I have longed for thy salvation, O L-RD; and thy Torah is my delight. Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments. Psalm 119:174-176

07 February 2014

The Twelve Tribes in Germany - Part 15

Photo by A. Stahl

This week, there have been two audio clips released covering the Twelve Tribes case. The first is from Augsburg TVNote: For whatever reason, the link below is not going directly to the video. In the search box on A.TV's site - pop in "Zwölf Stämmen" and it will be the second result in the search results at the bottom of the page. (pay close attention, I missed it twice this morning!)|mediathek: Natürlich Gemeinsam - die ehemaligen Schüler von Klosterzimmern melden sich zu Wort
[Naturally together - the former students of Klosterzimmern speak out]

Reporter: The Twelve Tribes community in Donau-Ries always wanted to seem like they had nothing to hide. In the previous months and years they have released videos on [their website] the internet in which the members of the sect release commentary about their every day lives in the community.

[member] The most important thing in life is that my children - for me, is that my children walk in the same faith walk I also have been walking in and raised in.

Reporter: The sect was founded in the 1970s in the United States. Since then, there are groups all over the world - in total 2,000 people living in [Donau-Ries]. There have been problems for a while in Klosterzimmern. The first, due to the compulsory school laws being rejected.

Stefan Rößle (CSU) County Commissioner in Donau-Ries: I have been dealing with the question the Twelve Tribes since I've become county commissioner in 2002. In the past, there were bigger activities such as enforcing our compulsory school laws by sending police to escort the children to school, but in the end it wasn't very promising. The children did not take part in classes - they were there in person due to being escorted but not there in spirit.

Reporter: In the last year the Twelve Tribes have been implicated in first-hand accounts of corporal punishment in the Klosterzimmern community.  However, not much happened. The authorities attempted to, but, sadly without results.

Stefan Rößle: This is an experience that has been made in other places, that when it comes to sects, there is a clannishness environment [among the members]. The children that we have interviewed, even without their parents, will not admit that they have received corporal punishment. They were instead very quiet and have been pressured and raised to not talk to any outsiders about it.

Reporter: In the public, the sect presents itself as very child-friendly. Happy children are seen at a play. What actually happens behind closed doors is only now coming to light.

Stefan Rößle: We have tried everything in our power to resolve the situation. It has taken a very, very long time but I'm glad about these film recordings [RTL's Wolfram Kuhnigk's detailing the life in the sect and the corporal punishment that happens regularly] which was the cause of it. That we now have concrete eye-witness statements and court decisions - that at the least, after all these years is able to terminate this state of affairs.

Reporter: The children are living in foster care at this time. The responsible sect members need to brace themselves for indictments. The state prosecutor in Augsburg has reopened the case. This time they are assured that they can close the case with an actual court sentence. 

The second news article was released by the Südwestrundfunk. The summary of the story was "All is not quiet in the "Twelve Tribes" community of faith. A 13-year-old has run away from his foster parents with whom he had been housed since his biological parents had been accused of child abuse. The Court of Appeals has now decided in Augsburg that the 13-year-old must return to his foster parents. For one 13-year-old it is all just to hard to understand. And when he heard all charges against his parents he said they also suffer."
Eltern der Glaubensgemeinschaft "Zwölf Stämme" im Interview - Schwaben Radio - nachgehört | 5.12.2013, 14.36 Uhr[Parents of the religious community "Twelve Tribes" are interviewed by Schwaben Radio]
*musical intro* The best from the Swabian Radio as a podcast

Reporter: The point of meeting is the farm store in Klosterzimmern. This is a public store where bread, tea and cosmetics are available to purchase. More and more members are joining the group. Interview by Cheri and Stefan Pfeifer whose two children are also in foster care since the police raid in September.
Stefan: The worst is that we haven't seen our children very much and know that they would also like to see us more but the Child Protective Services are very strict about our visitation.

Reporter: It's been three times they've seen their 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son since then. For each an hour and only under strict surveillance. At the last meeting in Nördlingen, their mother, Cheri was shocked at the state of her children.

Cheri: They only want to return to their parents and they were not abused! The suffering that they are enduring right now is out of proportion to what they accuse us of doing to them.

Reporter: However the former sect members have told us, and the TV reports have showed us, children who are beaten and being abused very badly. Small children who are beaten in dark cellars with switches. Stefan Pfeifer, who is on the elders board of the Twelve Tribes says regarding these accusations:

Stefan: The film that was shown was a propaganda film. And it contains partial truths which we do not want to deny but it also contains many lies and the whole reason behind this is that they want to destroy the community.

