“50 Years of Community” - Camphill Village at Lehenhof Celebrates Anniversary

Standing behind a desk Verena Bentele gives her opening welcome in front of the audience
Opening Welcome from Verena Bentele

Exactly 50 years after its founding, the village community of Lehenhof celebrated its anniversary with a special celebration on September 25. The varied program offered guests a glimpse behind the scenes of a special organisation with an impressive history. Lehenhof, founded in 1965 by the Vienna-born doctor Dr. Karl König, was the first Camphill community in Germany. It developed from its humble beginnings in an unused farm building to a place where more than 300 people now live and work. The community includes apartments, workshops, a culture center, gardens and agriculture, a clinic, and therapy rooms.

The anniversary celebration included not only employees, members of the internal council, and representatives from politics and administration, but also the “villagers” and their families. The speeches were accompanied by musical numbers by two inclusive ensembles: the “Lautenbacher Blaskapelle” brass band and the “Hermannsberger Spektakel” musical group. The festivities successfully included all members of the community as co-creators in the festivities and thus allowed guests and visitors to experience in an authentic way how inclusion is lived out every day on the Lehenhof.

This principle of inclusivity has been present since the community's founding, even if no one used that term in those days, said Verena Bentele, who is a federal special commissioner for the disabled. “They were and are 50 years ahead of their time,” said the 12-time Paralympics medalist. According to Bentele, the organisation embodies a modern interpretation of community - after all, every person has a need for support and assistance, even if this need is not always apparent. In this she was referring directly to the founding idea behind the Camphill communities: a place where people with differing abilities and disabilities share their lives and futures: children, youth, and adults. Each person should be able to participate fully in community life with the unique personhood, abilities, and limitations. The foundations of the Camphill communities' work are a Christian ethic, Rudolf Steiner's anthropological orientation, and Karl König's insights regarding persons with special needs.

The Software AG Foundation has been supporting the development of the project for many years. “50 years ago, the village community of Lehenhof was a pioneer, and in addition to its impressive development it has generated many new impulses for special needs care and beyond,” said Klaus Plischke, project manager at the Software AG Foundation. At the anniversary celebration, it was clear that the community is deeply and exemplarily embedded in the wider social realm: “What can we contribute?” is a central question of the community. The answer to this question is clear in the wide social acceptance and celebration of the work of the community.