Walden, New York, with a reformatted Plough Quarterly.


Bruderhof members run a variety of businesses that provide income: Community Playthings was developed during the 1950s and soon became the Bruderhof's main source of income. Community Playthings designs and manufactures quality wooden classroom and play environments for schools and daycare centers. The business is run by the communities in the United States[35] and United Kingdom. Rifton Equipment, run by some of the American communities, sells mobility and rehabilitation equipment for disabled adults and children. It was founded in 1977.

Danthonia Designs is the business that supports the Australian Bruderhofs. It specializes in hand-carved three-dimensional signage and was founded in 2001.

List of Bruderhofs

(Some centers that have existed only a short time are not included in the list below. Those marked with an asterisk are small, urban communities.)

Community name Location Dates
Sannerz Sannerz, Germany 1920 – 1927; 2002 -
Rhön Post Neuhof, Kreis Fulda, Germany 1927 - 1937
Alm Silum, Liechtenstein 1934 - 1938
Cotswold Ashton Keynes, England 1936 - 1941
Oaksey Swindon, England 1939 - 1940
Wheathill Bridgnorth, England 1942 - 1961
Isla Margarita, Primavera Paraguay 1941 - 1961
Loma Hoby, Primavera Paraguay 1942 - 1960
Ibate, Primavera Paraguay 1947 - 1961
El Arado Montevideo, Uruguay 1952 - 1960
Woodcrest Rifton, NY, USA 1954 -
Sinntal Bad Brückenau, Germany 1955 - 1961
New Meadow Run (Oak Lake) Farmington, PA, USA 1957 -
Deer Spring (Evergreen) Norfolk, CT, USA 1958 - 1998
Bulstrode Gerrards Cross, England 1958 - 1966
Darvell Robertsbridge, England 1971 -
Maple Ridge (Pleasant View) Ulster Park, NY, USA 1985 -
Platte Clove Elka Park, NY, USA 1990 -
Spring Valley Farmington, PA, USA 1990 -
Beech Grove Nonington, England 1995 -
Fox Hill Montgomery, NY, USA 1998 -
Michaelshof Birnbach, Germany 1988 - 1995
Palmgrove Nigeria 1993 - 1994
Danthonia Inverell, Australia 1999 -
Bellvale Chester, NY, USA 2001 -
Holzland Bad Klosterlausnitz, Germany 2004 -
Kingston* Kingston, NY 2004 -
London* London, England 2005 -
Inverell Inverall, Australia 2005 -
Armidale Armidale, Australia 2005 -
Morgantown* West Virginia, USA 2006 -
Bayboro St. Petersburg, FL, USA 2006 -
Harlem* Harlem, NY, USA 2006 -
Parkview* Albany, NY, USA 2006 -
Villa Primavera Asuncion, Paraguay 2010 -
Mount Community Esopus, NY, USA 2012 -


Arnold, Eberhard and Emmy von Hollander. Love Letters. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House 2007.

Arnold, Emmy. A Joyful Pilgrimage: My Life in Community. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1999.

Barth, Emmy. An Embassy Besieged: The Story of a Christian Community in Nazi Germany. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2010.

Barth, Emmy. No Lasting Home: A Year in the Paraguayan Wilderness. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2009.

Baum, Marcus. Against the Wind: Eberhard Arnold and the Bruderhof. Farmington, PA: Plough Publishing House, 1998.

The Bruderhof: Foundations of our Faith & Calling. Rifton, New York: The Plough Publishing House, 2012.

Mommsen, Peter. Homage to a Broken Man. Walden, NY: Plough Publishing House, 2015.

Hutterian Brethren, Ed. Brothers Unite: An Account of the Uniting of Eberhard Arnold and the Rhön Bruderhof with the Hutterian Church, introduced by John A. Hostetler and Leonard Gross. Rifton, NY: Plough Publishing House, 1988.

See also Hutterian Brethren

For the description of the historic Hutterite Brethren settlements in Moravia and Slovakia see Bruderhof.

Additional Information

Thomas Nauerth, Zeugnis, Liebe und Widerstand: Der Rhönbruderhof 1933–1937

Ian M. Randall, "The Spirituality of the Bruderhof"


Christian Communities International

Plough Publishing

Eberhard Arnold

Original Article from Mennonite Encyclopedia

By Harold S. Bender and Eberhard C. H. Arnold. Copied by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp. 1126-1127. All rights reserved.

Society of Brothers, since 1939 the official name of the new Anabaptists (Hutterites) 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 Rhonbruderhof 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 1930-31 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, now 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 Rhonbruderhof was closed in 1937 by eviction and expulsion from Germany by the National Socialist government who would not tolerate this "com¬munistic" movement. A temporary Bruderhof (Almbruderhof) was established in the principality of Liechtenstein, at Silum, Post Triesenberg, in 1933-38. 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 near by. 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 1940-41 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 about 100 population in 1959.

In Paraguay meanwhile the Bruderhof settlement called Primavera, established in 1941, about 80 miles northeast of Asuncion, had grown by 1959 to three village communities with a population of over 650, and a "Bruderhof House" in Asuncion. The group is 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, N.Y., about 50 miles north of New York City, which had grown to 230 (70 members, 115 children, rest guests) by 1959. A second American Bruderhof, Oak Lake, was established in 1957 at Farmington, near Uniontown, Pa., which had a population of 150 in 1959 (50 members, 75 children). In 1958 a third American Bruderhof was established at Evergreen, Norfolk, Conn., which had a population of 60 in 1959 (20 members, 30 children). The Forest River Bruderhof, near Fordville, N.D., which had separated from the old Hutterites to join the Society of Brothers in 1955, was discontinued in 1957. The newest European Bruderhof is 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" has now supplanted "Bruderhof" everywhere except in Germany. However, all the communities are completely communal in organization and pattern of life.

The publishing agency of the group is the Plough Publishing House at Bromdon, England (Wheathill Bruderhof), established in 1938. The group organ is a quarterly journal, The Plough, first number March 1938, discontinued with III, 1 (spring of 1940), resumed in the spring of 1953, with New Series I, 1. It has 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 are also issued annually.

The Society of Brothers is a Christian brotherhood which holds all property in common, regards all work as of equal worth, upholds a radical peace testimony with complete non-participation in war and military service, rejects all swearing of oaths, litigation, and office-holding, practices simplicity of life, is governed by unanimous consent of the members in each community, and bases membership on unity of faith in Christ regardless of race, class, or nationality. Candidates for membership are received on probation for a variable period, after which they are received through baptism by vote of the group on profession of adherence to the principles of the brotherhood. All property is surrendered to the group upon reception into membership. The Society reaches out into the world through mission journeys, education, hospital work, youth work camps, and publication.

Original Bibliography

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.

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).

Author(s) Emmy Maendel
Date Published August 2017

Cite This Article

MLA style

Maendel, Emmy. "Bruderhof Communities." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. August 2017. Web. 26 May 2024.

APA style

Maendel, Emmy. (August 2017). Bruderhof Communities. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 26 May 2024, from


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

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