Reporter: Stefan Pfeifer does not deny that the children were beaten but that was not done systematically, but only when the parents say that it is necessary.

Stefan: To raise children properly, you have to set limits. It's been hundreds of years that children have  gotten spanked on their butts. It didn't hurt anybody to bring up children to a certain age when the heart of the children turn towards the parents completely - to which they don't need spankings any longer.

Reporter: But even spankings are not allowed by our laws in this country. The basics of raising children is the same for everyone in the community. They refer to the bible regarding this, says Stefan Pfeifer.

Stefan: This is from the bible. We read this and believe it is the right way and we see ourselves confirmed in this as we see our children to be wonderful and they love us and their good fruits prove to us that this is a good method. We are happy for a higher court to check into that. However, in the meantime, the children are supposed to be with us and not somewhere else with strangers where they don't feel secure.

Reporter:  Four children have returned to Klosterzimmern. For some, the courts have decided to  keep in foster care. For others, the decision has yet to be made. Though the many members of the sect have announced that they will continue to fight in court,  it will still take months until the children have a permanent home. However, what the current well-being of the children is - that every party seems concerned with - is really a hard question to answer.

In addition to these two audio stories, I had a news story from passed to me entitled "Wie frei ist die Religion?" [How free are our religious rights?] It can of course be run through Google Translate from German to English - just keep in mind that "switch" is translated as "tail" for whatever strange reason and there are hiccups in bringing over everything. The last paragraph closes things out with the current state of affairs concerning the Twelve Tribes' bid towards homeschooling quite well:
Wittreck, an attorney, was is skeptical: "The German government has been so far in my opinion well advised to proceed and remain restrictive against home schooling." He pleads for public school: "Children should be confronted there with the whole of life."

I have also been notified of a new documentary by Erika Fehse that is a 45 minute documentary due out in Germany on April 7th on ARD entitled Wer seine Kinder liebt, der züchtigt sie…[Those who love their children, physically chastise them...] you can see the trailer for it here:

The basis of the documentary was the book "Die geprügelte Generation – Kochlöffel, Rohrstock und die Folgen" [The spanked generation - wooden spoon, cane and the consequences]

I am nervously looking forward to this. I'll be recording it to watch when the children are not around and hopefully will be able to give an update on it then. It will not be directly discussing the Twelve Tribes, but I am sure it will be discussing the consequences of corporal punishment which is key to understanding why the rulings are as they have been in this case.

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, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9, part 10,  part 11, part 12, part 13 and part 14 to be better informed on this issue.


  1. You may or may indeed not post this comment under your coverage of the Lev Tahor homeschooling case. I ve read up on it a bit. What I find absolutely stunning though are the parallels between this and the Twelve Tribes case. This article below tells of the Lev Tahor cult's strategy to raise sympathy by sending letters by the children in state custody to the authorities and the press. In those letters you find all the phrases that you already know from the Twelve Tribes website: "I ve got the best parents in the world; why can t I as a child, live my parent's religion; etc etc". STUNNING! I do admit, I d rather be TT than Lev Tahor - Lev Tahor is TT's abuse to the power of 100.

  2. Well, another child ran away from a foster home. She is twelve and it is highly unlikely that she found her way back to the sect's farm without help. It remains to be seen how the authorities react to that. The TT write - on their own propaganda page - that yes, obviously that is the way to go: Blackmailing the state worked with one boy, it will work again. I hope Germany proves them wrong.

