Steen Thomsen was a member of the Teachers' Group but resigned in 1998, after 26 years with Tvind. He was head master of Winestead Hall School in England 1991-1998. He has since written a report to the Danish government, and supplied this affidavit:
I, STEEN THOMSEN, of [address omitted] Denmark, SAY AS FOLLOWS:
I first heard about the organisation called Tvind in 1971 when I was a student at Aarhus University. I was a student of political science. One day I saw an advertisement and on it was written "Do you want to go to India?". I thought that this sounded interesting and I was fed up with what I was doing at university so I thought I would give it a try.
Consequently I went for a meeting [led by Amdi Peterson]. He was very charismatic. The meeting was to decide about setting up a new kind of training college which, when translated, into English means "Necessary Teacher Training College". The college was run by an organisation founded by Peterson. It originally consisted of Peterson and a group of women.
I was excited about this. It looked like a big social opportunity where you would meet many other people of a young age. It was a new thing.
It was also political in a way. At the time I was very upset about what was happening in respect of nuclear power and the war in Vietnam and other political events in those days. I suppose I wanted something to be done about it and I thought that this was an opportunity.
We thought that we would meet various people around the world and learn from them and later start schools in Denmark and provide people with information so that they could also take a stand as political persons and start a different system.
It was never specifically stated that Tvind was political. Those words were not used. But you could definitely say that the organisation was Maoist. Maoist text books were used in the schools at which I taught.
My first year with Tvind was spent travelling
I went on a bus trip to India to see the conditions of the people in India. I remember one time I wanted to take photographs of the scenery. So, I stood up and put my head through the skylight of the bus and began to take photographs of the scenery. I suddenly felt somebody pulling my leg to pull me down and I saw that it was the group leader, Mikala Gottlob. She said "What the hell are you doing? Do you think we have come here to look at nature? We have come here to meet other people. This is a political thing. What the hell are you doing?"
I became one of the first pupils of the Necessary Teacher Training College. I was 24. I started as a trainee teacher. We could take a State approved exam. The [Danish] Government in 1972 approved the teaching house. (This approval has since been cancelled by the Government).
The first year was used partially for travelling to India.
After our return to Denmark, we worked for three months and saved money to buy houses around the country. Groups of 12 to 15 of us would buy a house where we would stay for the next three months.
Almost for the whole of the second year, we worked saving up money for the education and for Tvind. We worked in the Danish industry. A part of this year I spent working in a slaughter house. We had to learn through working in factories, how to be in the situation of a "parent". We were told that we would only be good teachers if we saw society from that perspective. The fact was, however, that this was meant for radicalising us into true leftist (read: Tvind Cult people).
The third and the fourth year of our education, most of the time we worked as trainees in Danish schools, whilst in the late afternoons, nights and weekends and school holidays, we studied the same subjects as those studied at normal teacher training colleges full time for four years.
Our four years led in the end to an exam. We had now had quite some teaching practice, but our theoretical achievements I must admit were of a very low standard. However, we had now got our first part of Amdi Petersen´s training of us all in order for us to learn to live the Tvind way: No private life, no private economy, total loyalty towards our Big Leader, endless work, little sleep.
I then taught in various mainstream schools. There were, as far as possible, always at least two Tvind teachers from the Necessary Teachers Training College at the same school. This - I learned later - was arranged in order for Mr Petersen to maintain his control over us, for him to ensure that we stayed loyal and prepared for joining the Teachers' Group.
In , Amdi Peterson telephoned me and invited me to join the teachers' group. I was very impressed and flattered that he had rung me.
In 1979 we built an "independent, free, private school" in Denmark. We had to build the school ourselves.
We worked like mad at this school. At weekends we would work at least 16 hours a day and then teach all week. It was meant to keep us together but I mainly see this as a part of controlling us because we were so exhausted.
We did not have time to think for ourselves.
We were permanently exhausted. That was our life. We were expected to devote our entire lives to Tvind.
