Camphill Correspondent May 1975 p2
FRAGMENTS FROM THE STORY OF CAMPHILL pt1 1939-1940
Anke Weihs – Templehill-Scotland
The annexation of Austria by the Nazis in March 1938 turned thousands of people into refugees, among them Dr König, his family and some young people who had pledged themselves to go with him to whatever country would give to the little group the possibility of starting a new community-a community with handicapped children, the central nerve of which was to be the Inner Way of Anthroposophy.
Refugees of 1938 had little choice as to where to go. Some countries turned them back over the German border; other countries made conditions of entry very stringent. Applying for permits was laborious and fraught with disappointments, and waiting often precarious. It was not easy to enter any country as an individual, let alone as a group .Some of the original Viennese youth group that had formed around Dr König went their own ways and never reached Camphill.
Britain at that time was the humane one of the European countries. British Quaker and other organisations saved hundreds of refugees from the fate of being returned to Germany, and individual British citizens extended invitations to and stood as guarantors for hundreds of Austrians and Germans whom they had never met to ensure their safe progress to Britain.
Mr and Mrs Haughton, the owners of Williamston Estate north of Aberdeen, were among those who extended such invitations and threads were spun which ultimately brought it about that the diverging ways of Dr König and some of his young friends from Vienna began to converge upon a bleak little manse on the Williamston Estate in March, just a year later .
Dr König himself was one of the prominent Austrian doctors granted a home in Britain, but before his family and friends were able to enter Britain, months of effort, patience and anxiety had to be experienced .
On the 30th March 1939-the fourteenth anniversary of Rudolf Steiner’s death-Mrs König, Alix Roth and I moved into Kirkton House . When, almost strangers to one another, we stood in the chilly little candle-lit entrance hall that evening to speak a prayer together, past and future seemed poised on a knife’s edge : our single lives, embedded as they had been in a seemingly secure European context, had come to an end. Our lives as participants in an as yet unborn spiritual adventure had taken their first infinitesimal but irrevocable steps into a more than uncertain future.
For in this very same March 1939, the Nazis had invaded Czechoslovakia, which event signified a massive stride towards the Second World War.
Dr König and Peter Roth joined us a day or two later and we were now five . At the end of our first week at Kirkton House there was an eclipse of the sun. The silent, untimely twilight that spread over the land struck an ominous key- note that year. One’s own little degree of awareness seemed to flicker like the flame of a candle in a blast. Out of what resources could one draw to be strong enough, indeed willingenough, to undertake something together which had no name, no contours, but which was going to claim one’s total existence whether one wanted it to or not? For no-one should think that we were a closely-knit, rational group of people choosing the way we wanted to go. Rather-some kind of spiritual suction drew us up and buffeted us about, shredding our little bits of accustomed ways of life, leading us time and again into our own darknesses within the gathering darkness in the world outside.
But then-the four König children came up from Williamston where they had been staying and a few weeks later, Marie Blitz joined us. The house was full of life and our daily existence together began.
Life in Kirkton House was rudimentary and hard. Fires had to be lit every morning, for there was no heating. Lamps had to be trimmed and cleaned, for there was no electric light . Laundry was washed by hand in an old copper outside in a shed behind the house. Cooking was done on a rickety paraffin stove which maliciously poured out clouds of black smoke every morning.
For the most part we had come out of comfortable Viennese homes and the load of hard practical work was a new experience. We had to learn that every task had its own importance and that when it was half-heartedly or incompletely carried out, it came back on us like a boomerang. At times, it was as though the accumulation of forgotten or neglected tasks would threaten our very existence ; one’s own untidiness and indolence are impositions on communal life. Dr and Mrs König with their intense sense of order, cleanliness and beauty set us a high standard. We had an experience of disaster when we fell short of that standard .
For Dr König there was no fumbling or skipping lightly towards an ideal way of life. Each step had to be responsibly and circumspectly taken, and although at times one might have felt that the emphasis on practical things was irksome and overdone, in retrospect one realises that the so-called `devotion to the small thing’ lays the foundation for therapeutic morality and responsibility and that, more-over, the ideal is always inherent in each step taken towards it.