  3. I spoke with one of my friends in the Twelve Tribes in America. I am reporting this to show the effects of a negative religious group consciousness can have upon cult members. My friend told me how in the past that God killed people who "came against" the community. He said this can happen again to various German people who would come against the community there. He said some of the children now being forced to go to public school in Germany are being abused at school, and some are being abused in foster homes. He said the Twelve Tribes is planning to remain in Germany and stand up to the government there for now. He asked me if I knew anything about the history of the German people. I said that I did. He told me the German people are barbarians at heart and cowards. He emphasized this in the conversation over and over. He said the German people produced Hitler and knew what was happening to the Jews. He called the German people and the current German courts other names that I don't care to mention. What he said to me made me sick to my stomach. This is the type of thinking pervasive in the Tribes, but he did say when German people join the Tribes and follow God, they can be one of the nicest and most loving people. For myself, I love all the German people, I think it's awful to stereotype an entire country. He is very ignorant of history and the conditions from which a person such as Hitler and others arose. What happened in Germany at that time can happen in any country under the right conditions. Some of my previous life in the Tribes I do miss, but I still have to say it is a totalitarian/high-control religious elitist sect or cult if you prefer that word. I love the people there and miss many of them, but how could I ever return, knowing what I do of some of their leaders beliefs. My friend also condemned Christianity, as is often done in the Tribes, and called it "Lucifer's greatest tool on earth for evil." I wish that I had never become a member of the Twelve Tribes, it haunts me everyday, good and bad. Some people are better off there, yes, it is true. Better to be there than addicted to drugs on the street with no home or as a prostitute, or thief etc. But the Tribes is a kind of prison, where you think and believe the thoughts and beliefs you are given without questioning them. My spouse and I left the Tribes some years ago because we believed the child discipline was excessive, and by that it was applied to frequently for small insignificant infractions. What disturbs me the most is that one man decided everything in the Tribes, Elbert Eugene Spriggs "Yoneq". His own son wouldn't come to the Tribes to live, and he left that son and his mother, and never had any other children, yet he has had so much instruction to parents in the Tribes as to how to raise and discipline their children. I began reading the Urantia Book some time ago, and it has helped me to see how religious sects and cults develop. I don't like to hear the Tribes people belittle and condemn Germany. My American friends in the Tribes should look at the recent and past history of our own country before condemning an entire nation elsewhere. I would like to know if it true that some of the Tribes children are being abuse at public school or in the foster homes, or if the Tribes is just starting stories.

  4. I did write previously to the German court regarding the Twelve Tribes sect and recommended a stop to the Tribes practice of home circumcisions, and that the children be able to see a doctor once a year, and receive a high-school education at least, and some other things. My Tribes friend that I mentioned, also said that no child who would call the police on their own parents or turn against them has any hope of eternal life with God. Being associated with the Twelve Tribes is the most disturbing thing to me in this lifetime. So much beauty and goodness in some ways, and so much twisted thinking and control of people's lives in other ways. It makes me think that such groups are begun by men with sometimes initially well-meaning, but ill minds or they are truly influenced by some kind of evil of some sort. The Tribes place themselves so highly in their own minds as to their standing before God. It is a pride they themselves do not recognize. They think they are the Chosen Ones and everyone else is not. They are objective about life, all others are not. They know how to best raise children, others do not. And the list goes on. I try not to phone the Tribes communities that I am associated with, because I cannot have a normal conversation, because they view me as unsaved by God in the world and without hope, unless I return.

  5. Regarding the late 1920's and 1930's in Germany and the Tribes awful current remarks about the Germany and the German people, many people out side of Germany do not realize the hardship and near starvation of many German people after World War I. I had an older friend here in America, who came here to live from Germany in the early 1950's. He said before Hitler came to power, he was so hungry as a young boy that he felt he eyes would fall out. The family hardly survived because of the economic conditions, and the excessive punishments upon the German people after World War I by other nations. When Hitler came to power, my friend had good food to eat, activities with other children after school, and he said that most German people knew nothing of the persecution of the Jewish people. The Tribes are now saying that most Germans knew then. Of course, some did, and they were terrified to help, and others did help and risked their lives. The same thing that was in Hitler is a similar thing that is in cult leaders. His same arrogance and self-exaltation is the same spirit that seems to be in the Twelve Tribes at times. Hitler could have led Germany to true greatness and a fair reclamation of some of their previously lost territory. And the world at large would have allowed that and more, but he was too ill in his thinking, too greedy, too self-centered. People also commonly do not realize the potential of fall of Germany into communism before Hitler fought against that. I am not here to defend him, only to point out to others outside of Germany and to the arrogance of some Tribes men, that affairs of a country are not so black and white.

  6. The Twelve Tribes was started by a man who was previously an evangelical Christian with 3 failed marriages, and he later turned against and condemned and taught others to hate what he left behind in the Christian & Missionary Church he once belonged to as a Sunday School teacher. I don't hate him. I just wish that what he put into motion in the so called "Twelve Tribes" could have been stopped or reshaped before it took on a life of its own from his own ill "apostle" mind and twisted Bible interpretations, including him being the returned Elijah among other things. Before they condemn Germany or belittle the German people, they should examine their own lives and that of their leader and his mind. He has been the dictator and pope of the Tribes, since he began the communities. And when he dies, he has now instructed them to not depart from the traditions that have been handed down to the members. I see nothing but heartache ahead for the Tribes people, but they have each other, and as they say: "All we have is each other" and "It's better to be wrong together, than to be right alone!" "We have given up everything to follow Yahshua/Jesus and more importantly to follow and obey Eugene Spriggs and his hierarchy of "older brothers", apostolic workers, and shepherds. I thank God that our family left the Tribes.

