One of the Bruderhof’s founding members, Else was recklessly devoted to what she called “the Cause”
Else von Hollander (1885–1932)
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A young Minnesotan with a passion for peace and justice, Anne saw sociology – her college major – as a means of understanding the wrongs of the world, and social work as a way of redressing them. Then she read about a movement of worker-run factories in France that were organizing to rebuild the economy, which was still struggling to recover after World War II.
Crossing the Atlantic, she dedicated herself to this “new economic order” but soon grew disillusioned: “I found envy, gossip, quarreling, tensions. At the factory where I worked, a boss ran away with the wife of a worker. I didn’t see how a new way of life could be built out of this effort.”
While in France, Anne met André Trocmé, a pastor who had turned his parsonage into a secret center for saving Jews during the war, and talked with him. “My French surely hurt his ears, but he listened to my questions:What is the answer to violence, to poverty? Is it really possible for people to live in peace? He answered by telling me about the Bruderhof.”
In 1956, Anne joined the community. Six decades later, she has no regrets, though she is quick to point out that the Bruderhof is no utopia. The peace she sought and found in community living has been tried and tested. She lost her first child, Dirk, when he was three months old. Later, with four children under the age of six, her husband abandoned her.
To be a man is to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to be aware, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.
Asked how she has kept herself from becoming bitter, she says: “Keeping your eye on the prize, and knowing the power of forgiveness; putting yourself in others’ shoes, and taking on their suffering; trying to keep the needs of the whole world alive in your thinking, and in your heart. That gives me peace.”
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With photography by British photojournalist Danny Burrows, this 300-page hardcover book celebrates what is possible when people take a leap of faith. It will inspire anyone working to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future.
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