How did the Holic Group come to be?
The founder of the movement is Gottfried Holic (pronounced: Holitch) (1943-2010). He grew up as an only child. In Vienna he registered at first for the study of History and German. At the age of 23, he had a type of conversion experience while playing chess with agnostics in Waldmüller Park. From that point forward, he wanted to dedicate himself entirely to the “requirements of Jesus.” His mother died in the same year as his conversion. In autumn 1968, Gottfried Holic began to study Catholic Theology. He became known as a perpetual student with endless semesters behind him. He lived (it’s documented at least until the end of the 1990s) together with his freethinking father and a Catholic uncle at an address in the Sechshauser Street in Vienna.
In the time after the turn of the millennium, however, he was expelled from the group he founded.
Because of problems with the Catholic church, after the start of his theology studies, he looked around in nondenominational churches, and especially in Lutheran congregations. But he seemed, by nature of his personality, incapable of integration into an existing parish. His peculiar ideas and his militant sense of mission led to his being barred from various parishes which saw him as divisive. He chose to work independently and, toward the end of the 1970s (probably 1977/1978), he founded his own group, with two other theology students. They lived in communal quarters, in which he tellingly did not participate. They were originally called “Kingfishers” because this first commune was located in the Eisvogel (Kingfisher) Street in Vienna.
In a newspaper article, which was quite kindly disposed toward the Holic Group, (Profil Magazine, issue 38, September 20, 1982) Gottfried Holic is described as follows:
“Holic, too, lives unmarried and quite asexually … he is mocked, because he is odd, or simply a fool. Holic sometimes goes barefoot, even in the city; he likes to wear leather pants, even in the city; and also he tends to carry through the city a large, patched backpack, the contents of which are not even known to the ‘real’ Christians [cult members] at supper. Plastic bags containing other plastic bags spill from it. In addition to the backpack, he always has a sleeping bag with him. Plastic bags spill from his trouser pockets. Small plastic bags containing crumpled paper overflow from his shirtfront. In the depths of the backpack, plastic raincoats have been sighted. Bibles wrapped in plastic are there, as well as a dirty thermos bottle and plastic cup with a dark coating, out of which this eternal student drinks tea which he himself has harvested. Cloth sacks for mushroom hunting belong to the inventory. Nevertheless, Holic is educated. Holic knows nature like the back of his hand. He has a sense of mission. However, he is barred from some locations. He doesn’t take it seriously, that nobody takes him seriously … he tends to respond to the criticism that he’s a cult founder with delusions of grandeur by saying, ‘we are a bunch of friends who want to live with God.’”
Even if this newspaper report is focused more on externals, one still gets an approximate idea about the founder’s character: Holic is permeated by his own sense of mission, uninterested in externals, and very bound to nature. In a way, that which others tend to mock appears thoroughly fascinating to the group members: the message is for him more important than the package; he lives primarily for his alleged mission. But the account above cannot be given too much importance: Gottfried Holic indeed shaped the group by means of his peculiar style, but not absolutely, as in the cases of other cults. In later years, he is supposed to have adapted himself to a more conventional appearance. As already described above, he was expelled from the group at the beginning of the 21st century.
Holic’s continued study of Catholic theology was justified at that time with the idea that he was gathering information in order to argue better against various churches. After 1983, members thoroughly discontinued any connection with churches.
The group, although originally barely noticed, temporarily attained more publicity when, in 1982, worried parents kidnapped their 22-year-old daughter in an attempt to dissolve her connection to the group. The daughter freed herself after a few days and filed charges against her family. The group itself was bonded all the more tightly together through this incident.
In Austria, the group was at first primarily active among students. From Vienna, further communities were founded in Linz and Graz. At the end of the 1980s, Holic began to travel and founded, among others, a group in Budapest. One motive for this was certainly that he had a native-born Hungarian among his disciples. Another reason is the fact that the Austrian regions had already been “grazed” by his missionaries, and he saw untapped territories in other countries. Later, presumably for similar reasons, the group surveyed East Germany, a land experiencing upheaval, and a recruiting territory promising success. A first contact happened there as early as 1988, i.e. still during the Soviet era, at a church convention in Leipzig. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the group became active in Berlin/Brandenburg and mainly in Saxony.
From that region, a short time later, a step farther toward the East was taken. Currently the cult has communities in Poland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic.
At the Lutheran church convention in 1999 in Stuttgart, the group recruited on a large scale, and a local branch in Stuttgart arose. A year later, a group in Munich began.
In 2004, Gottfried Holic himself was expelled from the group. In this case, the radicalization of the group surpassed its own founder. Since the expulsion, the group has attempted to minimize and downplay to outsiders Holic’s role in the founding of the group. In December 2010, Gottfried Holic died in Vienna.
Since around 2005, there seems to have been a massive purification or purge in the group, with a multitude of expulsions. (See also the firsthand reports about experiencing an expulsion.)