Klaus-Peter Michael Lauppe was born on the 23rd May 1933 in Berlin, Germany. Michael’s mother Erika was an unconventional woman who chose not to be connected with Michael’s father Kurt Hofer. Erika struggled with being a young single mother. Her lifelong mental health difficulties were already apparent in the restless energy which led her to drift from friend to friend with her young child.
Erika and her child found a home for a time with her mother, Michael’s beloved Obda Oma. During this time Erika formed a connection to members of the Christian Community and the child was christened ‘Michael.’ This connection also led Erika to an anthroposophical gymnastic training. Erika and Michael shared a deep connection to the Christian Community impulse and even in difficult circumstances it was a priority that Michael attend a Waldorf school.
After Obda’s death and the start of the war, Erika and Michael again moved. They moved to Dresden so Michael could attend the Dresden Waldorf School which was the last one to close in Germany. The situation became more unstable and Erika was not able to protect Michael from the harshness of life. In 1942 Erika decided to take 10-year-old Michael to a Christian Community family in Munich. When they got to the house she handed Michael a letter and asked him to ring the bell. She said goodbye and left… The door was opened and Michael was taken in.
Michael stayed with the Lindenbergs for nearly three years. In this large family with six children of their own and also six foster children, Michael found, despite the extraordinary world circumstances of the time, a security that had been missing from his early years. Michael developed a friendship with the eldest son Christof-Andreas who he made stand with him on a pillow and promise to be his friend for life, and also to write this promise on a slip of paper. Michael kept this paper for most of his life.
During this time Erika, due to her naïve and idealistic nature, was imprisoned by the Nazis. In 1945 Erika was released and reunited with Michael. Again, they wandered from place to place through post-war Germany trying to find a place to be. However, food and shelter were scarce. Finally, in 1947 they found a place to stay in an air raid shelter in Stuttgart so Michael could attend the Waldorf School.
Erika’s years of imprisonment had taken a toll on her and Michael, now in his teenage years, began to organise their life: finding out where to buy food, running to offices for required coupons, etc. When Michael was 16 he left for a farming apprenticeship in Switzerland. His mother’s mental health deteriorated and Michael had to return, and from this time Erika was cared for in institutions.
Michael returned to Switzerland and when he was 20 found his way to St. Prex, Villa Hollandia, which became Perceval. With this step, the next and what he considered the most important period of his life began.
Michael described himself at this time:
I was now 20. I had no social skills, misunderstood jokes and did not understand many things. I was asked to help with a group of small children with various learning problems. I was out of my depth! By now I spoke French and could sing French songs. I sang with them and slowly became enchanted by these lovely children. [This experience] laid the foundation for my later work in Camphill.
One day a small man with a remarkable big head visited. He gave us two lectures on his research into disability and mental illness. He spoke of twelve possibilities in the circle of the Zodiac: The Curative Clock. I was deeply impressed. I asked if I could come [to work with him in] Scotland?
“Yes,” Dr Karl König said. “After you have completed the year here.”
In the Autumn of 1956 Michael arrived at Newton Dee House, Camphill. He was taken to the kitchen where a big woman was stirring soup in a huge pot – this was Anke Weihs. Anke, the matron, was the centre point around which 40 boys and 10 Co-workers lived, worked and learned. Her leadership was gentle, unobtrusive, but firm. For a long time Michael went to her for guidance. The day after arriving Michael was put in charge of a six-bed dormitory with delinquent boys. There was no dull moment while getting to know them! He washed their pullovers and socks, plus twice a day took trips to the boiler house to fill the hob with coal.
He joined the Seminar of Curative Education. Thomas Weihs addressed each Seminarist at the end of the year. To Michael he said: “Your written work is good, but you lack imaginative thought and research.” The second year of the seminar Michael was put in charge of children with cerebral palsy. Eva Sachs, who he described as half an angel, was the matron. It was at this time that Michael became a member of the Camphill Community.
But after just two years the future was already beckoning. Dr. König summoned Michael to his rooms and asked if he would be willing to join the pioneers in South Africa? Michael was given one week to consider, but he already knew that this would be the next phase of his life and learning. His restless adventurous spirit was well suited to this endeavour.
