Thomas Weihs

Last updated

Thomas Weihs (30 April 1914, in Vienna (then the Austro-Hungarian Empire) – 19 June 1983, in Aberdeen, Scotland) was a doctor, farmer and special needs educator, one of the founders and leading co-workers of the Camphill Movement and a pioneer of Anthroposophical curative education. [1] [2]

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

Aberdeen City and council area in Scotland

Aberdeen is a city in northeast Scotland. It is Scotland's third most populous city, one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas and the United Kingdom's 37th most populous built-up area, with an official population estimate of 196,670 for the city of Aberdeen and 228,800 for the local council area.

The Camphill Movement is an initiative for social change based on the principles of anthroposophy. Camphill communities are residential communities and schools that provide support for the education, employment, and daily lives of adults and children with developmental disabilities, mental health problems, or other special needs.



Thomas Johannes Weihs was the second child of Gertrude and Richard Weiss (spelling later changed), who had settled in Vienna from Brody in the Ukraine. During his studies in Medicine at the University of Vienna, he met Dr Karl König and became part of a youth group whose members formed the core of what was to become Camphill in Scotland.

Brody City in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine

Brody is a city in Lviv Oblast (region) of western Ukraine. It is the administrative center of Brody Raion (district), and is located in the valley of the upper Styr River, approximately 90 kilometres northeast of the oblast capital, Lviv. Population: 23,713 (2016 est.).

Ukraine sovereign state in Eastern Europe

Ukraine, sometimes called the Ukraine, is a country in Eastern Europe. Excluding Crimea, Ukraine has a population of about 42.5 million, making it the 32nd most populous country in the world. Its capital and largest city is Kiev. Ukrainian is the official language and its alphabet is Cyrillic. The dominant religions in the country are Eastern Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. Ukraine is currently in a territorial dispute with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. Including Crimea, Ukraine has an area of 603,628 km2 (233,062 sq mi), making it the largest country entirely within Europe and the 46th largest country in the world.

University of Vienna public university located in Vienna, Austria

The University of Vienna is a public university located in Vienna, Austria. It was founded by Duke Rudolph IV in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world. With its long and rich history, the University of Vienna has developed into one of the largest universities in Europe, and also one of the most renowned, especially in the Humanities. It is associated with 20 Nobel prize winners and has been the academic home to a large number of scholars of historical as well as of academic importance.

Being of Jewish origin, he fled Austria together with his first wife, Helene Stoll, completed his doctor's degree in Basel, after which, at the outbreak of World War II he joined Dr König and the others in Scotland. Near Aberdeen, on Camphill estate, they founded the work in curative education for those they called "children in need of special care," which was to occupy him for the rest of his life. He had a number of children with Helene, one of whom, Christine Polyblank, founded the Ringwood Waldorf School.

Basel Place in Basel-Stadt, Switzerland

Basel is a city in northwestern Switzerland on the river Rhine. Basel is Switzerland's third-most-populous city with about 180,000 inhabitants.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

The Ringwood Waldorf School is an independent alternative school standing on the borders of Dorset and Hampshire, with classes ranging from Kindergarten to the Upper school. It educates according to the principles of Steiner Waldorf Education and has an enrollment of over 240 students.

As Camphill grew, so his responsibilities increased, ranging from farming and general handyman to doctor, educator, lecturer and writer. In 1957 he was appointed Superintendent of the Camphill work by Dr König. He had, by this time, also established a thriving practice as a doctor, including working at Dr. König's own London practice. At the same time he travelled widely, lecturing at Camphill centres throughout the world as well as to the general public. It was in this manner that he met BBC film director Jonathan Stedall, then 28 and taking a year off to study at Emerson College. Their collaboration led to the numerous films for British television that Stedall made on Camphill such as "Candle on the Hill".

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, London, and it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees. It employs over 20,950 staff in total, 16,672 of whom are in public sector broadcasting. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time, flexible, and fixed-contract staff are included.

Weihs’ best-known work, the book Children in Need of Special Care, was published in 1971 and has since been reprinted on several occasions and translated into 14 languages.

His final work, "Embryogenesis in Myth and Science", was completed on his deathbed and published posthumously.

Besides this, his work as sculptor led to a considerable number of pieces set up all over the various farms and public buildings of Camphill.

Films of Jonathan Stedall on Camphill

1967–68 in Need of Special Care (BBC2 2 × 60'):



Published works

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.


Related Research Articles

Alban Berg Austrian composer

Alban Maria Johannes Berg was an Austrian composer of the Second Viennese School. His compositional style combined Romantic lyricism with twelve-tone technique.