There was another area of labour entirely new to us: the labour of learning to live together, to meet anew every day, of learning to bear with and ultimately, to support one another . Very quickly we grew sensitive to the failures of theother, and highly sensitive to being observed in our own failures . Daily we perceived ourselves mirrored in the others and reacted in shame, resentment and opposition, but also with a first dim awareness of that element in essential humann life which Rudolf Steiner calls the experience of the Lesser Guardian.
A man may learn to face his own Lesser Guardian in the privacy of his own person, but to live in community in any real sense means to submit to an experience of one’s Lesser Guardian in the other, and to permit the other to experience his Lesser Guardian in oneself. Neither is easy. There is a long way to go before learning to love the other who shows one a truth about oneself and before gaining sufficient respect and tact to show the other a truth about himself; but these things were basic for what was to come.
A further area of labour had to be encountered : the labour of getting to know Anthroposophy .
Regardless of the long hard days of physical work, we gathered every evening to read and to study . At times, we were well-nigh unconscious for sheer exhaustion and it was sometimes intensely cold. For often, the wind whistled up through the floorboards in the library, causing the carpets to heave great sighs at our feet, and the heavy quilted curtains at the windows billowed in the draught as we became stiff with cold . Nonetheless, we had our first common and formative experiences in the sphere of Anthroposophy.
At that time, Dr König was determined on taking a British medical degree, but that neccesitated his going back to university like any green young student. To this end. he left Kirkton House every Monday to travel down to St Andrew’s, to return to Kirkton House the following Friday evening. This imposed a tremendous strain on him, on Mrs König and on us all. His departures as well as his returns were not easy. We had an intense sense of loss and emptiness when he left on Mondays, but were apprehensive of his disappointments and disapproval-unequivocally expressed-when he returned. So each week had its dramatic beginning and end.
Later, the absurdity of Dr Königs going back to medical school became all too apparent and he ceased his weekly trips to St Andrew’s .
On the 10th day of May, just about six weeks after we moved into Kirkton House, our first handicapped child arrived and with him, our chosen vocation advanced to meet us . It was a dramatic encounter. Apart from Dr and Mrs König, none of us had had anything to do with children, let alone handicapped children . Peter Bergel who is still a member of the Botton Village Community, was ten years old when he came to Kirkton House, the son of a German Jewish couple who had found a new home in the United States but, owing to the American immigration laws, had had to leave Peter behind in Europe.
Peter, barely able to speak, incessantly restless, his mind bent obsessionally on looking for cigarette cartons, was a thoroughly disconcerting new element in our lives and collectively we faced the enigma of his existence with an overwhelming sense of impotence.
But Peter was soon followed by our next handicapped `child’-Rudi, a thirty-six year old German epileptic, whose convulsions were so violent and elemental that they could be heard from one end of the house to the other . And somewhat later, Robin, our first English child, came to live with us. In due course we had twelve children at Kirkton House, including the four König children.
From the outset Dr König took pains to impress upon us that we were not out to create an institutional existence for the children entrusted into our care, but : Take these children into your lives-live with them as fellow human beings.
Our first celebration was the Easter Festival. The reading of the Chymicai Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz as well as much house-cleaning and polishing, had preceded it. The high-light of the Festival was the egg-hunt for the children within our little walled garden on our hilltop .
One morning around that time, I was dusting Dr Königs crystals and books in the library, when he rose from his desk and beckoned me to the window. For some reason I missed the fact that he was about to recount a dream he had had the night before and assumed that he was giving me some information he thought I ought to have .
`See’, he said, and pointed across the land to the peak of Bennachie, `that is where Noah’s Ark came down to rest, and now when the floods of terror and warfare are once again covering the face of the earth, we too must build an ark to help as many souls as we can’ .
I was deeply impressed by the second part of Dr Königs statement, but equally puzzled by the first part referring to the Bennachie as the mountain upon which Noah’s Ark came to rest, for I knew it was commonly supposed that it came to rest on the slopes of Mount Ararat in Asia Minor. But Dr König, like his teacher Rudolf Steiner, so often made statements that utterly confounded one’s conventional ideas that I was quite prepared to believe henceforth that the spiritual and world significance traditionally ascribed to Mount Ararat in reality belonged to the Bennachie. And when, a few days later, a perfect double rainbow spanned the skies over the distant hills, the grim little manse of Kirkton became hallowed, a chosen place, and our humble lives at the foot of the holy mountain, a kind of sacrament.