On the 25th April 1959 Michael left by ship for Cape Town, South Africa. At Camphill Hermanus School Michael was given responsibility for the care of a dormitory of six small boys. He also took up Class Teaching. He found the South African plant and animal life fascinating.
Michael was aware of his fellow co-worker Christiane Hansen though she was busy with other projects. She was asked to move to Johannesburg and be the matron of the newly acquired Cresset House. When he was asked to accompany her he was delighted!
In 1961 Cresset House was begun with twelve children. The task to establish the new Centre was exciting. There was a great lot to be done in a short time before the children arrived. Christiane and Michael worked well together and things went smoothly, but they were nevertheless, a little shy of each other. However, that changed when a friend suggested that Michael should invite Christiane to visit Basutoland together in the summer break. She accepted and during this trip they got to know each other. They realised they had been brought together because of the task of Camphill, and gradually their relationship grew into a loving one.
Dr. Karl König came to visit and he was delighted with the Cresset House property and hoped Michael and Christiane could build it into a children’s village. It was at this time Michael became a service holder, a role which he was to hold with great devotion for many years.
On the 12th of August 1962 Christiane and Michael married at Cresset House. On 30th June the following year their daughter Mary was born, and a year later on October 24th Anne joined her. The years from 1961 to 64 were full and good.
In 1965 Michael and Christiane left Cresset house for Natal where a group of parents wished to start a Camphill school. Unfortunately, there was not enough support for this venture. There were few co-workers in South Africa and after a year Michael and Christiane were asked to leave Natal and return to Hermanus where they lived and worked from 1966-70.
At times Michael felt overwhelmed with the administrative work for the Hermanus Camphill School; he was much relieved when at the end of this time he and Christiane were offered a six months sabbatical in Europe. The years in Hermanus had been hard, but worthwhile. The new Camphill Hermanus team was managing well, and Michael and Christiane were asked to return to Cresset House when they came back from Europe. Michael and Christiane left Cape Town in January 1970. They were not aware that their time in Africa had ended.
When they came to Aberdeen Thomas Weihs, who was then Superintendent of the Camphill Schools, met with them and other co-workers from South Africa. Thomas challenged all of them: “Make it your home, become South Africans, or return to Europe.”
This was a bombshell. Christiane and Michael talked it over well into the night: chronic co-worker shortages, growing girls in a volatile environment, and yet – their love for the pupils and the country! They decided they must stay in Britain.
After eleven years of a great freedom in the work in South Africa, it was difficult to conform and fit in amongst so many well-established colleagues. Michael and Christiane started in Aberdeen but then moved seven times in seven years – struggling to find their place. In hindsight Michael felt that he had to go through hardship and the ‘eye of the needle’ before help and guidance could be given once more. At this time Michael trained to be a Social Worker.
In 1978 Michael and Christiane were living in Stroud with 2 residents. Michael and his two daughters on a bike ride along the canal came upon an abandoned Workhouse in Eastington, close to the Motorway. With support of Sir John Langman, Chairman of the Sheiling Schools, the property was secured, and in June 1979 Michael and Christiane with two residents and their daughters moved into the Workhouse. They named it after William Morris, the artist, craftsman, poet and Social Reformer. To start with Mette Berger from Cherry Orchards Camphill Community agreed to sponsor the new venture with their name and Trustees.
With this new venture Michael’s strengths came to the fore with an ambitious plan of renovation and building including the beautiful John’s hall with its specially designed colour windows by Udo Zembock. Michael had an intrinsic artistic sensitivity which expressed itself in the simple beauty of this buildings and the meaningful art pieces he chose to be an inspiration to the community. In his later years painting and art appreciation were one of his great enjoyments.
William Morris Camphill Community became a flourishing training centre and specialist college for adolescence and young adults with craft work a central theme of this Youth Guidance work. Many students and co-workers found their destiny’s direction in this special community.
Together with the other Camphill Colleges the following were established: Youth Guidance Seminar, Craft Training, and Lyre Workshops.
Michael loved music. He had a strong full voice to lead the community in Camphill songs. He was a passionate lyre player and even in later year travelled to play with others. During these years Michael also trained in the Chirophonetic Therapy in Austria.
