One of the Bruderhof’s founding members, Else was recklessly devoted to what she called “the Cause”

Else Von Hollander

Else von Hollander 1885–1932

Born in Riga, Latvia, this professor’s daughter was studying art when a revival swept through her German university town and opened her eyes to Jesus’ command to “leave everything and follow me.” Answering that cost her further education and a middle-class marriage (she turned down a proposal), but left a legacy that lives on today through the Bruderhof, which she cofounded with her sister Emmy and brother-in-law Eberhard Arnold.

From 1913 until her death nineteen years later, Else lived with the Arnolds: first in Berlin, as an art editor and business director at the publishing house with Eberhard, and then as the community’s main fundraiser and accountant in its formative years. 

Known at the Sannerz community (shown below in her painting) for her recklessly selfless devotion to “the Cause,” as she called the young community’s vision of a new society, she disappeared on begging trips for weeks at a time in an open horse-drawn cart, even in winter. She dressed in a brown cape inspired by Franciscan devotion to Lady Poverty.

News trickled in by telegram: “500 marks promised, 2000 more in the mail.” It must have been humiliating for someone of her rank to beg for money, but Else had freely chosen it: “If I demand a better standard of living than my neighbors, how can I claim to love them as myself?”

Else suffered from tuberculosis, and turned down offers of sanatorium retreats in order to continue working. As she was dying, she said of her efforts: “If it helped further the Cause, it is good. In any case, it was only a small, mousy effort.” Asked if she had a dying wish, she replied, “To love more.”

If I demand a better standard of living than my neighbors, how can I claim to love them as myself?
“Kindergemeinde Sonnherz” by Else von Hollander
Midmorning coffee break at the Sannerz community

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