The 28th of May was Whitsunday, 111 years and two days after Caspar Hauser’s sudden appearance in the streets of Nürnberg. Six children and fifteen adults gathered in Kirkton House for its dedication to the task of Curative Education. Among the adults were Mr. and Mrs. Haughton, Mr. and Mrs. Roth, parents of Peter and Alix, their vivacious Hungarian grandmother, Mrs. Blum, Kalmia Bittleston, three other friends and ourselves. The four König children, Peter Bergel and Rudi made up the small gathering.
Dr. König spoke of houses being like heads. People live and move in houses just as thoughts live and move in heads. When a person has lively and warm thoughts, a light radiates from his eyes which imparts itself to others. When people live and work in a house with a sense of purpose and in peace with one another, something radiates from that house and many will enter the door and seek shelter there.
He then spoke of the two streams of Christianity-the southern and the Celtic. He felt that the Celtic stream was waiting to be reawakened in Scotland and hoped that we would not live in our new country as foreigners, but would learn to act for its good in the service of the needs of its handicapped children, even if only in a preparatory way. (Dr. König often emphasised that we were only the preparers of something which would later on be carried by others.) He closed the dedication of Kirkton House with the Christmas Foundation Stone Meditation. Thus passed our first Whitsun.
Gradually and carefully, Dr. König introduced the Sunday Services into the life at Kirkton House, although they were not yet a regular occurance. But he also instilled in us a feeling for social events, and birthdays, wedding anniversaries and the like were occasions for mutual celebration and joy. At festive meals we paid tribute to the particular person in speeches which invested him for that moment with his own potential and true royalty as a person. These were unforgettable occasions and profoundly formative.
Every evening after supper we all went outside to play games with the children. Peter racing over the lawn with Renate König, then ten years old, had to be seen to be believed: it had the mythological quality of Atalanta’s race!
Peter was ‘head teacher at Kirkton House. Every morning, you could find him sprawling on the dining-room table on his tummy, drawing fascinating and Russian-looking pictures with Renate and the others in their wake, or could hear his booming voice giving whatever instructions constituted this extra-ordinary
‘school’. In the evenings, the children were told the Iliad and Odyssey over shoe-cleaning on the kitchen staircase.
But then, there was our own education’. Dr. König made us learn and recite long poems (in German) with accompanying gestures. In Schiller’s ‘Cranes’, the wanderer suddenly comes upon the acropolis at Corinth and greets it with an exclamation of delight. How many times did poor Alix have to greet Corinth and register startled wonder as she did so! We had to learn songs, too, morning songs, evening songs, folk songs, and to sing without reserve and inhibitions on all occasions.
Not long after we moved into Kirkton House, we experienced that we were not the only inhabitants of the manse. There were othersunseen, uncanny, but increasingly bolder in their efforts-perhaps to drive us out?
Every evening when we had gathered in the library to study, these invisible inhabitants, who seemed to congregate in an empty room on the third floor, began to come down the staircase, first of all disturbing the children out of their sleep, keeping us awake as well with their pounding up and down and their unseen hostile presence. Going along the kitchen passage to one’s room late at night, holding a candle in one’s hand which flickered fitfully in the draught, one felt that hundreds of eyes were upon one. Had one had the courage to peer out of the window into the dark outside, one would not have been surprised to see myriads of ghostly cattle or sheep staring fixedly into the house as though it were theirs.
Whatever it was, the trouble slowly became traumatic for children and grown-ups alike. Dr. König resolved to do something about it. One evening after our meeting in the library, we took candles and mounted the staircase to the third floor, trying not to let our hands and knees tremble too violently, and stood in a circle in the empty room. Dr. König read those wonderful Rosecrucian verses by Rudolf Steiner which refer to the three kingdoms of nature and the three realms of the spirit in man, the goodness of which seemed to sooth the wild spirits which had plagued us. From that moment on the trouble ceased, and from then on we closed each evening with a verse.
All during this time, Dr. König laboured unceasingly, often travelling to London, to procure entry to Britain for about twenty of his friends, young and old, who had wanted to help him in his new venture. Prominent on the list drawn up for the Home Office was the name of Dr. Karl Schubert.Destiny decreed, however, that Karl Schubert was to come to Camphill only much later, in 1953, shortly before he died. Heroically, he carried on his special class, attached to the Waldorf School in Stuttgart, during the Nazi period in spite of being Jewish by blood. Many others on the list came to Camphill as visitors well after the war was over .