Extinction of past
In [1978 or 1979] we, the teachers' group, were told by Peterson to extinguish our past. We were told that we should go home to wherever we came from, where we had our childhood things and take all those things, especially letters and photographs of our family and ourselves and so on, and burn them.
I had a girlfriend at that time who was also in the organisation. (We joined Tvind at the same time and came from the same area.) We had stored our things in the loft at my parents' farm.
One day we went home to my parents and while they were having a sleep after lunch, we went up into the loft and took all our things and went outside and burned them. So now my parents have very few pictures of us left.
We were not encouraged to go to see our families. I would have liked to have spent much more time with my parents and with my sisters. And I also knew that I would have liked to have had a family of my own. But it was almost unthinkable and in reality impossible to have families and have children.
If I broke any of these obligations I would be very unpopular within the organisation.
I have, for example, in a similar way as hundreds of other TG members, tried to be pulled out in front of a common meeting of 100–200 persons. Once Amdi Peterson asked, in front of everyone, "Well, Steen Thomsen, are you really working for the
Teachers' Group? What is going on in your mind since you have not done this or that? Are you thinking of love life, having children, your own little fucking house? Tell us what is going on!”
In such situations it is about one’s entire existence. No-one will assist you. You will face the loss of ALL your so-called friends or comrades if you do not do the right thing in such a situation and in the same split second. So you admit your ”mistakes” even though your inner ego speaks against the lie that is now expressed through your lips.
If you pursued your own thing, family life or other private life you would be considered as very anti-social person who was not working for the same cause. At the end of the day Tvind would come first. You did not air your own doubts about the organisation or your inner wishes for having a family life or anything.
You were not allowed to be close to anyone. Marriage, even within the cult, was discouraged. My relationship with my girlfriend who joined the organisation with me did not last. A few families existed within the organisation but they were very few. I think they could be counted on one hand. And they had a very difficult time.
Newspapers were forbidden in the organisation. We were forbidden to talk to the press. This also counted for myself, being the Headmaster of a Tvind school.
We were told to put down as little as possible on paper and not to write letters in case they were intercepted. About three years ago members were told by Peterson not to use normal public phones and told to use mobile phones, which could not be intercepted. In the last years communication was mainly done via the Internet. On Internet communications we used PGP, "Pretty Good Privacy" which had to be decoded every time.
At meetings, we were given handouts which were numbered. This was so that Amdi Peterson or whoever was holding the meeting would ensure that every single handout was returned after the meeting. It is partly due to this that I do not have any papers or document to support what I am saying here.
We had [many meetings]. At the meetings we would gather to discuss Tvind policy. However decisions always had to be unanimous. No votes were taken. If anybody dissented such dissent was ruthlessly crushed. A meeting did not finish until everybody had agreed a decision. There was huge pressure applied to conform with the proposal. I am now sure that this was a form of thought control.
There was one meeting which took place on an apple plantation at Dangaard, Western Denmark.
At that time, sometime in the late 1970s, a rumour was circulating that somebody had shot at Amdi Peterson. The teachers were very upset and affected by this. I think that it might have been true or it might have been used just to raise our anxiety.
This extreme paranoia within the teachers' group was so great that in those days we looked out for bombs under our cars. We were shown how to open letters without triggering an explosive device.
At the meeting at the apple plantation some of us were called into a windowless room. We were asked [by Amdi Peterson] if we would be prepared to kill the person next to us if they should ever leave the Teachers´ Group or act as traitors. I remember that there was one, a nurse, who said she couldn't kill another friend so she was kicked out from the room.
We had to give all our money to Tvind. When I joined the Teachers' Group I had to sign an undertaking to covenant all my income to the group.
I have not ever seen any accounts for the money which was invested. Peterson said one day that he thought it was best if we did not see them. He said it would be best not to make copy accounts because it would be too difficult for everybody to see them.