In the 1980s Michael and Christiane moved out of the community to nearby Orchard Cottage where they stayed for some time before returning to live in a flat in the community in the late 90s. This was a step for Michael out of the daily running of the community which was handed over to a capable co-worker group. During these years Michael’s aim was to be a bridge between William Morris House and Orchard Leigh Camphill Community, the new farm community just up the road which he had been instrumental in setting up as a next life step for the students.
In the 1990s Michael and Christiane began to return regularly to South Africa for 3 months at the start of every year to support Hermanus with music and eurythmy therapy. They also funded a two-bedroom guest cottage for the Community to host visiting therapists.
These were wonderful redeeming times in the Cape after having to leave so suddenly in 1970. Michael and Christiane were grateful and happy. Michael went on his own for the last time in 2010 in order to hand over everything they had brought out from England for the therapies and the Sunbird Cottage.
In 2003 at the age of 70 Michael let go of his last formal responsibilities for the community.
In his older years Michael would prepare a special advent ‘toy time’ each year for the babies and young children of William Morris House. This is still very fondly remembered. He also still took the student Bible Study, and with Christiane was a pillar of the offerings service.
For most of the years of William Morris House it was possible to work unhindered with the ‘tools’ given in the Camphill Youth Guidance Seminar Training and the Curative Remedial Education Courses. However, gradually state legislation made itself felt more and more. After 2010 one of the trustees, the parent of a past student, became the Chairman of the board of trustees and activated a policy of ‘removing’ all Camphill volunteer Co-Workers over a period of about two years. Near the end of this time Michael and Christiane received a letter from the chairman of the council suggesting they prepare to live elsewhere. This painful episode was resolved with help from family and friends.
On the 8th September 2016 Michael and Christiane moved into Rowan Bungalow and were welcomed as members of the Rowan Community in Dursley which had been started by Allmut and Patrick ffrench. Michael enjoyed once again living in community and leading adult education for the villagers and participating in the festivals.
At this time Michael also honoured his long connection to the Christian Community by becoming a member.
Just before St John’s 2020 Michael, after a short illness, suffered an unexpected and profound stroke which left him unable to speak or walk. The shock and damage made Michael a passive force where he had always been an active one. In these last months Michael experienced the vulnerability of being cared and he was also able to find healing with family members. It was a difficult time to be in hospital with strict limitations on visitors.
His daughter Anne writes of this time:
I was amazed at the depth of my love for him. … There were battles around visiting. Battles around medication. Battles to make staff listen and ‘see’ him. And then Dad looked at me and I knew it was enough. Katie, the chaplain at Cheltenham, was a ray of light throughout so much darkness. She brought God and the Little Prince storybook to Dad. She brought him music, song and that so needed relief. The staff at Cheltenham Bibury unit were astounding. A junior doctor waited while I called Mary because I couldn’t say the words which initiated end of life. She put a hand on my shoulder, such a simple act, so powerful in the time of covid.
He died with Anne by his side on 3rd October 2020 in Henlow Court, Dursley. His passing is release of a mighty spirit from an earthly body which had grown too small for him.
Much of the content of this life story was taken from Michael’s short autobiography My Footprints completed in the last few years of his life. To end here are some of his own words:
I am slowly learning to become more humble and more loving, to conquer my restlessness and self-indulgence, to stop planning journeys and holidays. I am learning rather to wait and see what comes towards me, and too be more grateful for what I have and receive.
Why did others say of me? That I am bossy and unkind? Could this be because of my underlying insecurity and feeling of being inadequate? I am not sure. The feelings of not being up to the tasks ahead have finally gone in the last few years, especially since I passed my responsibilities to others.
My overall feeling is of having had a rich life. I have always felt that my guardian angel was present, nudging me in the right direction. I am full of gratitude to my living friends and also those who have passed away. There were many!
My dear life partner Christiane is closest to me. I owe her so very much!
I am deeply indebted to all my friends and family. I hope to meet many again in future lives on earth.
Tribute compiled by Suzanne Pickering-McCulloch and Michael’s family