Events leading up to Germany’s attack on Poland were gathering momentum . Alex Baum, Trude Amann and Thomas Weihs were among those who managed to catch the last channel boats to England before it declared war on Germany on the 3rd of September 1939. Their arrival at Insch Station was a truly sublime moment, for they were our longed-for brothers and only now were we truly `we’.
Our journeys to Insch Station to fetch our beloved comrades to Kirkton House were undertaken in a vehicle that had been donated to us: an ancient ice-cream van on three wheels, which even when it was empty, wheezed asthmatically up the steep hill as though at its last gasp. When it was Alex’ turn to be fetched from Insch, it did wheeze its last gasp! The increase in the little group at Kirkton House added further dimensions to our life. Thomas took to the land like a fish to water and was wonderfully practical.Trude with her gift for Curative Education and her training at the Sonnenhof in Arlesheim, was an example of how to cope with the children, and Alex with his acedemic training and gifts of mind enriched our daily life.
The day the War broke out blackout was declared as a stringent measure throughout the country. Up in our remote little manse, we did not possess a wireless nor did we receive reliable daily news. So in the evening of that day, our little house on its hilltop was ablaze with light, while all the other houses in the valley weredarkened. Although we were firmly put right by the police the next day, the image of our little house shining out into the darkness, not only of the night but of a world moment, remained inscribed in our hearts.
Two things were making it difficult for us to honour our undertaking to integrate into and become helpful in our new country . With the outbreak of the war, we, who were predominantly Austrian and therefore technically citizens of a Nazi-dominated country, became enemy aliens . And then, very early on, the relationship between ourselves and our hosts, Mr. and Mrs. Haughton, became strained . In their experience, we were carrying out certain ideas given to them by Dr . Ita Wegman when she visited Williamston a year or so before. In our experience, the Haughtons were providing a stepping stone for the development of a future movement of community with the handicapped . Besides, they were so very British and we were so very continental.
Misunderstandings hardened into antagonism and these antagonisms were incompatible with our innermost aims which were to serve the dignity and the goodness of Man in men. With increasing force it dawned on us that we would have to leave Kirkton House if our intentions were not to be entirely suffocated.
But where would we go?
During one of his visits to London, Dr König had been approached by W . F. Macmillan, head of the publishing side of the Macmillan family, as to whether we could take his twenty four year old son, Alistair. But as an example of the congestion that prevailed in Kirkton House, the fact was that in order to make room for Alex, we had had to saw a section out of the shelves in a tiny room which served as a telephone booth, office, linen cupboard and ironing-room, to make space for his feet! In these circumstances we could not have taken one more person in, and so Dr. Königs response to Mr. Macmillan was that were he to find a suitable place with sufficient scope and land and help us financially to acquire it, we would take his son.
Early in 1940, Camphill in the Dee Valley came onto the market. It had formerly belonged to Lady Aberdeen, but was now owned by a Mr. Gill, director of a well-known paint firm, (which fact was to prove a remarkable advantage to ourselves, for the paintwork in the house was in perfect condition!) Talks began with influential people and with friends as to the wisdom of our undertaking a larger project such as Cam phill would imply.
In twos we travelled over to the Dee Valley to see the new place. I myself saw it for the first time on March 26th in a snowstorm . In those days, the east drive was densely wooded with beeches, and an incredible giant silver cedar stood in front of the main house, towering above all the other trees in the estate . (This cedar fell in a gale during our first Fasching at Camphill in 1941, and the majority of the beeches on the east drive fell in the freak storm of 1953 .) In those days, CuRer and Milltimber were virtually separate villages outside the city of Aberdeen, and Camphill was surrounded by farms . Lying close to the river, secluded by its trees, fragrant from pines and well looked after, it seemed paradisical after the bleak, windswept, draughty manse at Kirkton, and our thoughts and love began to circulate around the new place like bees around honey, although our actual future as enemy aliens in a country valiantly and single- handedly at war remained obscure, to say the least.