Anthroposophy philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner

Anthroposophy is a philosophy founded by the 19th century esotericist Rudolf Steiner that postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world, accessible to human experience. Followers of anthroposophy aim to develop mental faculties of spiritual discovery through a mode of thought independent of sensory experience. They also aim to present their ideas in a manner verifiable by rational discourse and specifically seek a precision and clarity in studying the spiritual world mirroring that obtained by natural historians in investigations of the physical world.

Thomas John Barnardo Philanthropist, founder and director of homes for poor children

Thomas John Barnardo was an Irish philanthropist and founder and director of homes for poor children. From the foundation of the first Barnardo's home in 1867 to the date of Barnardo's death, nearly 60,000 children had been taken in.

Franz König Catholic cardinal

Franz König was an Austrian Cardinal of the Catholic Church. He served as archbishop of Vienna from 1956 to 1985, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1958. The last surviving cardinal elevated by Pope John XXIII, he was the second-oldest and longest-serving cardinal worldwide at the time of his death.

Egil Kristian Tynæs, was a Norwegian anthroposophical doctor, senior physician at the Municipal Clinic in Bergen and a humanitarian aid worker. On June 2, 2004 in Badghis, Afghanistan Tynæs and four others were killed in an ambush whilst working for the humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières.

Iain Cuthbertson British actor

Iain Cuthbertson was a Scottish character actor. He was known for his tall imposing build and also his distinctive "gravelly" heavily accented voice.

Heinrich Gross was an Austrian psychiatrist, medical doctor and neurologist, a reputed expert as a leading court-appointed psychiatrist, ill-famed for his proven involvement in the killing of at least nine children with physical, mental and/or emotional/behavioral characteristics considered "unclean" by the Nazi regime, under its Euthanasia Program. His role in hundreds of other cases of infanticide is unclear. Gross was head of the Spiegelgrund children's psychiatric clinic for two years during World War II.

Residential care refers to long-term care given to adults or children who stay in a residential setting rather than in their own home or family home.

Karl König was an Austrian paediatrician who founded the Camphill Movement, an international movement of therapeutic intentional communities for those with special needs or disabilities.

John Wengraf Austrian actor

John Wengraf was an Austrian actor.

Peter Selg was born in 1963 in Stuttgart and studied medicine in Witten-Herdecke, Zurich, and Berlin. Until 2000, he worked as the head physician of the juvenile psychiatry department of Herdecke hospital in Germany. Dr. Selg is now director of the Ita Wegman Institute for Basic Research into Anthroposophy and professor of medicine at the Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences (Germany). He lectures extensively and is the author of numerous books.

Carl Friedrich Wilhelm "Fried" Geuter, born 27th June 1892 in Darmstadt Germany and died on 14 February 1960 in Ravenswood United Kingdom, was a pioneer of anthroposophical Special Needs education, the co-founder of Sunfield Children's Home and founder of the Ravenswood Village Settlement near Crowthorne in Berkshire.

Rudi Lissau, born 26 June 1911 in Vienna and died 30 January 2004 in Brookthorpe, United Kingdom, was a Steiner school teacher, author, lecturer and anthroposophist.

Dr Hans Schauder, medical adviser and counsellor, co-founder of Camphill Community, founder of Garvald School & Training Centre

The Garvald Centres are a group of six affiliated but independent Scottish charities offering creative opportunities and support for people with Special Needs and learning disabilities and who base their work on the ideas of the educator and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner. They operate in the Midlothian, Scottish Borders and Edinburgh area of Scotland.

Carlo Pietzner Austrian-American artist

Carlo Pietzner, born in Vienna, Austria, 26 January 1915 and died in Copake, New York, 17 April 1986, was a co-founder of Camphill, artist, anthroposophist, and a Special Needs and adult educator.

Julian Sleigh, was a Christian Community priest, councillor, founding member of Camphill in South Africa and author.

(Johnston) Douglas Haldane MBE, FRCPsych was a pioneering Scottish child psychiatrist, who established Great Britain's first department of Child and Family Psychiatry in 1960 in Cupar in Fife. He opened the first family in-patient treatment unit in Scotland and introduced a range of innovative therapeutic art interventions. He sat on numerous policy working parties and led a variety of professional committees. He became a founding member of the Association for Family Therapy. He was a co-founder of the Scottish Institute of Human Relations. During his time as an academic, he devoted much time to influence the development of a government policy on Marriage. In the 1960s, he was also an elder of the Church of Scotland and a member of an early Iona Community group.


  1. ‘’The Builders of Camphill: Lives and Destinies of the Founders’’ Edited by Friedwart Bock, Article by Christine Polyblank, Floris Books, 2004 ISBN   9780863154423
  2. ‘’Thomas Weihs’’ – Biographischer Eintrag in der Online-Dokumentation der anthroposophischen Forschungsstelle Kulturimpuls