When I was a teacher at mainstream schools nearly all my salary went to Tvind. For about two years I only had 11 pence per day to live on. Tvind in return gave me some pocket money. Tvind even provided us with things that we needed for work and home including clothes. In about 1982 we were told by Andy Peterson at the meeting that we should not be seen buying anything from a shop not even a pair of socks and underwear. For a while, we were given clothes which were made at a Tvind factory in Casablanca. These did not suit any person and did not fit.
Over the years I have given about £300,000 - £400,000 to the organisation. I also owned a farm which I inherited from my uncle, which I gave to Tvind. It was worth about £75,000 - £80,000.
Everybody gave their money and their property.
I think that the money which came from selling in the shops was
going to foreign aid. But another part was sold in the countries meant to be the receivers, instead of being donated to them.
The worst, however, is that the main part of the clothes collected from the Humana/UFF containers is sold to Tvind owned companies especially in Eastern Europe, creating hard cash for Tvind.
This is not what the happy donator is told when he or she is putting second hand things into a Humana/UFF container in Vienna, Copenhagen, Stockholm
-I know that money was spent on property and a building in Florida and a luxury ship. The ship was the biggest fibreglass ship in the world and is mainly used to support the luxurious life style of
Winestead Hall, Hull
I came to Britain in 1991 as the head teacher of Winestead Hall near Hull.
We gave the impression to outsiders that the school was well run. When it was being inspected on behalf of the charity commission, I only mentioned things that were working. I did not mention all the items which were not. We never admitted to the inspectors that we neither had enough staff nor got the equipment we needed.
We were also told to deny any involvement with Tvind, which was untrue because we were constantly receiving telephone calls and emails from Tvind in Denmark.
I do not know how we managed. There were not enough staff to look after the children. We worked all day and half the night. Sometimes we only had an hour or two sleep. I was the headmaster, but it was also my job to, for example, for example, rinse the sewerage and keep the lousy old boilers running over the night.
Things were never repaired properly. We did not get the equipment that we needed. It was really difficult to get any money for the running of the school. The Tvind board that until 1996 was in charge ensured that the school was exploited as far as possible for the benefit of Tvind. It was also difficult to convince them to spend the money on basic repairs and redecoration. There was very little sports equipment. We were not given sufficient money to fund this. Books were few, and those we had over many years we had donated from local mainstream schools.
Tvind (Amdi Peterson) decided in 1995 that we should lease a number of PCs from Tvind and use a system created at Tvind in Denmark, called The Modern Method of Teaching. This system never worked and was mainly used for promoting the school. Proper advice and teaching given to our very unfortunate students was not given at all. We were totally unable to do so. We were undermanned with very few professional staff, and constantly in the Tvind grip, not leaving us a chance to develop the school as an English school and in the way that our students needed. Certainly, the money (About £50.000 annually per student, paid by local authorities), was not at all used for the benefit of our students.
When the school was being investigated, I was ordered by a leading TG member, Lene Jensen, to burn everything, particularly the CD ROM’s used by Amdi Peterson, enabling him and other top people to control just about any detail at our school. (I never told anybody that, just like any other Tvind headteacher, I had to every weekend answer 330 specific questions about my school from a Tvind produced CD-ROM. My replies were then PGP-encrypted and posted off via E-mail. If anything was considered by the Tvind people in Denmark to be wrong, I was called straight to Denmark. Very frequently, I went by plane to meeting with Mr. Petersen and other leaders, at the expense of the school at Winestead).
Paul [surname?] was hired to take the children on education cruises. With another teacher he would put them into the boat and go sailing near Scotland.
The boats were poorly maintained and I myself often had to carry out repairs even though I am not qualified to do so.
On one occasion the wheelhouse floor collapsed. The captain, Paul [ ] refused to take the Winestead Viking into the North Sea
The facts and matters in this statement are within my own knowledge and are true or are based on information supplied to me and are true to the best of my knowledge, information and belief.
[Declared] at ..................................... the ........th day of ............1999
[Before me], ....................................................
FIRST DRAFT: 27 January 1999
My reasons for leaving were many. Most important were