On the 12th May 1940, we celebrated our second Whitsun at Kirkton House . By this time, the Sunday Services had been established as the core of our festivals. It was a warm and sunny day. We sat down to our Whitsunday dinner around the big table laid with festive care . Outside in the world, the drama of Dunkirk had just been enacted with all its implications for the future course of Britain and the war in Europe . But in the sunfilled dining-room on our remote hillside in the north, we were striving to grasp the meaning of Whitsun as a singular human event and were united in a strong mood of peace and light.
During the meal, the telephone rang. Peter went out to answer it and on returning to the dining-room, he whispered something in Dr . K.önig’s ear, and the meal went on. When we had finished, Dr.König said that the police were on their way to intern all the men ; they had already fetched Mr . Roth, and the other men residing at Williamston, and as he spoke, we heard the police van coming up the hill . One or the other of us had witnessed people being fetched from their homes by Nazis. The kindly Scottish police were considerate and apologetic and gave us time to pack suitcases for the men. But all at once, they went away with the men to some unknown destination. That Whitsun evening in Kirkton
House was very still and it would not be true to say that we were not profoundly stunned . But we tried to carry on the life with the children in as full and active a way as possible, so as not to burden them with the weight of an event we ourselves could hardly grasp.
The retreat of the British 6th army from Dunkirk opened up the extreme vulnerability of the British Isles to a possible German invasion. In the next few days after Whitsun, our first British child was withdrawn. Others were to follow.
The move to the new place in the Dee Valley had been planned for the 1st of June, Camphill having meanwhile been bought by Mr. Macmillan for our use (we subsequently bought it from Mr. Macmillan) . But now that Dr. König and the other men had been interned, our children were being withdrawn, and the situation in the country worsening, Camphill receded behind the horizon like a bright dream before harsh realities.
But what were the realities of our own existence? Six women-Mrs.König, Alix, Marie, Trude, Lisl (Who became the wife of Hans Schauder) and I sat upstairs in the the music-room around a little table in the light of a candle and struggled to find these realities. Reason wrestled with idealism.
Kirkton House was small, we were known in the district, the Haughtons supplied us with oats, milk and potatoes free of charge. With the two or three children remaining with us, we could with great care just manage to see our way until we knew where the men were and when they would be likely to return. Moreover, how would we manage without Dr.König who had conducted all our business himself and who was the one who attracted the children needing help? The voice of reason was powerful. The voice of idealism seemed inappropriate under the circumstances and-did it come from a sense of frustration at Kirkton House, from ambition, from a craving for more civilised conditions such as Camphill would offer? or did it come as a summons from out of the future?
In those evening hours upstairs, an archetypal struggle took place in the six women: a struggle to discern what was self-will and anxiety, what was spirit-will and courage . Reason and idealism were two extremes. It was not a question of which would prevail over the other. It was a question of abandoning one’s own opinion and one’s own strong feeling to allow the presence of a third agent to enter and reveal its nature and unite the separate hearts and minds into one strength and one deed.
And so we resolved not to remain in Kirkton House, but to make the move to Camphill which was ready and waiting for us.
BY’ this time, we had had the first news of the men and knew that they had been taken to Banff on the coast and that they were as comfortable as circumstances would permit . Dr. König had written that we were under no conditions to move to the new place, but when he heard that we had resolved to do so, he was overjoyed. There was now a lot to be done very quickly.
For the last ten days at Kirkton House, Trude and Marie took the four König children and the two others to stay with Mrs. Roth who had meantime rented Heathcot House on the South Deeside Road as a private guest house . Tills König, Alix and I, once again alone in Kirkton House, began to dismantle curtains, pack books, pictures, linen, etc. and prepare for the move. These days were like being on the open sea with a strong wind in one’s sails.
On the 31st of May our last day in Kirkton House dawned, that is, I suppose it dawned – for never had we seen such a deluge of rain. And here we were, dismantling our little ark!