  7. I don't like everything about mainstream society, but I value sensible freedom for myself and all people. Most basic constitutional type rights are denied members in the Tribes. "Everything matters." You must believe and do everything their way, the way of their Apostle, or you will be asked to leave, and when you leave, you will leave with nothing, except perhaps a bus ticket. You have given them everything you had, including your own life working long hours for free, and when you leave, you leave with nothing. This to me is the very worst form of communism. I lived previously with Benedictine Christian monks, and they had a sensible, healthy, devoted communal life together. To me the Tribes life is not healthy. It is very cruel at times. "We are true friends" means you will be corrected for every little thing you do wrong. In the Tribes I could never be perfect enough for them or for God. I would cry about my supposed sins that never seemed to go away, no matter how many times I asked God, because I was always doing something that was "wrong" and my life was so scrutinized. I at first believed God was there. That God lived there as they say "the only work of Our Father on earth." But later I saw things that were terribly not of God, negative spiritual things also. What I have written is not in hatred of the Tribes or to be mean. I have no meanness in me toward the people there, most of whom I love. I wish their life could be different, but the members can not change the situation, no matter how much they might secretly want. The Tribes for years has been a dictatorship. But their dictator does not desire fame or recognition, he only has desired control. Control to try produce the fulfillment of the Bible Book of Revelation. His vision is to have many people join, and very many babies to be born, to remain in the Tribes the rest of their lives to produce more babies, so they can fulfill the prophecy of the 144,000 male virgin evangelists "to bring about the end of this evil and wicked age." He has declared the Twelve Tribes to be the True Jews, but they are not. Yet they are taught in unison to condemn all of Christianity as the scarlet Whore. And "Yoneq" Gene Spriggs believes himself to be the Elijah to help produce the 144,000, something that God never asked him to do, but in his own mind, someone has asked him to do this, and he believes it to be God. And he has convinced enough members for years of this very thing. I now understand why some people are atheists, why some are agnostics, why some people hate religion. I don't. But I understand why they do. I believe in a God of love that cares about this earth and every living thing here and everyone else throughout the universes, in spite of every misguided and delusional prophet, president, and dictator. I pray for the communities of Elbert Eugene Spriggs that they can somehow be more of what a good God would want them to be, whatever that may be, and not according to any one man's dream or vision. And lastly I affirm my love for Germany and the German people who have to deal with this situation in their midst. Like a divorce situation, it's the children who always get hurt in some way. Good and decent people of all nations need to stand together for good government for the peoples and the golden rule of conduct in all our interactions and relationships, and love whenever it can be found. God is love, and love is the law.

  8. Please forgive me readers, if I departed far from the subject. Concerning homeschooling as a whole, I have mixed feelings here in the USA. Some inner city public schools are so bad in many ways, that my spouse and I feel homeschooling is actually a better alternative for some children, but either way the child loses in several ways. One boy who was home-schooled out in the country, intentionally shot his brother to death at home. I feel it would have been better for him to have gone to public school, if for no other reason, than to learn how to adapt and get along better with other children his own age. When I was a child, I would have preferred homeschooling, but looking back it is better I went to public school. I wish in general as a society we could do better with our children. And look for their inborn giftings and deep interests and allow them to better thrive in their own talents, versus pushing them all down the same more or less generic pathway. Seems there should be a better answer. I believe sects such as the Amish, Mennonites (am previous member), and Twelve Tribes (am previous member) purposely deny their children a high-school and college education, because they fear they will lose the children. That the children will not stay in the cult or church. I have very mixed feelings about the whole homeschooling matter. Here in the USA the government in my opinion is going way to far in telling children what to believe through the public education system in the name of diversity training. Some of this seems good to me, but other parts of it are merely telling children what to believe morally about various matters. It's sad we live in a world where so many different groups and organizations have an agenda. An agenda to try to get as many other people to see things their way. Well, guess what? We all all get to individually choose what we believe, unless we give that right to someone else. I understand both the state and parents wishing to protect and best educate the child. Who's right and who is wrong? They both are. I wish there was a better answer for the children in general. Maybe I'm too idealistic. Maybe we are progressing as humans. And this is just where we are at right now, having already made many improvements along the way. You tell me.