Colmar (Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France)
Colmar, capital of Upper Alsace, pop. (1950) 43,512, is the center of a Mennonite community which originated in the Reformation period. In the Colmar archives are the following documents dealing with the Anabaptists:
(1) Edict of King Ferdinand against the Anabaptists, 26 May 1535; (2) Edict of Emperor Ferdinand against them, 5 July 1561; (3) Mandate of Egenolphe of Ribeaupierre in Rappoltstein, 28 June 1561; (4) A notice concerning the Anabaptists in Ingersheim, 2 July 1572; (5) Doubts, Suspicions and Regulations concerning the Anabaptists, 1584; (6) Letter of the pastor of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Jean la Bachelle, to Paul Ferry, Protestant pastor of Metz, 12 March 1643; (7) Baillage de Sainte-Marie. Affaires religieuses Anabaptistes 1696-1712; (8) A letter of the superintendent of Alsace to the magistrate of Colmar, 9 September 1572, regarding the expulsion of the Anabaptists; (9) A record of Mennonite families in the offices of the Subdelegation of Belfort, January 1870.
From the meager contents of these documents it is evident that Anabaptism found its way into the region of Colmar in the 1520s. But the ruthless persecution that soon set in completely crushed it. Only small remnants maintained themselves, if any at all. During the Thirty Years' War (1641) Mennonites exiled from Switzerland, especially from the canton of Bern, settled around Colmar and established the present congregation there. The number was increased by a continued stream of Swiss refugees, who lived in the surrounding villages and estates. In Jebsheim and in the mill at Ohnenheim they held their services. In Ohnenheim a conference of the Alsatian Mennonites was held in 1660, where they accepted the Dordrecht Confession. It was signed by the preachers Hans Müller of Magenheim, Hans Ringer of Heidolsheim, Rudolf Egli of Künheim, and the deacons Ulrich Husser and Jakob Gachnauer of Ohnenheim, and Heinrich Frick of Künheim. The priest of Ohnenheim and Heidolsheim denounced their "conventicle." At his instigation the Count Palatine of Birkenfeld as the heir of the Rappoltstein was urged to expel the Mennonites from Ohnenheim and to exterminate the "sect" by the roots. They were thereupon apparently more severely dealt with. On 7 September 1769 Jakob Frey, an "Anabaptist" of Dürrenenzen in Upper Alsace, was sentenced by the court at Colmar to eternal banishment from the country and a fine of ten livres for refusing an oath demanded of him. In 1750 there were in Heidolsheim four Mennonite families, in Ohnenheim two, in Magenheim two, in Elsenheim one, Grussenheim one, Jebsheim seven, Artzenheim one, and in Künheim four. The number decreased later, when many emigrated to America.
At the conference in Essingen (now Palatinate) on 21 November 1779, Hans Rub and Bäntz Stucky signed for the Colmar church. The Mennonitische Blätter reports a Mennonite wedding on an estate near Colmar in 1779, giving an interesting description of the religious ceremony. At a meeting held on 19 June 1808 on the Bildauerhof, at which the question of release from military duty was discussed, Colmar was represented by Peter Schreck(?). A short letter of 1822 from the Colmar congregation to Birkenhof is signed by Sebastian Peterschmitt.
Details of congregational development to the end of the 19th century are not known, with the exception of a conference held in Münzenheim near Colmar in 1896 (see Alsace). After that time meetings were held regularly in the homes of the congregation, which extended from Ensisheim to beyond Selestat, and for a time also in homes in Colmar. About 1910 services were held every two weeks in the Protestant school of Wolfganzen, a village on the railroad. During World War I this space was used for military purposes, and the congregation met in the town hall. At that time the following ministers served the congregation: Benjamin Peterschmitt, Munzenheim, elder; John Gingerich, Geiswasser, elder; Jacob Peterschmitt, Nambsheim, Jean Peterschmitt, Rheinfelderhof, Emil Peterschmitt, Fohrenhof, Heinrich Grieser, Ostheim, Joseph Sommer, Rappoltsweiler, preachers; Christian Augsburger, Hueb near Markolsheim, deacon. At that time the congregation had about 130 members.
Since the distance to Wolfganzen was too great for many members, a hall was shared with the Salvation Army in Colmar in 1920. At the same time weekly prayer meetings were held in the homes of families living in Colmar. The Colmar hall was the scene of two conferences of ministers of Alsace-Lorraine, 1920 and 1921, presided over by Valentin Pelsy of Sarrebourg.
In the spring of 1922 the congregation acquired a building of its own at 22 Rue d'Ingersheim which they remodeled into an assembly room and an apartment. It was dedicated on 27 August 1922. The members of the former Wolfganzen congregation who lived near Neuf-Brisach also acquired a building and organized a separate congregation. The Colmar congregation became a member of the Alsatian conference and has kept regular records since 1922. The language was predominantly German, though French was also occasionally used in preaching. Sunday school was conducted in both languages. In 1931 the meetinghouse was enlarged and a new room added for the Sunday school. Colmar became the seat of the conference of Alsace-Lorraine; meetings of the conference were held regularly here until World War II. Bible courses were also conducted by ministers from the outside. During the German occupation meetings were for a time prohibited.
After World War II the membership was about 70. The ministers after the separation from Neuf-Brisach until 1955 were: Benjamin Peterschmitt, who served more than 50 years as preacher and elder; Henri Volkmar of Colmar, preacher 1913-1953, elder from 1938; Emil Kremer of Colmar, preacher 1924, elder 1927; Heinrich Grieser of Ostheim, d. 1924; Hans Nussbaumer of Schopenwihr, preacher 1923, elder 1927, moved to Altkirch in 1942; J. J. Wack of Colmar, preacher 1923, d. 1947; Emil Kempf of Wintzenheim, preacher 1920; Willi Peterschmitt of Munzenheim, preacher, 1953- . Colmar ministers also served the congregations of Chatenois, Hang, Sarreguemines, Sarrebourg, and Pulversheim.
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 367 f.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, pp. 641-642. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Neff, Christian and Henri Volkmar. "Colmar (Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 21 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/colmar_haut_rhin_alsace_france.
APA style: Neff, Christian and Henri Volkmar. (1953). Colmar (Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 21 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/colmar_haut_rhin_alsace_france.