At a timely hour in the morning, the removal vans we had ordered from a firm in Aberdeen rumbled up the steep hill and into our garden. An army of stalwart removal men leaped out and entered the house to begin their work. A few minutes later, more removal vans from another firm rumbled up the hill and into the garden and a fresh lot of stalwarts entered the house to begin their work . Both armies glowered at each other in the tiny entrance hall, having realised that they worked for firms which were each other’s deadly enemies. Together they glowered at us. It was tense. It ensued that Mrs. Roth, fearing that we were going to be unworldly, had ordered the one firm, and I, on behalf of Mrs.König, had ordered the other. The only thing to do was to make tea. Then there were several placating ‘phone calls to Aberdeen and we all became friends . Small wonder that the house was emptied in no time, and the two lots of removal vans rumbled down the hill again in the direction of Aberdeen, not, however, before Mrs.König had carefully instructed the men to put all the furniture and packing cases in the front hall of Camph ill
House, because some friends of ours would be coming the next day to help us shift the furniture to the right places. She was referring to an offer of twelve young long Community ministers who had heard that we were without our menfolk and contemplating a big move. Dr. König had met the Rev. George McLeod, who had just founded the long Community, and for a while it looked as though the two communities might forge a brotherly bond between them .
Mrs.König, Alix and I stood in the forlorn little entrance hall of the once again empty Kirkton House, waiting for a taxi to take us to the station in Insch. Outside, the deluge continued unabated ; water ran in rivulets everywhere. It was as though we were being washed away from that place.
The next day-June 1st 1940-really dawned. There was not a cloud in the sky. Tills König, Alix and I went over to Camphill early in the morning . Our furniture, packing cases and other belongings were so tightly fitted into the entrance hall that we could hardly edge our way into it .But we made plans as to where the furniture should go and waited for the twelve ministers to arrive. We waited-and waited-and waited : the day passed without them. Nor did they come the next day or the next. Nor did they come at all. We concluded that there had been a misunderstanding.
But the furniture stood in the entrance hall of Camphill House like an accumulation of druidical monoliths. So Alix and I, inspired by Tills, began to shift it, not without long strategical arguments as to which end first. One evening at 11 .30, we moved an enormous and solid cupboard down the long drive to the Lodge on a wheelbarrow. It was one of those long light Scottish summer nights. Imbued with some kind of superhuman strength that was not our own, we had shifted furniture all day. Finally, we reached the Lodge and unloaded the cupboard .
Down the drive came Mrs.König to inspect our labours, saying she was too tired to walk up the drive again. So we put her into the wheelbarrow and wheeled her home, stopping every few yards, bent double and helpless with laughter. In fact, at the sight of any enormous cupboard or other ponderous piece of furniture, we first dissolved in convulsions before we finally began to heave.
About ten days later, we were joined by Trude, Marie and the children, and a new era in our history began. Looking back, Dr.König often remarked that Kirkton House was the embryonic period of what later became `Camphill’, and as menfolk are usually absent when a child is being born, so were our men absent when the move to Camphill took place, absent too, for the first few months of the newborn infant.
Camphill in those first few summer months was indeed like a bright and tender dream . It received us gently. We discovered its trees, the flowers, roses, an apple tree that actually bore big yellow apples, and each day brought us new delight. Every morning, we were greeted by a little robin which hopped in and out of the kitchen window, freely helping himself to our butter rations, and who turned up again in the garden, where we often worked until midnight. Yet there were sombre undertones. German bombing attacks against Britain began in the North-East, notably in and around Aberdeen . A church in Carden Place was destroyed, a school received a direct hit with the loss of the lives of over a hundred children. German planes discharged their bombs in the fields around Cults on their way out to the sea, and air-raid warnings were a daily event . And-we were enemy aliens, and a regulation had been issued that no enemy aliens were to be allowed to remain within ten miles of the surrounding coastline. Whenever we answered the doorbell to an army or police officer, we expected to be told we would have to move . At the same time, the air force was requisitioning mansion houses to accommodate personnel, and air force officers frequently came to inspect Camphill House. We lived on trust that things would go the way they had to go.
Meanwhile, we had begun to receive regular letters from the men in camp and learned that after spending a fortnight in a castle in Banff, they had been moved to a transit camp in Liverpool, and from there, to the Isle of Man where they were accommodated in boarding- houses, for want of other camp accommodation. Peter and Thomas acted for a while as medical orderlies in the camp, but otherwise, the men’s time was their own. Their letters were censored, but re-assuring. They contained modest requests for sweets, clothing, books, drawing paper and coloured pencils. For it was in camp that Dr. König drew his illustrations to the fifty-two verses of the Calendar of the Soul, and Peter his striking illustrations to the Dream Song of Olaf Asteson.
