Deutschhof (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)
Deutschhof was a Mennonite congregation in the Palatinate, Germany, which included until 1945 the following localities: Deutschhof and Kaplaneihof near Bergzabern, Haftelhof between Bergzabern and Wissembourg, Geisberg and Schafbusch, one hour from Wissembourg, and Niederrödern. The last three are in Alsace, the others in the Palatinate. Since 1945 only the Palatinate communities belong to the Deutschhof congregation. The origin of the church goes back to 1716 when Johannes Krehbiel leased the estate of the Baron of Hatzel at Niederrödern. It later passed into the possession of Prince Max of Zweibrücken, who leased it to Christian Dettweiler in 1788, but during the French Revolution it was confiscated and in 1794 sold at auction, when Krehbiel's descendants acquired it. As of the mid-1950s there was only one Mennonite family living there.
In about 1720 we find Mennonites living on Geisberg, a large estate also belonging to the Baron of Hatzel, who apparently favored the Mennonites, for he accepted them as renters of his estates while the decree of Louis XIV of 12 September 1712, banishing the Mennonites was still in force. The first Mennonites living here were Lehmann, Johannes Schowalter and Daniel Hirschler. In the 1790s the Hirschler family acquired possession of part of the estate. By the 1950s all of it except a part of the castle was Mennonite property. Five families occupied the estate at that time.
A quarter hour away is the Schafbusch, a leased estate, which has been in Mennonite hands with few interruptions since the beginning of the 18th century; since 1912 it has been Mennonite property. The first renters were Peter Schowalter, Johannes Müller and Heinrich Schmitt. They seem to have come at the same time as those at the Geisberg. At any rate a preacher Johannes Borkholder of Schafbusch is mentioned in 1730. No doubt all the renters immigrated from Switzerland (canton of Bern). But it is not certain that they went directly to Niederrödern, Geisberg and Schafbusch.
The Haftelhof was taken over by Mennonite renters about the middle of the 18th century, namely by Elias Dettweiler and Jakob (Christian) Schowalter. The former, born in 1735 at Riedselz near Wissembourg, as preacher and elder of the congregation signed the Ibersheim resolutions in 1803. Since 1856 half of the estate has been in Mennonite possession.
Mennonites have been living on the Kaplaneihof since the end of the 18th century. It belonged to the elector Carl Theodore. He sold it in 1787 to Joseph Schowalter of Klein-Bundenbach near Zweibrücken. The name was still represented there by four families in the 1950s.
The Deutschhof came last into the congregation. It was built in 1757. In 1794 it was auctioned by the French government to Jakob Schowalter and Jakob Schmitt of the Haftelhof, who were the first Mennonites on the Deutschhof. In 1796 Jakob Lehmann was also living there. Seven Mennonite families occupied the estate in the 1950s.
Until 1848 the Schafbusch was the center of the congregation. When the estate passed into non-Mennonite hands, the services that had been held in their own chapel were discontinued. In 1849 a room was arranged for the purpose on the Geisberg. But the seat of the congregation was from then on the Deutschhof, where a church had been built in 1842. Since the late 1850s services were also held at the Haftelhof in a hall furnished for the purpose. Services were also held from the beginning in Niederrödern in a private home; in 1875 a small church was built, which later was rarely used. Regular Sunday services were held in rotation on the Deutschhof, Haftelhof and Geisberg until 1945.
The Deutschhof and Kaplaneihof maintained a school until 1860, when public school attendance was required. There has been a Sunday school since 1861. Each unit has its own cemetery, which is still used. Only Kaplaneihof buries its dead in the local cemetery.
The congregation belongs to the Badischer Verband and to the South German conference, and has been incorporated since 1892. The membership in 1941 was 115, plus 84 unbaptized children. It has never had a trained or salaried minister. The late missionary Hermann Schmitt of the Dutch Mennonite mission in Java, and pastors Otto Schowalter of Hamburg and Paul Schowalter of Weierhof stem from this congregation.
As a result of World War II the congregation was divided. Geisberg and Schafbusch, lying on the Alsatian side of the border since 1945, formed the Geisberg congregation. The Deutschhof church was burned down in the fighting of March 1945, and was rebuilt in October 1949. The membership in 1952 was 100, plus 22 unbaptized children. The ministers at that time were Rudolf Hege (ord. 1921) and August Schowalter (ord. 1937).
Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe; Schneider, 1913-1967: I, 429 f.
Hege, P. "Das kriegszerstörte Gotteshaus zu Geisberg wieder hergestellt." Der Mennonit (1949): 58.
Schowalter, Paul. "Eine Gemeinde erhält wieder ihr Gotteshaus." Der Mennonit (1949): 92-94.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol 2, pp. 44-45. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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MLA style: Foth, Johannes. "Deutschhof (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 25 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/deutschhof_rheinland_pfalz_germany.
APA style: Foth, Johannes. (1956). Deutschhof (Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/deutschhof_rheinland_pfalz_germany.