|Photo by A. Stahl|
I've been closely following the news and commentary on the Twelve Tribes since the meeting in the Bavarian Parliament. Today, I've been poked three times to share the news that has been released today via Der Spiegel, about an ex-member of the Twelve Tribes named "Amitsa". She left the group when she was 16 and tells us what happened inside the group in Klosterzimmern and after her flight from them. The title of the article translates to "Life after the sect: I have no roots and no strength left to fly."
Amitsa tells of her life in the sect and that she was beaten often, though she doesn't remember any more how often that was each day. She mentions that it began at the time her feet hit the floor in the morning until sundown when she went to bed. Always being reproved with a rod for trivial matters including laughter, imaginative play, questioning her parents or elders, and not complying with commands immediately. She says that living in the sect was an awful lot like living in a live minefield that constantly has mines blowing up. You never knew who to trust or if anyone was trustworthy.
With the way that she challenged the authorities in the sect, asking siblings for help, she and two other siblings along with her parents were excommunicated. Two of her siblings were allowed to remain in the sect, and placed in new families.
Amitsa is now 19 and has testified in the courts about her life in the group and how one was not allowed to think freely. She is attempting to make something of her life now outside of the cult and possibly begin again nearer to family in the United States.
I would urge you, if you are able, to please run her story through Google Translate so that you can also understand what we're seeing here when individuals leave this group. It is not the best option for reading sources from another language, but it is better than taking only my word for what is being said.
Yesterday, ARD had on their Mediathek - a radio story concerning the Twelve Tribes. You can find it under Landesbank,12 Stämme, Holocaust-Gedenken, Peter Gauweiler - 26.01.2014
The Twelve Tribes portion starts at minute 4:18 and ends around minute 7:59. A shocking note to this radio blurb about the Parliamentary hearing in Bavaria is that it was mentioned fifteen children are to return to the Zwölf Stämmen group in Klosterzimmern and the number I've seen quoted prior to that is that of seven.
NOTE: I'm unsure if I've spelled names correctly - I'm taking a wild guess here and my exposure to the dialect spoken here is very limited. I may have a few mistakes and hopefully any comments left below will let me correct them.
*Beginning at Minute 4:18*
Lorenz Störch: They call themselves a faith community but react to pressure from the authorities like a sect. The Twelve Tribes Commune in Schwäbische Klosterzimmern has been in and out of the courts for three years fighting against the courts placing their children in public schools. Fines of a hundred and fifty thousand Euro have mostly not been paid. The fathers, happily chose instead to force the courts to send them to jail rather than pay the fines.
In 2006, the Bavarian Ministry of Culture turned a bit and ruled that the Twelve Tribes could send their children to a private supplementary school on their grounds, reported Bernhardt Butz, the head of the politics division from the Parliamentary House.
Bernhardt Butz: The state had attempted in every possible way to enforce compulsory education laws until it became very apparent that the prospect was probably hopeless.
Lorenz Störch: There were tips for years that the Twelve Tribes also used corporal punishment in their schools as they did in their homes - but reliable witnesses were difficult to come by. But in February of last year, there was an case of suspected abuse driving investigations into the twelve tribes, specifically five parents, from the attorney general's offices in Augsburg that was set to be heard in August.
It was only when RTL snuck a reporter into the Twelve Tribes commune in September and made secret recordings of the punishment the children endured and played them back on television that Child Protective Services were able to act.
Forty children were seperated from their parents and after various hearings and checkups, fifteen were allowed to return to the commune. "We have, of course, for many years preformed checks and kept an eye on the Twelve Tribes.." defended Josef Ziller from the regulatory office in the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Josef Ziller: We do not have a Child Protective Services arm that works as a spying agency that can slip into groups like RTL did to do secret investigations in cases like these.
Lorenz Störch: Ruth Wiedemann from the SPD faction [in Parliament] was not pleased with this answer.
Ruth Weidemann: There is a group here of people who regularly beat small children and you have to actually take into mind that this has not constituted an important enough topic to be tackled [by Child Protective Services]!
Lorenz Störch: Secondly, the parliamentary factions were all agreed that based on how one defined the presented facts of the Twelve Tribes child abuse to the Child Protective Services and district attorneys was a difficult balancing act. One the one hand we have the rights of the office of the state to protect the children and the child's rights to wellbeing and on the other side we have as the social committee's outstanding member Joachim Unterländer of the CSU expresses:
Joachim Unterländer: To state the boundary issues properly is to understate the proper points of the strict rule of law and child-oriented protection laws. [any help here with this one is greatly appreciated!]
Lorenz Störch: Also Eva Gottstein from the Freie Wähler is torn about the issue.
Eva Gottstein: It must not be allowed that the children are physically abused, but we also have to be careful about the measures taken that cause spiritual and mental abuse of these children.
Lorenz Störch: And due to these issues, the children have mostly been removed from the parents and placed into foster homes, some even in other states, because these children are emotionally abused. Die Grünen MP Christine Kamm turned her words against the members of the Twelve Tribes who were sat in the visitors section in the Parliamentary debate.
Christine Kamm: One must insist on your position of the right to corporal punishment complicates things as there are better solutions than what you are using now.
Reporter: Then came a loud interjection.
Carsten Hennig: No one found anything other than happy children with us!
Lorenz Störch: After Carsten Hennig was removed from the hearing, he and his wife Britte from the commune in Klosterzimmern set themselves in front of the Bayrische Rundfunk microphone to explain the Twelve Tribes coroporal punishment parenting methods; eventhough they are separated from their three and eight year old children.
Carsten: They are happy, they are healthy and it's up to the parents.
Britte: Every parent has to set boundaries for their children.
Carsten & Brigitte: This is not a cane, it is a very thin, flexible, long switch.
Reporter: That was Lorenz Störch, reporting from the Bavarian Parliament Hearings
Another set if articles caught my eye today. For those of you unfamiliar with the Twelve Tribes, these may prove further helpful to you in understanding their beliefs and why it is so difficult for individuals to leave the group.
I had also been given a tip to check out the book "Home Education In Deutschland Hintergrunde, Praxis, Entwicklung", so I am doing my best to get things in order to hunker down with that and do some more research. I already see that the Twelve Tribes are mentioned a few times in the book.
If you've not been following along on my blog, you will want to read Part 1, part 2 , part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10 and part 11 to be better informed on this issue.