It became apparent that our men were making the most of their enforced seclusion. Dr.König, Dr.Ernst Lehrs and Willi Sucher, an astronomer, conducted a kind of daily `university’ in Anthroposophy and in esoteric life for their younger friends in camp. They worked through a study of the twelve senses and other basic fields of Spiritual Science, and many of the foundations of the spiritual and therapeutic life of Camphill were laid. We women in Camphill lived from letter to letter and from the calm and positivity that came from the men. I suppose they in turn lived from our reports as to how the work was being carried on in Camphill. For-in spite of Dr. König’s absence and the generally difficult times, some children had begun to come to us. Visitors came too, and the scope of our life incr
FOR some time we had been negotiating with the Church of Scotland for a grant from a fund set up to aid refugees from Nazi oppression, the Scottish section of which was being administered by the Church. After providing statements and memoranda regarding our situation and intentions to work with handicapped children,Dr.König had received word that we were to be granted £1,000 from this fund, which was a sizable sum of money in those days. Later itensued that the £1,000 were to shared with Mr. and Mrs. Roth and their guest house. Still later, it turned out that the sum was not only to be divided between us, but that it was by no means a donation and would have to be repaid over a period of time. Meanwhile the Church of Scotland had appointed a local Aberdeen man to hold our share, £600, on our behalf. This man was J. Downie Campbell.
The arrangement the Church made with him was that we were required to list any needs we had and present the list to Mr. Campbell. He would then procure what we required . Thus, if we needed pillowslips, Mr. Campbell bought pillowslips and had them delivered to us . With growing numbers, we soon needed a considerable amount of crockery and we applied to Mr. Campbell for leave to buy it ourselves. Instead, Mr. Campbell went ahead and bought an enormous set of white china with gold rims- soup tureens, fish plates, etc., all very fragile, virtually putting a china shop into the bull’s pen. Our indignation was aroused by this slight to our freedom and dignity and the china was returned to Mr. Campbell. The talks in his office that resulted from this incident laid the first foundations for the long relationship and friendship between Mr Downie Campbell and Camphill.
Meanwhile, all kinds of news was coming from the camp : the men were being sorted out, some were to be released, and unmarried men were being sent overseas to Canada and Australia. Alex just missed being included in a group of internees on their way to Canada in the Arandora Star, which was torpedoed in the Bristol Channel and went down with a tremendous loss of lives . We ourselves were busy writing petitions to the Home Office and other official bodies on behalf of Dr. König and the other men. It appeared that those who had resided in England were being released at a quicker rate than those who had been interned in Scotland . Now that release was being spoken of, the pendulum swung more perceptibly between hope and despair.
Dr.König got news of his impending release before Michaelmas and we counted on his being with us at Camphill for that festival . However, there were many formalities to be encountered before a person was actually cleared for release, and we ourselves had to attend a kind of tribunal at the City Police in Aberdeen on behalf of each of the men. Dr.König was released on the 3rd of October, Thomas a little later, then Hans, and Peter only in February 1941 .Carlo Pietzner, who had not yet been in Camph ill but was in the country, was sent overseas. The other unmarried men, too, returned to freedom later by devious routes.
Dr.Königs arrival at Camphill was a wonderful and trying event at the same time . He was a man returning to freedom after some months in internment camp. He was a man returning to his wife and four children. He was returning to the main stream of his life and activity. But he was not returning to Camphill, for he had not yet been in Camphill . Although the women had taken over Camphill on his behalf, the move there had been theirs . In the few months we had lived together in Camphill we had begun to establish ways of living and coping with our daily situation. Whereas the men had been able to devote themselves in a unique way to spiritual life in the camp, the women had stoked boilers, washed laundry, tended children, worked the garden. We had been living in two very different worlds. And so Dr.Königs coming constituted a stormy wedding feast between the male and female components of our community. But it was a valuable experience.
Looking back, it would appear that basic to the well-being of any community is a recognition of and balance between the archetypal male and female elements.
Just about that time, the German attacks on Britain switched to England, and Coventry became the first serious target for bombing raids. Scotland from then on remained unscathed and with this, our own status as enemy aliens living in a coastal area became insignificant.
With the return of Thomas and Hans, we began the business of building up the community, for it was only then that we actually began to use the word community in reference to ourselves. One might say that the Movement was born and christened with the move to Camphill, and that our inner striving likewise emerged and was christened when we began to say the Community.
As summer mellowed into late autumn, our life, which now included the men, began to mellow and assume deeper dimensions. We met every evening until very late to discuss matters ranging from the broom-and-dustpan, arrangements of rooms, to our spiritual life, and began to know and to recognise one another. In one of those early meetings, Dr.König brought forward very tenderly his experience of the 29th of August and suggested that we try to institute a Bible Evening as a focal point in our life. Our reactions were partly dull, partly stunned and partly negative. None of us was really able to take the leap required to do what Dr.König was proposing. The matter lay dormant for almost a year and then one of us suddenly asked : What was that you were talking about a year ago, Dr . König? And so we began our first tentative attem pts to have a Bible Evening. But that was in 1941 .
During the remainder of 1940, which for us had begun in Kirkton House, but which was to see us well into Camphill, amidst the increasing gravity of the European situation, our little group sat together night after night (in those, days our meeting always began at 10 pm .) kneading the dough of our existence . Already then, the question of a threefold social order was raised, but Dr.König refused to countenance any arbitrary application of Rudolf Steiner’s social ideas to our hardly-budding Community . We first had to find and experience a threefold- ness in ourselves and in our children before we could speak of a social organism . Nonetheless, it was during this autumn that we discussed the question of the compatibility of taking salaries with our spiritual-social intentions and came to the conclusion that to work for salaries would obscure our perception of the Image of Man in each other.
Advent that year was dark inside and outside. Much of free Europe had been overrun by Germany . Inside, tiredness, frailty and some human difficulties had rendered us dull in consciousness and often it seemed we were trying to run a race with our feet glued to the ground. Dr.König often withdrew from us in great gloom. But we performed the Nativity Play in front of ninety (!) people in Camphill House on the 22nd of December, on which evening Dr. König spoke on the two Jesus Children, which had a profound impact on those of us who heard these things for the first time. We had a beautiful Christmas Eve Celebration and Midnight Service, and began the Holy Nights with a study of the Folk Soul cycle, and our Advent gloom was dispelled in light and peace.
Barbara arrived on the 30th of December, and so one more of our number was with us to walk into the coming year
This concludes the account of the beginning of Camphill written by Anke Weihs. The vision of Noah’s Ark which Karl König saw resting on the peak of Bennachie has in the intervening years attained physical embodiment.`Now when the floods of terror and warfare are once again covering the face of the earth, we too must build an ark to help as many souls as we can : It is noteworthy, perhaps, that a growing international organisation, inspired by Camphill’s example, has taken the name of Ark . The waters of the world storm are increasing in violence and many similar vessels will have to be built.
No Government or University honoured Karl König for the rescue work he inspired . Three years before he died, however, he received the Gold Medal of the Tutzingen Star at Tutzing, Germany, on 27 October 1963, and the concluding words of the address he gave on that occasion twelve years ago may appropriately be printed here as a conclusion to what Anke has vividly recounted. -Ed.
ONE thing above all has given us the strength to do this work. And I would like to describe it in a few words. Humaneness and readiness to help are no doubt wonderful ideals ; but how then is it possible continually to live up to these ideals in such a way that one’s strength does not fail one in the ever- renewed endeavour? There is only one way : one’s development of human confidence in one another. This is one of the most important spiritual foundations of our work. We co-workers must have confidence in one another. And we try amongst ourselves to be open to a degree that never even the slightest wall stands between the one and the other; but when it does arise, we try to pull it down again.
But this confidence also requires something from which it can renew itself daily and hourly . This trust one can draw solely out of an attitude of conviction that there is One who leads us, helps us, stands by our side. That is what we normally-and often so injudiciously-describe with the word GOD . This God-belief, the conviction that we are nothing, yet the working of the Divine Spirit is everything, and that we may serve it-this alone is what continually renews our human confidence.
And furthermore, that we know that daily and hourly there is One with us, beside us, above us, and for us: CHRIST, our Lord. Once asked by His disciples why a certain person was blind-today one could also say deaf and lame, retarded and feeble- minded-and the disciples, not knowing whether the blind person himself, or his parents, were responsible for his condition, He answered :Neither he has sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God may be revealed through him.
And it is this which we experience daily and hourly with our children, with those seeking our help, with those who have been damaged: That by them, and just by them and through them, the works of God become manifest ….